Updated: Nov 15, 2019
You might get turned off of this post because it can be a depressing one. If you choose to continue reading, I hope you would read it until the end so that you would not misterpret my message. You may also just skip to the end of the following paragraphs so that you may understand my message.
There was a work friend that I met a while ago in Lower Mainland, British Columbia. I do not hang out with this person often but we remain connected through social media. Given that I am currently on vacation in the Lower Mainland, I decided to hit him up and see how he is doing.
To cover up his name for the sake of privacy I will call him Jason in this blogpost. Upon catching up, Jason learned that I took a short course in Medical Neuroscience. He asked me why I did the course, which I explained that I wanted to understand the brain more as well as to help people with depression. It turns out that Jason was as interested in neuroscience as me because he had been suffering from severe depression since he was in grade school. He told me how he always had very low self-esteem and kids were always bullying him. I felt concerned and invited him to get coffee with me so we could catch up.
Although we did not spend much time together when we were working, I would not have even remotely guessed that he was struggling with mental illness. Talking with Jason he seemed fine to me as far as I could remember and there was nothing on his social media that indicated a depressed state. In fact, most of his posts were about travelling and staying active.
Jason was taking a really long time to show up at the coffeehouse. I was about to leave the place but he messaged me, "I am sorry". I told him that it's okay and I understand because sometimes, I don't always feel like hanging with people. I asked him how was doing. He responded that he just wanted to be alone. "Fair enough", I replied, "please message me anytime. I like chatting with you". In just a split second, he messaged me again. He expressed how he was feeling and it made me think of many things.
We continued chatting and as of now, I am still at the coffee shop with my laptop writing this blog post about him. He confessed that he tried to hurt himself and even attempted suicide before. His psychiatrist diagnosed him with borderline personality and depression. Fortuitously, he has been seeing a counselor regularly. He has been given anti-depressants by his doctor but it worked in the beginning but eventually it made him feel worse than before. So they decided to stop it and stick with his psychotherapy. He also said he goes to the gym regularly which helps him feel better but does not fully treat his condition.
I asked him to try to elaborate more on what he has been going through. It turns out that one of his biggest struggles is social anxiety. He said that he has friends but he is not satisfied with the connection he makes with them. Just like me, he does not like going to parties or getting drunk. It seems to him that everybody's way of happiness is by getting wasted. His friends told him that alcohol is liquid courage but when he tried it, it did not do well for him. At some point, he also tried going out on Friday nights to socialize but it made his depression worse the following days.
He has plenty of spontaneous thoughts. One of them is his sexuality. He said that he does not feel he is attractive enough. He goes to the gym but he has so many insecurities with his body. He likes women but he says women do not like him. He likes guys too but he says that he does not see himself marrying a guy. When he is around his friends, he feels uncomfortable when they talk about their "normal" lives. He feels like he is stuck in how he watches everyone enjoy their daily lives while he spends time feeling sorry for himself. He wishes that he can easily just snap out of it but it's not simple.
I asked him what are things that he enjoys doing. He said that he enjoys exercising, going for a walk, reading books, writing on his journal and painting. He also wanted to travel more and see as many countries in the world. I said that he seems like he has plenty of exciting things to enjoy to overcome his depression. He responded that he wishes that it was that simple. Those things indeed excite him but unfortunately, things that make him sad are way harsher.
He said that he understands that there are plenty of people who would rather be in his shoes. He has a roof over his head, he as food to eat, he lives in a first world country and he has countless blessings that he can think of. He said that it is really hard to make sense of why he is struggling and many people would make the wrong judgement about him. After many years of fighting, he learned that he has a special type of personality that makes things complicated. He has a personality that many people do not understand.
At the end of our chat, I asked him if he is going to be okay. He said he will be fine and he just really wanted to spend time alone. He was very apologetic because he wanted to hang out with someone so badly but then I was there and he stood me up. I told him to not feel bad about it because I also have times when I wanted to socialize but then, I got so used to being alone that I don't wanna socialize anymore. The struggle is real he said, not sure if it was meant to be a joke or something serious.
I told him that I wanted to write a blog about it but I want to know if he has any message to the readers of his story. Here's an excerpt from our chat:
"To those people who feel depressed, do not forget that there is always hope. Learn how to recharge by resting your body and mind. seek help even if it is difficult. But at the end of the day, it is yourself that will make you feel better. For those people who enjoy their normal life, stop for a moment and maybe assess why you are privileged. Maybe you are sucking it off from someone like me. Be kind to each other, I have many friends who have killed themselves and I do not want to be one of them."
Mental illness is a very complex topic and many people have their insights about it. It is easy to not treat people nicely but we do not know what they are going through. For someone as sensitive as Jason, I think that he needs people around him to be sensitive as well. How I wanted to tell him that his life is really valuable but it seems like telling him that would not be enough and the best I can do is send his message to many people.
I understand some of his struggles because sometimes when people around me are having fun and laughing, I have trouble relating and feel like a castaway. There are times when I feel ugly yet people indirectly make me feel that way. There are times when I feel really tired and I do not know how soon I can recharge. I think that's what Jason meant by "Maybe you are sucking it off from someone like me."
Just like Jason, I had a few friends who also took their own lives and I felt that I did not do a great job being their friends. What can I do, life must go on but I learned to cherish moments because life is short and full of unexpected things. I hope Jason is reading this I hope that he knows how valuable he is. I hope that his friends and family would treat him better. I hope that he gets to travel the world, do more reading, writing, walking and do more things he enjoys. I hope he loves himself more.
Mental health awareness is the main theme of this blog.