For the members of the international community in Beijing suffering from depression, external resources are limited. Quality counselling and psychiatry is available at international hospitals but the cost is prohibitive. Treatment at Chinese hospitals is more affordable but there is an obvious language barrier.
This is why knowing how to deal with major depression disorder is so important. Self-help plays a very important role in recovery, and one can even come out of it with stronger self-awareness that can improve life significantly.
Our previous two lessons, have been trying to answer the question: “I have major depression. What do I do?”
• In lesson 5.1, we talked about the DON’TS
• In lesson 5.2 we talked about the DOS
• Lesson of 5.3 will continue with the DOS
Everybody has different ways of coping. Instead of prescribing a (not-so-useful) manual, we decided to give you some real life examples by inviting Xiaojie to share her experiences.
Let’s welcome Xiaojie back!
Using the right attitude and knowledge to create charts and checklists to help structure your day can be useful provided that your current state of mind gives you the capacity to follow them.
Everybody’s checklist will be different, but they generally look similar to the following:
I tried to stick to the following list:
Try to keep up my routine.
I honestly didn’t feel like it at all. I was only able to keep up with about 10-20% of my routine. Here’s the thing: when you have MDD, you don’t even want to be awake. Everything is difficult; doing anything takes a toll on you. I knew I had to go out, but I couldn’t. It’s an hourly struggle to try to ”do the right thing”. I only managed go to a social dance once a week, do yoga and go to work. There were mornings that I woke up and couldn’t go to work. But on the majority of mornings I forced myself to go. Only now can I say that I am glad I didn’t quit. Imagine if I had to deal with the financial stress that this would have induced.
Do more yoga, lots of yoga.
I got into yoga in 2008, but was not a regular practitioner. It wasn’t until late 2013 that I started to do it weekly. In early 2014, I fell into a depression but I kept on doing yoga. Yoga seemed to be the one place that I could at least feel a tiny sense of calm.
I remember one time going to the yoga class at my regular studio and crying during the practice. There were so many emotions coming up. I knew it was a good thing because I was able to let go of the negative emotions. The rest of the time, I couldn’t cry. I was not sad, not frustrated, and not resentful. I was just numb, and felt like a walking zombie.
April 2015 at the foot of The Great Wall China
Reaching out for help:
I didn’t tell my friends about my depression (read Lesson 4.1, for To Tell or Not To Tell guidance). I may have briefly mentioned it to a few close friends but no one knew the degree of my depression. I felt like no one would be able to help me, what would they even say if I told them? It‘d just be an awkward conversation and I’d feel anxious.
I looked online for support groups. I couldn’t find any in Beijing for the international community. There are Chinese-speaking communities, but given that I had reverse culture shock, I didn’t think it would be a good idea to place myself in an environment that might cause social anxiety. I did email a few people that I found online who were conscious of mental health and asked them for advice and information.
A man replied with a very long and caring email. I felt genuine concern and care for me when I read his words. He had never met me but because of his own struggle with depression he was able to understand me and care for me as another struggling fellow.
Emails turned into coffee conversations. He became my guardian angel that never judged me, but was just there to listen, to support. They say that people with depression withdraw but this is not always the case. People with depression can be concerned about others who are suffering. They know it is a lonely place. I didn’t want to socialize with others, not even through texting but being in daily contact with him made me less anxious and less lonely. I was in a dark place but I felt like he was waiting for me to come out. He became very worried one day when I didn’t reply to his messages. He was worried that I had committed suicide. He was not overreacting as just weeks before I had been calling the suicide prevention hotline. I have known people who have taken their own lives. In reality I was just in a meeting and hadn’t been checking my phone but I was touched that he cared and had been looking out for signs of suicide danger.
There were many more instances like this that got me through my depression. I couldn’t have imagined going through it without him. Now he’s one of my best friends!