I'll be sad all my life

Save yourself your “laugh”: what a life with depression really is like

Illustration: Assa Ariyoshi.
For as long as I can remember, I have been sadder and more afraid than other people around me. There is also a tendency to hypersensitivity, which doesn't necessarily make the whole thing easier. I was often fooled because of it and I thought for a long time that I had to be ashamed of my shyness, which is total nonsense!
There have been good and bad phases in my life, there were times when I hardly left the apartment for months and times when everything was actually okay. This is called recurrent depression and means nothing more than a constant change between depressed and good - not manic! - phases. Unfortunately, this change made me believe for a long time that I could defeat this crap on my own and I don't have to seek help. I always felt fine and in the good phases you tend to ignore how bad you are in a depressive phase. It's a bloody vicious circle.
Many think that being depressed is like being sad. Of course, I can't speak for everyone, but depression is so much more than "just" being sad. To be depressed often means to be confronted with a feeling of absolute hopelessness and to let a vortex of negative thoughts often drag you into the abyss. Sounds pretty bad, it is.
It is a little different with anxiety disorder, because it is - at least in my case - very situation-dependent.
The crisis came a good year and a half ago. I had a job that I hated, a very difficult breakup and with it the heartache of my life and was well on the way to burnout. I constantly suffered from psychosomatic illnesses, including Meniere's disease, an illness in the inner ear in which extreme vertigo attacks occur again and again. Then you just fall over and throw up for several hours. When I thought it couldn't get worse, the lovesick person died completely unexpected.
My world literally collapsed because various nervous breakdowns followed and I developed a social anxiety disorder. That means that I can no longer cope with crowds. Parties, food markets, shopping at IKEA - all of this causes me great stress, accompanied by sweating attacks, dizziness and racing heart. One day when I was lying in my bed and had a panic attack for no reason, I finally decided to seek help.

Seek help, find help

I was in a psychosomatic clinic for eleven weeks. Clinic, that sounds pretty blatant at first, but to be honest, it wasn't that bad at all. I even made lifelong friends there. I was in a clinic that mainly treats depression, psychosomatic illnesses, burnout and anxiety disorders, not psychoses. The time there helped me a lot and I learned a lot about myself: Group therapies are corrosive and I am pretty good at pottery.
Getting help in Germany is quite easy and yet quite difficult. The good thing is that, in principle, the costs of a therapy are covered by the health insurance company. The stupid thing is that you have to take care of yourself. Anyone who has ever been in a real crisis knows how impossible it is to take care of yourself or just to fill out a form.
It can also be very difficult to find a therapist in big cities. A little tip, just google “psychological exchange” and your city. Then you will usually find something. Call there because they can help you. That's how I did it, because the angels at BIPP in Berlin recommended the clinic to me and also took away my fear of it. But you can also ask your family doctor what to do. They know their way around and often have good contacts with psychologists. The only important thing is: even if it feels like that, you are not alone.
When you have found a therapist to work with, you will have five test sessions to determine which type of therapy is right for you. Then you have to get a swipe from your family doctor and the therapist will apply for your therapy with your health insurance company. An independent reviewer will then decide whether your therapy will be approved. That sounds creepy, because this reviewer has never seen you and only makes a decision based on a report that your therapist has written. But let's put it this way: She already knows what to write in there. Whoever needs help will also get help. By the way, I'll run to therapy twice a week for the next two years and chat about my feelings.
More about depression:
Let's face it - meeting friends is difficult. Especially with my social anxiety disorder, because friends want to meet in bars or hip restaurants. There are a lot of people there, it's loud, so this is my personal limbo. I also very often cancel appointments at the last second because I am suddenly overwhelmed or afraid or tired or suddenly tell myself that they don't want to meet me anyway. Especially the last 10 minutes before I leave the house are unbearable. Even if I really want to see my friends, the thought of having to hang out OUT for a whole evening puts me under great stress. Palpitations and the reflex to cancel then take command and often win the inner battle.
Some of my friendships only exist in theory, because after canceling for the third time, most of them no longer ask if I would like to meet. But some have not given up, but keep asking and I meet these friends from time to time. But I don't think that these are my “only true” friends, but that they can simply deal better with the constant refusals on my part. If you have depressed friends: Don't give up and keep asking! Even if it takes months! They don't mean it badly. And sayings like “Everything is going pretty well with you”, “Have a laugh!” And “Are you still not feeling better?” Can also be saved. By the way, depressed friends are quite capable of really letting go. Only sometimes do they get very tired or overwhelmed very quickly and have to lie down for a while.
Hard to believe, but in the whole mess of feeling stupid and panic attacks, I actually found love. Not an emergency nail, but real love. Actually, I wanted to concentrate on myself and my recovery and then the perfect man comes trotting up on his stupid white pony and it was all over to me.
I said from the start that I was depressed. That was a personal decision and should by no means trigger a wave of outings. It felt right to me and I didn't want to get to know anyone and have to hear later that I was so complicated and that I could have said that earlier. With me there are no cats in a poke, I am an open book that has really difficult passages, but is also easy to read at times.
Yes, there are, the moments when I doubt everything and would like to run away. Fortunately, I have a very understanding partner who buffers away these doubts and howling attacks with back crawls. I have learned that open communication about fears and needs helps to avoid misunderstandings and to stop the negative vortex in my head. The depression sometimes clouds the view and you fantasize about relationship problems where there are none. In relationships with depressed people, there will always be times that are difficult. But it is worth going through this.
As I mentioned earlier, I had a pretty stupid job. I worked for an almost sectarian startup, had an infinite amount of overtime and was entrusted with an impossible task. At some point I cried at my desk every day and was fired. I am unhappy. Aha. I sued these birds, of course, and won.
Regular wage work can help many affected people, as it enables a regular daily routine and thus brings structure into everyday life. I hated it! Sitting in the same office every day and doing pointless work was unbearable for me. Now I am freelance, work when and where I can and am much happier. But figuring out what I need took a while.
The step into the unknown was very difficult for me because I am afraid of everything. It's a bit like forcing someone with a spider phobia to keep a tarantula as a pet. Just without a terrarium and she sleeps in bed with you. Fortunately, things are going very well, the tarantula has settled in perfectly and I am not so often overwhelmed or sad. I can decide for myself which orders I accept and which I don't. After all these years of hard wage work, it was just a sensible step to go into business for yourself. I work best at unchristian times, namely very early in the morning. My batteries are still full and I am not so exhausted from the day. That is why I usually work from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. and after that it is off.
I've also learned new things and can now finally do what I really enjoy, even if it scares me as hell. But I put it like this: Tschaka!