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Illustration by Vivi Zhu

Trapped in My Own Mind: A Battle Against Depression

The most difficult part of my journey against depression and anxiety has undeniably been the beginning: the acknowledgement. To digest that this ‘enemy’ I’m up against is my own mind was a whole different ordeal.

Nov 9, 2019

On a good day, I feel relieved because I can invest my energy in activities more productive than fighting my own mind. On a bad day though, it feels like everything has come crumbling down and a better day is unimaginable.
Even before anyone labelled my mental illness for me, my life was day after day of misery, like my mind was obsessed with a horrible cacophony of noises and demanded that I listen to it on loop.
Being unable to feel my body for the first 30 minutes of the morning was as much a part of my routine as falling asleep exhausted. It’s hard to believe now how slow and palpable time felt. The four walls around me were closing in, and before I could register it, I was trapped in a dark room with the sole company of my distraught mind. Distraught over what, I could never tell.
Some days were more suffocating than others. The literal breathlessness resembled existing in a room without ventilation; my breathing space was limited, as was my oxygen supply. I’d run out before I could take a deep enough breath to sustain myself for the next few seconds. It felt like floating against gravity. They labelled these sensations anxiety.
It was what I imagine a personified, untethered Helium balloon would feel like: escaping to higher altitudes. You know for a fact that it is never returning. The seemingly eternal quality of mental illness and a fear of never going back to “normal” were common themes in my fight against depression.
The power depression still has over me is immeasurable, because it is inconsistent. There is no way of quantifying how steadfastly it is holding its ground against me on any given day. There is no way of predicting how much strength I need to muster to throw it off guard as I attempt to run the other way unnoticed. This uncertainty either finds comfort in the folds of my blanket, sandwiched between two pillows throughout the day, or manifests into a state of sleeplessness as my brain finds itself consumed by mind-numbing riddles.
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Illustration by Vivi Zhu
So, when I describe my situation like incapacity in the face of a 10-feet-tall hurdle in a race that I have to finish, how do I get past it?
Some say that you never do. The hurdle shapeshifts and doesn’t seem so daunting on some days but on others, it’s back to being insurmountable. But it’s always there. Some find a loophole. They go around the hurdle: the idea is to repress until there is nothing to feel. I was unconvinced by both these coping mechanisms. One seemed too bleak, and the other, just downright unhealthy.
The most difficult part of my journey against depression and anxiety has undeniably been the beginning: the acknowledgement. To digest that this ‘enemy’ I’m up against is my own mind was a whole different ordeal.
In many ways, my diagnosis was the best and the worst thing to have happened to me. Labelling this feeling that weighed me down reinforced it in ways I did not think possible. I’d heard about depression and what it did to people, but now I was living it. On the other hand, labelling it as something recognizable meant that there are probably words that also embody a healing process. And because I wanted to believe that there was a healing process out there, I used up all of my strength and a little bit of will power to come to terms with my diagnosis. But then what?
If you are waiting for me to tell you about the infinite supply of energy within you that you can channel using an all-too-easy cheat code like in video games, you’re wrong. Depression is not a virtual reality where you get three lives. Once you’re exhausted, it’s game over. At this point, I had nothing left to feed my mind. I’d roll my eyes at suggestions of mindfulness, because that sounded a lot like sitting at the negotiation table with the stubborn enemy who started this whole thing in the first place.
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Illustration by Vivi Zhu
Against the “power through” advice from a lot of people, I took a leave of absence from college. I left, not because I had a Hollywood-esque breakthrough, but just because I was utterly burnt out.
Taking a break is the part of my story where I have been knocked out of the ring, and no one expects me to get up and fight as the referee counts to 10. But I do, because the few seconds I had on the ground made me realize I did not want to remain there.
I wish I could conclude my story with self admiration for how bravely I overcame the monstrosity that is mental illness, that I found a way to jump the hurdle and win the race, but I can’t. You see, I haven’t gotten to that part yet. I am still fighting that boxing match, recovering from the static-like numbness and pressing pause on the horrible playlist on repeat in my mind. So far, I have just managed to turn it down a notch.
When I talk of the inconsistency of the power depression has over my mind, what I mean to say is that I can never truly predict how much of myself I will have to invest in fighting it on a given day and time. This is why advice like “power through” doesn’t mean much to me: it’s shallow. Most people who give out this advice don’t know what I’m up against, because even I don’t know what I’m up against. The truth is, I'm just trying to find out.
Sameera Singh is Social Media Editor. Email her at
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