This story talks about my struggle with depression. Ever since I was a teenager I was on-and-off depressed and suicidal due to self-esteem issues primarily related to dating and relationships. I felt very unattractive in terms of my appearance and personality. I felt I was “born defective”. As an example, when I was 13 years old, I attended my 15-year old female cousin’s birthday party. I made a “self-realization” that I was “trash” compared to my cousin’s male friends. They were all better looking, and I perceived that they had better personalities. I felt that I would be lucky if I ever came close to their level. I felt like I had to try and close this gap.
I tried to improve my appearance and befriend popular kids in both elementary school and high school. This came with lots of failure. I worked really hard to force myself on everyone. I invited myself out everywhere with social groups, but in turn did not get invited to birthday parties or events. I often did not do anything on the weekends. I was “tolerated” socially, but not sincerely welcome. In high school, I asked multiple girls to prom, all with negative responses. As an adult, I tried a number of avenues with dating – parties, bars, online dating. Nobody really gave me a chance. I felt there was always something intrinsically wrong, or severely unattractive about my personality or appearance. I could not help but believe I was born “wrong”, thus explaining all my rejections in life.
Therefore, the ideations started due to self-judgment. I knew my “place” in the social hierarchy and I did not like this thought pattern. As such, every few years I felt compelled to keep a suicide timeline for a different period in my life – i.e. I would commit to killing myself after elementary school, high school or after university. At times I would have ideations throughout the day for periods lasting several months.
The ideations started when I was around 13 and lasted until my late twenties. Sometimes I would fantasize about crashing my car or jumping off a bridge. The closest I came to actual self-harm was hanging one foot over the subway tracks. Other suicidal ideations that came up periodically included:
- Stabbing my eyes or slitting throat with sharp objects;
- Jumping off of high places;
- Jumping into a subway, and;
- Driving a car into the median or off the road.
To escape, I used to spend an excessive amount of time on very introverted hobbies such as novels, video games, and comics.
I kind of got used to the ideations. I never really asked for help, though in hindsight I wished I had earlier.
One day a few years ago during a strong period of low I expressed to an Uber driver that I wanted to kill myself. The driver actually called the police out of concern. Ironically, the police actually handcuffed me, saying that they “needed to detain me until an ambulance could come”. Long story short it turned out to be a good thing because it made me realize I had a lot of work I needed to do. My friend who was a suicide counsellor had recommended me to see a therapist. I was also lucky to have various other supportive friends who supported me through tough times.
After the incident with the Uber ride, I started to take therapy more seriously and did a lot of research into improving my mental health and physical health (since I also had multiple health issues). Some mindfulness speakers like Eckhart Tolle were also very powerful and life changing. My therapist primarily practiced insight-based therapy. Working with the therapist taught me self-compassion and emotional awareness. I also learned to identify and link emotions to body sensations. I came to a number of self-realizations that I wanted to work on:
- Having my self-esteem and self-worth NOT be primarily driven by how “successful” I am at dating and what women think of me;
- Feeling like women are not attracted to me despite positive (and sometimes obvious) signs being seen;
- Feelings of resentment and spiteful thoughts toward attractive women and men, and;
- Lack of empathy toward women my age or that I am attracted to, attractive men, and people in general who are very different from me.
Self reflection also helped me come to a number of other realizations as well, that have assisted with my recovery:
- I found the more open I was about personal problems the better I felt, especially just talking with others. Being open about my problems and feelings helped me a lot;
- Everyone has felt worthless, undervalued, and like failures, etc at various points in their lives – some to higher degrees of intensity than others. Yet, surprisingly, more people can relate with you than you would think. We are all less alone than we think;
- I did my best to let go of self-punishment and judgement for not being an XYZ person or not having ABC in life;
- The best sense of self-esteem is feeling proud about the direction and journey you are on and not your past successes;
- Tony Robbins has good write-ups about living according to your values and heading in the right direction versus feeling pleasure from past success and anticipated future success;
- Another key thing is to avoid taking too much pleasure from “success”. Life is never a continuous stream of positive events. Being too attached to success means paying the price later with negative emotions when something does not go your way, which is inevitable, and;
- Fear is emotional resistance to the future and anger is emotional resistance to the past.
After years of work and self-reflection, I am happy to say I’m no longer depressed. I am also in a serious, happy relationship. I maybe get a few ideations every few months versus daily. I am enjoying life in a genuine way now and all my health issues have improved . I never thought it was possible to feel this good. I was in a bad place but I made the change and never gave up.
These days I would not change the past. I feel gratitude for having gone through the hard times because it helped me relate better to others. My youngest sister for example has had ideations, and I have been able to relate and listen to her. As a survivor I can give back and I hope can continue to do the same in the future. I no longer have that strong self judgement towards how attractive I am now. It feels like I was “asleep” before and my life has now truly begun.