Hello readers, in this article, I will be narrating the story of my client Abhishek, a depression patient, in layman language to help you in understanding what is depression.
(This is an imaginary story based on several true stories).
Abhishek works in a software company. He faced difficulty in concentrating on work for the first time about 5 years ago. Initially, that didn’t affect his life much. But gradually, his performance levels came down. He started worrying about his performance. Worry in turn negatively affected his life and performance. Last year, before he started taking counselling, he was in a state where it was even difficult for him to move out of the bed and brush his teeth. Only one thought haunted him! “What is happening to my life? I was a topper, I was a hard worker and competent. Why my life changed? Is there any way to improve my life?” His thoughts used to make him feel exhausted. But since, exhaustion was happening at mind level, he always used to think that he was being lazy.
Slowly, he started believing that he is not an efficient person. He lost confidence in himself. As a result, he gave up many tasks and that in turn, made him feel guilty. He was in so much guilt and as a result he used to feel like punishing and harming himself. He used to try to sleep, but his thoughts would make his mind more active in nights. He had spent many sleepless nights in bed, staring at fan. Eventually, there was negative impact on his physical health as well. He gave up healthy eating and exercising habits because he couldn’t see point in doing anything.
Abhishek’s mother, father, siblings and friends thought that they could help him by asking him / pressurizing him to work. Because, according to them, inability to work was the problem of Abhishek. But their pressure made Abhishek more obligated and guilty. He couldn’t improve performance. He started believing that people cannot understand his pain. So he moved away from them, by assuming that no one can understand him and no one likes him.
No one thought that he was suffering from depression because, common people think that depression means being sad. Abhishek was not looking sad to them. He used to smile many times and be normal. Truth is, depression is not sadness. It is helplessness + hopelessness + worthlessness. Its impossible to understand how one feels by looking at their face.
He used to get 3 kinds of negative thoughts. 1. Negative thoughts about future (“Anyway I won’t be able perform well”, “I wont be able to solve my problems”, etc.) 2. Negative thoughts about people (“No one likes me”, “No one wants to be with me”, “No one likes me because I am an underachiever”, etc.) 3. Negative thoughts about self (“I am inefficient”, “I am incapable”, “I am a burden to my family”, etc.)
Abhishek’s parents were too strict with him in his childhood. But their strictness never appeared like strictness to him because they never used to physically punish him. They just established conditions of worth. I.e., they made Abhishek believe that there is a link between his performance and his worth. They used to ask Abhishek to perform well and explain him how important it is to perform. They used to magnify the benefits of performing well and make Abhishek believe that failure is horrible, adverse and dangerous thing. They made Abhishek feel guilty whenever he failed. For eg., one time, when he failed in exam, his mother cried and stopped eating for a week. They also used to prize Abhishek a lot for performing well.
When Abhishek was an adolescent, his parents had broke the links between activities that Abhishek used to enjoy in childhood by believing that it would improve his academic performance. As a result, Abhishek gradually got turned into a robo who can feel good about himself by succeeding academically in a systematic and mechanical manner. He lost ability to sense, feel, enjoy, and engage. Since, only achievements started controlling his life, they became toxically valuable for him in such a way that, anxiety to succeed itself became a factor that hindered his success.
After that, every loss, such as breakup, death of dear one, etc., added to his inferiority. Instead of grieving, he treated himself like a failure in all adverse situations even when there was no logical basis of that.
Abhishek was very reluctant to come to counselling sessions in beginning, since it was very difficult for him to believe that counselling could help him. And that was part of his problem. He used to feel insecure in my presence. He was afraid that I would judge him/ his parents.
- He learned how to identify his thoughts, emotions and triggers and started maintaining a journal of thoughts. He couldn’t be regular.
- He understood that he automatically gets negative thoughts about future, people and self and that is the part of problem. He learned how to challenge negative thoughts by looking for evidence. We did rational disputation during sessions. He also did some experiments to see if his negative beliefs were true or not. He figured out that they were just assumptions, but not true in most of the cases on his own.
- He started doing works which were favorite to him in his childhood. He started enjoying and engaging in tasks without making calculations and looking for appreciation of others.
- I challenged his core beliefs such as belief that people would love him only if he performs well and that helped him in developing new alternative core beliefs.
- He learned techniques like problem solving, decision making, relaxation, guided imagery etc. and started dealing with all problems in a better manner.
- He became aware of his inner self critical voice, challenged it and learned to be more compassionate towards self.
- Slowly, He got control over sleeping and eating habits.
- He gained back hope and become an efficient performer gradually. He took booster sessions – 1 session per month that helped him to monitor his progress and prevent relapse.