Most wonderful time of the year or not?

As we approach the Holidays, we are exposed to different feelings. Some experience euphoria, excitement, sorrow, loss, and nostalgia are a big trigger for those feelings. Sometimes these can lead to painful memories or experiences. When I was younger, I would see the holiday season as the “most wonderful time of the year”. I loved the annual lighting of the Christmas trees around the city, the crowds in the malls, and most of all the festive happiness. If I had had a sucky year it gave me hope for a better year ahead.

A brave face.

For some people it isn’t as exciting, and they actually dread this time of the year. Even for me, things have changed. It reminds me of someone who is no longer with us and brings back the feelings of anxiety, sadness, and a fear of falling into great depression. As a mother to a seven-year-old, I try my best to stay positive and do what is needed to display an optimistic appearance, I focus mainly on him.

December 15 is around the corner and happens to be the birthday of my dearest friend who passed away. The days leading up to the day fill my heart with grief and sadness, and the questions of “why was he taken from us so soon?”. I am a firm believer in God’s plan, and I have to believe that was the will of God. But, it’s us who are left behind with infinite memories which cannot be erased.

Many people suffer from SAD, seasonal affected disorder, affecting 10 million Americans each year. Studies have also shown 10 to 20% may be suffering from a milder form*.

The reason I am writing about this is because I have had a few very candid conversations with people regarding my blog. Some feedback I received was about the mental health section of the blog. Some said, “depression is a choice”. I wholeheartedly disagree. Let me be very clear, NO ONE and I mean NO ONE chooses to be “depressed”, “anxious”, or “angry”. I am living proof of that. I don’t know when I began to have depression, or when it became chronic, all I know is I suffer from it, but there are ways to control it. The stigma on mental health is out of control, and people need to educate themselves about the facts.

It’s not something you can just snap out of.

I decided to reach out to two Doctors who deal with patients suffering from depression, and other disorders.  I first reached out to my childhood friend, Dr. X., and I told her about the claims that depression is a choice.  Dr. X. has been practicing Psychiatry for over 10 years. Her exact words were “that person is more than welcome to come and see my patients ‘choosing’ to be depressed because of the depression caused by either childhood trauma, life experience, bad childhoods, or just genetics”.  She basically summed it up by suggesting those who have doubts to read studies published online, or Psychology Today.  There’s an actual article there where you can read about it.  Read Article

Dr. X is one of my oldest friends, and we have been through elementary through Undergrad together.  She has seen me in my lowest and understands that it’s not something I have ever wanted. 

Dr. Shandana Ayub is a Psychiatrist in London, UK.  She’s a close family friend and I wanted to know her perspective.  I posed the question “Is Depression a Choice”? 

Her answer, “Depression is more than ‘feeling sad’ like so many people think.  It’s an illness, a complex one at that. Every patient I have ever seen would give anything not to have it. It’s an illness that isolates you from everything you hold dear, it makes you neglect yourself. It can make you psychotic, it can make you catatonic. You feel worthless that you feel the world would be better off without you. I’ve seen those who respond to treatment, life returns in their eyes, and things have meaning again. When you see that, you know it would never be a ‘choice’ that anyone would make.  Imagine if we felt diabetes and hypertension were a choice?”  

Her words resonate with my heart and my exact thoughts. Who wants to be unhappy?

Hits like a Wave.

I want to be completely transparent here.  I wake up happy. Not going to lie, but as the day progresses, I am sometimes hit by a wave of sadness or extreme feelings of helplessness.  When I was a child, I didn’t know how to channel it, so I would fight through it by expressing anger. I am the first to put myself down, and at times I have been my own worst enemy.  Achieving something great was something I never felt I deserved. I still remember during my undergrad years going out with my mother as she boastfully spoke about my sister and brothers.  She always discussed how they were all becoming “doctors”, and I always waited for her to say something encouraging or positive about me, but that never happened.  

Even a few years back my father had open heart surgery, and I was devastated, first I had no idea what was happening.  Watching my father lay there with a tube going into his chest, I almost fainted. I remember crying inconsolably, and my siblings assuring me he was looking great for post op. I remember feeling terrified and desperate for God to make him ok.  When he woke up, he introduced all of us to his doctors, but he kind of skipped over me. I remember feeling a twinge of sadness and I held back my tears.  

I realized that day nothing I ever will do will ever make them proud.  Knowing this as a fact is a very tough pill to swallow. My dad isn’t a bad person, he just doesn’t know anything more than Medicine.  I have to believe my parents love me, but never approved of my path. That is why my confidant, Adil, was so important in my life. I had never had someone be so extremely proud of me.  He would be beaming with pride when he introduced me to people. It was almost embarrassing because I wasn’t used to being praised, and I always downplayed all of my accomplishments. When God took him away, he took away my biggest cheerleader, I was so lost without him.  It sounds so selfish but it’s so true, as individuals we all want to be appreciated. I live with regrets, not giving him a huge bear hug, or telling him how his presence was such a necessity in my life.  

So, do I choose to feel this way?  No.