Living a life as changing as a constant roller coaster, Roula decided to go into rehab when she was 40. The difficulties of being an Eastern woman raised in a Western culture, the challenges of a dysfunctional family, and the downturns of life had all piled up in a sequel of depression, addictions, and self-hurting episodes. In an interview with BarakaBits, she explains how admitting depression led the way to a steady recovery.
What led you into depression?
I’ve come to realize that I’ve always been of the depressed type. There is something in me, genetically, that makes me easily stressed and unable to cope with extreme situations. In my teens I tried to hurt myself and I swallowed pills. I cannot pinpoint why I was like that. I had a dysfunctional family, and early on I was extremely rebellious: I was seeing boys, and I started smoking and drinking at an early age. Something in me got to this point of hopelessness. And a result of being that way, I grew to become an alcoholic and dependent.
After having my second child, I had post-natal depression. I was always in distress, feeling hopeless. Anti-depressants initially worked, but as my mood lifted I went out of control and started progressively drinking; so I started taking anti-anxiety pills because I was so pumped with energy that I needed something to sleep, and at one point I needed anti-psychotics because drinking heavily with anti-depressants is a recipe for disaster. You get in this kind of psychotic state of mind, I even used to have episodes of mania and tried to harm myself.
And how did your path to recovery begin?
I went into rehab at 40 to stop pills and alcohol, and my life has been slowly and progressively better. I went through an extreme low, and in December I was diagnosed clinically depressed. What really helped was intense psychotherapy; my therapist came to live with me basically, and it has helped tremendously. I also travelled, and it was the first time in my life that I let go of many things, because I am usually very hard on myself.
What has helped me is growing into the awareness that this is a journey to the self. And I am happily on that path now, because the more I learn about myself, the more those dark thoughts go away. I don´t understand where depression came from, but I have come to accept it and stopped judging it. I take is as a part of myself. You can´t analyze it or judge it, but you can talk about incidents and make sense of certain things. Cognitive-behavioral therapy teaches you to think right, because depressed people and addicts have a disease of the thinking, so it is extremely instrumental.
I feel calm now, I don´t have this extreme need of happiness: It´s a black or white way of thinking; and now I´ve come to feel that OK is enough. I feel like a nicer person and I feel nicer to myself.
People undergoing depression fear “being discovered”. How did you deal with the stigma?
Of course, because people are ashamed to show their true colors. But you grow to a point where you realize that people’s opinion does not really matter. I suffer from OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), I am an alcoholic and an addict, I am clinically depressed, and I was diagnosed with a borderline personality. This is who I am, but I am still a good person and I am doing my best to be a good mom and a good wife, I am going what I can. The journey of self-discovery is the most important thing.
A lot of people feel they will be misunderstood if they say “I am depressed” — that they will be labelled as a lunatic or an ungrateful person. A lot of the problems nowadays come from ignorance because people don´t bother to understand mental health. You can discuss physical problems nowadays, and everybody knows everything. But mental well-being is relatively new. By 2020, depression is going to be the biggest issue on the planet, but for now nobody knows about it.
It´s not a personal thing; when you tell people, they shy away from you because they don’t understand and don´t know how to deal with it. I choose not to put my problems towards people, I try to talk to people who have an understanding.
What has made the biggest impact in the healing process?
I’ve always felt it was a part of me, but when I realized this is who I am is when I hit rock bottom. And a week later I was in rehab. I needed a rock bottom, I need to get hit on the face to wake up, to realize something that I had always known but had never dealt with.
What advice would you give someone who is entering depression?
Therapy. Learn about depression, because ignorance in this aspect is dreadful. And therapy is instrumental — it’s really important. If you can´t afford it, find a way. Don’t be hard on yourself, don´t judge yourself. The fact is that every other human being on this planet is undergoing some form of depression. You are not alone. Get out of the ignorant bubble, and don´t judge yourself. It´s easier said than done, but accepting it as a part of you really helps.
Check out other helpful tips about mental health, and advice for self-help and improvement on Challenge 2 Change.