The factors that caused my depression are complex. Things become more apparent when I started accepting my mental disorder and confront the illness. I found that the causes are interconnected. There was no particular thing or factor that triggers the illness. In my culture and country, many people think that depression is caused by a person’s inability on stress management. Also, it is because of the stigmatism of “thinking too much”. It is not totally accurate, yet it is not totally wrong. Let me explain it to you with my experience and with some research that I found.
“People with depression do have the ability to manage stress”
What we could not manage are our emotions. Stress is a feeling. A feeling of emotional or physical tension when we cannot cope with emotional pressure (Mental Health Foundation, 2021). Stress-causing factors exist with stress, which means there is always an external factor or reason for the occurring of stress. If we could recognize the stress-causing factors and solve the issues immediately, we could ease our stress away quickly.
Nevertheless, if we prolong the problems and allow the stress to harm our body and influence our mind, it will cause depression. It is the type of depression caused by biological vulnerability and internal conflicts. Eventually, this leads to a loss of emotional control. This is what happened to me.
I knew that I burned out and was stressed, but I do not know what emotions store inside me. I told my parents that I could not work anymore, I need to rest. So, I stopped working. I made a step to ease my stress, but it does not solve the problems in recognizing the emotions, and I did not know what triggered them. Depression was still with me. I realized that I am not emotionally intelligent enough.
I was taught not to contain too many emotions to accomplish or succeed as being emotional will make you unproductive. There is nowhere to learn about it. It is not taught in schools, universities or even from your parents. Hence, I started the journey to learn about emotions from books, podcasts, people and mentors. Self-awareness and an unjudgmental mindset are needed to learn emotional intelligence. It is an energy-consuming exercise, while the outcomes are always satisfying and eye-opening. I found a new “me” every time. I learned that there is nothing wrong with being emotional. Instead, the action taken and the decision made with the recognized emotions are the keys to success.
When people tell you “Just not to think too much!”
I still remember the first thing that my father told me to do when he saw my state of depression was: “Just don’t think too much.”. I was frustrated. I did not want to listen to him nor my mother as I did not feel that they were listening to me. I stopped communicating with the people who told me “Not to think too much” as their words grew the conflicts inside me more. I could not stop thinking.
There is study proved that people who like to overthink could trigger depression easily. Women are the more vulnerable group compared to men as females are more emotionally sensitive than males generally. Meanwhile, the scientific truth is depression is about “loops of thoughts”.
I could feel and sense loops of thoughts inside my brain. Linking events to events, linking sadness to happiness, linking grief to regrets, etc. My brain was restless for 24 hours, even in sleep. I ruminate the pasts, the negativity, the regrets, unknown future and connected them all day long. The brain exercise drained all my energy. I could not do anything else, and I closed myself into the “safe” space then kept ruminating. Thus, to heal from depression, we must stop the loops – “Not to think too much”. The best way to begin is to be present, stop focusing on the past and future.
There are many stigmas around depression and other mental illnesses. Many want to break the stigmas. To me, it is about generation gaps and knowledge gaps. Different generations are dealing with mental illness differently. Each generation has its own wisdom. In fact, maybe their wisdom is just being interpreted by us in different ways.
The past generations thought that you are depressed because you could not manage stress. Meanwhile, they had no choice but to blame themselves as the education, economic and sociocultural structure shaped them to think this way. My father was right, asking me “Not to think too much” to stop ruminating. Also, his philosophy of life is “活在当下“， which means being present. He’s right again. I was not prepared to interpret his words and being aware of the meaning. He did not learn how to teach me to be present, and maybe his methods will not be effective because of the educational gaps. We could not empathise. It is about emotional intelligence. Hence, what if the schools teach us about emotions, will my life story be different?
- Mental Health Foundation. (2021). “Stress”. Retrieved from https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/a-to-z/s/stress
- Andrews, L.W. (2017). “Overthinking? It Could Be Depressing You”. Retrived from https://www.everydayhealth.com/emotional-health/depression/overthinking-it-could-depressing-you/
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