It has been a really, really rotten year, or to be exact, 18 months. Destiny has had a cruel way of showering me with all sorts of negative things beginning with the letter D: death, divorce, deficit, drama, damage, darkness, decline, defeat, denial, disappointment, disagreement, disapproval, distrust, and now depression. I hate the letter D for all the destruction it has brought to my soul and my life, the devastation it has brought to the relationships I thought I could count on, and the defeat I live and breathe.

Some friends have asked how I have coped and not landed in the Funny Farm earlier, a question I asked myself as well.  I have always considered myself to be a strong person, and as someone involved in coaching and training for many years, I had my own coping mechanisms, somehow managing to pull myself out of the various tunnels I found myself in from time to time. They say it is the ones whom we love the most who cut the deepest wounds, and believe me, I have tested the validity of this statement more than once this year alone. But every rope has the point then it ceases to be a life-saver and becomes an instrument of torture.

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Sorrow Lake ©MTHerzog

Starting over and rebuilding my life in a foreign country was stupidly brave of me, but for practical and legal reasons I bit the bullet and jumped into the deep end of the German bureaucratic pool, knowing that I had my anchors to rely on, those who would catch me when I fell, and hold me when the world around me crumbles. For as long as I was busy setting up and running around meeting requirements (which I am still not done with) it could ignore my brewing emotions, fears and nightmares and allow myself only to rant and rave about the superficial and technical side of things. I became extremely sensitive over the past months, easily hurt and offended by the callousness and insensitivity of those whom I thought knew better, and my anxiety of socialising alone became more acute. Over the past six months, I survived from one positive event to another, having small goals to work towards, to inspire me and provide the strength to go on. So when the people involved cancel important events on me like Christmas, a weekend, or a holiday, I feel cheated.  Cheated of a small moment of happiness; a positive reason to look forward; and another lifesaver to get me through this darkness. These moments of abandonment and additional disappointment, as any psychologist will tell you, are fuel to the already raging fire.

Now that the dust has settled, however, all the grief and great sense of loss surfaced with full force, and people I thought I could protect me, abandoned me instead, and now I find myself at the bottom of a very dark barrel. The good days are fewer, and the inability to function at full capacity is manifested in so many ways: fear of going out, insomnia, anxiety, and shortness of breath.
I hate it.
I am absolutely terrified.

As one who has had previous experience recognising the signs of clinical depression in others, I recognised my own and knew I had reached the point where I needed to reach out for professional help. But recognising and owning up to it are two very different things. One tends to procrastinate, sweeping things under the rug and compensating in other ways just to cope from one day to another. The fragility that this leads to is a dangerous one, because when pushed too far or in the wrong way, the entire structure comes crumbling down and shatters. That is exactly what I am now, shattered.

Divorce complicates things in more ways than one, especially holidays. This is my very first Christmas without family, and I have been dreading it, knowing full well that I still grieving the loss of my parents. They raised me to love Christmas for the spiritual human side of it, not the material trappings. For Mommy it was all about kindness, generosity, support, and gratitude. Somewhere along the way, we started the tradition of setting an extra place at the table on Christmas Eve for any lost soul who might need adopting. My aunt expanded the concept later on with setting an extra place at the table on New Year’s Eve for prosperity. So to me, experiencing unkindness, selfishness, betrayal and disappointment on Christmas were unheard of, until last week when I was summarily bumped off an event that had been planned months ago. My family and clan always said that if there was one holiday we should never, ever abandon anyone, it is Christmas and I have lived by those precepts for the past 50 years. Dear friends asked over the past months what my plans were and I reassured everyone that I was being taken care of, that I would be safe. The trouble with accepting invitations for Christmas as a solo divorcee is that no matter where you go, since Christmas is such an intimate family event, you will always be the outsider.

I am still on the waiting list for the out-patient psychiatric clinic, as the list is long and since I am neither psychotic, schizophrenic, bi-polar, a drug addict, nor an alcoholic and “just” clinically depressed and paranoid, I am at the bottom of the priority list. One private clinic gave me an appointment for February 19, since I am a new patient! So you can imagine that this has pushed me even further over the edge.

Suddenly, at 03:00am two nights ago, I remembered a dear old friend, medical doctor and psychotherapist whom I had not had contact with in many years. I fired off an urgent message, saying that I would even be willing to travel to Münster if that would help. The silence over the airwaves for the next hours had me frantic, and when my phone rang I almost jumped out of my skin. Though it was a German number, the person on the other side was calling all the way from Tajikistan (I had to look it up on the map as well) where he is currently on mission. OMG. This person knows me well, and knows my soul inside and out, my strengths and weaknesses, and especially, that I never send SOS messages, so he dropped everything and I my first therapy session. My soul smiled inevitably, because this the man whom I pattered one of the main characters of my novel after, a familiar bohemian soul who knows what it means to take risks in the pursuit of a dream and preservation of personal sanity and freedom.

I am still waiting for my turn at the psychiatry clinic, but in the meantime I have also located the nearest churches and hospitals in case of emergency. Admitting and owning the depression are daunting steps, but as two dear friends reminded me yesterday, to stop being the proud and suffering Asian and be more German, not be afraid to ask for help, now that my own strength has finally left me.