I was in two minds about writing this post, but I ultimately decided to since this is an extremely important topic to talk about. I'm hoping that by sharing my own experience, may hopefully help others.
Firstly, those close to me, know that I hardly, if ever, talk about my own feelings and emotions. I suppose this largely stems from my own background where this never really occurred in my family. This isn't a bad or good thing, it's just the way it was. Also combined with growing up during different times, as well as perhaps the country that had something to do with this. As I said, this is not a bad thing, and I had many other positive things that helped shaped me into who I am today. The way I express myself best is via writing things down, such as in this blog post.
Casting back to around 2017, I had the most devastating news that I've yet to receive in my life. My dad was diagnosed with a horrible disease, MND. For those who don't know what it is, it's basically when your body's nervous system slowly fades away. There currently is no cure, and the prognosis is unfortunately death. The worst part about the disease, is that the person who goes through it literally wastes away, yet their brain remains entirely healthy and active. One of the first things to typically go is your speech, then movement until you are essentially bed ridden. Watching someone you love and cherish is incredibly difficult. You ultimately feel totally helpless and at the same time incredibly guilty. You ultimately know the outcome, and you dread that day. But at the same time, you look forward to it, especially at the end, since it means that person is no longer suffering.
That day come the evening before my birthday (my dad always loved to play pranks, so I suppose this was his lost hoorah). I felt a sense of relief, but you ultimately have lost someone who you love deeply and respect. After the initial time spent with things such as funerals, etc. you then start having time to reflect. I've lost count the number of times I had dreams of them finding some cure and my dad was saved! Only then to wake up realising it was a dream. To this day it often weighs heavily on me, something that I will likely never be able to overcome. Just something that I learn to manage better with time. You feel guilty since they will never see their new grandchildren. See their grandchildren grow old. See my brother getting married. Show them things that you most proud about at both home and at work. That's perhaps the most difficult part of it all. What I would do to just have one final day to spend with my dad!
For me, this was the starting point of my depression. The prognosis. It's like a grey cloud constantly hanging over your head, and you have no way of dealing with. You think to yourself that you must remain strong, be there for your family, and most of all my dad. Reality is that we are all humans and can only do so much. None the less, I marched on, thinking that I would be able to handle it all. I managed only so long until around October 2021. This was a low point for me. I felt utterly helpless, useless, and hopeless. Stresses of the job (it wasn't going all that well), the loss of my dad, and the stresses of supporting a family all caught up with me. I suppose the pandemic didn't help either. After much nagging from the other half, I spoke with the doctor who put me on anti-depressants. I had been on some before, but this was beyond what I experienced before. I've always been cynical about anti-anti-depressants since they won't ultimately solve the root problem. However, as the doctor explained, they help lift your mood so that you can then deal with the problem. I attended some therapy, and it helped a bit. But ultimately it still doesn't make the problems go away.
So ultimately today, I'm still on those anti-depressants, which I would have hoped that I wouldn't be. But they do help. I'm trying to focus on different hobbies to help. At the beginning of the year, I picked my photography back up. I figured it would help take my mind off things and help get me outside and get some fresh air. Which it does. I also invested in a telescope to try do some astrophotography (which I've failed dismally at so far). But the thing about depression is that it's constant, and recently found myself slipping again. Becoming lethargic, not spending much time outside and taking on those hobbies (I suppose the poor weather doesn't help either). But now and then, such as last Friday, I do manage to push myself and get out. And it was fantastic! Depression is a constant battle with yourself, trying to push yourself in the right direction with your body and mind fighting against you. You then begin to doubt yourself, question how worthy you are.
I have this constant struggle with both my professional life, as well as personal live. As a professional, I see people doing all sorts of amazing things. I then look back at my own accomplishments and begin to question how much value they are. I question my own knowledge, and how valuable it really it is. This self-doubt is incredibly draining, and hard to overcome. Especially when you have others who may look up to you. You really don't want to disappoint them. Then there's concentration and lack of motivation. I long for the days where I could spend hours working on some research project, tackling a challenging CTF, or doing some more and exciting streams. Problem is that by the end of the day I'm done, I have zero motivation. On the weekends (as I mentioned above), it's a similar story. The concentration is in a similar position. I battle to sit down and get my teeth really stuck into something. And this self-perpetuates. The more you don't get done, the most stressed you become, and the more distracted you become. Perhaps that adds to the exhaustion? In my personal life, I mentioned some of the waning lack of interests. It also affects your relationships with others, picking fights, not spending time with others. It's not fair on them, and again only adds to the stress.
So, what's to be done about it? Well as I mentioned, anti-depressants are NOT the cure. They help but are only a crutch. I'm not sure what the option is, but I shall keep marching forward. Trying my best to make more of an effort to focus on the things that bring me joy and happiness (such as my photography, as well as spending time with the kids). Depression is a long and difficult journey, for which I doubt many have the answers. And please, don't feel sorry for me. Most of what I have described is my own fault. I should have taken more time out, I should spend more time on my hobbies, etc. So, with this post, I'm not looking for sympathy. What I am hoping is that this post will help at least one person out there. Be it something in this post that they might see and help change them to do things differently, or even help them to have something that resonates with someone else. Lastly, if you are suffering from depression, speak out and seek out. You may think that you will overcome it yourself, but the likelihood of that is low and you don't need to suffer in silence.