It was not until 2007 that my depression slowly revealed itself. I had lost my father 3 years before and had sort of lost my purpose in life at the same time. I increasingly started to feel alone in the midst of people and sought out a lot of alone time.
I was living with my martial arts master in a Brazilian martial arts academy for one year at that time. So, the locals gave me the nickname “Sarcofago” (coffin in Portuguese) as I spent so much time in my room. I was still sort of okay, but I felt the darkness building itself up on me.
When I returned to Germany, the darkness slowly but surely grew on me. It only took a few short years before I became deeply depressed.
I pulled myself out of social interactions. I stayed in my apartment often for weeks at a time, opting to order food instead of buying groceries.
Quickly, I gained about 88 pounds and my social life started to suffer as a result. I not only feel uncomfortable about the fact that I was depressed, but I also felt uncomfortable in my own skin.
It was then that I started to develop a pretty bad sleeping disorder. There were times that I fail to fall in a deep sleep in the early mornings and only got to sleep for maybe 2 or 3 hours. I watched television series and movies all day long and read a few books along the way, luckily.
It got so bad that I had daily thoughts of not wanting to live anymore, but I also knew I would not commit suicide. I just that I did not see any reason for living anymore. At one point, it got so bad that some of my friends offered me to live with them to avoid being lonely.
Luckily, after reading The Art of Learning for the 2nd or 3rd time, I was able to notice that the author did not only battle with depression, but he used his experience to write a book that changed my life.
I am not entirely sure about the reason that has changed my start of the day routine. Instead of going straight to the PC to watch something, I sat outside on my balcony and read a single passage of The Tao Te Ching (the Stephen Mitchell translation). I would then close the book and reflect on the meaning of the passage to me.
Sometimes, I would read until I found a passage that spoke to me directly. I did not worry about reading the book from start to end. I just read what I wanted and needed. If you are not familiar with the book, it only contains 81 short verses. An example, verse 64, which says: “The journey of a thousand miles starts from beneath your feet.”
So, what was happening?
Well, I found something that spoke to me. It felt like I finally had something that expressed many of my initial feelings and thoughts. I found it to be intriguing as it gave me a small amount of solace and hope.
Sometimes, I did more than just sit on the balcony once a day to read the Tao. Sometimes, I would do it twice a day, but with no intention. It just happened naturally.
During that same time, I had read the popular Tim Ferriss book, The 4 Hour Body because I wanted to lose weight.
The book gave me the idea of cold exposure, so I started adding cold showers to my regime. Usually, I would start warm and then go to cold for maybe 20-40 seconds. This was probably very beneficial as it gave me unexpected energy.
I started to become an advocate about the amazing benefits of cold showers and recommended that everyone do it too. I took them for about a year until I stopped for some unknown reason. I did not get back into it until several months ago.
I was now a few years into the depression, but reading the Tao Te Ching really eased my mind. In 2012, I had a friend stay with me for 2 periods of roughly 4-8 weeks. It was nice and helpful. Although, what truly started to change things around was slowly changing my mindset by being more optimistic. I got more hopeful over time from reading the Tao Te Ching.
You can probably compare this with anything that speaks to you. For you, maybe it is the Bible, Koran, or really anything that speaks to you.
It is best to find your thing. Start by trying out different things. Be open minded, even if you do not fully believe in all of it in the beginning. Just try something new. Who knows maybe a different perspective will change things slowly over time?
During 2012, I was taking some Valerian to help calm my mind down at night. I started to have a slightly more normal sleeping rhythm. I also started to notice that I did not feel as sad and depressed as often anymore.
I was not feeling happiness, but everything started to become more neutral. That was already a great step in my opinion. For about 2 weeks, I took an antidepressant drug of very low strength and it showed me its potential. Although, I stopped taking it quickly because I knew that I could do it on my own.
I always had this inner feeling that I could overcome this on my own, but my external world was always trying to convince me to get help. Something that I had tried in previous years, but no therapist seemed to be a good fit.
Sometime during the summer of 2012, I noticed that I almost never felt sad anymore but rather neutral. This was when I started to become more social again.
From then on, almost everything else slowly got better.
This is an abbreviated version of the full article, which originally appeared on The Metoo Project.
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