Why leaving the comfort zone can improve your depression

Even though the feeling of sadness was continuous present, the final diagnosis of severe depression and anxiety came as a surprise.

I gave the paper a bright-smiling nurse handed to me in the hospital to my mom. Listed with all my symptoms which were linked to the diagnosing.

-This is so you, said my mom.

We were both looking at each other, crying, but not because we thought this was a bad thing. We finally got answers on the big Why´s. Why was I sad even on a school free day in summer where kids supposed to be just satisfied with a strawberry twister in their hand and an afternoon at the outdoor pool? Why did I keep having nightmares about math exams even though I graduated from High School with perfect grades and everything was already part of history?

The perfect me

Well, the enemy causing all these troubles was sitting in my head and goes by the name of perfectionism. Or in other words – the permanent condition of unhappiness.

The more scattered I felt in my mind the more I tried to compensate this by controlling my surrounding. Some people use To-Do lists because they simply have trouble remembering things. I needed these lists every day to feel fully in control of my life and to feel meaningful.

But at the same time, these lists also set high demands on me.  I wrote down how I wanted to be -the perfect me and set unrealistic goals for each day. Of course, I didn’t manage to fix the problems of the world within 24 hours.

Stop using plastic packaging for good, read at least four books a month, eat vegan (and don’t you dare to consume refined sugar), gym-three times a week and two times yoga (at least! I mean it is good for your mind, right?), start an own blog, learn how to play ukulele…or was it banjo?

I collapsed. With twenty-one, I had the tired eyes of a forty-six-year-old workaholic who knew the exact inch of his computer screen better than the blue sky outside the office.

-I think I need a vacation. Alone. For at least a month. And I will turn off my phone.

My parents were used to listen to my fantasies and didn’t gave me much resistance until the day I was on my way to the airport with not much but a one-way ticket to Sweden.

-And you said you were staying at your friend’s place? What was her name, Moa?

My mom started to worry but I really didn’t have the time to put how-to-make-my-mom-not-worry on my to-do list for this day. Especially because I couldn’t disclose her that there was no such friend called Moa and that I haven’t booked any accommodation for the whole trip.

But I read a whole book about how to survive in the wilderness. I knew how to start a campfire and what to do if you get bitten by a snake. I felt proud of myself for being so well prepared.

A few hours later I stood in the middle of Stockholm’s central station and felt that there might be no good place nearby to start a campfire.

So, I will book a hotel room or check out a hostel, I thought. No big issue.

That it was the middle of July and holiday season, I didn’t keep in mind. Every single hotel room in Scandinavia’s capitol was booked.

I clearly wasn’t prepared. There was nothing to be in control of. I was in a foreign country and homeless. A nightmare, I supposed. But something happened. Or didn’t happen. I didn’t panicked but instead burst out laughing.

It was the surreality which gave me a boost of adrenalin and self-confidence. None of my friends or family knew that I was staying here with nothing but my survival book. It was ironic.

Neither could anyone judge me for what or how I was doing things or if I would do them perfectly because no one knew about it. I felt freedom. There was no handwritten to do list because there was nothing to do and I knew I wouldn’t die of it.

The return

Three months later I returned home. Later than expected, happier than ever and somehow relieved.

I told stories about picking mushrooms, kayaking in the Swedish archipelago and about fishing Aborre.

-Look! I showed my parents a blue tube with some light orange paste squeezing out, placed a little heap on the top of an egg and took a pleasurable bite.

-This is kaviar, so good!

Their face expression was full of surprise and a little disgust.

-We thought you don’t like eggs.

 

Angelina Meier, angelina.meier@mynewsdesk.com

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