Here is the full transcript of Living with Depression and Suicidal Feelings by Sami Moukaddem at TEDxLAU
Listen to the MP3 Audio here: On living with depression and suicidal feelings by Sami Moukaddem at TEDxLAU
So I am five years old. I am standing on the balcony, 7th floor, and I am calculating. When I went to my grandmother and asked her, “What happens when people die?”
She says, “Nothing; everything goes black”.
So being practical, I went to my bedroom, lied on my bed, closed my eyes. And 10 minutes later, I started to cry, because I felt myself in darkness. I cried because I lost the option of not existing because that’s what I wanted to do. I wanted to not exist anymore.
Now things got better, much better. And by the age of 13, I was praying and I had an amazing experience where my chest just opened, and I felt this love for the whole world. It’s like a state of bliss, and it lasted for about two months. Literally, I felt love for everything around me, rocks, whatever. I had been reading about a serial killer. There is love coming. It’s strange.
But then something weird happened. It’s like a light bulb that just got an extra bit of light and it popped. And I fell in a hole inside myself and that’s the beginning of depression.
By the time I was 18, I had just moved to Ireland, and just like the practical 5 years old, I felt OK. I don’t want to exist anymore. So here is the plan. I’m going to try to not commit suicide because friends and family would hurt. So I’m going to try to work on myself as much as I can. And if I can’t, then I’ll leave this place.
So, I went into psychology. As a DIY job, I wanted to work on myself. 9 years later, I came out with 3 Masters. And I ended up working in the field of trauma — somehow, extreme trauma, like sexual abuse and victims of torture. It took me 30 years, from my first fall, for the suicidal feelings to stop. And I would consider myself no longer depressed, although I do get depressed, but it’s due to life circumstances.
In my case, I don’t see it in terms of a mental illness. I see it as more of a physical illness, and an ailment of the soul and the psyche. In my situation, I was clear that there was trauma in my childhood. So I decided I was going to approach it through psychology work and not take drugs.
Now, I’m saying this because not all depression is the same. And some of the approaches that I applied on myself are actually not appropriate and even dangerous in other situations. I am not against medication. By the end of this talk, in about 12 minutes, 24 people throughout the world will have committed suicide. That’s just the statistics. That’s one in every 30 seconds.
Now there’s a lot of misconceptions about suicide and depression. And they make things much worse. For example, one of the things that I had to deal with is this attitude of why don’t you snap out of it? That’s like looking at a homeless person and saying: Why don’t you get rich?
My brother admitted to me just recently. He said, “You know, I know it sounds stupid now but when we were kids, I used to think that you chose depression because you used to listen to sad music”. Now, had he said it to me at the time, I wouldn’t have had the language to say to him, “You know, AC/DC and Van Halen, they do work but not all the time. And when they don’t work, I’m lonelier”. What I need is something that reflects my state in the outside world. So there is two of us — two miseries.
Some of the suggestions, while they could come from a good place, bring an extra pressure. For example, a friend would walk in and say: “Check this out. There’s proof that if you do sports, chemicals will be released in the body, happy chemicals, and you should just check it out, you should do it, you really should do it”.
Well, when you’re depressed, the weight of your body feels much heavier than its actual weight. So I could go for a jog for 5 minutes and then I stop. And the last thing I need is another sense of defeat.
OK, fine. Why don’t you go for a walk? Clear your head. Here is my head on a walk. In those moments, it took me a while to realize, what I need most is actually to be in bed, curtains closed, and with the least amount of stimulation. Just like a migraine person needs. Except with my brain it’s more acceptable.
But with depression, it’s that attitude is umm, umm, umm, you’re not making the best out of life. The amount of times that I wished I’d developed cancer or was hit by a bus, so I could be in a wheelchair and say: I’m in a wheelchair, man, it’s going to take a while. The worst thing about those misconceptions out there is that with time I began to internalize them.
And I would develop impatience with myself. And impatience is a fight between you and yourself, a rejection of parts of yourself. And with time you stop wanting to be vulnerable because it hurts. You lose parts of yourself and you forget that they were there in the first place and you stop looking for them.
Like I said, I was studying and applying. Here is a list of all the psychology approaches, a summary that I’ve applied on myself. You can Google, there’s a lot of stuff out there. But here’s one point: not one single one of them works all the time. I did this gentle yoga workshop one day and I’m talking about super gentle. All I had to do was feel the contact between my feet and the floor. That’s all — and feel my breath. Within an hour and a half, I had a whole lot of suicidal feelings coming up and I was stuck with that for the rest of the day. Would you like some?
So, overall it was not a bad thing. Overall it was an indication of what I need to work on. But the point is, I wasn’t ready for it that day and that was not the intention of the workshop. I’m getting more powerful — when I’m coming out of depression, I’m feeling — Can you feel the inner Godzilla?