I honestly didn’t know if this would be possible… if I had any chance of recovery.

And this scared me.

I had been told over and over that depression is a chronic illness. That it never really goes away, that there is no cure, that it can only be controlled or managed.

I was put on antidepressants after a suicide attempt. I guess this means I had been depressed, and the label stuck to me and it would not let go. By definition of chronic, does this mean I still am and always will be?

This feels like I pulled the short end of the stick, was born sad and will forever remain so. Doomed to be depressed for the rest of my life.

I do recall, however, the capability of being able to feel happy. Truly joyful. That was when I was about 5 years old and running amok with my neighbor’s kids. That pure fun of just playing, laughing, but most of all, being carefree.

So what changed? Was I born happy but grew up sad? This was the great nature vs nurture debate isn’t it?

Are there sad genes, or did social conditioning make me feel lifeless? I believe it is both – nature and nurture.

When you know the causes of the problems, you can create the solutions.

Changing genes is not impossible based on the concept of epigenetics – above genes. That it is our beliefs that determine which genes in the blueprint will be turned off and on.  

Beliefs, in turn, are instilled during nurturing conditions – the beliefs that others placed on you, you begin to subsume them as your own. It devoured me, ultimately blending into who I was entirely.

Growing up and even now, my mother says to “save for a rainy day”, “don’t anyhow spend” (Singlish), that “money is hard to earn”. This became ingrained in me to approach abundance with a scarcity mindset, which is counter intuitive (to attract abundance, you first feel abundant – the basic universal law of attraction). This was a limiting belief that I had to undo. I had to learn a new way of thinking.

I also had to learn a new way of feeling. I was a skinny kid at about 5 years old and my father was worried that I was undernourished. He put me on appetite stimulants. To assuage his fear, I also played my part to stuff myself with food. I fed myself two breakfasts a day – once at home, and again at my nanny’s. I became overweight.

I had joined the more sedated arts and crafts club as a primary school activity. My father suggested gymnastics instead. I did not want to as I felt fat, but he insisted and I asked him why (I knew why but I wanted to hear him say it). He blurted, “because you are fat, you need to exercise”. You can guess what happened to me.

I struggled with poor body image issues since then. It spiraled into a deep, crippling, low self-esteem. Do I blame my father? No. He only did what he knew best. Yet, the damage was done. I hated myself for a big part of my life, for being fat and ugly.

Now I am practising self-love. Yes, it possible to learn how to love you.

I cannot bring myself to put my parents through the horrors of a suicide attempt again. Whenever the dull heaviness of hopelessness, low moods, or emotional eating creep back again, I now stop, catch myself, and start practicing what I preach about positive thinking and feeling.

I don’t know yet if this means that these techniques can treat depression. I won’t know it until my last dying breath when I can confidently tell you that every moment in this latter part of my life has been joyful ones.   

What I do know now for certain is that for someone who thought that she was born negative, to still be alive, finding and living to help others who also are going through the events she once went through, these self-management techniques must be effective somehow. If I can do it, you can too ☺

-Written by Abelene Hu