• Rai Al Marzouqi

The Low Dreamer

Good afternoon, morning, evening or night, ladies and gentlemen. This is a story detailing how I overcame my depression and social anxiety (as well as some other things). In my opinion, it's more of a story of how I came to terms with them as well as accept them all in all. I personally believe that my story is unremarkable but if it helps at least one of you out there, then sharing this would have been worth it to me. I shall start us off then.

Ever since I was a young teenager, I've been possessed with many different thoughts and I had no idea what was the source of these menacing thoughts. All I could really understand was that I was not feeling normal. I tried to be "normal" (or at least follow a perception of what I think "normality" actually is) but these thoughts kept surging forth. I didn't fully understand them; they were just there in the back of my mind, whispering sweet nothings like I should constantly doubt myself or that no one will ever understand me and the like. In actuality, I didn't understand myself.

Unable to express myself, I continued living. Back then, I dismissed it as a phase; it has only been a few days, so I will grow out of it soon. Long story short, I didn't. A year and eleven months passed and I still had these invasive thoughts. The timing is significant because January 19, 2006 marked the first time I actually tried to kill myself. Obviously, the attempt ended in failure and I was never sure of why I chose to cling to life (until later) but it was at that moment that I seriously thought that there was something wrong with me.

So what did I decide to do? As a growing teenager, I didn't know what to do. I tried to talk to others about it, trying to share an inkling of what I was currently going through but it wasn't of any help. Obviously, there were some that tried to help me out but I never felt there was something substantial made at the end of the day in my opinion. All the while, I kept having these thoughts of never associating with anyone else, so there was a time I was a massive loner. I didn't know at the time but back then, this marked the time I first dealt with social anxiety. Even now, it's rather difficult to differentiate the two because they seemed to go hand in hand whilst I was growing up.

This started around when I was 13 actually but it was more prominent when I was 14. Without revealing too much, I was in the 8th grade when the creepy decided to play in my mind (I got into school early at a young age). For the rest of the remaining years, I led a rather unnatural social life. I was always isolated and whatnot; there was something VERY different about me in general and till that time, I still didn't understand why. Graduation came, I was leaving that horrible place and into a new environment where I have to deal with more people. Obviously, I was "excited" by the prospect of that. On one hand, I was thinking that might be a blank slate or something as I would be dealing with strangers that didn't know me before. On the other hand, I would still be dealing with people.

Again, back then, I didn't know what I was currently feeling exactly. I led a rather embarrassing and dark high school life and university... was no different. It was like a cycle; most of what had happened previously in school has happened again. More suicide attempts had taken place, I didn't know how to act in front of many others, I dealt with something akin to comparison anxiety the whole way as I kept comparing myself to others constantly and trying to live up to expectations by emulating others (yes, that was also apparent during school), I was a loner by choice and I refused to socialize with others in a conventional manner (there was even a time where it got so bad that people genuinely believed I had transferred), etc.

I should elaborate on the previous point a bit more: I didn't want to socialize at all. I simply attended my classes, they ended and I went home. Or... I skipped to the "going home" part immediately. Rinse and repeat for almost a whole year: get in, get out and go home. The whole "comparison anxiety" thing I brought up is that while I was young, I constantly idolized people portrayed in the media. This waned when I was in university, but I undeniably took inspiration from characters in the media. The movies, series and games I experienced normally feature a less-than-normal individual whose antics are accepted by the large majority of people surrounding him or her. I longed for something like that (as in being accepted by my immediate environment), so I chose to emulate these "cool people" at times. Of course, all attempts didn't work out. It got to a point where there really was no "me" anymore as I was literally just a reflection of all the media I was exposed to beforehand.

But before I went to college, this is rather important to share: I majored in something I hated. I knew I hated it before I enrolled. My parents were obviously confounded by this as I openly mentioned that I could pursue something I'm actually passionate about which makes little money in the region I'm in or I can pursue something I am not passionate about but undeniably talented in and make lots of money in the future. I chose the latter for some reason. This would later affect how I view things as an adolescent and till now, I don't think that was the wrong decision at all. Back then and now, I don't regret that decision. However, down the line, it led to a situation where I felt very betrayed by my own beliefs. I bring this up now as this decision didn't immediately affect my actions in university. Rather it affected how I grew up as an adolescent.

Obviously, I was stuck in a field I actually didn't like. I'm a logic-triumphs-all type of dude and this seemed like a realistic thing to pursue. In reality, it is immediately similar to sacrificing your happiness for the pursuit of funding. I'm not trying to make a reference here but we live in a society where finance can mean everything at the end of the day. And that society... is the whole world. I travelled many times and from what I experienced, money is the most important thing everywhere. As a teenager, I understood that. This is why I decided to pursue something that would bring in the big bucks, so to speak.

So I left university... but not to graduate. The reality was that my grades were slipping for some reason and I knew the main reason why: I had no motivation whatsoever to continue. It's not due to the field I was in back then but it more had to do with the people I was surrounded with. I couldn't take it anymore; staying there was damaging for... something. I now know it's my psyche or mental health but I still didn't know what was wrong with me back then. So I enrolled in a different place with the same major, a college this time. A "repeat" of what previously happened, happened again, only this time, the loner part only.

Behaviour-wise, I was the WORST student as I refused to socialize mostly and I badmouthed the professors openly. Academically, I was the BEST student as my grades were always at the top of the class. My mentality for the longest time was "Let's just this over with...", so I decided to do my best and not care about external factors at all going in. These would come to be the moments that defined the "me" in me at least. I did socialize but sparingly. I was not arrogant in any way but I could have easily been. I didn't want to admit it at the time but in those moments, I was definitely comfortable. Not necessarily happy as I was undeniably part of the system but I was getting somewhere. The feeling that you're actually getting somewhere in spite of everything was something that was defining to me.

I "graduated" from college with a glowing record. In actuality, I didn't graduate. I simply got a document written by the head himself that I completed my education and these were my grades. That was enough for many corporations to notice me and soon enough, I was recruited to work in a bank and that lasted for quite some time. What was puzzling however was that I still was not fully healthy, and on June 18, 2019, it started something dangerous, something that would ultimately set me on the road to recovery: I had my first panic attack. I was writhing in the workplace on the floor. I was shaking, crying, I was hurting all over, my head was aching profusely, I didn't know what was going on. It was at that very moment that I decided to seek professional help.

I went to many many MANY hospitals to find out what has been plaguing me. I heard several comments that I should actually go to a neurological centre or something, so on the same day, I tried to book an appointment at a psychiatric & neurological centre. Unfortunately, they were fully booked for that day and the 19th, so I visited on the 20th. It is not very important to detail what had happened next but the most important thing to come out of it was that I was finally diagnosed with what was wrong with me: major depression and social anxiety. Subsequent appointments led the doctors to figure out I actually suffered from the incurable and rare disorder known as Schizoid Personality Disorder (or SPD for short). I was not familiar with that at all, so I looked it up. Many documents online are conflicting but there were few things that popped up constantly: a lack of interest in social relationships, a tendency towards solitude as well as detachment, emotional coldness and apathy.

In some other documents I encountered, I also know that those with SPD have a very limited emotional spectrum as well as a sexual desire. I think I should elaborate on the latter a bit. I was actually in relationships before. I spent a lot of time with many women. However, I was PHYSICALLY attracted and not SEXUALLY attracted. Every time, I REFUSED to have sex even though I had every opportunity to do so. This would lead me to define myself as asexual or ace. Throughout my entire life, I was not at all psyched about the idea of producing offspring or I obviously avoided the topic of marriage. I also see things regarded as sexual as something completely SFW to me, so that's something I guess. What was I physically attracted to in women? The fashion mostly. Am I attracted to males? No. I tried spending time with them but I was more interested in becoming friends than something else.

Anyway, getting back to the topic at hand, I believed I wasn't in any position to refuse medication, so I took them. I didn't really experience anything aside from side effects. The doctors were a bit puzzled and we cycled through MANY different psychiatric drugs. After several months, we found one that I barely reacted to (in terms of side effects at least). What the doctors didn't know is that I barely reacted to the main purpose of the medication as well. I wasn't happier or anything. Psychotherapy or CBT didn't help as well. There were some suggestions offered that could prove to be useful but they didn't really go anywhere. So yeah, my psychiatrist didn't really know what to do with me. My psychologist didn't know what to do with me. My therapist didn't know what to do with me... Yet, I continued. I took the medication as instructed without any resistance but there were no substantial differences. This led me to believe they were actually placebos. Naturally, this led me to start mistrusting them.

It's 2019, so obviously, people might already be familiar with what happened later: COVID-19. This happened at the tail end of 2019 but it wasn't really a big problem in my region until 2020, notably March of 2020. Seeing as I'm generally extremely paranoid about contracting foreign diseases that have no known cure, I opted to NOT restock my medication at all. I also avoided going out in general, embracing my extreme introvert side that comes from SPD. So I was alone with my thoughts which is very dangerous... except they weren't. As an adult, I had MUCH more freedom to do what I want to do as opposed to being a child who is normally forced to follow orders I didn't fully understand. Also, since I was diagnosed, I was able to fully outline what was wrong with me finally as well as fully express myself about these things with no issue at all. Being diagnosed somehow led me down the path of coming to terms with myself. In short, it led me down the path of acceptance.

This is me. I'm not perfect. The world is not perfect. This is how it is. I can't change the world but I can change myself. People will keep doing their own things, so I will keep doing my thing. If people don't like me or don't accept me, then so be it. It's their thing, not mine. I don't immediately care what people think of me. That doesn't really matter. What matters is what I think and I think I'm doing okay. At the end of the day, I'll be fine. It'll get good. No... It'll get better.

On April 17, 2020, I went through something akin to withdrawal or something as my medication supply has fully diminished by that time. It continued for several days but on April 20, 2020 (which is a VERY ironic date in my opinion), I actually became fully sober. I was functioning fine without the medication. All the while, I actually HAD emergency stock but I refused to take them. This is the ONLY instance of resistance to date regarding this whole psychiatric medication fiasco.

Later, I would understand that my depression was completely situational. Maybe there was some chemical imbalance but it was never really significant. Regarding anxiety, I dealt with it by readily ignoring the mind-goblin in me. I employed several techniques to cope with them. One of which was carrying around a ball-shaped rabbit tail-like keychain everywhere I went. Whenever a panic attack struck, I would stroke the fur to calm myself down and since it is also ball-shaped, I have a stress ball to squeeze as well. I liked to look at panic attacks as status effects. Since I liked games so much, I compared them to an RPG (Role-Playing Game). It's a status effect similar to poison or confusion and I have enough HP (health points) to survive this. The idea that this terrible feeling will eventually pass was always a source of assurance to me. Like it's terrible but it will pass. That was enough to keep me going.

I have to be honest: the way I got over anxiety is mostly due to the medication, so that's something. That, to me, is minor but it's actually a very big source. The major thing for me is the fact that I compared anxiety to a mind-goblin earlier. Picture this: a goblin or gremlin in the back of your mind that constantly says false things to make you doubt yourself in any situation. Well, I ignored it. What can help is, keeping a log of all the good things that happen in your life daily. Any time the mind-goblin says something negative, just remind yourself of all the awesome things you experienced that same day. That's something suggested to me that I didn't do. It didn't help me but it might help others.

Regarding SPD, it is incurable. The only actual thing I did about it was come to terms with it. It didn't readily define me or anything. It just is. Who I am as a person is not solely because of it. The diagnosis of it was a stepping stone leading me to discover who I really am. In a sense, I just made peace with it. I didn't give up or give in to it. I don't say that it's a negative thing in my life. It's a part of me. Nothing more and nothing less. Knowing that it's incurable led me to try to make the most out of it... and I did.

So the main three things are gone. What else is there? Well, the fact that I'm definitely not in physical shape. That's all. Currently, I'm getting there. I'm exercising constantly. Many have suggested that exercise is unbelievably healthy when it comes to dealing with mental health. I don't see it really. It may help with depression as you're actually moving but there's something important: it definitely helps with how you see yourself. There is an overwhelming propensity to see yourself in a better light physically. This in turn may boost self-confidence. And that in turn may help you have a better outlook. I can somehow see how it helps with depression as you feel better about yourself.

Now that all those things have been addressed, I definitely have a better idea of who I actually am. I can express myself clearly and eloquently to people now. I'm a better person because of it. It was a long and arduous journey, a bit more than 14 years but I got through it. And if people don't like me, let them. I know the difference between the good and bad now. There are undeniably some bad people out there, so I just avoid them. Some people inherently want something good but they are pressured by all the bad in the world. It's a bit hard to tell but as I outlined previously: change ultimately comes from yourself and with the passage of time, things will eventually change. Things change but that doesn't automatically mean they get better. You yourself have to make an effort to make things better. You can't just sit around and hope that the best will come eventually. The best is yet to come if we actively seek it. It may not be the best for everyone but it may be for yourself.

So what do I do currently? I generally like to assume the mentor role and I wish to aid others who went through the same things I went through. I also tend to enjoy the things I actually enjoy, particularly media and technology. I'm an avid gamer and a movie buff. I identify as an ace. I know that there are things that may help others but they don't help me. Vice versa is also true. To each, their own. I employ a heavy "live and let live" attitude. I am also a bit of a misanthrope as I readily disagree with many of the things in the world but that is not enough to let me ignore my lifestyle of "live and let live" at the end of the day. I think that's the end of my story up to this point.

If that's too long, then here is what I ultimately recommend: keep living, get diagnosed successfully, come to terms with who you are, find out who you actually are as an individual, find something you truly believe in and continue fighting for it. Most importantly, exercise. I'm a movie buff, so I normally watch movies while I'm on the cross-trainer or treadmill so I don't notice the passage of time. I have a good sound system (simply quality wireless headphones) so I can pick up all the audio and my footsteps on the machines don't distract me. And that's really it. I don't think the solution was very remarkable but one thing is for sure: the fact that I had very little freedom as a child was very detrimental to me, so growing up played a huge part towards my recovery.