“Time to break the Silence!“ That was the headline of my Facebook outing. It took me two years to speak up for fear of being stigmatized. I thought I’d carry the ‘psycho’ stamp around with me forever and people would no longer take me seriously if I didn’t conceal my mental illness. Fundamentally, I’m not a big fan of dragging everything out in public and discussing my personal issues on the Internet. Some things are better kept private. However, I quickly realized that depression was a huge problem in our society and it needed to be addressed, not silenced.
I remember going to parties where guests wouldn’t want to talk about their problems or only when the party was over. I’d receive touching but nervous messages from friends and acquaintances looking for advice or reaching out to share something they had on their minds. Eventually, the whole thing got to a point where I just wanted to talk about it – in public. I’m not embarrassed to put my face on it. I wanted to reassure others that they did not need to be ashamed of their mental health problems, that they were not alone and they were not bad people. That’s why I also become an ambassador for Deutsche Depressionshilfe (German depression association). In the meantime, I continued to work on myself and lived through a small revolution.
Victoria van Violence: We’re not perfect!
Being depressed, I quickly realized that the mental illness was also an opportunity. This epiphany came to me when I had reached my lowest point. I had hit a wall at full speed and institutionalized myself. It was then that I suddenly understood that this could be a turning point for me.
Many things can trigger depression, for example extraneous factors such as the death of a loved one. Even physical factors can affect our mental health. A lack of nutrients or a disturbance of brain chemicals can contribute to the illness. More often, the origins of depression can be found in the sufferer themselves. Possible causes include an unhealthy relationship to oneself or putting one’s own needs consistently below those of others.
It’s not unusual for a storm of behavior and thought patterns to finally push a person into full-blown illness. In short, something was wrong with me and I was feeling incredibly bad. Spoiler alert, something’s wrong with all of us. We all have our shortcomings and problems. Often, they’re not tragic at all, and the phrase “nobody is perfect” certainly rings true here. To err is human and to be a little crazy sometimes is too. It’s when I finally addressed my perfectionism and saw myself as just another human being, with all the familiar rough edges, that I had an “aha” moment. Suddenly, it was okay to be emotional sometimes, or stay at home on the couch surrounded by chip crumbs on a Saturday night rather than being out on the dance floor.
My label “New Rose”: From self-denial to self-love
Sometimes, I really had to kick myself and remember everything I had struggled through. On the whole, these experiences have made my life a lot simpler. After all the blows and negative self-image, I found new courage.
Overcoming depression doesn’t automatically lead to greater self-confidence or a better self-image. I had to fight for these things and experienced many setbacks along the way. This year, I wrote my first book, fulfilling a life-long dream to publish. “Meine Freundin, die Depression” (“My friend, depression”) will be published in September 2018.
When I was a child, I used to sit at my grandmother’s typewriter and write stories. Later, I studied German at university and the urge to write my own book grew stronger. What actually keeps us from living our dreams? I asked myself that question over and over again, and finally realized that I was the only one standing in my way. My actions were always accompanied by the question “what if?” and this indecision would inevitably end in me not pursuing my goals. “Once I finish university, I’ll travel,” I thought. But the next round of “what ifs?” rolled in and I never went anywhere. And then, one day, I just sat down and started writing. It wasn’t easy, but the accomplishment of having written a book is a feeling that no one can take away from me.
During the writing process, I fulfilled another dream: I launched my own fashion label. “The New Rose” was a step towards self-realization. It allowed me to tie together issues that are important to me. Ethical fashion is close to my heart and I find it difficult to understand how some woman can wear t-shirts with feminist slogans when the garment is manufactured by women working under horrendous conditions. I decided to make my own clothes in order to be able to still look at myself in the mirror in the mornings. Naturally, it’s not quite that easy, which is why I design clothes together with a graphic designer who focuses on print slogans for t-shirts and bags. My own collection is next in line.
Think big – dream big.
For a long time, I didn’t trust myself, talked myself down and didn’t believe in myself. Ultimately, I realized that thoughts do not represent reality. I got back into the fast lane at full speed. We all have dreams and we all deserve to pursue those dreams, to live a full life and receive love from others, but above all from ourselves.
Photo: © Kay Ruhe
Autorin: Victoria Van Violence