#DEPRESSION – AN INTERVIEW WITH RIDAL CAREL TCHOUKUEGNO

IP in the following means Interview partner
  1. Tell me, how would you describe depression in your own words?

IP: To me depression is my true self rebelling against the definitions and ideas that were imposed by me or even others on it. Meaning becoming so wrapped up in the notion of who you are supposed to be that you forget to simply be. The root might be a trauma, insecurities installed in you by others that grew to a size you can no longer internalize without loosing sight of yourself. Depression is a crisis of hope. I don’t mean hope in relation to optimism. I mean hope in a sense of hoping for a better day without expecting something better to happen. I see hope more as quest of giving your life meaning that tomorrow is as valuable as today and yesterday that the decisions you make enables you to influence the flow of your own life. During depression hope and the belief that what you do can give your life meaning diminishes and makes all efforts you make seem to be for naught. You feel as if you are only existing, walking aimlessly so you might as well do nothing and suffer, at least that makes you feel alive. You know it’s not helpful, but you don’t care. Depression also means to me to be planted. A flower is planted in the dark before it blooms. Depression is me testing myself. Testing my resilience, how bad I want to be (Be in a sense of personal growth not the Michael Jackson Bad) and how much I am willing to take upon myself to achieve the goals I’m striving for.

2. How would you describe depression to people who do not understand what depression is?

IP: Imagine your mind being ill and your brain deceiving you into believing that it is a lie. Depression is basically a coward that will never show himself, hide in your mind and cause you pain, if you let him. That is the where the emphasis lies. If you let him. She will hurt you anyway. You cannot reason with her. The question is what you are going to do about it. Imagine your mental health being a car. You got depression sitting on the passenger seat. She does not respect your car at all. Her shoes are all muddy, he is moody, takes out his anger on you, complains all the time, blames everybody but herself and you take it because, well she is paying the gas for your mental health car. You feel obligated to deal with depression because you are seemingly indebted. On your road trip, which can be understood as life, are many stops at which you could have kicked this obnoxious passenger out, but you do not because you do not have the courage and believe that you need him. Depression does not only emotionally abuse you claiming how useless you are and how terrible your driving is she also regularly takes over the steering wheel completely ignoring your emotions. You are never safe. It does not matter how happy you are. Depression will take the steering wheel, if you do not pay attention and let her, putting both of you in mortal danger. Yup, depression tends to be suicidal and if she is hurting you obviously have to hurt too. Depression’s tantrums exhaust you; they abolish any motivation to drive in other words to live. You just want to sleep, pity yourself, do nothing and be alone committing to every unhealthy behavior possible. You are missing out on your journey, on life and that is a conscious decision. What you genuinely want is often hidden underneath all these fears, insecurities underneath all this guilt. You want to be understood, you want to be talked to, to be accepted, to be embraced, to be loved. The truth is that you can kick him out at any given time, but you grant him more compassion than yourself. I am not saying it is easy. I am saying it is entirely possible. It is really up to me and you. At the end of the day shit happens anyway. We have to take responsibility regardless, which does not imply that you are automatically at fault it implies that you decide how you are going to react to the situation you are facing. It implies that nobody can bring you down but yourself, if you grant people the right to do so. Depression is negatively labelled in society. Why do you think why so many people are ashamed of speaking up about this issue?

3. Depression is negatively labelled in society. Why do you think why so many people are ashamed of speaking up about this issue?

IP: Out of shame or guilt. We have been socialized to perceive mental illness as a personal failure. Kind of like “How can you do that to yourself? How can you do that to us, we gave you everything you needed. How dare you?!”. To this day many people still believe that depressed people are either exaggerating or faking it. The majority is simply not educated on the matter. I mean most people do not know the difference between a psychologist, a psychiatrist, or a therapist. To them it is that scary doctor that asks you 20-times in a hour how you are doing while you are lying flat on your back on a couch prescribing you an insufferable amount of medications of which, in the general public perception, depressive people get high off. Culturally speaking depressed people are “weird”, don’t want to communicate, are always dark and sad and should be somebody else’s problem. As an ex-depressed person, myself I can tell you this at least. You are afraid of being ridiculed or in the worst case of being thrown away like trash bag.

4. What would be your advice for people dealing with depression? What helped you while dealing with depression?

IP: I had a great support system. Great friends, my siblings, my dad etc. I guess I just started talking positively about myself to others and to myself. Your spirit doesn’t differentiate between positive and negative self-talk. I learned that the hard way. What intrigued me was being comfortable in uncertainty. Seeking discomfort so to speak. I started cutting off doubters, negativity, toxic relationships, and people. My circle became smaller. Meditation helped a lot and the fact that I started doing things on my own. What I did became means and end. I went to the cinema to go to the cinema. No longer to socialize or possibly date. I started doing things I always wanted to and was too afraid to do before. I pushed forward and surpassed my limitations countless times. Learning that the only thing people can do is to say “No” or “leave” liberated me. Coming to the realization that everybody sees me differently and that the person they know is still me and that nobody actually knows me was blissful and still is blissful. You are not a stagnant point. You are fluid therefore steadily becoming. As I am writing this I am simultaneously evolving, undergoing changes. I asked myself what I want to do and how, what my legacy on this earth would be. Everything I disliked about myself I changed or at least tried to change until, it changed. Not to mention, that I failed countless times, but I stood up countless + 1 times (I love language. It makes no sense, but you can still make sense of it.) As soon as I started doing things that I wanted to do, following people on social media that inspired me and surrounded myself with the energy I would love to give out, I attracted like-minded people. There is no shame in being weak. But it is shameful to remain weak willingly. I do not know anything and that leaves room for constant improvement. So, I invite failure in my house at any given time. Struggle has become my best teacher and I am already a winner for trying. I concluded that depression does not help me, that it breaks me, that it prevents me from hoping aka making decisions for betterment. Now, I say thank you depression, you only made me stronger. I do not hope for a better me. I am and become a better me.

5. Would you say that media plays a role in how people with depression view themselves? If yes, in which way?

IP: Most definitely. Unfortunately, depression has received such a wide mainstream coverage in an aesthetic sense that it became trendy to be sad furthermore to harm oneself. You got depressed people being exposed to depressive music, movies etc. and in turn becoming even more depressed. A vicious cycle. You got series like “13 reasons why” creating the grotesque illusion of depression and suicidal thoughts being cool. Artists are glorifying drug abuse, it is cool to feel “dead inside”, aesthetic to cut yourself and post it online. Young adults are literally being talked into identifying with suicidal thoughts and depression as an art form as a positive, beautiful form of expression and fed anything that sustains it instead of teaching them how to work with it to finally get over it. The media should raise awareness, educate on the subject, and refer to experts and specialists so that depressed individuals can overcome their depression instead of dwelling on it and in it as if it were a delicious chocolate fountain. The media, artists etc. should stop profiting off it, promoting something they themselves do not do respectively are not part of anymore. Just like Future who admitted to being depessed and addressed also to have stopped drinking lean, but still promoted it as if he were still heavily consuming it. I feel as if a subculture immersed out of rock, punk, goth, hip hop mixed with heavy drugs, self-harm, and self-pity. Sadly, in unhealthy doses. Insecurities, anxiety, fear, depression, and suicidal thoughts are being used as a marketing tool, have been commercialized and it works quite well. That needs to change asap!

6. Could you please tell me, what was the reason/ incident where you thought that you might be depressive?

IP: I have been sexually abused 2 times as a child and my mind could not handle it back then. I had nightmares, could not sleep, hated myself, wanted to die, could not find beauty neither in my body nor in my mind. In search of constant validation my energy was drained. I isolated myself, was often very tired, did not leave the house, thought about ways to die, became sad or irritated in the most unexpected moments when I was supposed to be happy and that for periods of weeks and months. I harmed myself not physically, thankfully, but emotionally and believed that I do not deserve happiness, that I do not deserve to live, that my life is miserable, and that suffering is my only way of redemption for having allowed somebody to sexually abuse me. What I basically did were the things I had to do: Going to school, eat, socialize and the rest to not be bothered. There were weeks, even months were food tasted like nothing, where I did not feel anything, days went by without me noticing, I slept for hours, was constantly tired, stopped hanging out with friends or family. I only did it when I absolutely had to. I was smiling but deep inside I was hurting, suffocating, and felt abandoned by everyone, by the world. I felt lonely to say the least. I did not know what I wanted from life, had no big aspirations, and simply existed without a why.

7. Concerning depression, if you had 3 wishes free – what would that be?

  • IP: I want the subject of depression to become a day-to-day subject therefore implemented in school curriculums and education at home.
  • I want us to be able to openly and honestly talk to each other about our emotions of any kind.
  • I want to see more refuges for depressed people where they can feel understood, appreciated, and loved if their family, friends, and peers fail to do so.

8. What do you think could be done, in order to change the stigma of depression?

IP: Talk about it! Educate yourself on it. Do not shy away from the uncomfortable situations. Support, try to understand, have empathy. We need to recognize depression as an illness just as fever and chicken pox are seen as illnesses. We need to realize that depression is treatable. We need to understand that all of our assumptions about depressed people that we learned from movies and books are probably wrong. Depressions are not something that somebody willingly chooses to attract. We need to start taking care of our mental health and emotional intelligence that we so earnestly neglect. We need to realize that mental health issues are a serious global issue that needs to be tackled. We need to comprehend that depressed people are not broken or less human they are, we are simply in need of support. We need to understand that depression knows all genders, all ages, all cultures, all circumstances. All we need is crutches until we can finally stand on our own again.

Dear brave interview partner,

thank you so much for opening up to such a difficult and sensitive topic. It is more than brave to be that honest and speaking about such an issue. I am sure that your answers will (hopefully) reach to those who need it. You are such an inspiration for all those people dealing with depression . Thank you!

ANNEKE DÜRKOPP – MISCARRIAGE AND TEST-TUBE FERTILIZATION SHOULD NOT BE A TABOO SUBJECT

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© ANNEKE DÜRKOPP / FACEBOOK

ALM: You recently shared your story about your miscarriage on social media. Why did you decide to make this public?

AD: I have decided to go public with such a topic because I want to encourage other women. I cannot hide my pregnancy for ever, since I am a weather presenter. In the last 4 years, I have exchanged my experiences with other women who experienced the same, something similar or even worse than I have experienced. Strangely enough, not every woman exchanges her experience. This behaviour has several reasons, some are ashamed and the feeling of having failed as a woman, the latter is the main reason. Nowadays, or especially in social networks, people connote the “perfect life”. Therefore, people connote how a „perfect“ woman should be. Not having children is therefore no option, and the pressure on women is immense.

ALM: After your miscarriages, you decided to become pregnant via a test tube fertilisation. Tell me more about that journey…

AD: After the fourth miscarriage, there was no possibility to get pregnant in the normal way. The reason for that had been found out years later. One of my fallopian tube is impermeable, and the other one is hardly permeable. In addition, my Anti-Mullerian hormone is bad. Therefore, I could not afford any more waste of time. That is the reason why I have decided to perform a test-tube fertilization.

How did you cope with your miscarriages? If you could give other women any advice, what would it be?

AD: The important thing is to look for a source of strength. One should regain one’s strength after such a loss and destiny. But sometimes it is also tough because your body struggles with all the hormones. I think that meeting up with like-minded people and exchanging experiences might be very helpful. To know that one is not alone with the pain. It is also helpful to have a good relationship with your partner and this should absolutely kept alive.

ALM: Since you decided to talk about this issue in public, do you think that this issue is still a taboo subject and if yes, why do you think it is?

AD: Recently, a lot has changed. The #MeToo- Movement has set the ball rolling for many women. I think, the issue of miscarriage and everything that has to do with such an issue, belongs to that movement. There must be more help for women, more educational advertising and more openness. I think there will still be women who will choose to remain silent, but if I can motivate some women, I am happy. For example, Michelle Obama talked about her miscarriages and her test-tube fertilization on “Good Morning America”. THAT really helps! She is a fantastic woman and is respected all over the world. It is great that she speaks about such a topic. I have always been a fan of her.

ALM: I can imagine how emotional this journey might have been for you. Did you struggle with issues such as depression when you realized you won’t be able to become pregnant in the normal way?

AD: When I realized I cannot get pregnant in the normal way, I was shocked for a short time. But this was not significant. I tried to look at the situation realistically and therefore looked for other opportunities to get pregnant. I do not tend to have depression. But I can understand people who do, after going through such a loss. This is also not an issue to be ashamed of. One should think if one makes a use of a professional help.

ALM: Since you are a public person, can you tell me how your family and colleagues reacted when you decided to make this issue public?

AD: At the beginning, my family was sceptical, but it was my decision which I made, and I felt confident about it. My friends, overwhelmingly supported and encouraged me. That meant a lot to me and bolstered me.

ALM: You also started blogging about your pregnancy journey. Tell me more about your blog….

AD: On my blog (annekebekommteinbaby.de), I want to share my journey. Namely, in all what I do. There are funny videos but also serious topics such as miscarriage. I have interviewed a therapist and this interview will be uploaded in several parts at the beginning of next year. I think, most of the questions of my followers will be answered with that video.

ALM: Did your journey somehow impact your relationship with your partner? How did he help you to cope with all the issues?

AD: The past years have left traces regarding my relationship. But my man and I are closer to another now. Our commitment is stronger than ever before. Of course, there were tough times in which everyone mourned in his/her own way. I think, that is normal because we two are different individuals and not a symbiosis. I see us as a team. In a team, not everything runs properly, but you pull together.

ALM: What would you wish for the future regarding the issue of miscarriage and test tube fertilisation in the German society?

AD: I would be happy if there would be more educational advertising because that would help many women. Moreover, financial assistance regarding IVF (In-Vitro Fertilization) would also be desirable.

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Dear Anneke,

thank you very much for speaking up about such a difficult issue. It takes a huge courage to do so. It has been a pleasure interviewing you. You have inspired me in many ways and I am sure, you are inspiring a lot more people by going public. For your pragncancy, I wish you nothing but the BEST!

KELSEY NEAL – THYROID CANCER DID NOT DEFINE ME, IT CHANGED ME

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© Kelsey Neal

Please introduce yourself to my followers….

A: My name is Kelsey Neal. I am from Calgary, Alberta, Canada. I am 30 year old young. Entrepreneur, network marketing mentor and Thyroid Cancer survivor!

Q: I contacted you via Instagram after I have realized that your post have been always positive. Where do you take all the positive vibes from?

A: My positive vibes? They come from everyone around me, that vibrates good energy… you know the things that make you feel really good all around, that put a smile on your face! That kind of positivity… the little things, everyday. It can be tricky thing to maintain, but I surround myself with many things that give me gratitude, hope and inspiration. Which includes music, people and travel.

Q: You had been diagnosed with cancer and (thank God) you survived. Please, tell me ore about your journey…

A: After my diagnosis in 2015, I started to see the bigger picture of my life being painted differently. I cannot describe the feeling but all of the sudden, I felt like… I was supposed to start going in another direction that I could not control. I was going to start doing bigger things, dreaming bigger and grabbing hold of every new opportunity possible cause my time was important to me. Before thyroid cancer, life was good. I had a full time career, was working away, saving for vacations, enjoying our dog and I had a beautiful new home, I was 26 at the time and ready to start the next chapter of my life with my husband. The dreams of starting a family was in the process and then when I had my yearly physical exam, everything changed. They found cancer. They found a lump in my right thyroid bed and then after everything happened something came over me, that this was going to ALL change whether I wanted it to or not… the moment it all changed was when I woke up in the hospital, I cried and said to my family  “I am alive”.

Q: What exactly has changed in your life since your diagnosis?

A: I learned many things along the way… I learned to accept this diagnosis, it was hard. The hardest thing to ever experience, I had the “why me” moments time and time again. I slept for days, I was angry, miserable and tired (always tired). After all I was missing my thyroid, it was removed due to the cancer and it was not functioning properly anymore. For those who do not know, your thyroid controls so much of your body and brain. It controls the hormonal system, which also includes energy levels, emotions, metabolism and so much more. My thyroid was removed, and now I live on medication for the rest of my life, to ensure the hormone levels are balanced as best as possible. This is a tricky act. I have an invisible illness, that does not define me and my good days have finally began to outweigh the bad. After learning to accept this diagnosis and grieve the loss of my organ. I began to slowly, but surely get out of this lifeless body and start turning my thoughts into positive vibes only. At the time of my journey, I was experiencing hair loss, hair thinning and my confidence was dwindling. I stumbled across a company that could help me with those challenging experiences. I am grateful that I learned to say „Yes“ to new things, cause if I did not I may be on a different path. I am now a top leader in my industry, helping those who struggle with this illness, hair loss and help other discover their self worth. I am motivational speaker now, something I always dreamed of doing, but did not feel I had a story of my own to share… and well… Now I do. Who knew right?! I learned to take risks, because.. What is the best thing that could happen!

Q:  What would you advise people who are going through a difficult time ? What helped you while you had cancer ?

A: The best advice I can share with someone who has been recently diagnosed with Thyroid cancer or any type of illness, is that….Never forget where you came from, hold your past life close to you. Because moving forward you will become someone brand new and different but always carry those special moments, childhood memories and experiences of your previously life near and dear. All the sweet times, all the laughter, all the joy and love that brings you life… hold it close and never let it go. This will help you with your dark times, your struggles and challenges that you will face. Remember your younger days, your past life experiences (the good ones) and embrace the new you. It is like a second chance to have anything you want, do anything and BE anything without having any commitment to others opinions, any other negativity that was once drawn into your life. During my journey for example, I attended Young Adult Cancer retreats and also had the honor to facilitate one of my own. I surround myself with like minded people going through similar experiences. I connected myself to social media, woman from all over the world facing this thyroid illness that felt uncontrollable to them too. I felt safe talking to people who had been there. Family and friends supported me in a different way, they offered so much love and care. I am thankful to have let my family in during these times. Hold them close and do not be afraid to open up and be vulnerable with the world, this is where the magic can happen and you start to know your worth and place in life, even during the worst times. A little piece of you, still remains hopeful and strong. NEVER LET IT GO!

Q: Is there anything you would have done differently since your diagnosis? If yes what and why?

A: There is absolutely nothing I would change about this diagnosis and illness. Not one thing! Why? Because it is lead me to the person I am today. This was my path, it was chosen for me for a reason. Thyroid cancer was a blessing in disguise. Remember earlier you asked me about my life before this illness and what I was doing… well now since then.. I have climbed mountains I never thought I could. I have had more obstacles during this time, than anything I ever experienced in my life, and after all obstacles and hurdles are the path to success and fulfillment.  I have travelled alone and only told a select few about it and will continue to travel to soak it in while I still can. I have dug deep to what it is I want in my life moving forward. I have taken risks, opened new doors, closed old ones, let go of anything that has not helped me grow which includes relationships, people, jobs, places and more. I see life now in a different lense and my time is so valuable to me. You go through big chunks of time in your life, when you think this is impossible… I can not do this anymore… but then you keep going and just keep going… and all of the sudden you sort of do the possible!

If you had 3 wishes free – what would that be ?

A: 3 wishes? Hmmm…. Wow.. I have not been asked that type of question, since I was little
1. I wish that I could connect with everyone… there are so many beautiful, unique people in the world with so many stories.. All backgrounds, all walks of life… getting to know people and being open to new connections.. Gratitude, it is the memory of the heart!

2. I wish I could meet my musical Idol Michael Jackson! I have been a fan since I was little his voice, song and dance has inspired in my aspects of my life. Raw, real talent and his lyrics are moving. He was a big influence to many around the world. I wish I could have had the chance to see him in concert.

3. I wish for more time. Unfortuantely, I cannot control this. But if I could… give me more time. I am not talking about the 24 hours in a day like for work.. I make sure I balance this clock and use my time with intention. I am talking about… when your in a moment, experience or place.. And you just wish you had “a bit more time”… like when your on a hot beach and it is the last day of vacation! That  kind of time… a snap of my fingers and I could lay there just a few more days in the sun !

FIND KELSEY NEAL ON FACEBOOK

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Dear Kelsey,

I am glad to get to know such a inspiring person as you are. I am sure that this interviw will open eyes and change some people’s point of view. It was a pleasure interviewing you. Your answers definitely have an impact on me. Thank you so much for your time. You are an inspiration to me and I am glad to have had you as my interview parter. You deserve nothing but the BEST.