My Story: Marta Soltys

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What were the steps leading up to your diagnosis?

It took me a long time to admit I was depressed. I was born in Europe — Poland to be precise — and I had one of the happiest childhoods imaginable.

When you are happy you do not often see danger. My mother and I moved to Canada when I was 12.

She loved my father very much; the thing was my father had traveled all of his life to make money and left my mother to do all of the ordinary things that life takes. He never changed a diaper.

That is not to say he didn't teach me anything, because he opened my heart to poetry and he taught me to read. Those were moments though — not a life that had built a relationship. When we immigrated he suddenly felt overwhelmed that the whole family was together.

Within months he started to tell me to get out of his house. He brought me to a strange country only to throw me out of the house. Needless to say, I got very depressed.

I sought help but the school counselor and a psychologist I found on my own did not understand my problem. A lot of research has been done on the pressure immigration brings on within the last 20 years, but when I came over no one really understood what horrid changes immigration entails.

In fact, I still find that attitude in smaller, less educated communities. I got attacked all the time because I was different. I carried this cross for years trying to cope with it.

Some of my struggles really paid off, such as going to university and meeting some amazing people; however, there was always another, darker side to me. This is the reason I wrote.

After 14 years, a part of my life was going up and I thought I was in a good spot as I was writing a novel, which I felt was going to be a success.

I worked at a restaurant at this time. One night a co-worker attacked me. I don't think he meant to and I am sure he didn't think anything of it.

He was Muslim and, while I have met some amazing Muslims, some of them have a different idea as to how women should be treated. I felt threatened and unsafe.

I am not sure what actually happened but it felt as if a dark veil fell over my brain. From that moment on I felt lethargic and hopeless. I realized I had put myself in that dangerous situation and I could not forgive myself.

I gained 50 pounds within four months. I lost my period. No one would believe me as to what had happened; I was accused of making things up but the fruit of the incident was visible by how I suddenly looked.

I looked a decade older. To say my family was a disappointment would be an understatement. I left and went to Poland hoping the air and water that surrounded me during childhood would revive my body.

Finally, I went to a doctor and she gave me a test for depression. My score was incredibly high. She referred me to a psychologist right away, and it was a good match.

I got a woman about my mother's age, but one who was unable to have children and because of her own tragedy — I felt that she was capable of great compassion. Also, unlike my mother, she thought in terms of facts, like me.

My mother was very instinct-driven all of her life, which ended up putting her in a horrible situation. I responded very well to the doctor. The mistake I had made at this time was that I continued to talk to my mother.

She kept calling the doctor stupid. Eventually, she was so threatened that she came all the way to Poland and forced me to terminate my therapy. I will never forget the day I saw my mother through the peephole in the door — it felt as if the blood in my veins froze and I could not go to the bathroom.

Later, when I did research in Traditional Chinese Medicine, I found out that when fluids stop flowing in your body it is a sign that something is very wrong.

Who has been there for you? How?

Throughout this whole process, I had to adapt to many new situations. Depression is awful and feeling needed and connected are the answers; however, sometimes someone who is depressed does not have the energy to create those situations for themselves.

Due to the fact that I could not work for a while, I must credit my parents with helping me out financially. Eventually, I had to cut this off because the emotional disturbance of them not accepting me as I was, which was fat and lacking the spark I had all of my life before, caused a cycle of torment to simply repeat itself.

There were random friends who seemed to understand what I was talking about; people who often had a huge disappointment in their lives and had to learn to recognize the facts and not live in a fantasy world I feel many people create to feel better. People who had a sober look at life were the people who often said something, sometimes something small, that would make me think.

Many of these people I found in yoga communities. I don't think this is a coincidence since yoga itself has been a tremendous help to me. I feel that people who turn to yoga had some kind of run-in with either depression, or another form of grief or abuse and they knew they need something very simple in order to survive.

This I'd say is the biggest obstacle in getting better — letting go of the ego.

What lifestyle changes have you needed to make?

I had to separate myself from my family, something that was very hard for me because I am a homebody. I had to also admit certain cold facts, which weren't nice to admit.

I had to admit that while I will survive my depression I might not ever get married (something that was a dream of mine) and I may never have a child. It was extremely hard to admit this, but thinking about the future while the present is sinking was not something I could think about.

I did have to admit that for a while, even though I have a university degree, I may have to hold simple jobs just so I stay employed. This was very hard for my ego to swallow.

It was also difficult because I usually did not connect with my coworkers. My mind was on art, writing, books, research, stories, while most people working minimum wage jobs focus on partying and surviving. I had to adapt many new attitudes.

Also, there was a time when I could not work, but quickly I realized a routine — especially doing something that brought me some pleasure — is essential to surviving depression. I wrote.

I woke up every morning (usually early because I found I had less anxiety about the day when I had a long day ahead of me) I had a black coffee and I would write for hours. This discipline helped me to survive when I didn't have the energy to go out and meet people.

This I'd say is the biggest obstacle in getting better — letting go of the ego.

What accomplishment are you proud of?

I am very proud of my writing. The are a few pieces I am especially proud of: a screenplay for a short film, which won an Honorable Mention at a film festival in New York City, a novel which got shelved eventually but which brought me great pleasure in the process of writing it (and possibly saved my life), and last but not least is a short story called This Order of Things, which is not biographical at all but has a theme of learning to accept facts when they do not suit us.

What accomplishment are you proud of?

I am very proud of my writing. The are a few pieces I am especially proud of: a screenplay for a short film, which won an Honorable Mention at a film festival in New York City, a novel which got shelved eventually but which brought me great pleasure in the process of writing it (and possibly saved my life), and last but not least is a short story called This Order of Things, which is not biographical at all but has a theme of learning to accept facts when they do not suit us.

I am very proud of my writing.

I am very proud of my writing.

What's your advice to someone else living with Depression?

The first thing I'd say someone must do is to find something they love to do. It can be a small thing like going for a walk with a dog, or visiting the pet store, or a drawing class or a writing workshop, or the gym. Whatever it is, find it, and then create the time to do it every single day.

The second piece of advice I'd give to someone who is going through depression is to create a routine and resist the urge to sleep in. Also, finding a doctor or a therapist can be good — even if it's just a few sessions, the therapist may say something that just switches the way we look at life.

For me it was, "Not every parent loves their children." When I heard that I was in shock. I had a happy childhood, which gave ground to the assumption that parents automatically love their children, but it is not so and recognizing that fact switched my perspective on life. Accepting it gave me the courage to live for me.

I never found another therapist. Some of the ones I tried actually hurt me even more.

Is there anything else we should know?

I never found another therapist. Some of the ones I tried actually hurt me even more.

One lady said I had low self-esteem because I was a waitress. I tried to explain that it was all I could handle at the moment but she was very rigid. I did reconnect with the first one a few times and every time she said something that helped. When looking for a therapist one must be careful.

About Marta

My name is Marta and I am a writer, an artist, a cook, a baker, a waitress, a teacher, and I make a loyal friend.

I used to have a website dedicated to short films and short stories but I had to close it down. I love short film and short stories.

A book by a modern philosopher, The Medium is the Message (printed "wrongly" as "massage") has proven to be true in my life. The author states that as writers, the medium we choose to write in tells as much about us as subject matter.

I have written a novel, but since being diagnosed with depression I have fallen in love with short stories. This is not a coincidence.

I have learned that sometimes biting off less, and accepting that less really is more because it is the size we can handle. A short story is a small space where you need to place everything a story requires very carefully. It is hard but easier in a sense because it's much more manageable.

The same thing goes for short films. My favorite short film is Bullet in the Head, which sounds morbid but is not. It's about meaning and what is meaningful to one man, what made his life worth living: one moment in time when he heard a word that was not grammatically correct but the sound of it made him fall in love with language.

English is my second language, which, according to science, is treated by my brain like math. Only the first language resides in the creative area. So, it's been my life's struggle and passion to bring the beauty of words I feel in my original tongue to the English language, which sounds mechanical to me.

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