As far as I can remember, I have always tried to impress people. That why I was good at school, why I was afraid of mistakes/ errors. Somewhere along the way, the curiosity bug stuck me and I became interested in science and decided to go to grad school. Then things went south. I became addicted to porn.
It started slowly. As a grad student, I was alone all the time in my room and dint had to sneak anywhere. Also, the country I am current in has super fast internet. After a while I just could not sleep without watching porn. Soon I just could not sleep. This lead to depression.
I remember the first time hitting rock bottom. It was in my semester as a PhD student on the eve of an exam. I found that I had no interest in preparing for it nor could I make myself become interested. I just felt numb and anxious. I longed for a little sleep. My thought process started a negative spiral and only masturbation would put me out of my misery for a little while. I got a B+ in that exam after PMO’ing 6 times the day before. I was physically and mentally exhausted from a combination of sleep deprivation, fatigue and excessive masturbation.
This was in May 2014 when I first figured out that I was addicted to PMO. I soon put an end to it. Cold turkey for the next month. Started feeling a lot better. The streak ended when I was reading 1984, the Orwell novel in which the main character Smith was going on and on about being oppressed in the first act of the book. Identifying with the character, I wanted to be free of this self-oppression and broke the streak.
My strongest ally was my logical thinking and mental acuity. The worst part of depression was my thinking became muddled and all I could see was my own worthlessness magnified. In order to cope, I watched more porn which made me feel more depressed which made me watch more porn and the cycle went. Soon it felt like I lost all my mental sharpness. My short term memory was poor and it required enormous effort to do a relatively simple task. I was falling behind in my studies and research.
That was when I decided to get my life in order. I went to psychiatrist to treat my depression with anti depressants. Started sleeping better, exercising and embarked on my second streak. This was in April 2015 and this time it was for 5-6 weeks (cant remember exactly). Although my moods improved, I became tired of being a monk and soon frustration got better of me and my streak ended.
I then embarked on a few mini streaks 2-3 weeks in length but all the time, I was unable to make it into something big. This was when I realized my problem. Trying to overcome a mental illness by thinking made me dig myself into a deeper hole and so started reading and researching blogs.
One of the things I noticed was that whenever I sat in my bed with my laptop, my brain automatically started thinking about porn. I tried to stop working on my laptop in the bed but dint work because I would have my phone with me so I started becoming anxious. So one day, it was either a holiday or a weekend, I decided to sit the whole day inside with my laptop in my bed but without watching porn. The rule was every time I had an urge, I would restart my computer. The 5-10 minute break would make the urge go away for a while but it always returned. I kept persisting. The day was a success but I relapsed the next day.
Then I started making myself sit on my bed longer and longer with my laptop without watching porn. After a few weeks, my bed became only a place to sleep and relax. Things were going great. That’s when life decided to fuck things up royally. I lost my confidence, became extremely depressed and suicidal. I almost flunked my PhD qualifiers in the beginning of this year. Thankfully I passed but it created a very bad impression with my PhD supervisor and colleagues. What a difference a few weeks can make!
I became depressed again, but this time I was prepared to look out for the spiral. My porn habit became less and less frequent. I went from 4-5 times a day to 3-4 times a week. Porn habit was more or less under control but I was still depressed. I started freaking out. That was when I realized that porn was a symptom not a cause. I had deep issues; always wanting to be correct, not accepting failure, and always wanting to please my superiors.
I needed constant validation from others to prove my self worth to myself, a feeling was rooted in extreme insecurity and fear of being an impostor. Whenever there was an error, I was constantly afraid that people would realize that I was an idiot. This made me more anxious which lead to more mistakes and we have a spiral again.
Understanding this is one thing but completely realizing this is completely different. To realize this, I had to accept the fact that I will make mistakes but this does not make me stupid. My own self identity needed to be redefined based on myself and other’s opinions. So, I decided to be truthful, kind and patient with myself.
In order to boost my confidence, I climbed a Mountain in the first week of Feb 2016. The view from the summit was truly exceptional and with this momentum, I started my new streak. For the past five weeks, I have not had any urges to watch porn. I decided to lay off the internet for a while and when I came back, the normal triggers had lost their effect. I was no longer under the spell of lust and I felt completely free. This has been continuing till today.
Tl dr: Don’t be afraid of frustration or failure. Be kind, be patient with yourself. And most importantly be honest. If you have an urge, you have an urge. You cant outrun it. After you have been broken multiple times, you will realize a quiet strength in you that forms an impregnable shield. This is not something you can fake in the long term. After enough struggle, you will realize that there is no need to be afraid. And you will be free.
LINK – I am not afraid anymore
UPDATE – 4 months update
- Urges are gone
- Thinking is super clear
- Easy to laugh and have fun
- Better concentration
- Feeling more assertive
- Can listen without thinking of a response
Now these are just the highlights. Unfortunately life throws some shit your way. I got sick (flu) which made me depressed slightly. Oh look, poor me! All alone! standard pity party stuff. Started feeling lonely and insecure. A few months ago in this situation, I would have gone through a whole box of tissues just to avoid feeling crappy.
Thankfully now I have found that the only way is through. As soon as I am aware that I am feeling lonely, I am no longer lonely. Not sure that makes sense, but it is somehow true. I suddenly remember the realization that the world is an abundant, kind place, full of fun things to do and depression goes away.
Advice to myself: Do not lose out on what is truly wonderful but going after something that gives you temporary pleasure! This is you in your true form. Be patient, Be kind, Be active. Things will take care of itself.