If you look up the definition of depression it says that it’s a feeling of sadness that lasts for weeks and even months. I’m sure a lot people associate the word with exactly that and sometimes for those of us that have been lucky enough to not experience it, it can be quite hard to understand what a person goes through when dealing with such disorders. Therefore, we limit the word ‘’depression’’ with one feeling – sadness. We define it as that and go on with our lives. We might even call ourselves depressed when something inconvenient happens. In some way, the words depression and anxiety have found a way to creep into our every day lives and are already a part of our popular culture. The question is though, do people really understand what it is? What it feels like to deal with it? Of course, you read about depression and anxiety online, you hear doctors talking about it, you hear medical terms being thrown around and you might even know a friend or two that had to deal with it.
That friend of mine today is Dovydas Būdvytis, otherwise known as RPTLE. When asked to introduce himself and tell me what makes him happy, he immediately said that the thing he loves most is performing in front of people, whether it is behind decks, or as an artist, performing his songs. I’m sure most of the Lithuanian people know him though his music but not as many people know about the fact that he, himself, has suffered from depression and anxiety for quite some time.
I remember speaking to my friend about this topic and she brought up the Instagram stories Dovydas has made about his struggles, spreading awareness about mental health, and providing help lines to contact for those in need. As widely known as these mental health disorders are, I still do not think it is talked about enough. And when it is, it’s not as deep as it could be. Therefore, that’s when I knew Dovydas would be the perfect person for this topic. I knew he would not hesitate to tell me like it is, and I knew I could fully count on him to be as honest as possible without any glamorization.
Today, maybe not so much about his music, but about his childhood, struggles and how he overcame them – the one about depression and anxiety with RPTLE.
Q: Tell me about your childhood. What was it like?
D: My childhood was very weird. Looking back at it, I can see so many toxic things, my parents and relatives did, but if I had to describe it in a few words, it was painfully silent. What I mean by that is, I usually had to be silent, not interrupt my parents (mostly my dad) and obey mindlessly, no matter how stupid I found their demands. My life was pretty much planned out: I was practically forced to take judo classes and coerced into going to a music school, where I had a mentally and physically abusive piano teacher for the first three years. Anytime I did anything that was not considered “normal” in my household, a pretty brutal punishment was waiting for me. For example, one time, when I was 10, I skipped my piano class and went home, because I was afraid of my teacher hitting me and when I came back home, my dad was back from work early and instead of hearing me out, he just pretty much beat me to the point, I had to miss school for three weeks, because my body had more bruised spots, than healthy ones and that included my face. And one other time, when I was a bit older, I think, 11 or 12, my friends from judo classes started smoking and considering, they used to wait with me until my parents picked me up, my clothes smelled a bit like cigarettes. So, my dad came to pick me up and I didn’t really think much about the smell, because I did not smoke and just sat in the front.
A minute or two passed, my father smelled the cigarettes and without saying anything just stopped in a remote location just outside the road, leading to our home. Told me to get out and before I had a chance to ask him, just struck me so hard, I remember spinning in the air like three or four times. And when I finally yelled out “Why?”, he just spat on me and said, that I disgust him, because he smelled cigarettes, of course all my attempts to explain that I did not smoke, were in vain and he told me I had to go back on foot and think about what a “despicable” child I was. And regarding my swollen eye. that was also bleeding, he commanded me to tell my mother, that I got it during training. So, I went back home on foot, but it was January, and that month in my country can be really cold, for example, on that day the temperature was something like -19 C and I was a tired twelve-year-old, with a bruised eye, walking 10 kilometers home at something like 9 PM. And this is just a little snapshot of my childhood.
The things in my childhood were the main culprits for my depression.
Q: What were you like as a teenager?
D: I learned pretty quick, that in order to get what I want, or at least not to get brutally beaten or locked in a shed, I had to lie. At first, it was just contained to my household, but when the other kids started bullying me at school, it spread there as well. Soon I was labeled as a liar at every school I went. That did not bother me as much, though. In my head I was living a double life and that gave me a little sliver of self-confidence, that helped me survive. When I was twelve, I found a passion for music, but since my computer time was just an hour a day, I did not make much progress, but by the age of fourteen, I had a computer in my room and would just spend an obscene number of hours on music. Of course, I suffered from it as well – my father devised a brutal punishment – he used to lock me in a shed, just outside our house to “better me as a human being”, because music was only for “delinquents” and weirdly, gay people (my father is extremely homophobic). But after the age of fifteen, I started to be more confident in myself and stand up to any injustice, I faced. By the time I graduated school, I was already working and planning on getting away from that household, but my mother suddenly decided that she had enough of my father and his brutal ways and finally divorced him. That prompted me to stay for four more months before moving out. I was really determined to take on the world and I did just that.
Q: It’s no secret we’re talking about depression and anxiety today, so tell me, at what point in your life did you realize you might be dealing with something more serious than just typical sadness everyone experiences every now and then?
D: Strangely enough, the first time I felt that the feeling, I normally feel, is not just sadness, was when I was nineteen. Things were moving pretty slow in life, my music career was stagnant, the dream was pretty much in shambles as I worked as a barista for twelve hours a day and had only around two gigs every four months. So that was the first time I read up on depression and was left mortified, because I checked most of the boxes for a depressed person.
Q: What does a day in a depressed person’s life look like?
D: When people think about depression, they talk about feeling sad or angry, but the reality is that you don’t feel anything. You just kind of stay in bed for just a bit longer and you don’t know why. There is no motivation to do anything. Even things like, eating or taking a shower feel like chores and the life you have outside your bubble, be it work, relationships or friends, start to become very annoying and pointless. Basically, you just want to scream “Leave me alone!” to everybody you meet. And in my case, I also suffered from a severe case of insomnia since I was sixteen.
Q: Have you been clinically diagnosed with these disorders? If so, how does one get diagnosed with depression or anxiety?
D: During a routine health checkup, my doctor noticed, that I was very unresponsive to every little bit of small talk and asked me if I could fill out a form. I obliged, but the “form” asked me to be truthful and contained very personal questions, but that did not really bother me, and I filled it out quickly and gave it back.
A week later my doctor called me and asked me to come in for a consultation, regarding my health. Upon arrival, I was presented with a diagnosis: Manic Persistent Depressive Disorder and Anxiety Disorder. But that was not it, the doctor advised me to go to a psychologist, so that they can confirm or deny my disorders. After two months of visits, they confirmed the diagnosis, and I was prescribed treatment and drugs.
Q: Were you taking antidepressants? If so, for how long and were there any side effects?
D: I was taking Paroxetine and Xanax every other day for three years. It actually helped me to get back on track, but after I stopped taking both drugs, my body went through a brutal withdrawal period. For three or four months, I was unable to function properly, luckily, I was already somewhat established in music and could just not work for that period of time, I also have great friends, that helped me in any way they could. So, I guess, I was one of the lucky ones, that did not come out of that ordeal with major health or mental problems.
Q: How much of a role does therapy play when dealing with depression and anxiety? What is your opinion on therapy?
D: I didn’t really take therapy seriously, because anytime I was talking to a therapist, I would obfuscate certain facts in order to not open up to a stranger. Now, whenever I see any of my friends or peers dealing with anything resembling a mental disorder, my first decision is to recommend them to try therapy and most of the time it really helps them. So, my history with therapy is not the best, but my peers have benefited from it greatly.
Q: What were your personal coping mechanisms?
D: I have had three coping mechanisms in my life, which are prevalent today as well.
It’s music, because I can just pour out my feelings into a song or a piece, video games, because I feel that my body and mind just leave this world and jogging, because nothing beats a 12-kilometer run to lift my spirits up.
Q: Tell me about a time when you were at your lowest. Where were you? What was going through your head?
D: Before I seeked help, I was really angry with the world, because I felt, that nobody gave me a proper chance to prove myself, so once when I was nineteen, my friend got me the best gig, I’ve ever had. It was with the elites in my field, I mean I had a chance to play alongside one of my heroes that night. So, after the gig, I got invited to an afterparty which seemed luxury, but in hindsight it was seedy as hell. There I was invited to sit with the main acts in a private section of the venue and that is when I found drugs. At first it was a bit of MDMA, but by the end of the night I was taking so much cocaine, that I even blacked out and had to be resuscitated two times. After that night, my life spiraled out of control for the next five months. I was addicted to cocaine, but since it was expensive, I gravitated towards methamphetamine. In my head it was justified, because the drugs made me feel things, that I had not felt in a long time. But as luck would have me, my friends found out about my problem and did an intervention. With their help, I quit drugs and have never taken anything, that is more than marijuana, since.
Q: What was the hardest part while dealing with depression?
D: The hardest thing, when dealing with depression is realizing that you have a problem and accepting help. I cannot count the times, I got angry at my friends for just trying to help me. In my head – I had no problem and they were the bad guys, for thinking that I am somehow lesser than them.
Q: Would you say you are a closed off person? Was it hard for you to talk about what you were going through at the time with other people?
D: Since I was constantly told to shut up when I was a child, my communication skills, regarding the problems, I faced, were abysmal. I never really talked about my feelings up until I was twenty-three and also I really value privacy, because most people used to push me away, when they got to know me better. I am a closed off person, because I don’t really trust anyone, but once a person gets closer to me- I am like an open book to them, well at least nowadays.
Q: In your opinion, do you think parents, who are supposed to be the closest people to you, are able to help while dealing with depression and anxiety?
D: Well, parents have the responsibility to make sure, that their child is well both physically and mentally. In my case, however, my father was the one, that scarred me for life, so I did not get the luxury of talking to my parents about my mental struggles and when I have children, I will do everything to make them feel safe when talking about their mental health with me.
Q: Were there even any people who helped you though your disorders? If so, who are these people? Were they friends or family?
D: As I went through life, the general consensus in my world was, that I don’t have a family. But as I grew older, life showed me, that my closest friends are my family, because they helped me and were with me at my lowest. I am very lucky to have found them through my work and I’m always available to them.
Q: Would you say that this part of your life when you had depression/anxiety is over? Or is it something you are still struggling with today?
D: My struggles are definitely over, but this past year I had a couple of near misses, because the main part of my job became practically illegal and without performances, I tend to feel empty, but nowadays I feel stronger than ever and dedicate my time to working on my craft and taking care of the people, I love the most. So, for the most part – I am truly happy.
Q: Talking about the mental health situation in Lithuania, do you think people talk about it enough? Or is it considered to be taboo?
D: Mental health is in a sort of a limbo here. It is talked about, but whenever a male talks about their struggles – most of the time, they are immediately chastised and made fun of. We still have ways to go here, but I am glad, that it’s not a taboo topic anymore.
Q: What advice would you give to people suffering from depression and anxiety?
D: Do not be afraid to talk. Don’t lie about your mental state, because you are not only lying to everyone around you, but also to yourself. And for the love of God, take time off whenever you have the chance, because that helps more than you can imagine.
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