This post deviates from the usual light-hearted tone I try to keep with this blog. It does have a happy ending, though!
Some facebook ‘memories’ photos have been showing up in my feed for me to share, and that made me realise a rather relevant anniversary for me.
Today is the 1 year anniversary of when I’d acknowledged that depression was completely kicking my arse, and I’d tucked my tail between my legs and run back to my dads house. The photo that prompted this post was taken on my first night back, when I went out for a meal with my mum, sisters, brother in law, aunt and cousin. I was attempting to present an image to the world that I was fine. I have a rather fixed grin on my face that does little to hint at how unwell I was inside. I spent the next 3 weeks as a sobbing wreck on dad’s settee, whilst trying to figure out how to fix myself.
I won’t dwell too much on the circumstances that had led me to that point. In essence, it was a perfect storm of circumstances – I am prone to seasonal depression over the winter months due to longer nights. I hadn’t managed to pull myself out of that when I started on some medication that was supposed to be able to help me quit smoking – but one of the side effects of that medication is depression. To add to all this, I was embroiled in a rather awful situation in my own life.
Sometimes, I look back and feel ashamed that I didn’t cope better. Because I’m supposed to be better than that. Then I total up everything that was going on, and realise that I shouldn’t have ever expected myself to be superwoman in the first place. I doubt there are many people out there who have the mental and emotional fortitude to deal with such circumstances without there being some kind of effect.
It sounds pretty rough, and it was – it was the lowest point of my life so far. I was really ill. But in my mind it marks the beginning of when I really started to take responsibility for my own mental health, and started making positive changes in my own life. I stopped taking those bloody quit smoking tablets, and switched to anti depressants. I worked towards letting go of the anger and bitterness over the situation I was in. I also became a bit more selfish – I realised that I do actually matter, and I owed it to myself to live a good life and to look after myself better.
I’m pretty proud of how far I’ve come in the space of a year. I realised I have a network of solid and amazing people who I can approach for support when I need it. More to the point, I’ve let go of any shame in actually approaching those people when I do need a bit of a help. I have an amazing boyfriend in my life. I’ve moved forward in my career. I’ve adopted some of the principles touted by cognitive behaviour therapy to let go of my tendency towards warped thinking – in essence, let go of dwelling on the negative, and instead take a positive step forward. It wasn’t always easy. In fact, at times it was downright torture in my own head – but it has paid off. My life feels pretty amazing right now as a result – and it was me that got me there (with a
little lot of help from my friends).
Now, that may not seem like much, but it’s pretty huge for me. I’m not 100% back to my old self – but that is not surprising. I have changed as a person (hopefully) for the better as a result of my experiences, so my old self is not someone I need or even want to be any more. I’ve lost nothing, and gained so much.
To sum up this post – depression is an absolute beast. Not only does it drag you down, it keeps you down by taking away the motivation to do anything to help yourself. I can only encourage anyone else going through this to please get help. Reach out to family and friends. See a doctor. Get therapy. Try anything and everything. It won’t be easy, but you’re worth it, even if your brain is currently telling you that you deserve all the shit that life is currently throwing at you. Your brain on depression is your worst enemy. Life can and will get better, and there is nothing shaming about accepting that you can’t always do it alone.
I am no longer depressed – I haven’t been for a good while now. I do still have my anxious moments. I know that I can’t allow myself to fall down that pit again, and I try to be very aware of the signs my own body and mind give me that I could be headed that way. I’m terrified of getting that ill again – I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. But that anxiety is merely the very last remnant of a time that is now in the past, and I am very eager for it to stay there. It’s the final thing to let go of – and I will throw it away, because I know it’s not worthy of being a part of me, and has no place in the life I want to have.
There you have it – I’m better, and I’m always working to get even more better. I am a work in progress, and I always will be. And the same goes for everyone else. So here’s the deal for me and everyone who is reading this – decide to be awesome, and keep being awesome. It’s worth it.
* One resource that helped me greatly is the MoodGYM training program. It’s free to use, and is accessed online: MoodGYM.