My Great Big…

Depression! Luckily mine didn’t last quite as long as the great big depression of the 1930s. Mine started a couple of years ago and it has taken until now for me to fully understand and appreciate it for what it was — a glorious mess! A mess that’s changed my life in so many ways but best of all has helped figure out who I am and be confident in the person I am becoming. There is something quite beautiful about falling apart and rebuilding yourself.

One in four people suffer from anxiety and depression yet there is a such a big stigma attached to it and people don’t often feel comfortable talking about it. If what I have learnt from the last few years can help someone else then why not talk about it.

Here is what landed me in this state and how I managed to get myself out.

  1. Trying to please everyone — whether it was my boss, my friends, my partner at the time, or my family. I would hardly ever say no. However when trying to please everyone else you sometimes end up doing things you don’t want to or find yourself in a position where you physically cannot keep everyone happy which makes you feel like you are a bad person. The truth is you are not, the only thing bad here is not taking care of yourself first. However by that point you’ve set the bar so high that the people in your life sometimes have ridiculous expectations of you.
  2. Never taking time out figure myself out — Until now I have spent all of my adult life in long term relationships. In doing this I lost sight of who was and being a people pleaser I was always happy to go with the flow and just follow. I now understand how important it is to really be alone. It is the greatest gift to truly understand oneself and only then can you reach your full potential and have meaningful relationships with all the people in your life.
  3. Fearing change — I stayed in situations where I was not happy for too long because the fear of what I did not know. I realise now that change is so important. We all need change to grow and I have learnt how to embrace the unknown.
  4. Avoiding my feelings — I’ve always been a very guarded and a very hidden person. I never really talked about my feelings and eventually 31 years of hidden feelings and emotions exploded! I’ve spent the last few months figuring out what the best way for me to deal with my emotions and feelings are and once you find that it can really help. A while back I had once drawn a cartoon to explain to someone why I was hurt and I realised that drawing and writing helped me process and understand what I feel a lot better. I am not always the best at articulating my feelings, so getting them on paper first really helps me make sense of what I am feeling so I am able to explain them better to those who are closest to me. Whilst I will never open up to everyone I meet, this has helped become closer to the ones who will always be in life. Only a handful of people actually know the real me and I am happy with that.
  5. Burnt Out — I have always been a bit of a social butterfly. I just happen to know a lot of people and hence my social life can get quite intense. Back in September I was given enormous responsibility at work and took over a further two departments so was managing four departments in total whilst also putting a strategy and heading up restructuring the company. Without a full team to support me I ended up having to work seven days a week for up to twenty one days at a time and would still find myself drowning on most days. I can proudly say I don’t shy away from stressful situations and was luckily able to manage it. However working this much whilst maintaining my social life only meant it was a matter of time before it all came crashing down. Fast forward to Febraury this year: I found myself sitting at an airport gate having a panic attack because I had so much work to do and could not login remotely. I almost didn’t board the plane and instead was about to head back to the office on a Sunday! Thankfully I did board that plane. Although the first three days were hell…I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat, I was getting hounded with messages from my boss and I was in such a state of constant panic that my hands were shaking. It was then I realised I couldn’t carry on like this and I had to make a change. It wasn’t fair to me, I wasn’t there, I wasn’t present in the moment, and thats just not right. I knew when I came back I needed to quit this job and having achieved some pretty awesome results like turning the company from year ending last year in a massive loss to year ending this year in profit, I felt I had proved something to myself and was happy to leave.
  6. Take care of myself — Last year I tore the meniscus in my knee and ended up in crutches for a few months. This meant I couldn’t exercise and I really let go of myself. It is so important to take care of your body as this helps take care of your mind also. When you finish a great workout you naturally feel happy. Likewise for when you have a healthy, nutritious, and satisfying meal. I’ve also learnt the importance of moderation. I guess as there were parts of me that I was trying to avoid and being quite social, I found myself drinking a fair bit of alcohol. Alcohol can be a depressant and you should not over do it. Off course everyone likes to let loose from time to time but it’s important to know when to cut it off which I have learnt and am so much happier for it.
  7. Find your passion — Whether it be a sport, cooking, art, or anything else. Find something that you love doing. Again, thankfully I got on that plane back in February because the second part of that holiday changed my life. I realised what I felt passionate about and what I needed to do for work when I came back home. So two and a half months on, I have left that job and started working for myself, doing my part to hopefully make the future slightly brighter.
  8. Sleep depreviation — I’ve always suffered from insomnia and think there will be times in my life where it will be bad and times it is more manageable. I’ve spent a lot of time looking at night time routines and finding what works to help me unwind and relax and that has really helped. Although as recently learnt googling shark attacks in the region of the world you are next visiting does not help you sleep!

So often we get so caught up in life that we forget to take care of ourselves. I feel blessed to have gone through this, been strong enough to have learnt from it, to have been able to rebuild myself and lucky enough to have amazing people in my life that support me.

Ruby Wax’s talk ‘What’s so funny about mental illness?’ is hilariously great at explaining what people who are suffering from this are going through. I hope this video gives anyone who might not understand a little insight into what it is like and my words help someone who is going through this not feel as alone.