How I stop the wheels falling off..
Yes my wheels have fallen off, quite a few times..
And.. It’s an ongoing work in progress, one I will be managing for the rest of my life.
The most significant time was when I had my first baby, the wheels feel off so badly I span way out of control. The medical term for this is post natal depression.
Mental illness is not something we talk about openly, there is still such a stigma and 14 years ago when I first experienced it, there was even more of a stigma. I couldn't show any vulnerability, weakness, I felt I had to cope. I was a strong woman, a new mother and at the same time completely broken.
I had a degree in psychology, so therefore I could understand and handle it all myself, right? Wrong.
I knew what was going on, I could read the signs but I buried my head in the sand, hoping it would go away. It was just hormones?
And guess what.. it just got worse.
And it’s never just hormones, there was learned and innate behaviours around depression and anxiety that I had grown up around and that ran in my family. The hormonal imbalance was just the trigger and vehicle for the illness.
When you feel you have lost control and confidence, It is very hard to self mange depression and anxiety. There is a time when you need help, you need support and you need love. For some people when you regain control and confidence there are things you can do to manage it but this is not always the case, it can depend on the severity and type of depression.
The drugs don’t work (SSRI’s), well they didn’t for me, the side effects outweighed any benefits, I put weight on and became very lethargic and tired, two things that really do not help you when trying to recover from depression. I wasn't any happier just numb and vacant.
Low energy is a huge contributor to depression and therefore you need a solution that is going to give you an energy rather than zap it from you.
I tried them for a year and then cold turkeyed off them (this I would not advise anyone to do without medical supervision, it is not a good idea). This was a highly traumatic and testing time in my life, it was a massive struggle, everyday was struggle especially with a baby and alone on the other side of the world from my family and support. There was very little light and a lot of a dark, it was hard to see the joy in anything. I had a black cloud above my head that followed me everywhere.
I looked for alternatives ways to help myself and met an incredible buddhist man who pretty much saved my life, he gave me acupuncture and Chinese herbs for 6 months. When I felt stronger I followed this up with exercise and healthy eating. And this was the medicine I needed to recover, I started to feel like me again, I was back. There was light.
I would like to note here that sometimes drugs (pharmaceuticals) do work for individuals and help balance the chemicals in the brain, there is a place for them just not for me.
So, how do I now stop the wheels from falling off again? Once you suffer from depression it tends to come back, a bit like an old friend you haven’t seen in a while. It’s important to recognise the signs so that when you feel yourself wobbling you take action and manage it. I have put healthy habits in place and life practices that help me to stay on top and in control.
Alcohol is a huge trigger and this can make me feel very flat and anxious, I have to be cognisant of the amount I drink and the frequency as I know the effect it can sometimes have.
So, the good stuff.
This is what works for me, healthy food, real food that is alive and has energy. Walking, yoga and jumping on a trampoline = good endorphins, exercise is a winner to help combat depression and anxiety (as we know, it’s heavily documented and researched). Meditation, stilling my mind and practicing mindfulness plays a huge part in keeping me balanced and together. Spending time with friends and family, travelling and exploring. Being grateful is such a simple yet effective way of feeling joy, showing gratitude for our life and what surrounds us. It really works!
Depression and anxiety is so common, the more you open up to people about your experiences the more they will tell you about theirs, it really is liberating. We need to share more. We’re all a bit mental in one way or another and it’s ok not to be ok all the time.
A breakdown can be seen as breakthrough, mental illness is often seen as sign of weakness but it is the opposite, it is a sign of strength. I know and work with some incredibly inspiring people who have come through all sorts of adversity, trauma, abuse and mental illness a better version of themselves, a version they love and like, a version they are proud of.
We need to open up the conversation on mental health, even more than it already is, share stories and experiences. Normalise it. We need the opportunity to show people they are loved and supported at work and at home when they are suffering because it will save lives.