It’s Mental Health Awareness Month in the US and Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK and I couldn’t let this pass me by without sharing my story. According to the World Health Organisation, 300 million people around the world currently have depression, and yet it is one of the most covered-up, stigmatised and socially-avoided diseases that exists. It’s time we made a change.
A few months ago, I sat down with the counsellor I had been seeing, a mood chart which I had diligently marked up every few hours for fourteen days carefully balanced on my knee. I couldn’t even bring myself to look at it. The graph resembled the scariest rollercoaster in the fairground, accurately reflecting the turbulence I felt inside.
I was one big, living, breathing rollercoaster of emotions.
“How does it make you feel seeing that?” she asked.
“Like I’m going crazy,” I said.
The idea that I was going crazy had planted itself (or rather, been planted) in my mind a couple of months before that. We had just returned to Qatar following a hiatus from the real world which involved travelling to Switzerland and the UK to escape my fears about my imminent treatment and block out all memories of the hell that had been late 2017 and early 2018. It had worked, and the time had passed in a hazy blur of warm sunshine and fresh mountain air, catching up with old friends and spending precious time with family, but as soon as our plane hit the tarmac in Doha, the real world and everything that I now had to face up to came flooding back in. I was feeling incredibly vulnerable.
Possibly a bit needy too.
I had started to feel left out of one of my friendship groups and cried down the phone to them, reminding myself of exactly how I used to feel as a broken nineteen year old having just started University, feeling lost, alone and not ready to adult yet.
“You’re crazy,” was the response. And, when I remarked in agreement that I was feeling a little crazy at the moment, “No, I think you’ve always been a bit crazy.”
These words rattled around in my head for SIX MONTHS while I came to terms with the fact that I was severely depressed and suffering the after-effects of what had essentially been a series of traumas that had built up and up until I could contain my feelings no longer.
Had I really always been crazy, or was it just this year that had done it to me?
My “craziness” came to a head at Christmas time. I was home, I was safe, I was with people who loved me unconditionally, and yet I felt sadder than I’d ever felt before. I’d lost my faith in friendship and love. I’d lost my trust in other people and their motives. Most of all I’d lost my belief in myself and what I had to offer the world. I thought life was out to get me. I also thought I was dying.
The truth is, I wasn’t – well, not from cancer anyway. But if I continued with my current beliefs and mindset, there’s no way I was going to survive. If I was to live to see my next Christmas, something HUGE would have to change.
On my lowest day, I begged for God to help me.
I poured out my heart to a higher power. I vowed that I would never ever feel that low again. I promised I would get better – if not for me, then for my daughter. I said that I would do whatever it took, and asked for assistance to turn my life around in any way that would bring about the greatest good.
After that, things began to change.
The changes were small at first, as I found it difficult to summon the energy to do too much to begin with. I continued to have more bad days than good. It’s a sad fact there is no easy or quick fix to depression, and there’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach either – otherwise this worldwide pandemic would soon cease to exist!
Nevertheless, over the coming weeks, as I received some good news on my diagnosis, continued to work on some of the tools and techniques my life coach had equipped me with, meditated daily, read uplifting and inspiring books, wrote in my journal, made friends with people who loved and accepted me just as I was, wrote pages of gratitude lists and began to dedicate every day to my self-improvement and the care of my mind, body and soul, I slowly began to see the light again.
No matter how much you’re suffering with poor mental health, I truly believe that a series of small steps of inspired action every day can assist you in making progress towards recovery.
I also believe that nobody else can help you if you don’t make a vow to help yourself.
As I continued to persist with my promise to myself, the steady, upwards trajectory of my mood began to escalate. There was less turbulence to the emotions of my day. My mental health was improving and my energy was growing. My positivity was blossoming. My love of life began to return and my self-belief and love for myself was stronger than ever.
I came to recognise that I had more control over my life and my destiny than I ever thought possible, and that the actions of other people did not need to dictate my present happiness or future fulfilment.
Best of all, I came to believe that all of life’s challenges and all of life’s pain did not need to destroy me – for they are simply opportunities for growth.
Trauma, crisis and depression make everything that you thought you needed to survive fall away, and in the aftermath you are left with nothing but yourself and your faith and your hope.
In my darkest moments it helped me to remember that the only things you really need in life are the things that can’t be taken from you.
Depression is something that one in three of us in the Western world will experience at some point in our lives. Let’s own our stories instead of spending our lives trying to run from them. Let’s celebrate every victory, however small.
Did you get out of bed this morning? GIRL, YOU ROCK! Did you wash your face? BRAVO, SELF-CARE! Did you get your child up, get them dressed and take them to school? YOU ARE WINNING – I’M SO PROUD OF YOU! Can you find it inside of you to feel proud of yourself too?
Can you find it inside yourself, not to fight this pain, but to ask what it’s trying to teach you and use it to help you to find your purpose, your tribe and eventually, your soul?
I still have really bad days where I feel like I’m stuck in a black hole that I will never be able to claw myself out of. I still have days where I wonder what the point in all of this is, and how the universe can be so cruel. I still scream into a pillow every now and again. But even on these days I am proud of myself for how far I’ve come.
Now I have many more days where I feel like I finally get it.
Depression is not something to be ashamed of. For many of us, it’s simply a vital step that we have to take in order to grow. In order to step into the very best version of ourselves.
I will never begrudge my painful thoughts and the struggles that I went through to get me to who I am today. I will never allow myself to believe that I am going crazy again.
Some of the poor mental health that I experienced last year would have become a much easier ride if I had had assistance from Macmillan Cancer Support. Whatever hardships cancer throws your way, as a sufferer or loved one of a sufferer, this charity can be right there beside you. They provide the physical, emotional and financial support to help you to live life as fully as you can.
That is why my good friend, Maggie from Think Like A Boss and I have teamed up to produce a range of charity t-shirts with 100% of the profits going to Macmillan.
The message behind the t-shirts is to:
- Focus on your own mental health and happiness;
- Forget what others are doing and saying; and
- Channel your energy into creating the best possible life for yourself!
If you believe as strongly about this as I do and would like to find out more or to purchase your own t-shirt then please head to this link!
Thank you so much for all of your support!
PS. Please, please if you are depressed or struggling with poor mental health today then reach out to me with a DM or if you are in the UK call: 0800 123 737. You do not need to suffer in silence.
All images in this post were taken by the talented PMP Mom Studio.