It probably won’t come as much of a surprise to anyone who knows me that I went through a bit of a “rough patch” late last year. From a tick bite infection to a nervous breakdown, my so-called ‘sunny disposition’ had disappeared and in its place loomed the dark cloud of Depression. It wasn’t entirely obvious that I was depressed, and my self-deprecating humour even managed to convince me that I was just going through an ‘eccentric’ phase. It’s only when I look back that I understand how dangerously low I had become.
For me, Depression first formed as a complete lack of interest in the life I had carved out for myself, then a desire to go straight to bed after work. This was followed by an addiction to binge eating, and a tendency to sleep the whole weekend through given the chance. I lost connection with the outside world, overwhelmed by a sense of being completely alone and unworthy of help even among friends and loved ones.
When I look back on last year, I don’t really recognise the person I was or even fully recall some of the toughest events, such as opening up to my line manager about it, or going for counselling. It can be quite unsettling, not knowing who you were, where you were and how you got there. I was a walking grey mass. I was something else, or nothing at all.
But I’m thrilled to say I have trudged through the funk of Depression and am now reflecting on past events through a much clearer, healthier, happier lens. It took me to hit rock bottom to finally listen to my intuition, to hear that something wasn’t quite right up there, in my brain. My body was exhausted from all the ‘nothing’ I was doing… and when I had a fleeting panic that I might never leave my bed again, my intuition went into overdrive. But it took luck (and sisterhood) to get me into action: I was fortunate that my sister was around one day to force me to start a health kick in the New Year. Signing up to a health and fitness regime was just the stepping stone I needed to wake up to the reality that I could be content again.
Recovery required some lifestyle changes (some far more drastic than others) to get me back in touch with “the part of me that knows”: my authentic, peaceful self. It took a lot of introspection, a little slice of humble pie, with a side of grief, to get to this point. Hindsight tells me my mental health condition is situational, not episodic, and wisdom tells me I am incredibly lucky to be on the other side. Many individuals may never see the other side again. Others may not even know that another side exists.
I have experienced first-hand how vulnerable the unconscious mind is, the way this deep-rooted vulnerability permeates through to behaviours, emotions and thoughts, to the extent that it shapes your identity and manifests itself physically. But I have also learned how resilient the human body is, how hard it works to survive when the mind battles against itself. In its internal suffering the body exhibits warrior-like courage and tenacity. The fact that the body manages to wake up every morning ‘despite it all’ indicates to me that, somewhere in the depths of the unconscious mind, there is a firm, fundamental belief that life is worth fighting for. Happiness is worth fighting for. And it is always within reach. Perhaps you might call this belief Soul, Spirit, God or just plain old animal instinct. Whatever you call it, it saved me.
The thing is, mental health conditions, aside from a handful of discernible characteristics, are entirely unique to the individual. As such, just because I recovered, doesn’t mean I have a cure. Just because I believe something, doesn’t mean I can infer causality. My experience of life’s hurdles are mine alone.
However, all experiences of mental health conditions are worthy of sharing with others suffering in their own special ways. Talking about my condition helps me to forgive myself for being a bit off-balance at work last year, and for all the hours of sweet nothing I did. But talking about it also plants a tiny seed in the online arena, in a place where literally any pair of eyes could land on this page and think “hmm this sounds familiar…”
The take-home message of this account is simple: every day that an individual with a mental health condition opens their eyes to the world is a triumph. By tapping into this instinctive call to live, maybe it is possible to seek out an alternative, healthier mind-set, even from the darkest depths of Depression. But unless we share our own experiences of finding happiness against the odds, this small nugget of hope may remain unfathomable.
In any case, it’s time to talk about mental health. It’s time to be proud of the human’s capacity to experience ebbs and flows, dramatic highs and dangerous lows. It’s time to come together to share, to plant our own seeds, and rejoice when others blossom.
Regardless of what this blog post can offer to anyone out there, I know this much: I am so thankful that I have reclaimed my sunny disposition. I am so grateful that I write this today.
Peace, love and happy soul searching.