At the beginning of August, Katie and I moved in to a beautiful suburban house together, just 10 minutes’ walking distance from my workplace, and a mere three-minute walk from the parents. It was the perfect house in the perfect location, as if it was waiting for us to find it. My spiritual side would call this fate. Besides, this move was symbolic of a much-needed internal transition. My parents had taken care of me in the aftermath of a separation, and now I was ready to rise from the ashes and live my best life. I liken my situation to that of a rescued animal being returned to the wild. The phrase “new chapter” had become much more than the hashtag I so often shared on Instagram.
During the moving week I astonished myself. I built flat-pack beds without complaint, and eagerly hauled countless, cumbersome cardboard boxes filled with things I’d forgotten about up a steep flight of stairs. I set up a new TV, cooked meals, mowed and strimmed the garden, and bought garden supplies for the sheer fun of it. I laughed with my sister many, many times, and enjoyed every second of the intense physical work. This was a far cry from the low-energy, low-mood, low self-esteem version of me that I had lived with for about a decade. I was full of bliss, vivacity, self-confidence and love.
One night, I was in the lounge of our new home, alone while Katie had drinks with a friend in the city. It was just about dark enough outside to light candles and switch on the funky Edison-bulb lamps, and just about cool enough to wear a woolly cardigan. Sitting on our swanky new Scandinavian-style sofa, having just polished off a paprika chicken and mixed vegetable dinner for one, I reflected on an unfamiliar feeling that had come over me in recent weeks.
That day, I had been at work since 8am, trawling through databases and Excel spreadsheets until my eyes dried out. As soon as I arrived back in my new home, I threw on my leggings and sports bra and mounted the cross-trainer, working out for about 45 minutes. After cooling down, I filled a metal dish with nuts and seeds, placing it on the second tier of our back garden in the hope of befriending our resident birds. Then I fried up my dinner, excited having rarely cooked for myself before. I poured a small glass of white wine and enjoyed my meal with an episode of El Chapo. And it was then that I realised that I was still awake and feeling unbelievably content.
No crashes, no dramas, and, significantly, no depression.
I can barely recall the weeks running up to the move, which might sound strange. I know I was depressed and stressed, but the day-to-day details escape me. I believe that this is because, at the time of writing, I am in a completely separate headspace. Imagine living in a fog for months, and upon finally breaking free, you try to see what was contained by said fog from the outside. My depressed episode has been well and truly archived now, just the way I like it. Now, the schemas of my mind are set to ‘positive’ and, for the first time in years, I can only see the good in everything.
I’ve already discussed the importance of asking for help when mental wellness wanes. But I cannot emphasise enough how integral it was to me to admit there was a real, significant problem that I did not have to face alone. Additionally, I have made a conscious effort to be present, taking each day as it comes and not getting tangled up in the mystery of tomorrow. It was worthwhile during my funk to become introspective, so that I could identify the root cause of it. But the moment my mental health conditions were validated by professionals – health and occupational – I did away with the self-reflection and prioritised my recovery. I had completed the necessary mental auditing for this episode, and shut the door on it for good.
Of course, let’s be clear: I have not reached the goal of obtaining permanent happiness, because it doesn’t exist. I still have anxious moments, irritable moments, and sad moments. But, with the help of the right medication and a shift in perspective, I can deal with these emotions as and when they arise, in a stable and secure manner. After all, it is healthy to experience the entire spectrum of feelings, whether positive or not. I’ve learned through my own misgivings how important it is not to over-medicalise a natural shift in mood. Equally, I know that mental illness can be episodic. I may be out of the woods now, but there’s still a whole lot of land to cover.
The point is, it feels like everything has clicked into place. The move has served as the perfect marker for a fresh start. I’m celebrating this contentment, because, when I was depressed a few months ago, contentment was all I truly wanted. I’m not taking this time for granted, and I’ll never forget the support I have received in the process. I feel so blessed to have the energy and positivity that comes with a second chance.
It’s high time I started living again.