A year ago today, I was struggling. I woke up one morning, dressed for work as usual, and boiled the kettle. I remember vividly turning to my flatmate and saying ‘I can’t make it into work today’. Having forced myself to struggle on for a few months, I was broken for the first time in my life. I went to the Doctor’s that day and was signed off work for three weeks with anxiety and mild depression. That evening, I had my first anti-depressant and my first panic attack. It was not a happy day!!
The next couple of months were a blur. At times I wasn’t sure I would ever feel normal again and I felt incredibly humiliated about everything. I didn’t want to tell anybody what had happened, and I was terrified of bumping into someone I knew, so I hid away from the world. I beat myself up inside and had little self-esteem remaining. But after that…slowly I healed…
It took time, but a year on, I have been off the anti-depressants for 4 months, have a new job which is far less stressful and I feel much better about myself. How did I manage this? Well, this is just my personal experience and everyone is different so this advice may not be suitable for others, but the following things helped me:
- Family and close friends
I felt so embarrassed about being signed off work and taking medication that I only told my immediate family and a few close friends. They were wonderful – supportive but not pushy, and listened when I needed them. So make sure you open up to someone, even if only one person.
I recognised that two things had led to my depression – my job and low self-esteem. So I did two seemingly simple things…I quit my job and started seeing a counsellor about my low self-esteem. Actually, they were not easy at all – the idea of seeing a counsellor was a sign of weakness to me, as was unemployment. But I recognised the issue and did take the action I needed to.
- Talking to someone non-biased
As I mentioned above, initially I hated the idea of spending £40 an hour to talk to someone random about my life. But my word, it did help. It was so helpful to talk to someone who was not biased and who wouldn’t judge me. Plus she worked specifically on helping me deal with my low self-esteem. I still use techniques she taught me today, so it was well worth the money.
When I started feeling better, I decided to start writing this blog. I remember when I was looking for help online with mental health issues, the website Mind helped me incredibly, particularly the area where you can read others’ stories about how they dealt with their problems. I wanted to get my message out there to carry on reducing the stigma attached to mental health.
When I was at my lowest, exercise gave me a reason to get out of bed in the morning. Even if I couldn’t face leaving the house for a run, I at least did a workout using an app in the living room. It’s a cliche but exercise really does help your mood.
It’s important to accept that mental health is an issue and should not be treated lightly, even if you feel ‘back to normal’. I’ve had a couple of down periods since I’ve ‘recovered’ and at first I felt terrified that I was going back to square one. It’s helped me to accept that I might always have moments when I feel lost, but I now have coping mechanisms. I am learning how to deal with stress, anxiety and low moods so they no longer become an issue.
What a difference a year makes! If I can do it, so can others 🙂