‘There is and always will be light seeping through the cracks, we just have to work on our ability to see it’
I’m currently living my life amid a global pandemic, yet I’m in a much better place mentally than I was this time last year, which is both scary and liberating all at once.
Before October 2019, I couldn’t bring myself to admit that I had been suffering from depression on and off for 5 years, due to varying factors such as unresolved childhood trauma, bereavement and anxiety rising over certain aspects of my life. I’m not going to go into the whole story of what led to the final tipping point, during which I had to take a period of time off work, admit to myself, my GP and those close to me that I was struggling with depression and get the support I needed. However, I’m here to share some things that I wish I had accepted and believed sooner so that I could have embarked on my recovery quicker than I did.
Of course, I still have hard times; for example, for a few days last week I felt anxious and low due to the news of another lockdown being implemented but I no longer believe that one bad thing equals a bad life. I let myself feel what I need to feel, as it is so important to allow our ‘negative’ emotions the space the need. During my hard days last week, I let myself sleep more than usual, cancel plans and have a wee cry. However, I then picked myself up and called upon tried and tested coping strategies. For example, I got outdoors at the weekend as nature tends to be calming for me, spent time doing fun things that I enjoy (watching films, eating nice food and drinking wine!) and I completed my charity Stomp Challenge to raise money for the Scottish Association of Mental Health. Does this mean that I now feel completely fine about the lockdown? No! Does it mean that I am in a better mindset than I was last week and can see the positives in my life out-with the lockdown? Yes! And that’s what matters.
My 5 lessons learned are:
Medication doesn’t make you weak: This is something I still find challenging to talk about as it was my biggest hurdle. I didn’t want to admit that my Doctor was right and that I should try medication to help improve my mood as I thought I should be able to cope on my own and ‘snap out of it’. I’m here to tell you that obtaining support via channels such as counselling or medication is the opposite of being weak; it’s instead so brave to seek out or accept help to focus on and improve your health and wellbeing.
Let go of the ‘shoulds’ and timelines: Last year I felt overwhelmed with the prospect of turning 30 this year; why hadn’t I settled down? Will I be promoted before then? When will I do X, Y and Z? I can’t lie and say that I now breeze through life carefree but since I let go of a lot of these self-imposed expectations, I have felt a lot lighter and things have subsequently found a way of coming together in my life. I realised that I had to love myself first before I could have a successful romantic relationship. I have started a trainee management scheme in work and feel so happy that I’m now on the way to a promotion rather than getting one straight away, as this will provide me with valuable experience before I move into the role. Lastly, covid has meant that so many plans have been put on hold; this is something I struggle with as I believe life is about enriching experiences and I want to go on holidays to see more of the world, I want to have the freedom to do what I want when I want to and I want my usual social life back. However, I know that when these things do return, I’m going to be so grateful and I’ll absorb more goodness from them than ever before (100% hoping that is sooner rather than later though!).
You’re not broken: I thought that I had baggage and was damaged due to my personal experiences and struggles with depression and anxiety. However, I now know that due to going through this, I am a better, kinder and more compassionate person than I was previously. When we experience difficult times, it’s common to feel guilty and that there is something wrong with us, but there isn’t. We aren’t our anxiety or depression; this might have been/is part of us, but it is NOT us.
It all starts with you: Self love is something that people on the outside looking in would have expected me to be a pro at; when I felt bad in the past, I’d still post pretty selfies, go to social occasions and appear confident. I was confident then in some aspects of my life, but I did not truly love the person I was. Learning to love myself was and still is hard. I can fall into thinking about my past mistakes and pick faults with my personality and appearance, but I know and accept myself more than I ever have. It sounds cheesy but it does start with you, internally, as without showing yourself kindness, no one else and nothing else can truly achieve this for you.
Move away from the fix-it tendency: An important thing that I have learned is that mental health struggles aren’t something that get ‘fixed’ as recovery is a process and nonlinear. You are not failing if you have ups and downs as that’s what makes us human; we can’t be happy, content and relaxed all the time, and that’s okay! The turning point for me has been accepting that I will have struggles and most significantly, I know I will get through them.
To echo my thoughts earlier in this post; bad times do not mean that you have a bad life. There is and always will be light seeping through the cracks, we just have to work on our ability to see it.