By the time I climbed into bed that evening, I could stamp the day with two facts:
First, it was the beginning of “Mental Health Awareness Week” across the country. Second, I’d experienced the biggest depressive episode I’d had in a really long time.
I woke up with an ache that consumed me and knew within the first few minutes that it was not my day.
The fact that it was the start of mental health awareness week was an ironic coincidence. I tried for about 40 minutes to throw myself into a normal day. But no matter how many reassuring “you got this” and “it’s good to talk” articles and news stories I came across, nothing was changing my mindset. I couldn’t see how I would get through the day without feeling like I was climbing Everest.
Having shed what felt like a year’s supply of tears, I sat and stared at my blotchy eyes in the mirror, wondering how I had got here without noticing any of the signs before.
Why now? Why today?
So, I started to analyze the last year and had a reel of moments flash in my mind of things I’d said or done that now started to make sense.
I feel so stuck in where my life is going, I can’t make any decisions on how I want to move forward.
I used to feel so social and reachable. Now it takes me ages to get back to people when they get in touch, and text messages are just overwhelming me.
I am so tired and have no energy to look after myself or exercise anymore.
I deflected everything for so long because the entire world was going through a tough time, and I just assumed I was in the same boat. So I would insist that I was fine and label it as “just one of those days” because we all have those, right?
I was in denial and refused to paint myself with a word like depressed because I was putting other people’s opinions first and was terrified of being seen as dramatic or over-sensitive.
I was bullying myself without even realizing it. And I was being my own barrier to understanding and overcoming anything that was going on.
But why? I would never do that to anybody else, so why was I doing it to myself?
Years ago, I took a course on mental health first aid for work purposes and to help those close to me going through a tough time. For some reason, I couldn’t apply any of this to my own well-being. It then dawned on me what they say is true—it’s impossible to take your own advice.
After feeling as though I was buried under thick, wet sand for what had felt like years, I felt as though it was time to slowly lift my head up and release the shame I felt around asking for help. I confided in a few close friends, had some time battling back and forth, and finally enrolled myself into 8 weeks of therapy—which I’m fortunate enough to get free access to through employee benefits.
It took a lot of strength to get myself to this point, for which I am immensely proud. But it doesn’t just happen overnight.
There has been no magic wand waved, no slate wiped clean, and no pastures new. It wasn’t an 8-hour long intensive course that rewarded me with an “all fixed” certificate at the end. Nor was it a huge bandage that could wrap me up and take me back to a time when everything was fine, no matter how nice all of that would be.
Mental health is a uniquely carved journey for each of us, and how we choose to deal with it is a very personal choice.
I’ve learned new things about myself, new ways of handling my emotions. Most importantly, I now understand that every baby step and good day is something to celebrate and roll with.
This is a reminder and a hug to you: you are not alone. Put yourself first, look after your mind and your soul, and reach out in your time of need.