If you’re a regular reader of my blog then you might be ever-so-slightly aware that I’m releasing a new book at the end of October 2015. Called Depression? F*** Depression!, it’s part memoir and part self-help guide; it’s all about my journey from losing almost everything through to finding my way back from the darkness, combined with what I learned along the way.
I’m delighted to share with you an exclusive excerpt from my book in today’s post. It will be released globally on October 28, 2015 in print, eBook and audiobook formats – if you would like to pre-order a copy now, you may do so now on iTunes at https://itun.es/au/0lye-.l. And if you like it, please share it!
Chapter One: My Journey – Facing It
“Being challenged in life is inevitable; being defeated is optional.”
– Roger Crawford –
Facing up to the fact that I had a serious mental illness was, for me, possibly one of the hardest parts of my life’s journey so far.
As a control freak who has always preferred order to chaos, the very idea that my world had gotten so out of control that I could no longer function in it was, to put it mildly, confronting. As someone who had firmly believed that my future lay in continuing to climb the corporate ladder, and who had enjoyed all the little luxuries that a well-paying job afforded, it was a shock to my system when I could no longer work. And as someone who prided themselves on having worked hard to overcome adversity, the very notion of ‘giving in’ to my emotions and of being stigmatised with a mental illness was unbearable. I had never taken any actual ‘stress leave’ from work, even though I can look back now and realise that a lot of my frequent sick leave was actually due to stress.
The signs were as clear as day that something wasn’t right, well before it escalated into depression and anxiety. I was prone to major mood-swings, I had days where I couldn’t physically get out of bed because I felt overwhelmed by everything, and I was abusing alcohol, cigarettes and food in a vain subconscious attempt to soothe my soul.
Facing up to my situation was the hardest part of my journey because it involved both accepting that I wasn’t perfect and, ultimately, letting down all the emotional walls I had built up over the years in order to protect myself; walls which were now groaning under the weight of the emotional wreckage they were trying quite unsuccessfully to contain.
Telling my doctor how I had been feeling and being open about my suicidal thoughts was a relief, yet the greater relief actually came when I went home that day. I sat on the sofa, acknowledged to myself that I had severe mixed anxiety and depression, and gave myself permission to stop trying to be strong and instead to start being honest with myself. The floodgates opened and I bawled my eyes out.
I kept my diagnosis a secret for a few months, only telling a handful of people. Eventually, I decided to ‘face it’ in a fairly public way; I posted a status update on Facebook, revealing my darkest secret to all of the 200+ people I was connected to, so that my secret didn’t have a hold over me anymore.
The night before my 36th birthday, I posted the following message:
Tomorrow is a special day for me. I’m really apprehensive to make this post but I’m going to do it. My 35th year has been a shocker – started great with US trip in August but then in Sept I had a mini-breakdown, then got sick and things went downhill. In Jan & Feb this year I had a complete breakdown. Thanks to a great psychologist who I started seeing in late March I am now finally starting to feel like myself (now!) & am excited about the future. It’s been a mostly-dark year & I have worked hard to hide it from the people I know, but now I am not hiding from it anymore. Tomorrow is the start of a new year for me, and I can’t wait. If any of you are feeling like you can’t go on, don’t just deny it – tell people, and go and seek help. If I can get through depression, so can you. Thank you to those I told (not many) who supported me, and to the rest of you sorry for not telling you earlier but it’s not the easiest conversation to have. Onwards and upwards kids!
I was fortunate that a lot of friends were incredibly supportive and replied with lovely messages, and some even openly shared their own battles with mental illness. I was still quite gung-ho about thinking I could ‘fix’ myself quickly (boy, was I in for a surprise) and I wasn’t completely open since I didn’t admit that I was completely unable to work and was barely surviving on government benefits, however it was still a massive step for me to open up and share this with friends, family and acquaintances.
Now, I’m not suggesting that everybody reveal such an intimate piece of information in such a public manner, however it was what felt right for me at the time since I was heavily relying on Facebook as the one social portal that I still felt comfortable with. Fortunately, being open about such personal stuff is what helped me to build the confidence I needed to do something so completely public as writing this book about my experiences.
Part of Facing It is about being able to ‘face it’ enough that you can share what’s going on with the people you know, which in turn helps you to feel less isolated. I encourage you to find a forum or means of telling the people that you know as soon as you feel comfortable enough, because it’s similar to tearing off a band-aid; if you take a band-aid or plaster strip off from your skin slowly and hesitantly, it tends to hurt far more and for far longer than if you just rip it off quickly and get the inevitable brief moment of pain over and done with. Be aware that not everybody will completely ‘get’ what it means to be going through something like this, however at least they’ll know that you haven’t been avoiding them deliberately.
If it looks like depression, tastes like depression and smells like depression, it’s probably depression.
There’s no point in trying to avoid it. Face it and move forward.