Holistic wellbeingMental Health Wellbeing

The depression spiral

belifehappy, self improvement

I’m on the other side of depression and anxiety now, but fourteen years ago I was living the depression spiral.

Influenced recently by the increased focus and media coverage around our mental health, I have been inspired to write more in detail and from a personal view of my experiences of living with depression and anxiety. My writing focus since I started online was on the positive state and I glossed over my own experiences, except for some further insight during belifehappy (my first self help book).

I feel it’s the right time to share more about my personal journey, and what’s important to remember is everyone has their own individual experiences and methods of recovery.  These featured blogs are my story with the intention to help others living with anxiety and depression and their families, friends, partners, children, team mates and colleagues.

“Here’s some pills and these websites (charities) will give you more information.” This is a quote recently shared across our media this week. It’s something I hear a lot, however what I want to share is two sides of this story.

Recently I attended a Mental Health First Aid course where I learned about the mental health continuum. It was a great explanation of how we naturally move into different states of mental health. There are varying degrees of mental illness and each requiring specific support and medication, so people can live fulfilling lives.

We all have mental health just like we have physical health.

For a very sad reason and I believe ignorance in the past because no one really understood mental health, it was perceived as being ‘bad’, ‘wrong’ ‘ridiculous’, ‘shameful.’

The depression spiral began in 2002 when I was diagnosed with acute anxiety and depression, my doctor’s note to sign me off work for a week was hidden and my team ‘gave me some space’ to get better.The fear was if anyone saw my diagnosis; I wasn’t going to get far in my marketing career. The perception being ‘I was not strong enough for that.’

I didn’t fit into the competitive marketing role and I know now, I didn’t want to. It wasn’t my choice. I thought I was doing what I should be doing to make everyone feel happier. Except I wasn’t happy. I was good at what I did and I loved (and still do) making the connections with the end customer, reader, event attendee. It was the communication and creativity which kept my fire going.

Yet I felt like I was no good at my job because I wasn’t thin enough, I was single, I didn’t have a nice car and I just wasn’t really that popular (all my beliefs and perceptions.) So yes I retreated into my mind. A guy at work added the icing to the cake which had been raising for sometime by writing in red pen all over my proposals. I was advised at the time to face him and explain I wasn’t happy with this. So I did. I didn’t feel good about it, but I did it.

I couldn’t take anymore red pen. I couldn’t take anymore of the dry humming noise that spread across the open plan office. I couldn’t take solitude that was in my head. It was a dark place and I felt so disconnected from life. Only one day I heard the words from a friend’s voice as she said; “Em, are you OK?”

“It was like reality glimpsed in front of my eyes and I had a chance to get out of this darkness.”

I saw the tears in her eyes and felt her pain and sadness as I told her what I thought each day as I drove to work. I felt terrible for sharing this burden on her, but it was her strength that got me to see my GP.

I was not accepting I was ill. ‘I was just feeling sad and I’d be OK’ I told myself. A further two weeks later I was back in front of my GP and accepting the medication and a note to sign me off work for a week. I had no idea where this would take me, what effect it would have on my career and my friends and family.

“You were always a worrier,” a former colleague mentioned to me recently. This is how she remembers me in my career. I didn’t think I worried, more like I was arriving to do battle most days. I’d been tense, not eating and felt so empty and numb inside – how would this ever get better?

Join me again for more on my reflection of my real journey of recovery from depression and anxiety, and how I have lived for eight years with great mental health.