I’m more than happy to share my story and when I was asked if I’d like to write about it, I said yes without a second thought. However, it’s taken me weeks to finally sit down and type it out and another few to finish it.
The reason being? I feel so far removed from the person that was diagnosed with clinical depression. I have had down moments since then but nowhere near as low as what I experienced during that time. As I type that, I realise how important it is to keep a diary to remember the different stages of my life because I’m sure I will recall my story differently to how it really played out..
During a recent job interview that required me to state if I had suffered from depression in the past, I was asked if any major events had triggered my depression. Nothing came to mind and I guess that’s something worth noting, there isn’t necessarily a dramatic event that triggers depression. For me, my trigger was a running joke between me and my friends.
The trigger and the catalyst that made me seek help? A 45cm pile of work documents that needed to be filed.
I had felt like a zombie for a while and I was existing rather than living. I’d stopped going to the gym and didn’t go back to playing rugby union as I couldn’t handle the thought of people tackling or even touching me. My days were spent travelling to work in a world of grey that was a blur, train rides home listening to music and trying not to burst into tears in front of many strangers. I didn’t always know why I had tears in my eyes, but I remember them falling and not being able to stop it. Hoping that it was nearly my stop so that I could go home and lay down on the floor. I couldn’t focus at work, I wasn’t performing my job to the best of my ability. I looked at that pile of filing one day in September 2015 and finally cracked. Whatever was wrong with me was bigger than that pile. I remember letting out a massive sigh, standing up and crying ‘I can’t do this anymore, something isn’t right’. My colleague was shocked, and my boss was as equally taken aback, they admitted I’d been a bit off but didn’t realise the extent of it. I’d gone through a break-up the year before, so they’d let slide that I wasn’t on top of things like I had been in the past. I knew something else was going on though, but I couldn’t explain it.
I had to go to a few psychologists & psychiatrists before I found one that was beneficial for me and that alone is a draining process. You are telling your story to strangers over and over again but once you’ve found your person, you will feel better. I was living in Hong Kong at the time and it’s not cheap or easy to find help there. I was fortunate enough to have a friend working in the industry and she was incredibly supportive, she booked me in to see one of her colleagues at a discounted rate. Financial stress on top of everything else is not ideal for anyone in that situation so to have that burden eased was very helpful.
Going on antidepressants was a big step for me as I have an addictive personality and I’ve always been cautious when it comes to alcohol and pharmaceutical products etc. but in the lead up to being diagnosed, I was the healthiest and fittest that I had ever been in my life so I knew that I needed something more. That is another process that took around 12 months to get right as you need to find a medication that works well for you and then tweak the dose to balance everything nicely. During that time, I was still struggling with life and wanted a quick fix but that’s not possible. I had a great support network and I’ll never forget the people that were there for me when I needed them most. I was still being social because I knew it would help even if I wasn’t the best company. My friends understood and were just happy that they’d coerced me out of the house. I had one friend that couldn’t relate to how I felt and I appreciated her honesty, she was able to help me over a glass of champagne or two and a dance.
There were times that I didn’t feel worthy of feeling how I did because where there are so many bad things happening in the world, who was I to feel sad? I had so many things that should be making me happy and I lived in a first world country, I had a roof over my head and food every day. It’s important to remember that you can’t pour from an empty cup. Regardless of who you are or where you come from, you need to look after number one before you can help anyone else. The aeroplane warning that tells you to put your own safety mask on before helping others is a prime example.
I didn’t want to rely on antidepressants so once they’d levelled everything out and I could think clearly again, I started reading lots of articles about cognitive behaviour therapy, various blogs, books etc. Every day, I would try to write down three things that made me smile or I was grateful for. I know that I had to train my brain to work differently as it would be beneficial in the long run.
I’ve recently returned to Australia after having spent the last 9 years overseas and one month ago, I moved to a new town in regional Australia where I was offered and accepted a job even though I don’t know anyone within a 2-hour radius. This is a challenge as I’m no longer on antidepressants and I could easily fall back into a depressed state but because of the research that I did a few years ago, I am aware of what I have to do to not only keep my head above water but to thrive in this environment. I am making a conscious effort to wake up early and read The Daily Stoic before writing in my Five-Minute Journal, I’ve signed up to a gym as exercise is highly beneficial regardless of how much I loathe it and it’s also an opportunity to meet new people. I know that I need to make an effort with my colleagues at work and in my new town as I have experienced the true value of a good support network and in order to live a good life, I need to fully embrace where I am and make the most of this opportunity.
My depression is something that helped shape me, it was the worst period of my life to date but also the most beneficial. I only have one life to live and that chapter isn’t something that I will ever be ashamed of. I am happy to discuss mental health with others and help them on their journey as well. I’m infinitely thankful for the privilege of growing older, friends that make me smile, trips that create forever memories, music that warms my soul, a family that cares, the calmness of the ocean, the smell of coffee and the wrinkles that show I’ve lived, laughed and loved throughout it all.
Make the most of your one life and when times get tough, know that there are people out there willing to help you. x
If you or someone you know is struggling and needs someone to talk to, check out our Get Help page for details on organisations who can provide support.