The Road To Wellness

The catalyst isn’t important in this story, after all, the why is different for everyone. Whether it be a build up of little things that eventually break the metaphorical camel’s back or a huge, life shattering bombshell, the end result is the same – you cease to function correctly. And after a while, be it long or little, you start to realise that you can’t sustain this way of living anymore. You realise you need to take action and end this negative spiral. You realise there are 2 ways you can go. You can stay where you are until the chaos consumes you and you’re lost forever or you can fight your way through the fog and out the other side. This is the story of my route through the fog.

When I started taking the tablets it wasn’t so much a choice, more a necessary. I had contemplated it on and off for a while when I started realising I felt sad more often than I felt happy. I had talked myself out of it, thanks to the long list of preconceptions I’d put in my own way. This time it was different. This time I was at rock bottom and it wasn’t so much as a suggestion from the doctor, more a direction. So I took the tablets and thought to myself this was going to be a miracle cure and thus began to attempt number one.

Three months later, after religiously taking my tablets I started to realise I felt okay again. I was still quiet, introverted and lacking confidence but I was a lot more stable and less likely to burst into tears because somebody used the wrong tone of voice. So I went back to the doctor and said I’d like to come back off the tablets (after all I was on a relatively low dose anyway) And started to walk without my crutch.

What happens if you walk without a crutch before your leg has healed? You end up hurting it again.

And so after a few weeks of feeling like I was coping I crashed and burned and realised that actually, nothing had changed. The things that had caused my stresses were still there, the way I reacted to those triggers hadn’t changed and unfortunately I was unaware of any of that. Once again, I was back in the fog feeling even more lost than the first time.

My stomach was heavy with nausea, my skin cold and clammy, my head aching with worry and there was me not wanting to go back to the doctor because I felt like a failure. I thought the doctor would judge me because I hadn’t coped or would refuse to let me have the tablets back because I hadn’t given them long enough the first time around. You wouldn’t believe the amount of reasons I invented to avoid going back, but once again when it all came to a head, I found myself back there having the same conversation with a few more tears, bearing my soul to a very understanding GP. I haven’t worried and I left the surgery with a prescription for a stronger dose and a feeling of great relief.

This time I stayed on the medication for a lot longer, around a year actually and by the time I came to make the decision to try again, I felt amazing. I was stronger, I was more confident I had a plan. I went back to the doctor and had a chat, I made it clear I wanted to come off the tablets gradually so that I wouldn’t crash this time. Unfortunately, I saw a locum who didn’t know me and wasn’t particularly helpful. She advised me that I should reduce my dose by 10mgs a week for 4 weeks and then stop. It sounded too fast, it sounded like a mistake but at the same time I felt so good I assumed this would be fine, after all, she was a doctor.

I followed her advice and within a week of completely stopping I was having palpitations, dizzy spells nausea, tears and hanging on to the top of a very slippery slope with a steep drop. Fortunately, I recognised my symptoms before they overtook me and I feel very proud of the fact I went back to the doctors (again) And did what was best for me.

And so this is where I find myself today. Yes, I’m still on the tablets, but actually, that’s okay. I’m happy, I’m comfortable in my own head which is the biggest achievement and a feat that once seemed impossible.

So now, rather than worry about when and how I’m going to come off of the tablets I’m living in the now. I’m using this new found clarity to learn new ways of thinking, new ways to handle the challenges and obstacles life has the habit of hurling in our way and new ways to help other people that are living a similar experience.

Introspective

Nobody consciously chooses depression. Nobody wakes up and thinks, “I know what might be fun… feeling afraid to go out”. Nobody wants to be the one amongst their friends with a long list of reasons as to why they can’t do something, the one that is always cancelling at the last minute and the one that feels sick every time the phone rings because they haven’t had time to think of a decent excuse yet. Nobody wants to live in the constant fear of the uncertainty the future holds. Nobody wants to feel so painfully lonely, but at the same time dread company because you’ve forgotten how to function with others but that was what my depression felt like.

I was consumed with worrying thoughts that people didn’t like me. In reality the problem I had was that I didn’t like me. Every negative thought was a step away from who I was. I had turned against myself and slowly spiralled downwards until I was in a hole that seemed too deep to climb out of. Of course I didn’t tell anyone how I was feeling. I wore my smile as often as I could, but the mask slipped more and more and flashes of anger and sadness came through.

I didn’t want to feel that way, but equally I didn’t know how not to. Those feelings had become normal and it was just part of who I was. I wasn’t confident, I was over-emotional, I was volatile, but that was me and I just needed to live with it and try to soldier on. I decided I just needed to try harder to control these emotions, to get on with it and get out there into the world, to function when I couldn’t think of anything more impossible.

But as time would reveal, when anxiety and depression take hold of you it’s not as simple as just deciding you’re not going to be feeling that way anymore and flicking a switch. For me, it took medication.

My symptoms included hot flashes of panic, a feeling like the walls were closing in, intense feelings of nausea and convincing myself I had untold numbers of medical conditions. I couldn’t think straight and the problem had become very real indeed. My mind was scrambled and no amount of positive thinking was going to change that.

The first step, the hardest step, was recognising the fact that I was ill. It felt like a failure, like admitting defeat and realising I couldn’t cope with life and it was horrible – but that was the illness speaking.

I struggled with the idea of taking the tablets, feeling somehow as if I’d failed, but I also knew that I couldn’t carry on in my current state and so I took the tablets and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done and the best decision I’ve ever made – but that’s a story for another day.

A Thought For Friday

There is no such thing as just a small cog. Take one away and everything else would grind to a halt or cease to function correctly. No matter how insignificant you might feel, never underestimate the importance of the part you have to play in life. Cogs matter.

6 Things I Assumed About Taking Antidepressants

1. They would change who I was and steal from me the best bits of my personality.

I have always seen myself as a funny, bubbly person but when funny and bubbly became interspersed with irratic and tearful I needed to admit I needed help. One of the main reasons I fought against taking the tablets for such a long time is I thought they would take away my moments of elation along with the sadness and I wasn’t sure it was a sacrifice worth making. It turned out my fears were unfounded and instead they allowed me to enjoy all the good bits of my personality without the anticipation of the low that would surely strike at any given moment.

2. Taking Antidepressants Meant Admitting I Had Failed At Life.

Why wasn’t I strong enough to cope with life on my own when everyone around me was doing so well? Depression isolates you and clouds your judgement. Since I’ve been taking them and found my way back to wellness I have realised that other people are struggling just as much as I was and a surprising number of my friends have also taken tablets at some stage in their life to help them cope with their own emotions.

3. I Was A Weak Person.

I thought the the fact I was having such a hard time mentally and that I needed this crutch to help me cope must mean I was weak. In hindsight, thinking through a clear mind, I acknowledge the tremendous amount of strength it took to get help and admit I needed support and medication.

4. Other People Would Judge Me.

I assumed others would disapprove of me if they knew I had resorted to taking tablets. It turned out this could not have been further from the truth. The majority of people were incredibly supportive, many had been through it themselves, others were still going through it. People commended me for being brave enough to take that step and to also have to courage to talk about it. In truth, I was telling people because I felt dishonest if I didn’t, like an athlete taking performance enhancing drugs. But actually it helped to talk about it, it was cathartic and took away from the stigma I had attached to the situation.

5. The Side Effects Would Be Horrendous.

In truth the side effects were minimal and far more desirable than the side effects caused by my anxiety and depression. Anxiety was making me ill. I’d convinced myself I was dying of all manner of terminal illnesses because the very real symptoms caused by stress mimicked so many other things. The tablets on the other hand, gave me strange dreams for a month or so and made me feel tired for a while until I had the sense to take them at night…and that was it.

6. They Would Define Me And Who I Was.

I thought that being on tablets would become part of my identity and would change the way other people saw me. In reality all it did was calm my nerves and allow me to get back to enjoying my life and living it to the fullest and being my best self. So while the Antidepressants haven’t defined me at all, they have allowed me to define myself in whatever way I wanted and given me back my confidence, my smile and my life.

A Thought For Sunday

From now on I intend to live my life by my own standards in accordance with my own conscience. I was not put on the earth to win other people’s approval. I was put here to make a difference, to be kind, to help others and to grow as a human being. I might not always make the right choices but I always try and when I make a mistake I admit it and take the lesson. From this point on I’m not going to worry about what people might think of me because that’s their business, that’s their journey and I’m not travelling in their direction.

Silencing The Critic Within

If there’s one thing life has taught me. It’s that we are our own worst critic. Other people’s false opinions of us in our formative years help us form the opinions we hold of ourselves in the years to follow. It’s not particularly helpful. She’s shy, she’s not very confident, she’s a bit scatty. He’s not very clever, he’s socially awkward, his boisterous.

The thing is, we are not these things…we are whoever or whatever we want to be. We are pure potential and if only the voice that shouted the loudest when we were working out what we were to become was the voice that screamed “YOU CAN DO IT” we would be looking at a very different us right now.

But that is not to say that this you can’t emerge. We are always growing, always changing and there is no limit to what we can do with the right mindset. What if we went back and turned every “You can’t” into an “I can”, every cruel word into a kind one? Or observe these cruelties as a third party and intervene on our own behalf?

If we could love ourselves with the compassion of a parent, or a friend and encourage ourselves to progress with a supportive smile and the belief that we can achieve anything we set our mind and heart , there would be no boundaries to what we could become.

So the next time somebody says something unkind, something unsupportive or derogatory, please, don’t believe them. Instead, be your own cheerleader and remind yourself that actually, you are quite brilliant and capable of great things.

Stop With The Shouty RageĀ 

Why is the world so angry? Imagine if we could all just let go of that anger and focus on how we could make the world a happier, kinder place. How much nicer would the world be for all of us if we could just stop being expressions of our own rage?

Maybe all it takes is the decision to change our thinking and the patience to make it a habit. I have spent a large portion of my life as an unwitting hostage to my own way of thinking. I saw the negatives in each situation, worried about things that could go wrong, felt resentful when things didn’t go well and chose to believe I had no choice but to accept these feelings and suffer them. I was wrong.

What if I told you, being offended was a choice? Or being upset, or angry or hurt? Admittedly, it’s a choice that we are often unconscious of but once we get our head around that fact, it becomes a lot easier to take yourself out of other peoples business and just get on with being happy. Not being offended, or upset, angry or hurt is also a choice. It’s not as easy as the first option but it is far more beneficial.

If someone is rude to you and says something hurtful or does something that is a horrible reflection on them. If you choose to believe them or be offended by what they say and do, then who suffers? Only you. Better to let them live their life in a way they see fit and focus on living your own.

It takes a lot of work, but it can be done. The trick I’ve found is to notice your thoughts and when a negative one creeps in, acknowledge it and then replace it with something more beneficial. Little by little you might notice a shift in how you’re thinking and feeling because your thoughts affect your feelings. If you can choose how you react to those thoughts the possibilities for happiness are endless and if we’re all feeling happier and being nicer, imagine what the world could become.