From Depression To Discovery.
Thinking to yourself, “If I had an accident, I could just take a break from everything”, while driving at 110km/hour on the motorway, should be a huge, flashing, neon warning sign that something is wrong. Especially when you think it regularly. So is not being able to get through the day without crying multiple times. Or withdrawing into yourself and not wanting to interact with anyone, or face the world. Plus all the other little signs I ignored, which pointed to the fact I was sick. Not physically sick, although that is a manifestation of my illness, but my mind was unwell.
Why did I ignore these signs? For a variety of reasons. A sense of responsibility. Denial. Fear. Guilt. Shame. I didn’t want to admit that there was something wrong, even though I knew there was, and it was completely obvious to everyone around me. I didn’t admit anything, until finally my husband and mother both confronted me, and insisted I take a day off school and go to the doctor. The next day I finally spoke, brokenly through the tears, about how I was feeling and received the diagnosis I’d been dreading and trying to avoid – I was suffering from depression.
In one way it was a relief to hear that word, but in so many other ways it wasn’t. The main reason I avoided facing up to it for so long was guilt. What did I have to be depressed about? I had a wonderful life, blessed with a loving husband and two happy, healthy boys. We were financially comfortable and able to provide everything our family needed. I had amazing friends, and a job I loved. I’d had a normal upbringing, within a warm, caring, ‘regular’ family, and I had never experienced any trauma. 'How dare I be depressed!' I would think to myself. However, the most significant reason I tried to hide it, and hide from it, for so long, was shame. There is such a stigma attached to mental illness, a stigma which I also bought into at the time, and I didn’t want to be seen as weak, fragile, incapable, or damaged in some way. Brene Brown defines shame as: “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and unworthy of love, belonging and connection”, and my depression diagnosis reinforced and fuelled the generalised shame I already regularly felt.
Thankfully, I took that first step on the road to recovery. It has been a challenging journey to get where I am today, however I believe every stride I have taken has made me stronger. I wouldn’t be where I am now without having travelled my unique path. But my story is not just a story about depression, or recovering from / living with depression and anxiety. At it's heart, it’s really a story of discovery. Discovery of the person inside me – my weaknesses, my strengths, my dreams, my flaws, my ambitions, my purpose - and discovering how to accept, love and nurture that person, the whole of her.
“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.” Brene Brown