One day my brain declared war. It stopped working as it should and I had ZERO control. I had spent so many years trying to overcome my childhood and work so hard to be a good person, that I’d pushed all of the trauma that I’d experienced down. One day, like a tectonic plate – it sprung up. Triggered by some workplace bullying. That experience opened up a Pandora’s Box…
I didn’t know at first what was wrong with me. I felt lightheaded, had palpitations, was irritable, and was terrified of being at work even though I loved the work I did and the people I worked with. I also had acute “Imposter Syndrome”. I went to the Doctor’s after nearly passing out one day, and after some unexpected questions about my life, I started sobbing, uncontrollably. He diagnosed me with anxiety and depression.
I was indignant, offended. Not me! I was strong; resilient. He recommended I stay off work (I didn’t) and prescribed me some Citalopram, which I didn’t take. Somehow, after some months of living like this, I relented and started taking the pills. My anxiety did improve and I managed my symptoms for another 9 months.
One day I took a turn for the worse. The anxiety wasn’t as bad but my depression had taken hold. I didn’t care about anything. I didn’t want to see anyone. I was exhausted, empty and just wanted to sleep all the time (or couldn’t sleep). I woke up feeling purposeless, pointless, and the insipid negative self-talk that had been there since I was a child got louder and louder until I got to the stage where I wanted out. I remember a number of days where I stood at the train platform thinking how the slow, thundering train making its way into the station might be the answer to my pain. I stood there quietly sobbing whilst the train passed by. I imagined those people I loved most in the world and couldn’t bring myself to do it.
Eventually, I went off long term sick at work. After spending so many years building a career for myself, I was terrified of how this would impact my future. However, I had nothing to give. I couldn’t get out of bed some days, some days I didn’t leave my flat; showering took a huge amount of energy. It took seeing a Psychiatrist to stop me from constantly berating myself for being off work and to give myself permission to see that I was ill. I sobbed when I left his office – I felt kind of vindicated when he told me I had moderate to severe depression and anxiety. He recommended Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and changed my medication to Duloxetine (increasing the dose too).
Two and a half years have since passed and I’m in recovery but frustratingly, I still have bad days or weeks. That said (and this may sound bizarre) I don’t regret any of it. I have learnt so much about myself – why this happened, how it connects to my childhood, how my childhood has affected my behaviour and life choices and how I can take more control. Everything I’ve learnt has not only helped me to make better decisions but it’s made me a better manager than I was – plus I’ve been able to help others who have or are going through the same thing. I’m even considering going back to University to study Psychology.
The bad days
As any of you know who struggle with depression – on the bad days my brain convinces me that I’m a failure, I’m pointless, disgusting, fat, ugly, unlovable, not good enough and generally a waste of space. It takes the emotional abuse I experienced as a child and replays it to me but in my own words, not theirs. As I write this I feel exactly like that. I hate myself. I’m in pain. However, I know I will have good days and now with a better understanding, I know how to help myself, when I can help myself.
Depression – my blessing as well as my curse
On a final note – as someone who spent most of her life not telling people how she felt, or asking for help -I’ve learnt that although it’s hard, reaching out can help save your life. If it wasn’t for my amazing friends and sister, I wouldn’t be here today. I dedicate this to everyone who helped my curse become my blessing.