As I’m sure you’re aware it’s Mental Health Awareness week and I wanted to share with you my own journey.
I started to have anxiety at the age of 6-7 years old, looking back on it I was a very anxious child, especially when it came to long journeys in the car which I would regularly have to do most weekends. I was seen as a nuisance as I would make such a scene and get very worked up. This would have me ending up having a meltdown and tantrums, and my parents would get very angry.
Then moving through my teens I would struggle at school, have anxiety about assemblies and having to sit still for too long. I was quite down at school and even though I seemed to have a lot of friends I was actually quite lonely. I never really fit into any group and this is when I started to try to change myself to be like my friends, always trying to please and conform just to be like one of them.
As I left school and went to college I started to settle down a bit. I felt more comfortable in myself and found a great set of friends. When I started working full-time my anxiety was made worse by stress. I became a Store Manager of a few retail chains but would often be pushing myself too hard to achieve results, overworking and worn out to the point of exhaustion. I was left with severe migraines which left me in bed for days, lasting months sometimes when my body was telling me to rest.
After the birth of my first daughter, I was hit with Post Natal Depression. I felt like I was sinking in quicksand with no way out. I was miserable at a time I should have been happy. I was overwhelmed by the responsibility of a child and felt so alone.
I blamed myself for everything. It was my fault I hadn’t lost the baby weight. It was my fault my baby screamed for 6 months. It was my fault I had hardly slept. The next few years I struggled with the black hole of depression and couldn’t see a way out.
The way I describe my depression is like your walking around with a black dark cloud over you. You wish you could remove it, you want to be happy but somehow I would feel exhausted just carrying the extra weight of unhappiness in my cloud. Every time I had a better day I would pray for it to last and then be so disappointed that the following day all my worries and fears and darkness had returned at extra strength, to knock me harder than before.
A few years ago after feeling very unwell, I had been diagnosed with Lupus which is an Auto-Immune Disease. This was my turning point – a way for me to want to try and figure out a way to live without drugs and be more healthy in mind and body.
When I found Mindfulness
This is when I turned to Mindfulness. I saw a book on it in the library and thought it sounded quite woo woo, something I would never get into but I started to read the book and I was intrigued by the context of this method. It sounded so simple and easy and I couldn’t understand why everyone wasn’t doing it too. I thought sitting on the floor or in a chair trying to calm my mind and breathing would be a piece of cake – how very wrong was I.
My mind is extremely active and I have worries about worries that never seem to pass. When I started trying to be aware and present, I couldn’t get anywhere near a clear mind and I thought that I was doing it wrong. My mind was still wandering. I should have a mind as clear as air, however, my to-do-list of jobs still waiting for me to do were flying around my head instead. But I continued to practice and felt better from just doing 2 minutes a day at first.
I then continued reading more books from John Kabit-Zinn and Eckhart Tolle and the more I read and practised, the more I realised that you can’t breath wrong, or stop the mind, but I can try each and every day to try just a little to improve my practice. This was a game changer for me. Mindfulness has brought me a calm I never thought I would feel. In my dark days, I wanted to be happy, but happiness is only a temporary state, to be enjoyed by that moment and then it must pass. We can’t be happy all the time, we weren’t designed to have that mental state for life.
What I did realise is, that I wanted peace above all else. In Mindfulness, you become aware of your thoughts and can start to see what the mind is playing to you like a stuck record or behaviour patterns that you fall into each time in different situations. It meant that I woke up to me, to what I know I wanted and who I was ready to be.
I’ve stuck with Mindfulness ever since I practice every day and sometimes I thought is this actually working. I still have my anxiety attacks but they are less frequent and I’m able to deal with them quicker. I also had a bad bout of depression last summer but it was only weeks rather than months and this time I actually looked after myself and felt brighter afterwards.
Strangely I want to thank my depression and anxiety now, for if I hadn’t gone through what I had, I wouldn’t be in a better place today and know what I know. During my experience with anxiety and depression, I want anyone going through any Mental Health problems to know that you are not alone! Depression is a great fat liar and it wants to isolate you from everyone else thinking it’s better, well it’s not!
Talking about your mental health shouldn’t be a shameful thing, or make you feel embarrassed. If you feel like you need help or you feel alone with no one to talk too, pick up the phone and call a friend you can trust. Speak to some of the amazing charities like Mind, Heads Together and gain advice. I want to help too, I’ve been through it and come out from behind that cloud and my sun is shining.
I have been working with clients to support in their own mental health and using Mindfulness in my coaching and in my classes to help give people that are suffering useful tools to support in any anxiety attacks and depression.
You can message me if you want any other advice or someone to chat to.
We are all in this together!