Those who have known me for more than a decade will know that I have had a previous dalliance with depression. Mental health issues are not often spoken about, they are hidden in quiet, dark places, where they fester and develop into demoralizing demons. Despite having had moderate bouts of depression before, this one caught me off guard. I am not sure if it was the suddenness of the onset, the surprise cause or the fact we are so far from friends and family, but this bout hit me hard.
So what to do?
Should I go to the doctor and admit to being overwhelmed and get some medication? Should I try meditation and mindfulness or should I make the change that I know could help?
My decision was to do all of the above.
Depression can in some ways be helped by recalibrating the happiness in your brain. Simple ‘happy pills’ can trick your mind into believing your are upbeat and positive until you get on top of the cause of your distress. A slow weaning off process can then help kickstart your body’s own happiness hormone production.
Mental health is more taboo here than many other places around the globe… so the conversation was even more stilted, uncomfortable and humiliating than anticipated. Prescription in hand, but a sage warning that it could take three weeks or more to feel any effect, I stumbled out of the doctor’s office.
Hmmm. Not a quick fix then.
Meditation and mindfulness were the next stop. I found a life coach with a broad and varied background including but not limited to coaching, hypnotherapy, NPL and counseling. This had an immediate effect, in that my feelings and emotions were validated and I was assured of my normalcy given the situation.
How refreshing to be able to open up, be raw and emotionally naked and yet be made to feel wholly accepted.
Here a discussion about whether medication is a good idea took place.
‘Surely, your feelings and emotions are telling you something important? Why would you deaden and dampen them when they have brought you here?’
Valid point! So the medication went on hold and the talking began. And I can talk! The past, the present, the future, what to let go of, what to aim for, where to expend energy and where to reserve it, how normal to have emotions and how refreshing to embrace them.
It turns out, your body screams STOP at the top of its metaphoric lungs to get you to actually stop, by you, I mean me! Apparently if you ignore these shouts for pause your body will end up taking drastic action to make you take note. No more just a bout of depression but full blown anxiety attacks, visual disturbance, heart palpitations, heavy chest, uncontrollable physical functions and full blown fear! So, you finally stop.
Funnily enough, once you acknowledge your body is talking and actually start listening. Really listening. Breathing. Feeling. You can see a path forward. For me, that meant making a change.
Passion, drive, ambition, focus, dedication, optimism, enthusiasm are all words that have been used to describe me professionally over the past two decades. Ordinarily these are positives in a fast paced work environment, until they aren’t. My ‘eureka’ moment was realizing that I have nothing to prove, to anyone, least of all myself and that perhaps it was OK to stop, perhaps it was OK to want more time with my family, perhaps it was OK to press pause on my career, indeed, perhaps stopping heading full steam ahead down this path might actually allow me to see the other routes available to me.
Anyone who has met Nick, my husband, will know that he is my soul mate, my other/better half and the reason I laugh so often, smile so regularly and feel so loved. To say he is supportive of us taking a reroute at this stage of our lives is an understatement. I think if I said ‘lets go to the moon this weekend’ he would ask what to pack! He is now co-founder of Location Led Learning and we hope that our adventure will bring us even closer together as we embark on this new route as co-pilots.
So, if you are feeling low, need help, someone to talk to, please… reach out. I once bought my three closest friends a fridge magnet that read:
‘One in four people are unbalanced. Think of three friends, if they seem OK, you’re the one”
At some point, we are all ‘the one’.
This blog will record our journey both physically and emotionally and we hope that, by talking about the darker side of humanity occasionally, we may in some small way open the door for others to do the same.