Recovering from a major mental illness event takes time.
Here’s the thing. Firstly, the confidence that you once possessed is likely to have been sucked out of you. Rebuilding confidence takes time and only comes from reaching small milestones. Each one of these milestones needs to be acknowledged and treasured, to counter the setbacks that are sure to happen.
Secondly, social withdrawal is common amongst those with depression and anxiety. Getting back into the swing of things means rebuilding relationships and networks. Important friendships may have been neglected and it takes time and effort to reconnect with old friends and make new ones.
Lastly, it takes energy – and there is never enough of that! Simple day-to-day events can be exhausting and you might wonder how you managed to get so much done in the past. Don’t expect too much.
Recovery from a major mental health event is a journey – where the desired destination may never be achieved. It requires courage to take each day as it comes, enjoying the moment and trusting yourself and the process.
Getting support from a coach can be one way to lighten the load. Find someone who can help you track your progress and remind you that you are on the right track. Celebrating success is important as well as having support in the low times helps.
I know. I am a Well-being & Transition Coach who has first hand experience with mental illness. My passion is to help others know how great they are already. Please contact me if you think I could help.
Remember, there is nothing you need to change. You are already awesome!
Looking back – 2015 and beyond
Today as I reflect I feel happiness as well as unexpected flashbacks of deep sadness. Please let me explain.
Just about this time three years ago, I fell into a dark vortex of severe depression. As often happens, depression eventually invited anxiety along to keep it company.
As a result the past few years have been the most extraordinary of my life.
Depression is cruel. It distorts perceptions; emotional, mental and even physical. On looking back through my journals, I can see how quickly my world became small, dark and lonely. The life-force was sucked out of me and has taken years to rebuild.
No one really knows. For some of us, there is no particular cause. However, in this instance, I can trace this latest bout to a sequence of major life-changing events and lifestyle choices.
For years, I chose to live with constant stress. My desire to be a successful demanded that I be out-going, confident and enthusiastic – all the time!
There is nothing wrong with being out-going, confident and enthusiastic – except when you start faking it!
It’s then that you could be in trouble, even more so when hit with life’s tragedies such as a major illness or death of friends or family.
Ignoring the signs
Looking back, I can see that I ignored the signs of stress. These included weight gain, high blood pressure, mid-winter blues and exhaustion.
My drive to achieve was strong and I thought I could handle it. I know I’m not alone.
I am surrounded by people striving for success and prepared to give 120% – and for many, that’s completely okay. Some people thrive on going hard-out, all the time!
The twin emotions – happiness and sadness
My new-found happiness grows as I begin to relax. In 2015, the black cloud of depression has lifted, the anxiety symptoms are shifting and my energy is on its way up. (Long may it stay that way.)
I am also blessed with family and friends who have supported the lifestyle choices I’ve made to speed up my healing.
Heart-stopping sadness still turns up in the moments I let my guard down. The dark days with their shadows of despair, return briefly to frighten me and remind me to that this experience has left an imprint that has changed me forever.
But mostly my mental health journey is a blessing. It’s not something I would ever wish on anybody else; however I am enjoying the new Me. I like that I am softer, kinder and more compassionate.
I also like that it has opened up a new creative channel; blogging. It’s not easy but what keeps me writing is that it helps me and it’s my way of helping others.
How can I help?
Please feel contact me, or leave a comment, with any thoughts on how I can offer support to you or someone you know.
I am interested in being a mentor/coach (face-to-face or via Skype) and working with groups. (Please note I am not a mental health professional.)
PS. The Comments Form is at the VERY bottom of the page.
Ever felt ashamed to share your mental health story?
I often hesitate when asked what caused my mental health issues. The same people might ask “How did you break your leg?” but the answer is much more personal and never as simple. The joy is that when I do take the time to explain, it can change lives.
Last week I was asked this question with so much sincerity and compassion that I thought it was timely to share my reflections in this blog.
Disclosing my recent experience with depression (and anxiety) can still feel like I’m ‘coming out’. It tests me and I can feel emotional. The feelings of shame, weakness and failure are still there but I am usually happy to tell my story when asked.
My explanation on the cause of my depression isn’t fluent yet, but it goes something like this. “Ah, it’s been a combination of lots of things, um…. my mother got dementia, my best friend died, I was facing challenges in my business, my mother’s dementia got really bad, my grandson died and 30 years of stress caught up on me.” Oh, and there’s a history of depression in my extended family.”
Whew! That’s a lot to pack into 30 seconds but it’s usually enough to bring a hint of recognition from the questioner. Firstly, while it’s a story laden with sadness, it could have happened to them. Secondly, they often know more about mental illness that they initially let on.
As it becomes easier to talk about my journey, I can see the strength it gives others to share their own deeply-personal mental health stories. For some, it’s the first time they’ve talked openly about post-traumatic stress disorder , depression or ‘burnout’ brought on by overwork or stress. I feel honoured to be the recipient of these private accounts.
I have come to realise that telling my story is important, if it can help others from falling into the trap of keeping a secret. Nothing may have averted my life-changing episode of mental illness but I am certain that being more vulnerable may have prevented the rapid decline and eased a lengthy recovery.
If you have a mental health journey, (whether it’s your own or that of someone you love), then my best advice is – talk about it! If not for your sake, then with the knowledge that you could help others break their silence.
Your story is a precious gift. Talking about your mental health can bring grace into someone else’s life.
Please let me know if you have ever shared your story or will do so in the future.
And, please subscribe if you would like to keep in touch with my personal journey.
Or if you’re a woman over 50 who’d like to swap your setbacks for success – check out my new blog at SheLovesLifeOver50.com.