I can’t really explain how, when or why. I just know that for quite some time I wasn’t myself. Everything seemed a struggle. I couldn’t rationalise it, so I didn’t acknowledge it to myself, share it with others or ask for help. It’s only now that I’m coming out the other side that I realise I wasn’t functioning on all cylinders for quite a while. For how long – who knows?It was about three months ago that a GP diagnosed mild depression and anxiety. I’d gone in wanting to address the physical pain in my back and various joints. But struggling to articulate how I was feeling, other stuff came tumbling out. Such as how I was experiencing life at one remove, as if underwater. How getting through the day felt like wading through treacle. How I felt disconnected with what was going on around me. How I was making mistakes more frequently. How I was struggling to concentrate, disoriented in ‘brain fog’. How I’d missed turnings while driving without realising for a while. How making decisions sometimes felt beyond me.
I was going through the motions. Doing what I had to. Being where I needed to be. I was fine. Wasn’t I?
Not really, no. I was far from suffering a mental health crisis, but nonetheless was feeling and performing well below my best. My symptoms could have been due to any combination of factors: I’ve experienced difficult life events over the years, but so have most people. It’s nothing unusual to go through bereavement, relationship breakdown, house moves, menopause… Anyway, the reasons are not important. What matters is to be able to recognise when your mental health is under stress and do what you need to get better.
I should have known things weren’t right, but I was my own worst enemy. My way of keeping things ticking over was to draw inwards, work harder, isolate myself further. It’s a vicious circle as you just make things worse when you pull away from others.
I was lucky. Thankfully, I began feeling more human even before the counselling referral came through. I didn’t have a particular breakthrough; I guess my bad patch just lasted its course. All I know is that now there’s more blue sky, more music, more awareness and curiosity.
I feel less of a disconnect with the the world and I want to keep it that way. I’m taking the opportunity to phone contacts more instead of just emailing. I’ve gone back to activities I used to enjoy but had got out of the habit of doing regularly. I’ve even started some new activities – particularly around fitness. I’m finding that improving my physical strength is having a positive correlation with how I feel in myself. Able-bodied, capable, balanced, powerful even.
I’m not 100% yet but I know I will be. For now I am enjoying the sense of awakening I’m going through and am thankful for each little discovery – whether it’s cooking something new, reconnecting with a friend or spotting early shoots in the garden. The biggest change is learning to adopt an unfamiliar practice – that of acknowledging to myself the things that I have achieved during the day, however big or small. It’s astonishing how easy it is to unwittingly deny ourselves the simple satisfaction of a job well done, overlooking even the appreciation shown by others.
So now I’m going to pat myself on the back for sharing this uncharacteristically personal post in the first month of a new decade. I’ll also congratulate myself on having run my own small business serving the local community for the past decade. Perhaps nobody will read this – and that’s ok. Just writing this openly is enough. But I’ll leave it here in case somebody is able to take comfort in the humanity, vulnerability and hope of another.