Today (Thursday 5th February 2015) is Time to Talk day in the UK. I’m using it as the motivation to share my story as it is important in the context of this blog. Without suffering from depression and anxiety, I would never have found kettlebells! It’s funny how things turn out eh?
It all started when I got a phone call at work from my husband’s office to say he was not well and was about to be taken to A&E. Have you ever had to drive to a hospital, not knowing what you will find there, or whether the person you are heading there for will be alive or dead? If not, I sincerely hope you never have to go through that. I would also never wish anyone the fear and pain of spending 48 hours just outside intensive care waiting to find out whether a person you love is ever going to be conscious again.
To cut a long story short, after eight weeks of my juggling work (I did get a week of compassionate leave) and hospital visiting in the afternoon and evening, whilst also dealing with a terminally ill cat, my husband was able to come home. I was then (and now for certain hospital visits) his primary carer for about the next six months. With hindsight, this is when a lot of the anxiety started. I was afraid to leave him for fear of what would happen when I wasn’t there.
During those six months I learnt some nursing procedures, met some great NHS district nurses and more NHS hospital staff, carried on working, dealt with losing the aforementioned ill cat, and tried to pretend it was all normal! I was also there when hubby needed to vent. I kind of absorbed it all because I didn’t see any other choice. You deal with things thrown at you when there is no choice, though if asked how you’d deal with it you probably say that running a mile seemed a good option!
The problem came as hubby started to work again, the number of medications reduced, he got stronger, etc. I started to struggle. In all honesty, I was exhausted. I’d not slept a proper night since he was taken ill, and I’d clearly run out of adrenaline. I wasn’t eating well either as I had no energy to cook after work anymore, so was grabbing convenience food. My stress levels also meant I craved fatty and carby foods. I had counselling courtesy of the intensive care system at the hospital in question, but that had ended. Then my Dad decided to scare us all on a rare day out with a collapse. (Sidenote: he is now in far better health than he was as they finally sorted things out for him after that little incident!) I think I was just failing to cope but didn’t realise it as such. I knew something wasn’t right and went to see a doctor who was as useful as a chocolate teapot. Thankfully my Mum and husband disagreed with this and made me go back. The second doctor actually listened to my issues and it was then I diagnosed as being depressed and anxious. This doctor was great the many times I saw her for a review, and she encouraged me to take small steps to get going again.
I had a chunk of time off work (during which we lost our other cat but did then get two kittens who really helped me with their silly antics), and then a phased return to work. This covered maybe three months. I had to use sleeping tablets to reset my sleeping, and I take anti-depression tablets that are good for anxiety. I’ve also had CBT more recently. All of these have helped. I’m happy to take advantage of anything that helps me help myself, medication included.
In my case, I have experienced discrimination. These days I would say I am strong enough to fight back in those scenarios but at the time they very much got to me and were making things worse. Though it took an intervention (husband again) to make me realise this! I have to say it’s the only time in my life that I have ever resigned from a job with nothing lined up. The company was understanding of the reason for my being ill, but my line manager really did not get it. When I went back to full-time work I got taken into a room on my own and asked if I was fixed now. I said I was doing better and was then told that I had let the team down by being off for so long…
This was definitely a low point though I felt so relieved after handing in my resignation. And then standing up to my line manager when he tried to be “clever” about my leaving date. When you have nothing left to lose it really is easier to be braver 🙂
Since then I have my limited company, I’ve contracted and then got a permanent position at a great small company, I’ve regained my health and fitness in a more sustainable way than I was doing it before (I’ve learnt a lot more about nutrition and strength training this time around), I’ve progressed my career, acquired another kitten (yep, three cats!), we’ve made some fantastic friends, and most importantly I’ve found a focus for my training in kettlebells. I can use this to deal with stresses and strains, and having goals like CMS takes us to different parts of the UK. I’ve also discovered side hobbies like cycling (and then triathlon) based on activities my husband likes to do.
I’m here to say there is a future in that bleakness. My symptoms were apathy and tiredness (for no reason) and an inability to focus, and there are still times when I can feel stresses taking me back there. The difference now is that I am more self-aware and can try to take steps to deal with it before it becomes worse. I would never have planned (or wanted if life had had the nicety to ask in advance) how 2011 and 2012 panned out. But by riding the wave and being open to what came next I would like to think we are now both in a decent place.
If you know of anyone in a similar position, reach out to them and say hey. You don’t need to promise to fix anything; we all know that is not realistic. But a random message (text, Facebook, email, whatever) can mean the world to someone. Also don’t be afraid of people who are suffering. You wouldn’t avoid someone with a broken leg. Why is a broken neurotransmitter or two any worse?
This cartoon sums it up perfectly for me: