I really tried not to write this post. I kept trying to write other things. Cheery “nic-like”, chirpy little musings. But no, this one just kept pushing itself right back to the front of the queue. This blog is new. I started off by saying I wanted this to be a place of vulnerability and community….so here we go….
T H E D A R K
About a year ago I started a slide into what we will refer to as “The Dark”. It is what I now know with absolute certainty was a period of depression. It started with a feeling of flatness. Of overwhelming sadness for no reason. I was SO tired. ALL THE TIME. I was (to my shame) losing my temper with my kids. There were physical manifestations as well, constant headaches, forgetfulness but the worst probably was my hair falling out.
“The Dark” meant that life has lost its shine. I was exhausted but couldn’t sleep. I would wake in a panic. I would lie awake after a terrible (terrible) dream terrified and I would not be able to get those awful thoughts out of my head. Mornings were hell. It was impossible to get up.
I kept thinking to myself, “What is happening to me?” Would “I” ever come back?
Despite all of this, NO ONE (except for a tiny handful of people – like 4) knew what was going on.
Living in “The Dark” I got up everyday. I showed up. I had my game face on. I chatted, I smiled, I worked. If I’m honest, I was terrified that if I DIDN’T get up, that if for just one morning I stayed in bed in the dark, where I so desperately wanted to stay, that I might never get up again.
When, after many tests and appointments, my doctor gently told me she was positive I was depressed I was angry. Insulted. No, there must be something physically, medically wrong with me. I’m not someone who gets depressed (how naive I was). I’m inherently happy and cheery. My default is a smile. It’s effortless. I have a good life. Nothing bad has happened to be. I’m not suicidal. I don’t lie around in the dark.
My doctor looked at me. She explained to me that there is such a thing as high functioning depression. It’s a real form of depression, in fact it can be more dangerous, because no one knows you are suffering until things get really bad.
She sent me off with antidepressants and orders to rest, reduce stress in my busy life and check in again in 4weeks.
I have never taken those tablets. *
There followed another 4-6 months of ups and downs. Days (often a week or more) of clarity and hope and also dreadfully dark days where I wondered if I would ever feel ok again. But on I marched. Work-ing, mum-ing, life-ing.
My loved ones struggled. My husband shouldered a lot of the housework (I should probably insert a winking / laughing emoji here, because he might say – what’s new there!!). I hope my kids were shielded from it, I tried with all my might to make sure they didn’t see me crumble. I went to work and actually thrived – I had something to focus on and take my mind off things, in work, I was in control. My manager was also incredibly supportive which was a huge help. But when I went home at night I fell apart. I was exhausted. I worried agonisingly about everything. Everything felt like an impossible effort. I was impatient. I felt like a fake. Like a horrible mum and a terrible wife.
My husband did what he could, but really struggled to understand my emotions. Ever practical, he booked us trips away to give me some rest and escape.
My mum was adamant I was simply tired and run down and greeted me daily with a handful of vitamins. My dad offered to go for walks with me. My brother got it.
I doubted if I was genuinely depressed at the time, I thought to myself “maybe I am just a stressed busy mum, with a hectic schedule and not enough sleep, maybe everyone feels this way, maybe everyone feels like they are losing their mind and like they are dying inside…” But I know now, with crystal clear certainty that I absolutely was depressed. I shudder now at how unwell I was.
I know that many many people have suffered so much more than I have with depression, that things can be much bleaker for some. Yet I also know that if anyone was feeling right now the way I felt last year, well sweet soul, that feeling is not ok and you need to believe that things can get better.
What I suffered thanks to “The Dark” on a scale or spectrum was probably mild – but it sure didn’t feel mild. I also refuse to diminish mental illness, in terms of “how bad someone is” or “how bad they seem”. Mental illness is real. It can happen to ANYONE regardless of age, gender, personality type or lifestyle. I was a busy, happy go lucky mum with a loving family, a great career and no real worries. Yet I fell apart despite every effort not to.
Depression doesn’t have a face, or a look. It can be the cheery mum you chat to on the school run, or the work colleague who seems like they have it all together, or that friend who keeps cancelling on you ‘cos they are SUPER BUSY.
T H E B R I G H T S I D E
Around the end of 2016 I changed my instagram handle to @thebrightsidediary.
As part of my healing / coping / whatever you want to call it, process I used my phone to take pictures. To capture golden little moments everyday. To help me see the positives and the light in the small moments. I love to take pictures. It’s just something that lights me up a bit. It may seem ridiculous or silly, but it felt like in those moments, I was stealing a little bit of me back.
I want to be really clear. With my instagram account and my “business as usual” demeanour, I wasn’t trying in anyway to paint over what I was going through, or present a fake life. But I wanted to document the BRIGHTSIDE the light moments in a dark day / week. To remind myself what things could be like all the time.
I didn’t share “The Dark” with many people. I started so many times to pick up the phone and make a call, type a txt, an email, an instagram post. But those words are HARD to say. I was also still trying to figure it all out. I thought about blogging, posting it out on social media, but I wasn’t prepared for the questions, the sympathy or the very real possibility of negativity or doubt.
For those reading this who know me, this may take you by surprise. Or maybe you will think, “I knew there was something…”
Regardless, know that I am fine. Better than fine.
T H E L I G H T
“The Dark” is gone. 100% blown away. The light has come back into my life in full mega watt glory. Gone forever? I’m not sure and I will not take it for granted, but the silver lining is how I feel right now. I am “me” again. In fact I feel more “me” than I have in many, many years. Life is wonderfully beautiful over here right now. And I am so grateful.
This blog post had to be written. Not to explain myself, not to close a chapter and absolutely not to ask for sympathy. These words poured from my mouth and my fingers and my HEART. It is a celebration of victory. Of wholehearted joy and gratefulness for deliverance.
It is also to say to you, that person who maybe feels in some small or big way, that they are struggling, thanks to “The Dark”. Don’t. Speak out, tell someone, get help. Life will return to glorious colour. “The Dark” can’t win. I am a whole bag full of ridiculously positive annoying cliches but I just don’t care.
So there you have it. If you made it to the end I salute you – it’s a bit of a book! This is not a sympathy post, but one that needed to be shared from a place of Motherhood, Womanhood, Friendship, Community and Humanity. To share our experiences is to normalise, to support and to lift each other up.
And part of me wanted do a little blog dance of happiness.
*I would just like to say that I am in no way advocating not taking medication that has been prescribed by a medical professional. Nor am I suggesting that anti depressants are not the answer for many people suffering from depression. Simply, for me, after really careful thought, consideration and research, I decided that I wanted to try other avenues to recovery before starting to take medication. That is all.