Last year I had a breakdown, and as a result of this I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. Those that know me well may struggle to comprehend this as I masked my feelings quite well, or so I like to think. I hid behind a face of make up, a loud laugh and a happy smile, or I did the complete opposite and shut myself away from the world, this was how I coped, how I mustered the strength to face another day and do it all again. It worked for a few short months, but not dealing with what my mind was going through resulted in a breakdown of my body. Every inch of me was crying out for help and one day I gave in. I’m sharing my story because I want people to understand that these emotional illnesses are silent but deadly, they can manifest themselves inside the human mind and break someone till they are never the same again. I count myself lucky that I was in tune enough with my own emotions, I could feel something wasn’t right and I was strong enough to make that call to my GP. I also had the incredible support of a few people who knew everything I had been through, watched as I completely changed unable to do anything about it, but stood by and waited for me whilst I returned from this turbulent journey and made it home.
Having depression and anxiety is like being scared and tired at the same time. It’s the fear of failure with no strength to be productive. It’s wanting friends, but struggling to socialise. It’s wanting to be alone but not wanting to be lonely. It’s caring about everything then nothing at all. It’s feeling everything at once, and then feeling paralysingly numb.
As I sat in the waiting room to see my doctor, part of me wanted to head straight out the door and just ignore my feelings. I’d coped long enough, surely I could just continue? The lump in my throat wouldn’t go away and I didn’t know how I would begin explaining my emotions so they made sense. I didn’t want to look stupid. As she came out to get me the nerves doubled. There was no running away now. I didn’t realise it at the time, but when I shut the door of her room, sat down on the chair and looked her in the eyes, I’d just taken my first step in battling these demons. She very gently asked how she could help me and I wasn’t able to utter a word, instead I sat in her chair and I sobbed my heart out. I felt pain, I felt relief, I felt vulnerable, I felt safe, and I cried until there were no more tears left. When I’d caught my breath she asked me to talk her through what was making me feel this way, and so for the first time I told someone my story.
I was brought up in very loving household where my parents and family adored my sister and I, and to this day we are both shown so much love and affection. Every phone call ends with ‘Love you’, and these wonderful humans are the reason my heart is so soft, and that I am so affectionate and emotional. Some would say that I lived a very sheltered life, I was never exposed to any nasty people, to any nasty behaviour, or to any nasty words. As a child my family nurtured my individuality, they taught me to be independent and listen to the voice within me. Sure I made mistakes, but I learnt from them. I am of great value to my family and my happiness means everything to them. Even though I’m grown up with my own baby now, I’m without a doubt still theirs.
This incredible start in life meant my heart was always very firmly fixed to my sleeve, I loved openly, I trusted everyone and thought everyone liked me and had my best interests at heart. I knew family politics existed but I had no first hand experience. I was also not in the least bit street wise, and this mixed with my complete niaevity about life and humanity ended up making some parts of my life very hard for me to deal with.
As you get older you gain more life experience, you meet more people and you naturally become extensions of yourself. You become a sibling, a friend, a niece, a wife, a daughter in law, a sister-in-law, a mother, and sometimes you find yourself working towards other people’s expectations of you within these roles. I find this is especially apparent in the Indian culture.
In the last few years, life has connected me with people and situations that have polluted my waters, and along the way I have lost the vivacious, happy-go-lucky and care free girl that I once was. Suddenly, I found myself in a world where people said horrible things about me, they didn’t like me and I truly couldn’t understand why, I’d never not been liked. People talked about things I had said in sheer innocence, they watched how I did things, they compared me to others and they judged me as well as my life choices. Being me wasn’t enough anymore, in fact it seemed like that was starting to become the problem.
One of my lowest points was being shouted at in a confined space in front of a group of people, some of whom I barely knew the names of, all because this person felt I had hadn’t behaved in the way she felt I should have, I hadn’t met her expectation of me. She humiliated me and her behaviour was inhumane. Those that claimed to care for me lowered their heads and said nothing, and to me they are just as bad for letting another human be treated this way. Only one person stood up to this emotional abuse and I’ll never forget the words she shouted, “shes someones daughter.” The only reason I physically escaped was because I suffered a panic attack, and this reaction in my body gave me the strength to leave the room, sadly it’s something I don’t think I’ll ever emotionally escape from and to this day I still have flashbacks. Although she later apologised, it was an apology for the way I felt, not for her own behaviour.
This is just one example of what lies at the root cause of my illnesses and because of my experience, the Indian culture is something I’ve come to detest. I don’t believe anyone has the right to control you and dictate what you do, or how you do it, and there’s not one part of me that believes in this way of life or treatment of women. It’s 2017, life has changed and the world has moved on, yet our culture in so many ways has stayed stagnant. It’s all about expectation, what others will think and what looks good. Being a nice person and doing things with a clean heart counts for nothing if you aren’t impressing people and living to the expectation of those around you. This needs to change.
After my diagnosis I began having counselling once a week, and I started the sessions as a completely different woman to the one I finished them as. They gave me the opportunity to be truly honest, to bare every inch of my soul and to get the help I needed. One of the questions she asked me unlocked a power and strength I never knew I had. She asked if I had ever felt suicidal, and I immediately answered no. She asked what would stop me from taking my life if I ever did feel this way and for me the answer was easy, it was and always will be my son. Being a mother, having a life so dependent on me is what gave me the strength to want to be okay, to fight for my mental health and my happiness. It made me want to be strong and live a life that makes me happy, to cut myself off from the people that dragged me down and to do what suits me without caring what anyone else thinks.
I hit rock bottom last year, but the only direction I can go in now is up. I’m lucky, I’ve made it to the recovery stage and I have a new found faith in my strength as a person that I don’t waste time thinking about the past, and I no longer fear the future. If I can make one change in this life it will be to shift our culture, to empower women to stand up and not let themselves be drowned by the power and control of others. To not have a life dictated by expectation. There are a breed of people that will pick faults no matter what you do, so why waste time caring and suffering in the process? Depression and anxiety were the hardest things I have ever experienced and if sharing my story can help others to know they aren’t alone then I will never stop being honest, I will never keep my mouth shut and I will keep fighting till people listen.
I don’t have time for people who can only offer their support and love to me in secret. Keeping quiet, being fake, it almost ruined me and it caused me to have a mental break down. From now on, what you see is what you get, my heart will never leave my sleeve and l will not apologise for who I am and how I live my life. That doesn’t make me a bad person and I know that now. My journey in facing up to my depression and anxiety isn’t over, but I also know I have so much to live for and so many reasons to be happy and stay happy. Mental health really is the biggest wealth in life.
Blonde Mummy. X