Depression, Anxiety, Stress.. they are not such dirty words..

Kira asked me to guest post for her this month on stress, family and mental health… Why? Because I have been there, got the T Shirt, worn it to death, taken it off, washed it and now it hangs firmly in my closet to remind me of the lessons learnt along its journey.

Everyone’s story is different, and everyone’s story is personal, but they all have common traits and outcomes and that is what I want to talk about.

There is no shame in suffering from anxiety or depression. It can stem from childhood issues, relationships past or present, traumatic situations, a job you hate or even a job you love but just don’t have the bandwidth to do it the way you want or need to.

Whatever the reason there comes a day when the pot boils over and you know in your heart of hearts that your reaction to a situation is unwarranted or too dramatic for a rational minded individual. 

Maybe you’ve been sleeping a lot more than normal, just had a lack of mojo. Or, like me, went to the shops and cried into your shopping basket purely because the second your mind wasn’t busy it realized it was overstressed and mildly depressed.

My crack point was when I lost it on my children. I shouted really loudly at a four and five-year-old for just splashing too much bath water on the floor and quite frankly, even though I have always had a short temper this was one step too far, even for me…

What you do next can change your life.

If your mental health issues are situational then nothing is going to change until that trigger also changes. Seems simple, but sometimes you can’t swap things out and make a shift overnight to initiate eternal happiness. We wish huh?!

There are so many things that can help and whilst I have absolutely no issue with people taking medication (I did for 4 years) I would always promote them to explore the natural avenues first.

  • Talk to a therapist or your doctor or even just a trusted friend
  • Work some exercise into your daily routine
  • Get out in Nature… regularly
  • Take a good look at your diet and increase that whole food intake. Did you know that serotonin starts in the gut?
  • Think about practicing self-care techniques, be it meditation, taking time out for coffee during the day and/ or booking a weekly massage

So, you do all this and whilst it lifts your spirits in moments, you are still not coping, and the down times are feeling heavy and uncontrollable?

This is when I think medication is magical. When your body has become chemically imbalanced and is hurting you, why would you not address that? Medication gives you the space and clarity to view your emotions and start to comprehend them without getting upset.

The next steps are different for everyone and if situations don’t change then it’s unlikely your need for medication will either. What you can spend some time doing is learning to recognize what, when or how you really spiral and looking at ways to negate that happening.

It’s a great opportunity to help others understand mental health whether through face to face communication or being vulnerable and sharing on social media. I chose to be open and honest with my family and kids and used my time on medication to teach them that it is human to feel overwhelmed, that it is normal to cry, and it is ok to not be ok.

I was also one of the lucky ones. Lucky in that I was able to change my circumstances which allowed me to VERY slowly come off my medication over the space of a year, dropping dosage and eventually removing them.

I still have days when I feel overwhelmed, I still have days where I cry at stupid things, but I know it won’t last forever and I can recognize what made me feel that way. I can explain it to my kids, and I take myself for a run or a yoga session to pick me up.

So, what about the individuals that remain on medication? Well that’s my husband. He has tried a few times to remove them from his life and failed twice. I love that he tried because that was brave, and I love that he was able to admit defeat and say he needed their help again as that was even braver.

He may well be on medication forever but what he does every day is that he does not allow them to be his crutch. He still wakes every day and meditates, exercises and expands his knowledge on mental health via podcasts and other media. After what is now 6 years on medication, he is a stronger, wiser, happier and a more in control individual than the one he was during his first year on meds. The medication, it doesn’t hold him up, rather it just walks beside him in case he falls and one day he may just leave it behind.

Whether that day comes or not is irrelevant because we as a duo have grown. We can now help others if they are struggling. Our children, family and even friends have a greater knowledge of mental health and most importantly the stigma is lifted… and confident and comfortable being loud and proud with the mental health message.