March 20, 2015

Depression And Finding Light At The End Of The Tunnel

A picture of a tattooed woman wearing a floppy hat and rowing a boat in Central Park, New York

Today is International Day of Happiness. That's a day I can get behind. It got me thinking about the difficulties I faced last year. I've considered writing about these before, but I wasn't able to. Each time I tried, I couldn't get the words out in a coherent manner. I wonder if it was too soon? 

2014 started with my beloved grandfather passing away while I was out of the country. We found out his cancer was terminal before Christmas. It was so sudden and seeing this strong, loving and hilarious man fade away like that is going to stay in my mind forever. He was truly the heart of our family. From there, things quickly went downhill. A person who was part of my boyfriend's past took it upon herself to accuse me of things which were unfounded and delusional. I had to deal with the police three times (physically, that doesn't include the phone calls). Getting out of the shower one Sunday morning to a policeman in my living room was a highlight. They eventually saw how ridiculous the whole thing was and it was put to bed - and not a day too soon. It was heinous and a waste of everybody's time. When you're dealing with real problems, something as petty as that situation, where somebody is so self-obsessed the they fabricate stories to create drama, really helps put things into perspective. The phrase "bigger fish to fry" comes to mind.

Because of the anxiety the whole police situation brought on, and the fact I was grieving for my grandad, I became severely depressed and began taking antidepressants and beta blockers. There were points where I couldn't leave the house alone. If I did make it outside, it took a lot of tears and panic. I was missing uni and shutting myself off. It was the worst period of my life and I was only able to live day to day. I had to apply for mitigation on all of my second semester university work - it was only my first year at uni after going back at 24 and I'd started off so well.

There were good days and I owe those to my best friends who got me out of the house while Josh was at work, but it felt like for every good day I was punished with days of deep depression where I couldn't do much except sleep, cry, stare into space and have whatever crappy Netflix show on in the background. I found very little enjoyment in life, in the things I would usually do for pleasure. Josh was, and continues to be, my rock. As the person closest to me, he's had to deal with me at my worst, more often than not being the subject of all my lashing out - that's when I wasn't sat in silence.

I found no relief from the NHS counselling and CBT sessions offered to me. I'm sure it can be helpful for many, but for me it was a waste of time - ask any depressed person to set themselves goals and what do you think happens? I was in a black hole and there was no helping me.

The end of June brought more heartache when our 10 month old kitten Henry was put to sleep. He developed an incurable virus called FIP and it turned out he also had a birth defect. I was obviously already in a bad place and nowhere near as resilient as I usually would be. Not that I'm playing it down - losing a pet is devastating. It floored me. It's hard to put anything in perspective when you're that low. I remember crying for three days straight.

The antidepressants did eventually start to level me out. Though in reality, they numbed me. Anybody who has taken SSRI's will know how difficult the first couple months are. I was so nauseous and constantly exhausted, I slept so much. It wasn't pleasant. It was technically the third time I'd been prescribed them and the fourth type I had tried, but I'd never stuck with them long term because I hated the idea. In hindsight, I really wish that I hadn't started taking them, but I didn't feel like I knew what was best for me at that point. I was a shell and hanging on by a thread. I don't want to get into the pros and cons of antidepressants as that's not the point of this post. (As a note, I tapered down and eventually stopped taking them completely over a month ago. I felt utterly out of control for the first two weeks. I cried, screamed, slammed every door and also felt like there was a bug between my ears. It sucked. I'm so glad to be free of them now and I'm genuinely doing just fine without them. I'm actually feeling things properly for the first time in a long time).

The summer passed and I was gradually feeling calmer and less anxious, to the point where I'd stopped taking the beta blockers. We went on lots of daytrips and little adventures, getting outside as much as possible, which really helped pull me out of the pit I was in. I was doing a lot of yoga and generally concentrating on my health (this is when I decided to stop the pill also). In September, Josh and I went on holiday to New York which was incredible. He proposed unexpectedly on top of the Wythe Hotel in Brooklyn on our second evening. I felt every emotion physically possible in the space of a minute. I've never been as elated as I was in that moment. The photo accompanying this post is from the day we rowed boats in Central Park - the best day ever. Going to New York was always a dream. Coming from a pretty large and pretty poor family, I never thought I would be able to do that.

In October, my mum was told she had lung cancer and in November my dad left her - he'd been cheating and he then moved to Ipswich to live with a woman who we know nothing about. I don't want to go into this because it's definitely not processed yet. It's still very much an issue for me and I'm not sure what happens to my relationship with my dad at this point. My mum is now fine health-wise - they got the cancer early and she had an operation to remove a third of her lung.

I'm writing this in a reflective manner because I truly never felt like I could be happy again. There were times where I was dangerously close to giving up. Even though there's still crappy things happening now, I feel like I'm better equipped to deal with the things life throws at me. The last year made me grow as a person, truly. I've spent a lot of time reflecting and learning how to cope with my feelings of grief, hurt, other people's actions, loss... It's made me a better person, which I never expected. It would be easy to be bitter or to constantly cry about what I've lost, but that's counterproductive. I don't want to be caught up in the negativity of the past and the only way I can move on is if I let certain things go and learn a lesson from it all.

This time last year I wouldn't have believed anybody who told me I'd be okay. I've a long way to go, but I'm so incredibly grateful to not be in the place I was. I'll forever be indebted to those who helped me pull through - they know who they are.

I hope you're happy wherever you may be. If you're not, I promise you there's light at the end of the tunnel, you just might have to fight to see it. Thanks for reading. Please email me if you want to talk or leave a comment below - I'll always get back to you x
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March 06, 2015

Naturopathy

A picture of a tattooed woman holding vitamin pills in her hand

I visited a Naturopath for the first time a couple weeks ago. It's something I knew I wanted to do if I didn't see the improvements I hoped for with my skin after 6 months off the pill. I definitely had high expectations, especially as my skin didn't start breaking out until October. I had to admit I needed some guidance.
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