Up until eighteen months ago, I’d always considered myself to be strong. Nothing phased me. I’d been through things considered to be the worst life events and come through with flying colours, or so I thought. I’ve experienced things in my life that people older than me have yet to experience. I always considered that, because I’d navigated these issues reasonably unscathed, I was a pillar of strength.
What I had really done, was compartmentalise the pain I had been through, ostensibly to deal with another day. That day never came. Better to have shelved it than really let the pain eviscerate me; no happy ending to that. You never saw Cinderella wallow in her self-pity for too long.
So, in 2013 when a number of things all happened in quick succession, I found myself being pulled under water into a mire of self-destructive, unhealthy emotion. And it was unrelenting. I found myself sitting up until 3 and 4am crying uncontrollably. But, I couldn’t tell anyone. I didn’t want them to think I was weak.
By the last quarter of 2013, I knew something was really wrong with me. Sleep was non-existent, I was unproductive at work – something I pride myself on, and I was distancing myself from any joy in my life. I was doing things that I normally wouldn’t have done and found myself questioning this daily.
No-one knew how bad I was, I wouldn’t let them; I wouldn’t dare ask for help. January 2014 saw me low. No, if I’m honest, I wasn’t low… I was contemplating suicide. I didn’t want to be alive any more. Because I didn’t feel as though I was alive. I felt dead inside. I had muddled my way through Christmas, a holiday I usually love, I ostracised myself from everyone else because they were happy. I wasn’t. The pain was so immense and wholly all-encompassing that I couldn’t find a way out; there was only one option from what I could tell. I was lost. Lonely. When I sat in bed, alone one night, while my son slept at the other end of the house, I found myself wondering who I should write in my will to look after him.
This was the point that the crack widened.
When I went to work on Friday, 24 January, 2014 and yet another inconsequential matter placed itself in my lap, I was done. I was broken. I spoke to the interim CEO, fighting back tears – and failing; I hate crying in front of people – she told me that I needed to go to the doctor. If only to get some time off work and ‘get myself right’, I needed to seek help.
This flew in the face of everything that I had ever prided myself on, but I was deep enough in something that I couldn’t navigate that I knew I needed to do it.
I drove myself to the doctor’s clinic, on the Saturday, and thankfully my family doctor was on duty. When I sat down and he asked what he could do for me, I dissolved. All of the hurt that was bundled up inside of me seemingly began seeping out of my pores. Needless to say, he granted me a week off work. I was relieved that he believed something was wrong with me. He told me he’d see me on the Thursday to re-evaluate, which I did for another couple of weeks.
By Thursday, 6 February, 2014 my doctor had diagnosed me with depression and anxiety. When you don’t know what’s wrong with you, any diagnosis is fantastic until it has time to permeate and suffuse within your mind; then fear ensues.
I was off work for two months. The awful thing about having depression and anxiety simultaneously is that they’re fairly contradictory illnesses which exacerbate the symptoms of each other; depression you feel nothing, anxiety you feel everything at a heightened level. Just imagine for a moment, if you will, what it would be like to feel nothing but feel it so absolutely; as if every nerve ending in your body was inflicted with a deep sense of nothingness.
When I found Career Change Happens in July 2014, when I had begun my return to work but wasn’t feeling like me, I was given the tools to be kinder to myself. I was able to understand that there is a way to help myself by not placing too much expectation or pressure on myself to be a certain way to impress anyone. The only person whose expectations I have to live up to are my own.
The point to reading all of this is: if you feel, deep inside yourself, that something isn’t right – get help. Asking someone for help; be it a friend, colleague, or doctor, isn’t a sign of weakness. It is a sign of absolute strength; the strength to be so vulnerable to someone that you can absolve yourself of the torment of living through something that you cannot manage by yourself. The strength that you can recognise you’ve tried to be resilient for so long, but the capacity to do so is untenable. No matter what the situation may be, the advice is still the same. Your intuition, your gut, will generally not lie to you.
I wish I had asked for help when I first thought that there wasn’t something quite right with me. I probably wouldn’t have hurt as many people as I did. I wouldn’t have distanced myself from people who cared about me. Hindsight.
A single mum who devotes her life to her son. Kate is an inspiration to everyone who has been through tough times. Her insightful writing explores her own deep inner struggles that many women can relate to. She is courageous and hopes that her writing can help other women break through the barriers that hold us back, through her personal life stories.