Why I believe I got depression, how I got myself out of it and how I manage it.
It’s Mental Health Awareness Week and I wanted to take this opportunity to dip into my story a lil’ bit and take you back, like 2005-back.
⚠️ And I should say that this post may be triggering, so please only continue reading if you feel safe to do so 💋
I was approaching my 25th birthday and on reflection, I don’t think I could’ve been more of a textbook-quarter-life-crisis-er if I’d tried. I was bang on time, I was definitely experiencing a locked-in crisis (have a quick watch of my interview with Dr. Oliver Robinson if you’ve no idea what I’m talking about!) and I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life from thereon in. All I knew at the time, was that the life I was in, wasn’t making me happy, at all.
But what I was experiencing then went even deeper than a life crisis. My feelings of frustration in my life deepened into feelings of hopelessness. My feelings of stuckness in my life deepened into feelings of emptiness and numbness (almost as if the most basic of daily tasks like showering and getting dressed became monumental mountains to climb). And my feelings of disconnection in my life deepened into feelings of guilt and isolation. In honesty, it felt like I was in the bottom of a curved-edged pit, with no natural light, and no grippable walls to climb either. It felt like I was there for the long haul, if not indefinitely, and I was also grieving three deaths, so close to my heart. One after the other. Sucker-punch after sucker-punch.
Man was it a hard time to be alive.
And it continued for around two years. I’ll also admit, it did take me reaching a moment of ‘rock bottom’, to enable me to start climbing my way out. It took reaching a moment of seeing no way out other than leaving this world to scare and shock myself into change. I remember it so clearly, it was an ordinary Tuesday evening in my bedroom, I was mustering all my strength to just dry my hair after an exhausting shower and an even more draining day in a job I hated, and I was looking at my reflection in the mirror crying. My inner critic just said point blank, ‘You’re not living Kerry. What is this? What are you even doing? You can’t even dry your hair. You’re pathetic. Just end this already’. Oh my days did that sting. And I’ve never seen or heard the sob that followed, a sob of such magnitude, come out of me before, or since then. It was almost animalistic. Bizarrely, that ‘option out’ was actually the kindest thing my inner critic has ever offered me. Her words were such an obliterating sound, they helped me finally hear the whisper my inner coach. (And also, if there’s one thing that motivates me like nothing else, it’s proving someone wrong. Yup, even myself).
What I know now, is that my ‘rock bottom’ cut through to my core and stung so badly, because I knew deep down I wasn’t pathetic. I knew deep down this wasn’t my version of ‘life indefinitely’, and I knew deep down I didn’t want this to be the end. I was made for more.
That very evening I told my [super-supportive] boyfriend at the time that I needed help, professional help. I booked an appointment at the GP the next morning and I could already feel the tiniest of shifts in my focus after making that call. Everything still felt as heavy as it did and nothing had notably changed, but my focus was slowly, millimetre by millimetre, turning towards potential ways out, rather than staying focused on the lack of.
Why I believe I got depression in the first place
I’ve personally done a helluva lot of reflecting and inner work since my first experience of poor mental health, and for me, I wholly feel the entire encounter could have arguably been avoided. Controversial I know, but it didn’t have to happen. I didn’t need to go through what I did. Even though now, I’m actually so grateful I did!
I know my ‘it didn’t have to happen’ talk is controversial to say, and I take full responsibility for my ‘miseducation’ at the time that lead me there (meaning, I’m not seeing it as anyone else’s ‘fault’). But with the right support, knowledge, guidance and encouragement at the right time, I know I could’ve curbed the people-pleasing tendencies that lead me into a living a life that didn’t feel like it was mine; I know I could’ve explored and spent time sitting with the issues I carried with me from childhood rather than allowing them to grow tangly roots that would eventually grab my ankles in adulthood; I know I could’ve become more proficient in listening to my gut instincts so I felt empowered and okay with prioritising me; I know I could’ve been more educated on how imprisoning conformity and the pressures to fit in are so I didn’t have to strive to shoehorn myself into someone else’s mould; and I know I could’ve understood the consequences of burying emotions and desires so I felt the courage to say how I felt and what I wanted.
But this is the beauty of hindsight ay, and this is the reason I do what I do. Because I feel it very often can be avoided with the right support, knowledge, guidance and encouragement given at the right time.
How I got myself out of it
I genuinely feel my fierce independence had been to my credit until just before 2005. It was a driving force behind my focus in my academic life and career and everything that I’d doggedly achieved up until that point. But boy was it to my detriment beyond that point. My incessant need to ‘fix stuff myself’, tell everyone I was fine and not need to rely on anyone, was another big player in why I found myself where I was. It was only at the moment when I admitted I couldn’t do this by myself and that I did need help, that everything began to change.
After visiting the GP that day, I personally chose to avoid anti-depressants as a potential route out. And that was because I genuinely felt all the work I personally had to do was due to the stuff I’d buried and continued to bury, and adding pills to the cocktail was only going to delay the inevitable painful work that awaited me. And that’s not to cast judgment or aspersion on anyone’s choices in recovery whatsoever, sometimes for some people, anti-depressants are absolutely the right choice, they just weren’t mine.
I also chose to see a psychotherapist privately, as the public health waitlist felt too long to wait and I wanted to make the most of the momentum I was feeling (even though it was super-miniscule momentum in the scale of things, it was still more than anything I’d felt in around two years so I was clinging on to it for dear life. Literally). And let me just say, not only was I a huge ‘therapy cynic’, but I was actually really tight for money at the time. ‘Disposable income’ wasn’t anywhere to be found on my monthly budget spreadsheet! But again, I still felt this teeny sense of momentum inside me, that whisper of a sound that I might just be on to something – the only teeny shaft of light I had available to aim for tbh. So I found the money, and I found a therapist who offered in-person sessions for £25, and email sessions for £15. Winner.
And let me tell you, that investment in myself, that decision to reach out for help, that opportunity to truly prioritise myself and do the necessary work, changed everything.
How I manage my mental health now
From that point on, as you may already know, I made some pretty drastic changes (nutshell version: everything in my life was ripped up and re-started from scratch). It remained a super-challenging and emotional time for probably the next 1-2 years, but there was a huge difference this time – because this time it was on my terms. It didn’t mean it wasn’t hard and painful AF (OMG, it 100% was), but I just knew that pain was necessary at the time for me to stay alive. It was as simple as that.
Fast forward 14 years and I feel like a different person. I feel such empathy and love for 2005-me. She almost feels like a younger sister that I just want to dip back in time to and give a good ol’ squeezy hug! Because I now feel like I’m finely in-tune with my gut instincts, and I know how much she needed that tuning. I now try to fiercely honour my me-time too because I’m acutely aware of my people-pleasing tendencies and how easy this is to let slip! (But I’m not gonna lie, it can be insanely challenging at times, especially with a toddler in the mix!) 😄
And in honesty, I still feel ‘twinges’ of low-times, I still feel the lure and pull of that downward spiral occasionally too, but I’ve put so much work into developing my self-awareness (and will continue to), I know now that those twinges, lures and pulls only come about when I’m neglecting myself. They only come about when I’ve made a series of decisions that solely focused on pleasing others and ignoring my gut, so I know now that thats’s a signal to reign stuff back, and so far, I’ve managed to ❤️️
No matter where you sit on the mental health spectrum, no matter what your experience or challenge, no matter how you feel about yourself, there really is only one thing I’d really love for you to take away from this piece, and that is that…
YOU MATTER. Okay?
You really really do. If you, or you suspect someone you know may need help with their mental health, please visit Mind Charity and get that help. Don’t leave it until tomorrow, do it today.
Love you so much gorgeous face and thank you for reading this far 💋