I think the biggest part of my recovery was acceptance. Accepting where I was, how I felt, that I was indeed depressed and that I needed to seek help in some form. I didn’t need to keep trudging along alone.
I made the decision I needed help when an older friend of ours in Brittany said to me, “Charlie, if you don’t sort yourself out soon and get help you are going to have a nervous breakdown!” The words “nervous breakdown” hit me hard and made me sit up and take notice. My Mum had suffered a nervous breakdown many years prior due to the pressure and stress of looking after my elder sister. My sister was born normal but was left severely brain damaged at 15 months following a routine small pox vaccination. Our lives as a family unit were therefore never what most people would term as “normal” and the stress of having a family member who needed round the clock care, was unpredictable, at times aggressive and constantly frustrated made for a highly emotive and stressful environment to live in. It finally took its toll on my Mum a few years after my sister left the family home aged 17 to go into a special home for those with mental and physical handicaps.
I remember that time vividly. I was 15 and this was when I myself experienced my first bout of depression. I remember the concern I felt watching Mum struggle and wondering if I’d ever get her back again. It was a difficult time. So the threat of a breakdown looming over me was somewhere I wasn’t prepared to go in a hurry. I knew deep down I was on the edge but now I had to admit it and find a way to get myself well again.
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I knew I needed to leave France if I was to fully recover, but it wasn’t quite that simple. It took another year from making that mental decision before it was actually possible for us to return to the UK and it was the longest 12 months of my life. I walked every day for over an hour to stay sane, I gave my eldest daughter regular baby massage treatments to stay as bonded to her as possible (it took a full 16 months to finally feel the bond I’d expected to feel when I first had my baby), I tried hard to eat healthily and I kept myself as focussed as I could on the end goal, visualising myself back home in the UK, happy and safe.
Once back in the UK, my husband and I decided to settle in the West Country instead of heading back to the Home Counties where family were and we had previously lived. The thoughts of being so close to London again with a toddler was not what I wanted or needed so we made the sacrifice of living once again away from family but it was definitely the right decision long term.
Not long after returning to the UK, I went to see my new GP who was keen to put me on anti-depressants. I refused and asked for 3 months grace to find alternatives to aid in my recovery. She recommended counselling which I hated the idea of at first. I had done a lot of work on myself as a holistic therapist both spiritually and emotionally and felt I didn’t need someone I didn’t know sitting in front of me with folded arms asking “So, what seems to be the problem?” I had a very old fashioned view of what a counsellor was and I didn’t feel they could bring any worth to my situation. Also the waiting list for CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) was so long on the NHS that the whole idea seemed pointless. However, the GP still gave me a leaflet on counselling which I read and I finally set about looking for a private counsellor who was local to me a few months later.
I was blessed to find a fabulous lady who was an integral part in my recovery. She gave me the permission to truly “feel” for the first time in over 2 years and didn’t sit there and judge me in any way. That was so liberating ! We unleashed the dragon within and as she said, “Once released there is no going back!” and she was so right. The anger, frustration, hurt and sadness I felt came to the surface and was overwhelming to say the least. It was like peeling back an onion. Layer upon layer of raw emotion was exposed and now needed attention. One of my biggest feelings was having been let down by those around me, those I loved. At that time I felt greatly misunderstood and my counsellor gave me insight into why that was and how I could release those feelings and move on again.
I am a highly sensitive person which in my work as a Holistic Therapist is a good thing. I am very empathic and sense feelings, unease, emotions. My instincts serve me well but they can make functioning in the real world tough at times. Even now I often find it hard to know where I truly fit. The total sum of our life experiences make us who we are so I suppose for me most of mine have been intense, stressful and filled with anxiety and caution. Don’t get me wrong it hasn’t all been doom and gloom but as a child I grew up in a highly emotive, stressful environment where I was taught to be overly cautious and wary of life. And being a younger sister of a child with special needs meant that having a “carefree” existence as a child wasn’t on the agenda. I had to grow up quickly and just get on with it.
It’s fair to say that during my counselling sessions these memories and feelings surfaced too and needed to be dealt with. It was an exhausting time but so beneficial and it is probably the one thing I’d recommend anyone who is suffering with depression do for themselves. Whether it be CBT or another form of counselling that resonates with them, it is well worth the investment of time and money.
I’m going to finish this post here and share next time how I continued on with my recovery through changing my diet and also with the healing sessions I had. Although it may seem that what I’m sharing here is very deep and intense it’s important to understand that it’s not all internal struggles and fighting. This journey has given me a greater clarity of who I am as a person, and the type of mother I ultimately wish to be for my girls. Becoming a mother has probably been the biggest, most amazing journey I have ever been on.
What I have experienced over the past 7 years has pushed me to the absolute limits of what I thought I could cope with and I have proved to myself that I am stronger than I thought, I can still cope in the face of adversity, I love completely, care deeply, wear my heart on my sleeve and those are things that I should be proud of. I have often thought of them as failings, as a weakness, somehow looking enviously at others who appear more carefree and happier than me. But time allows me to understand that it’s ok to be different, I matter just as much and maybe through this blog and sharing some of my journey with others, someone may find some solace within the chaos they currently find themselves in. Who knows?
Thank you for listening. Do share your thoughts. It’s always lovely to hear from you. Have a wonderful Easter together with those you love. Until next time xx