I can honestly say that the first six months of this year were the hardest of my life. I was working from home in a job I found unfulfilling, and I spent most days feeling lonely and worthless. With no reason to get dressed or leave the house, and no-one to talk to all day, I felt like my life had no direction or purpose. Some days I felt so flat I didn’t have the energy to move, and even the simplest things, like eating, felt too difficult.

I had countless job interviews and spent months on an endless roller coaster of nerves, excitement, hope and eventually rejection. Hopelessness enveloped me like a thick blanket, heavy and suffocating. The longing I had for happiness felt like a physical ache in my chest, but no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t see a way to turn things around for myself.

I had failed.

The life I’d pictured for myself when I was younger was exciting and full of colour. Instead I’d reached 28 and was merely existing, my world a dull, muted landscape of drudgery and exhaustion. I hated the person I’d become. While once confident and spontaneous I was now withdrawn and afraid of the world around me.

I kept telling myself that one day I would look back on this time in my life and laugh at how silly I was being. I would wonder what the hell I was even worrying about. This was all just a blip, surely. As much as I told myself this though, I couldn’t quite make myself believe it. I considered giving up altogether, but was afraid of what giving up would even look like. I was paralysed by the fear that I would never move forward but also that I was starting to feel like I didn’t want to.

The path

I’d been defeated. My confidence was shattered, and each interview became a challenge not to break down and cry. I knew I was putting an unhealthy amount of pressure on myself, but I couldn’t stop. Applying for jobs became an all-consuming obsession.

I was struggling in my personal life too. Counselling took me down a difficult path that ended with the loss of two important relationships. The loss was sudden but at the same time felt like it had been a long time coming. The sense of betrayal however left me raw, confused, and questioning who I was as a person. It added to the feelings of worthlessness I’d heaped upon myself and made me want to rip off my own skin and become someone new.

I grieved, as one would any loss, and in time found acceptance and closure. I realised that I had chosen my own family, and was in no way defined by my blood, or my past.

I even learned to be thankful for it, because it pushed me to make one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. Blinded by sadness and overwhelmed by how lost I felt, I reached out in a moment of desperation to someone I’d always been afraid to ask for help: a doctor. I have no idea why I was so nervous, because he instantly put me at ease. He treated me with kindness and compassion, patience and understanding. He told me it was OK to cry, and offered sincere, gentle reassurance.

With absolute confidence he looked me in the eye and told me something no-one else ever had: ‘You will get better.’ This time my tears were of relief. I’d once asked my counsellor if she thought I was ‘unfixable’ and I think I’d started to believe that I actually was. I don’t think my doctor will ever know the impact those words had on me, and how much I needed to hear them.

He prescribed me Sertraline, and though I was scared about the possible side-effects and prospect of being on medication long-term, his words gave me the courage I needed to set those fears aside. He told me that there was light at the end of the tunnel, and for the first time I started to believe that.

That was five weeks ago, and I can honestly say I already feel a massive difference. Since then, I also landed my dream job as a social media executive for an exciting new company. I get paid to write, be creative and basically do the things I love. I’m surrounded by interesting, passionate people that I can talk to and bounce ideas off of. The office is buzzing with music and laughter and it’s everything that I’ve been missing for so long.

I feel valued again. I can remember how it feels to have passion and drive, and I wake up in the morning feeling like I can’t wait to get to work. I have the freedom to build this role into exactly what I want and I’m SO BLOODY EXCITED about my future again. In my wildest dreams I couldn’t have hoped for a job that’s more perfect.

It was scary at first, being forced to suddenly step out of the little bubble I’d carefully built around myself. Interacting with people again was overwhelming and exhausting, and I had one or two moments of panic when I questioned whether I could actually do this. But in those moments I took a deep breath and thought about all the things I’ve already managed to overcome. Slowly I started to believe in myself again.

I’m so grateful that someone else saw my potential, even when I couldn’t. My job has given me structure, purpose and a sense of worth again. I feel like I’ve woken up from a long, deep sleep.

SEA

Recently, after a lovely evening with one of my best friends, talking and laughing like we used to, she pulled me into a tight hug and whispered in my ear, ‘You feel like Mel again.’ Every day I can feel a little bit more of myself starting to come back and I’m glad others can see it too.

I’ve learned a lot about myself in these last few weeks, but mainly I’ve realised that I’m a lot stronger than I give myself credit for.

When you’re struggling with depression or anxiety it’s so easy to see yourself as weak or worthless. You’re not. When the simplest of tasks feels like a steep, uphill climb, and every day feels like a battle, it takes a warrior to keep moving forwards.

Please don’t think for a second that admitting you’re struggling is anything to be ashamed of either. Another lovely thing my doctor told me was that coming to him for help proved how resilient I am. He made me feel strong at a time when I felt utterly broken, and I don’t have the words to express how grateful I am for that.

It amazes me that people can come in and out of our lives without ever truly realising the impact they’ve had on us. To my doctor and all the other people who have listened, supported and believed in me, I offer my sincere and heartfelt thanks.

I would like to thank myself as well. Thank you for not giving up, even though you wanted to. Thank you for believing that happiness was out there and fighting for it with everything you had. Thank you for reaching out and seeking the help you knew you deserved. Thank you for realising that the right path isn’t always the easiest, and thank you for having the courage to take it anyway.

Thank you for showing the world what you’re made of.

XOXO

If you’re struggling, please reach out, whether it be to friends, family or your doctor. You are loved and cared about, and things will get better.

Always remember, you’re so much stronger than you give yourself credit for.

 

I’ve been feeling really good recently.  No, make that great!  Like, smiling at strangers in the supermarket and feeling like I’m an unstoppable force kinda great.

At the weekend I had the immense joy of watching two of my favourite people in the world get married.  I was a bridesmaid for the very first time and I loved every minute.  I laughed, cried, caught up with old friends, drank too much champagne, and danced all night.  My thighs are still hurting, but it was totally worth it!  It was a perfect day.

No YOU'RE drunk.

No YOU’RE drunk!

You know it’s been a good day when you start off looking like a princess and end up looking like Boy George!

nice weddingboy george

The days are getting longer and warmer, I have some potentially exciting opportunities on the horizon, and I’ve finally started planning my Scandinavia trip (June 2017, fingers crossed!)

All in all, life is looking pretty fantastic.  On a personal note I’ve been working on being more positive and focusing on all the times I feel good.  CBT has taught me to take stock of all the ways my anxiety can manifest itself physically.  I’m supposed to focus on symptoms like tingling fingertips, shortness of breath, or feeling lightheaded, and remind myself that these sensations aren’t anything serious, but rather my nervous system misfiring.

I haven’t felt any of these things for a while now, which feels like a really big step, but it’s got me thinking, why am I not channeling that same focus on all the lovely ways my body responds to happiness?

Like the way laughter rises up through my stomach in little uncontrollable bubbles, or the tingle of goosebumps down my arms when I listen to a beautiful song.  The warmth that spreads through me when someone pays me a compliment, or the way I felt so overwhelmed with joy at my best friends’ wedding that my heart felt like it was going to burst out of my chest, but in the best way possible.

We all lead such busy lives and get so wrapped up with the stresses of adulthood that I think we sometimes forget to slow down and take stock of all the times we feel good.  So next time you feel butterflies of excitement, or the uncontrollable urge to smile, take a moment to really enjoy the sensation.  Focus on all the other things you’re feeling, and truly savour them.  These are the moments that we take for granted.  When we look back on this time in our lives we’ll remember the big things that made us happy, but we’ll forget all the tiny little snapshots that helped to make up the big picture.  I feel like I’m ready to stop dwelling on my anxiety and start cherishing my own happiness, however small and insignificant it might seem from the outside.

I came to you because I’d become scared of the world around me.  Working from home, I’d started to isolate myself, closing off from friends and family.  I was crippled by OCD and an overwhelming fear of vomiting that had me going to new and increasingly extreme lengths to ‘protect myself.’

Sometimes I would go a week at a time without leaving the house.  I would wash myself compulsively because I never felt clean.  I never felt at ease.  Simple, everyday decisions reduced me to tears, or led to a panic attack, and I had moments so low that I simply couldn’t see how I’d ever be happy again.

My family was going through a difficult time, and I knew things would get much worse before they got better.  For the first time in my life I was faced with a loss I didn’t know how to prepare myself for.  Things are still hard, but they are getting better each day.

Issues from my past were resurfacing, and my relationships with those close to me were suffering.  I remember confessing to you that I was afraid I was ‘unfixable.’  I couldn’t see a light at the end of the tunnel.

I used to be afraid of everything, and I hated how weak that made me feel.  Once spontaneous, adventurous and full of energy, I was now a shell of my former self.  Thanks to you I know now that I’m not weak.  Thanks to you I’m starting to feel positive about my future again.

CBT trains you to approach things differently and become your own counsellor, but you’ve taught me so much more than that.  I’ve learned to value and look after myself, and make my needs known to others.  You’ve given me a voice again.

You’ve made me braver than I ever thought possible, and given me the courage to tackle things I never thought I could.  You’ve given me the insight to understand myself, question my thought processes, and challenge my own negative thoughts.  I still have my problems, but you’ve equipped me with the tools to tackle them better myself.  I’m a million miles away from the person I was eight months ago.

Before, I couldn’t wait to see you because I desperately needed an outlet.  I needed to vent, I needed you to help me organise my muddled thoughts.  I needed to cry freely, without judgement.

Now I can’t wait to see you because I want to tell you about a fear I conquered, or a new personal milestone I’ve achieved.  No matter how tiny, you are always proud of me.

I couldn’t stop smiling during my last session because I started to feel like the pieces of my life are finally coming together.  What we have worked through together has brought me a sense of direction again.  It’s brought me closure, vindication.  It’s shown me how to feel joy again.

I’ve never been suicidal, but there have been times when I’ve wished I could simply stop existing, just for a little while.  Because no matter how much I shut myself away, turned off my phone, or ignored others, there would always come a point where I’d have to face it all again.  I switched wildly between shaking with nervous energy and feeling so drained I couldn’t move.  I didn’t care about sleeping, eating, or looking after myself.  Nothing excited me anymore; I felt numb.  That was the worst part; in the moments I didn’t feel overwhelmed by fear or sadness, I longed to feel something but couldn’t.

But there was a moment when it was like you helped me flick a switch.  Suddenly I felt alive again.  Suddenly I felt fired up.  I had goals, things to look forward to.  I left that session full of hope and on my way home stopped to look out at the sea.  I felt an incredible sense of calm and clarity.

BEACH

I don’t quite know how you do it, but you help me make sense of things.  Sometimes the answer might be so obvious I can’t believe I didn’t see it myself.  You help me realise that my needs and feelings are valid.  You give me the confidence to ask for what I want, and the strength to make things happen for myself.

There’s so much more I want to say, but no words can adequately sum up just how much you mean to me, or the impact you’ve had on my life in such a short space of time.  You’ve helped me in more ways than I can count.

You’ve helped me to be me again.

We’ve laughed together, cried together, and I will never look at a bag of Mini Cheddars in the same way again.  It’s my last session with you soon, and I find it hard to think about my life without you in it.  It’s going to be a difficult goodbye, but I finally feel ready for it.

I hope you feel proud of the work you do, because you’re amazing at it.  It takes a truly special person to show someone the level of kindness, understanding and compassion that you’ve shown me.  I will never stop being thankful for everything you’ve done for me.

I will miss you, but I will never forget what you’ve taught me, or all the incredible things you’ve helped me to achieve.

From the bottom of my heart I thank you.

X

Talking about depression and anxiety might seem overwhelming, but if you’re struggling, please reach out to someone.

Talk to your friends, GP, partner or family.  You have nothing to be ashamed of.

If you’re feeling alone and like you can’t carry on, The Samaritans are reachable 24/7 and offer free, confidential support.  Contact them on 116 123 (UK), or 116 123 (ROI), or visit their website.

There are many different types of therapy, so it’s worth doing some research to find out what’s right for you.  If you’re interested in CBT, visit the BABCP website to learn more, and find an accredited CBT practitioner in your area.