TRIGGER WARNING: Depression, anxiety, abuse and self-harm mentioned.
When I was 14, many moons ago now, a friend of mine said something both surprising and interesting.
“I’m envious of you, you’ve been through so much and you’re so strong. Nothing bad has happened to me yet so I don’t feel like I will be able to cope when something bad does happen.”
There is no denying that people with mental health issues suffer. And, for some, managing their mental health is a daily battle. Battles leave scars, but do these mental scars actually make us stronger?
By my mid-teens I had been through abuse, my parent’s divorce, I was self-harming and seeing child psychologists who thought depression was on the cards. At that age I was also a rebellious teenager and flitted between extreme melancholy and excitable euphoria – it depended on the day.
Since that time I have had a number of mental illness diagnoses and I am one of those people that has to manage their symptoms daily. I am also a person that wakes up every morning fiercely grateful for all I have and where I have come.
It can be tough having a differently wired brain and trauma has a lasting effect. But I do not sit here dreaming of a ‘sensibly’ wired brain or wishing away the traumatic events of my life.
Overcoming mental illness takes strength and focus and once you come out the other side I wonder if you are actually better equipped to deal with what life throws at you. Perhaps once you’ve been through hell you can further appreciate heaven – just a figure of speech, I’m not religious by the way.
Finding yourself in a pit of depression or on the edge of constant panic attacks is frightening, and you can lose your sense of control and all of your confidence. However, once you’ve pulled yourself out of the pit and have developed techniques to calm the panic, I wonder if a by-effect is a stronger sense of self and a heightened appreciation for a well mind and the good in life. Is the light at the end of the tunnel brighter than what you saw before the darkness?
Each morning I wake up feeling lucky. I still check in, giving a moment to notice how I’m feeling. Am I depressed and dwelling on the past? Am I anxious and fearing for the future? Or am I present and calm? I’m ecstatic to say that most mornings now, I rise fully present, looking forward to the day and the first thought that comes to me is, ‘aren’t I lucky?’
Lucky to live where I do, have the people in my life that I do, enjoy a fulfilling working life and fortunate that I, with help, managed to climb out of that pit and move on from the struggles of my past.
In the past and still now when I have my wobbles, the guilt that comes with depression is the biggest killer for me. Why can’t I appreciate all the good that is in my life? I feel ungrateful and undeserving of the love I am showered with. Most of the time now though, I can appreciate it. Practising gratitude each morning, as corny as it sounds, helps that sense of worth and helps you focus on the good.
I firmly believe that the happiest people are the ones that practise gratitude and focus on the good. I believe that paying attention to the positives can help you cope with the negatives.
I am glad I’ve been through what I have. I’m glad my brain is wired a little differently. I feel strong.
If you have experienced depression or anxiety I want to say to you that you can recover and you can harvest a fulfilling life. These illnesses are not have to mean a life sentence of misery.
It make take some daily management. It may take medication, counselling, exercise, yoga sleep – the lot! But you can do it. And you’ll be stronger for it. Thank you for reading.