Back To Roots - Lisa and Renata's Story
This week is Mental Health Awareness week as you all may be aware of and to highlight this we thought we'd do another post for our Back To Roots series. A while ago we contacted a few fellow bloggers to see if they're interested in telling their mental health story, willingly both agreed. We essentially have put together this post to show people that it's healthy to talk about your mental illness, it doesn't make you a drain, or a pain, or whatever other negative connotation that you can think of to associate with mental illness. In fact it's brave to be open and honest and embrace your journey which is what these amazing women have done! We all go through struggles in life, it's perfectly normal in fact it's reported that 1 in 6 people in the past WEEK have experienced a common mental health problem! Think of how many people that is in the UK alone, never mind the rest of the world. The beauty of it is, is that you can simply speak to someone over the internet about how you feel (we definitely don't bite and would be more than happy to help talk things through), but as Lisa described to us it was her friends who checked up on her through social media platforms like Twitter which helped her.
Lisa Deller's (Little Orange Dog) Story:
Hi, I’m Lisa, author of Little Orange Dog, mum to teenage girls, a black and white cat and a ruby and white Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. I also live with mental illness; more precisely, I live with a diagnosis of depression and anxiety, but would I change it? No. It’s not always easy, in fact sometimes, it feels like trying to climb Everest alone, with none of the correct equipment and no training whatsoever! It’s a challenge which teaches you an awful lot about yourself and I have certainly done that on my journey. I was first diagnosed around nine years ago. At the time I was prescribed Citalopram and saw a counsellor for CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy). That first, diagnosed episode was difficult, but the CBT really helped and the skills I learnt from it really helped me to cope with subsequent episodes. That is until 2nd October 2017.
Life had been going well, too well, maybe. I was loving my job, my children were doing well at school and were happy, we had a fabulous family holiday in Somerset, and I’d met a lovely new man, whom my girls got on with. Things were good, weekends were spent going to gigs with the band the new boyfriend was a member of or taking all our kids out together. We were having a great time, the kids all got along, which is always a bonus. Added to that we were planning a last-minute European Break later in October; it would be our first trip away as a couple. Although everything was going well, I still had a few worries and concerns, silly things that were small and seemingly insignificant alone. I felt a bit redundant, since my youngest daughter had left primary school and no longer needed me to drive her to school, as she was walking with her big sister; it was huge change for me after so many years of taking then to school. I was also a little concerned over money. I was self employed and, therefore, didn’t have a regular income, but I put those worries to the back of my mind and concentrated on the good things. Then the bombshell was dropped. The man I’d been seeing for six months, who’d given no indication that there were any problems, arrived on my doorstep on 2nd October 2017 and told me it was over. No reason, nothing. I remember almost blacking out from the shock, I simply hadn’t seen it coming and it knocked me for six.
Those little things I’d been trying to ignore, in case they pushed me over the edge, came back and with this new bigger thing, did just that, pushed me into the biggest, deepest, darkest hole. I cried, all the time, every day, for weeks, then months. I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t’ sleep. I couldn’t look after myself and I couldn’t look after my children. I didn’t want to live anymore, because it hurt too much and I could see I was hurting those around me. The CBT I’d had previously, was no match for the depths I’d reached. I hated myself. I felt unloved, unworthy, undeserving. I didn’t like me, so why would anyone else like me? I had let myself down and was failing those who relied on me. I could only see one way out. One way to end the pain and stop being a burden to my family.
Thankfully, I am a stubborn cow and don’t like giving up, so I searched online and found a fabulous charity called The Maytree Respite Centre. They provide a sanctuary in London for those with suicidal thoughts and feelings. In January 2018, I spent five days there. During that time, a lot of tea was consumed and many one to one sessions, talking and working through my muddled thoughts and feelings took place. I went into Maytree completely broken with no hope. I came out with new hopes and dreams, and the tools to be able to rebuild a new life. It wasn’t a smooth ride by any stretch of the imagination, but I was prepared. Recovery has taken a long time, but what I worked out for myself through those one to one sessions was this, I couldn’t get my old life back, but what I could get, was a new life, with the new me, the stronger me, the wiser me, and that is just what I have done. I have set up a small business (Hugs Online - Check out the blog) to help raise awareness of the issues faced by those living with mental illness. It’s only small, but I hope that we can make a profit so that I may give something back to the organisation which saved my life. I’ve also met a new man who really understands my struggles with my mental health, and who supports me well, and I am moving to a new home to start a brand-new life. It’s scary and exciting. Moving home is stressful and I must make sure I look after myself, so I practise a lot of self-care. I take my medication religiously, every morning and if I feel that things are getting too much, I take time out, whether that be reading a book, taking a walk, or even sleeping.
I wouldn’t wish mental illness on anyone, but it is part of who I am. It is not me, but it has helped to shape me. Each time I have an episode, I evolve. I become stronger, wiser, more compassionate, more determined. Crisis is a dreadful place to be. It is dark, scary and lonely. Recovery is a long slow process, but when you see how far you’ve come, you can be genuinely proud of yourself. And when you are well, practise self-care regularly, give yourself a pat on the back for all the little things you achieve on a day to day basis. Most importantly, if you feel things are becoming overwhelming, reach out to someone, whether that be a friend, colleague or your GP because you really are worth it.
Renata Leo's (Buffalo Sauce Everywhere) story:
Back when I was in the midst of a depressive episode, making plans was daunting and I usually made them hoping that they would just fall through and I could stay in the comfort of my own home. Leaving the house was always a crapshoot because sometimes I would be fine and others I would feel overwhelmed with the world around me immediately upon stepping out of the front door...while making plans is still daunting and I still don’t feel capable of actually keeping any plans because I might be exhausted, at the same time, when my plans fall through, I get all hopped up on adrenaline and I have no idea what to do with it.All hopped up and nowhere to go.
The hardest part is that I literally get myself prepared to do one specific thing. I feel exhausted at the thought of doing basically anything else, but the thought of sitting on the couch for hours and hours on end doesn’t appeal to me either.
To take it one step further, I am hopelessly indecisive. So even if I have a really good brain day and know that I can do a bunch of different things without wanting to play my best impression of a narcoleptic person and just fall asleep wherever I am, I just can’t decide what I want to do! And don’t even get me started on interacting with other humans! For me, during a depressive episode, I interact with people as little as possible because I find myself terribly boring. I don’t reach out to friends as often, and when they reach out to me, I end the conversation as quickly as possible so that they won’t realize how awful talking to me really is. Because their opinion of me from the past few months of depression will completely change after 10 years of friendship. Obviously. Due to this worry, when depressed, I also find awkward silences unbearable. It always feels as though the silences are my fault, and I’m always powerless to fix them. I become an overflowing wealth of stock phases. “Cool beans.” “That’s awesome.” “That sucks.” “I’m exhausted.” “Why is everyone looking at me funny when I look at the imaginary camera like Jim from The Office?”
The more I become my non-depressed self again, the more willing I am to reach out to people, to give my opinions on things, and yes, even to live through awkward silences. They just don’t seem nearly as daunting now. I think that the strangest part in all of this is: after being depressed for so long, I just thought that all of the traits that Depressed Renata had were the new me. Maybe I’m turning into an introvert. Maybe I’ll always hate leaving the house. Maybe I’ve become a more distant and boring person. People change, after all. Maybe I’ve just become a dull sad-sack!
But as I’ve come out of it more and more, I’ve realized that my personality isn’t gone, just buried under the heavy, all-consuming blanket of depression brain. Suffering through a depressive episode obviously isn’t ideal, and not being fully through it puts me in this weird state of limbo, but it’s validating to be coming out on the other side and realizing that the personality traits that I’ve had as long as I can remember are coming back, no matter how slowly. Of course, I can’t speak for anyone else. If you’re suffering from depression, I can’t tell you when it will end or if your personality traits are actually changing because of it. The one thing that I can say is that you’re still you. All you can do is keep being you. And that’s a pretty cool thing to be.
I think the most important thing to realise with all mental health issues, is that it doesn't matter what age you are, the job you do, how many figures are in your bank account, kids or no kids, mortgage or still living at home..we all struggle at times. You may struggle for months or years, but the recovery period, coming out of the other side and looking back is the most incredible feeling. To be able to say "I'm Okay" and actually mean it must be another feeling entirely. Understanding that there may be bumps in the road, but you'll figure your way around them with this new inspired, positive attitude you have.
Especially at this time, when we're all in lockdown, we're not seeing friends or family, not being able to go to work or to uni and life can become stressful, worrying about when it will return to normal. But maybe instead of waking up and stressing over catching up with the news and scrolling down your work group chat to see if there's any new updates why don't you sit with yourself for 5 minutes and start the day off great, think of 3 things you're grateful for this morning. It could be fresh bed sheets you put on yesterday, the sun that's beaming through your curtains or your dog whose come in for morning cuddles. It doesn't have to be anything big, it's the simple things that start the day off right.
Thank you to these lovely women for sharing their stories! We hope you are all keeping safe and healthy during this time.
Love Ab & Chlo x