Looking back, it’s hard to identify a specific trigger that caused the low mood and anxiety issues I now battle with, but I think it’s safe to say that it was probably the culmination of 5 or 6 turbulent years, both professionally and personally. Professionally, I was unhappy in my job and felt unsupported. There was a lot of bad feeling in the workplace and I had some difficult problems to face. I took the decision to leave this job and was offered a position in Germany. I left my family and friends and moved myself over to Germany and settled into my new job very quickly. I made new friends, which I had never found easy, loved my new job and had found the sense of purpose I had lost. I was genuinely happy for the first time in a few years. Within 6 months, however, I was relocated to Cyprus and had to do the whole settling in and making yet more friends all over again. The biggest blow came 2 weeks into my new job, when the news came that my mum had died as a result of the cancer she had been battling for the previous 10 years. The carpet had been pulled from under me. My security blanket, the one person in the world I felt I could confide in, the one person whose opinion really mattered, had gone. I returned to the UK to be with my family and help my dad deal with the aftermath. On reflection, I was on autopilot during this time – doing what needed to be done to get things sorted. After 2 weeks, my brother and dad went back to work, friends and family were getting back into routine, so I returned to Cyprus.
I threw myself into everything I could – I joined the netball team, the theatre club, the band, the gym…. I had a busy routine, without a minute to stop and think. This was deliberate – if I didn’t think, I could ignore the fact my mum had gone and pretend she was alive and well in the UK. I made myself busier and busier… instead of appearing in one play I took on two at the same time, I said yes to every social opportunity I was given. Eventually this took its toll. I was struggling at work, and had very little support from management. I knew something wasn’t right but I couldn’t put my finger on what the problem was…… perhaps I did know but was in denial?
Then I had an accident. In 2013, whilst on holiday with a friend in Wales, I slipped whilst hiking up Tryfan and broke my leg – badly. I had a very dramatic winch off the side of the mountain and emergency surgery. I had gone from being hugely active to being completely reliant on someone else to get me places and do things for me. I went from having no time to think, to doing nothing but dwelling on my thoughts and how ‘messed up’ my life had become. Sleepless nights, traumatic flashbacks and a constant feeling that bad things were going to happen now dominated my life and I realised I couldn’t go on like this. I saw my doctor and was referred for Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. I was offered medication but at the time did not want to take that route. The CBT was great. Whilst it didn’t deal with the underlying reasons for the way I was feeling, it gave me the tools I needed to help me recognise when I was entering into a negative thought cycle and how to break out of it. This was just what I needed at the time. I was able to face going back to work in Cyprus with a healthier mindset. On returning, I realised my previous lifestyle had been part of the problem and I made the decision to stop running away from my problems and handed in my notice, before moving back to the UK for good.
Now I’m back home and things are good. I have an amazing job that I love. I’m surrounded by fantastic friends who I know are there for me no matter what and my family are on the doorstep. I miss my mum every day and everyday it hurts that she’s not here. It’s been 4 years and it hasn’t got any easier…. Yet….. I still struggle with low mood and am still using the tools I learnt in my CBT. I still haven’t gone down the medication route as most days I feel I am in control of my moods, but I know it’s always there as an option. I don’t talk openly about my difficulties and hide the bad days as much as I can – There is still a huge stigma associated with depression in this area. I’ve heard the way some staff talk about depression and mental health in my workplace and have absolutely no intention of sharing my experiences with them. However, just writing this has helped and I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders. If my testimony can go some way to helping someone else then that helps me. Mental illness is just that, an illness…. It deserves the same respect as cancer, physical disability, or any other illness that isn’t immediately visible. Just because it can’t be seen, doesn’t mean it’s not there. Keep going……. We can get there.