With the new year fast approaching, while some of us might fondly recall on our personal highlights, I find myself looking back over the last 12 months in a state of disbelief. It’s funny how with hindsight, you are given the most perfect 20-20 vision, yet as you live through those moments as they are happening, you have little more than an inkling about the journey that lies ahead of you.
I had always read about people who’ve grappled with depression, anxiety, even suicidal thoughts, yet I was never able to understand it for I had never experienced it. Though we try our best to empathise, it’s only when you too find yourself staring down a dark tunnel, feeling alone and as though there is no way out, that you can truly understand the magnitude of such fears.
Amidst a period of change, moving from a secure, positive workplace to one that chipped away at my sense of contentment, I found myself unwell, unsure, living from one panic attack to the next and utterly terrified. Where had I gone? What happened to me? Why couldn’t I just be ok? Mounting stress that I refused to acknowledge eventually transformed into the most crippling anxiety and self doubt. Was I not strong enough to handle the hard times? Was I that weak? I never knew what it was like to feel completely betrayed, not by someone else, but by me.
I didn’t sleep for almost three months solid. With the anxiety, came endless tears and though I was not a depressed person by nature, I was then diagnosed as suffering from depression. Fantastic. All I wanted was to feel like me again, but I was nowhere to be seen. As often as I could get away with it, I quite literally hid under my duvet.
Despite what I may have felt at the time, and sometimes now too, I’m told I’m quite the fighter. Nothing scared me more than the prospect of a life spent under a black cloud, fearful of the future and fearful of my own vulnerability so I had to find a way out. There was no other option.
Unfortunately, there is no quick fix for an experience like this. There was no one pill that was going to make it all go away over night and by the time I had left the job, it was too late; I had no choice but to go through it. What I did find along the way, were countless people who understood, countless others who had been there before, and, most importantly, a select few who had lived to tell the tale.
Reading of Robin Williams’ heartbreaking passing, it frightened me senseless that someone so bright, so capable and so loved could find themselves at that point. Naturally enough, my next big fear was that I too could reach those unthinkable crossroads. If my life was to be lived only through the lens of fear, unable to experience the things I’d hoped I would and merely ‘getting through’, I wanted out. I couldn’t accept that this was how things were going to be. Up until that point I was a happy, fun loving, positive person. Again, I asked myself through unstoppable tears, where had I gone?
I’ve never been one to bottle things up and lucky for me, I felt compelled to vocalise my fears and my experience, surrounding myself with an unrelenting and ever present support network. It’s not that I wanted to tell the world about it, it’s that I craved reassurance. ‘This too shall pass’ was repeated to me almost daily by my mother with her unyielding positivity. ‘This isn’t everything you are’ reminded my boyfriend, recalling the lyrics of a Snow Patrol song. Though I could not see a time when I would feel like myself again, I battled through.
I sought the help of friends, counsellors, acupuncturists, healers, functional doctors, books – even hypnotherapists. I wasn’t going to be someone who let the fear win. I sure as hell felt the fear, but I was going to face it anyway. I meditated, I took up yoga, I did everything that was humanly possible to lift myself from the clutches of this possessive monster. But no road towards progress is ever straight forward. As I started to emerge from the darkness, I was met with a sense of elation that maybe, after all, I was going to be ok. So too was I met with a new fear: ‘What if I lose it all again? If it happened so easily the first time, what’s to stop me falling down the rabbit hole again?’ But those fears were normal, natural and all a part of my healing process.
Today, I’m ready to say goodbye to 2014 and welcome a new dawn. In a far better, far healthier working environment, I’ve placed myself on a new path. Though at times I had wished my life away, I have no regrets. I’m still standing. I continue to do what I need to do to heal myself, confident that while it may take some time for this experience to feel like a distant memory, I WILL get there. This experience was meant for me, I was meant to go through it, I was meant to learn from it, and arriving at that point of acceptance towards what is has been hugely significant. Trying to run away from your problems won’t work.
Today, I have won. Fear has lost. I’ve survived what for me felt like the impossible. And sure, life may continue to throw such situations at me, but I know now that I can handle it. Though dark moments may come, they won’t rob me entirely of life’s pleasures.
For anyone reading or relating to this post, my aim is not to pull on the strings of my now jaded violin. My aim is to suggest to others that it’s true; what does not kill you really does make you stronger. No matter how bleak your current experience may feel, it doesn’t have to be your future. There is always, always, always, always help at hand, should you find the courage that never leaves you to just ask.
And whatever happens, always allow your faith to be bigger than your fear.
As for 2015? Bring it on.
My helpers at various stages: