I’d like to share a little of my journey with you, where towards the end of last year I found myself in a deep, dark hole. I knew I was sliding but woke up each day thinking it will soon subside. I was wrong, very wrong.
During a telephone call with one of my managers I could feel it rising, all of a sudden I blew, it was too much, I put the phone down. Without a second thought I contacted the doctor and they called me back within 15 minutes or so. A few answered questions later saw me signed off for two weeks with medication. This was only the start of the road back up again.
I ended up being unfit for work for four months; totally unheard of for me as I rarely had a day off sick in 16 years. The guilt I felt for leaving my families and colleagues in the lurch, for being totally uninterested in anything going on at home, for ignoring the simplest household chores. It was as though the volcano had erupted and took all my strength with it. I just sat or slept for the best part of the first few days; my system was exhausted.
I had been here once before, I knew the signs but chose to ignore them because, I told myself, ‘It will be better next week.’ Last time was different, grief brought me here before.
As the days went on, the energy didn’t increase but I forced myself into a routine. I still got up early, washed, dressed, hoovered, washed up, put the washing on, and then sometimes I would just sit or keep my daughter-in-law company while she worked (has her own business), make coffee and just chat.
I wanted to be motivated, I wanted pick myself back up, brush myself off and get back on track but it just wasn’t going to happen without help. Each fortnight I would get a call early on a Wednesday morning from the nurse from the GP’s surgery. She would just check in with me, ask how I was feeling and encourage me to try a talking therapy. I filled in the referral form and pressed send, still wondering if it would work but willing to give it a try, it couldn’t do any harm could it? It would either work or it wouldn’t.
In a matter of a few days I received an email inviting me to an online assessment appointment and from there, I never looked back. I had opted for online therapy, literally just typing back and forth to each other, I wasn’t sure I could have managed anything face to face. It was the best thing I did, I looked forward to it and it became an extremely beneficial and reflective exercise. While I was waiting for the reply to come back from my therapist I would read through what I had just sent, that was an eye opener! I was reading things I had not realised I thought or felt but it came from me, without thinking about it, without needing to dig deep.
This was my turning point, as the medication began to kick in and do its job, the talking therapy unearthing and unravelling the ‘why’; it became clear I needed to change, me, my lifestyle, my job. Where to begin?
Start with what I know, I needed to find something to calm my racing mind and the physical anxiety that I still felt daily for no reason. I looked at a variety of apps for my phone, I definitely could not attend face to face or virtual classes. In the end, I downloaded a couple of meditation apps and set about giving myself at least half an hour each morning to ‘try.’ I say try because years ago I attempted this before and failed miserably, I just could not get into it at all. However, this time it became my saviour, I felt good afterwards, positivity and motivation slowly returning each day. I would still sit and do nothing, stare at the tv screen not particularly watching anything, wander around the house like I was lost and probably aggravate my daughter-in-law no end by just continuing to sit and watch what she was doing (not that she would have told me) but I was rising.
Eventually, I felt more able to pick up a book and read which I love to do but had completely lost interest, do a couple of online courses I had sitting there and slowly but surely I knew I was getting stronger.
The only thing missing was something physical, what could I do, what did I want to do? I found by chance a lady on one of my social media sites who was advertising free online Qui Gong taster sessions, in for a penny I thought so I signed up to a Wednesday morning session. Session one completed and I felt fantastic, that was it, hooked and so grateful to have found such a supportive group.
Self-care, this was a revelation to me. I always told others to rest, relax, look after themselves but did I heed my own advice, of course I didn’t, until now. Now I take it seriously, now I wholeheartedly know the benefit for mind, body and soul.
The final piece of the puzzle was tackling the area that I feel was my trigger, work. I love my work, what I do is my passion but I had lost something. During lockdown I had been tupeed over to a different employer, working from home right through from March to September, something just didn’t feel right anymore. I gave in my notice, and instantly felt the weight and anxiety lift and here I am.
Of course I’m still taking my medication and now I have a fantastic new job still supporting families. The difference is I am now a better version of me.
Tara Copard is a mental health advocate.
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