This year, I am making the most of life. I'm taking acting classes next month and exploring the love of drama and theater I've always had. I'm taking a three week vacation trekking across the east coast of the US, some of which will be spent travelling alone - a first for me. I'm about to start working on a national media campaign in conjunction with ReachOut.com to promote mental health awareness. I'm learning to say no. I am focusing on being happy - not on what rung of the corporate ladder I currently reside on or trying to fix the problems of all those around me.
So, this blog is going to document my journey; the good bits, ugly bits and hopefully funny bits in between. I will also be publishing some short stories from a collection I'm putting together, so look out for that and all feedback is welcome.
An article I wrote for Reach Out at the beginning of January giving an insight into my new beginning:
On New Years Eve I sat in my bedroom, alone, with the faint sounds of revelers in my local pub tinkling in my ears. I was in this alone out of choice, not necessity. I had refused invitations from friends and family to various events to see out 2013. But I had no desire to celebrate what had been the most difficult year of my life.
I am not a person unaccustomed to hardship - but 2013 really bruised me. Demons, old and new, haunted each month as a new disaster or calamity occurred. I spent most of the year feeling as if I was choking - my problems had a death grip on me and I was gasping for air.
It is in my nature to be positive. I'm a person who tries to see the bright side of things, who believes that the past can only haunt your present if you allow it. But last year, my solid foundation wobbled. I tried to pretend it wasn't. I thought, irrationally, that if I ignored my problems, they would go away. They didn't.
By September, the month I turned 23, I was tapped out. My reserves were empty and I was physically and mentally exhausted. The inner turmoil I had experienced most of the year now spilled over into my life, effecting my job, my family and my relationships with my friends. I was a frazzled mess, unable to cope with day-to-day life and my thoughts became dark. I thought about how tired I was, in every way possible. I thought about how I just wanted to give up - to stop this endless, draining charade of pretending I was fine and happy. I wanted to sleep, indefinitely. I had lost the most precious thing I ever possessed - my love of life.
I hadn't hit rock bottom, I had jumped off the cliff with a desire to meet the ground below. In the aftermath of a reckless decision, I questioned how I had got here. I looked at old photographs and cried as I wondered where that bright, bubbly, happy young woman with the world at her feet had gone. Because as far as I was concerned in my mind, she didn't live here anymore.
I wanted to just snap myself out of it. I don't know how many times I told myself to "get up and get on with things". But I couldn't. I was suffering from a depression that had consumed my being. It scared me. I felt like I wasn't in control of my own mind and my own emotions. How on earth was I meant to get out of this hole?
Help. The word I needed to say aloud and the word that would pull me back into my light. For the first time, I spoke frankly to my family, friends and GP about how I was really feeling. Not the polite, light reply you give when a co-worker asks "How are you doing?" and not with self-deprecating humour the way I usually dodged questions. I honestly told them how I was feeling - and they understood. They truly, genuinely, understood and wanted to help.
Don't get me wrong, my loved ones are amazing, but when you're not doing okay, there is always a bit of fear as to how your nearest and dearest will react. I'm not going to tell you to not be afraid, I'm saying to feel the fear and do it anyway. Because in this battle, you cannot fight alone and to gain control of the things that are hurting you, you need support.
Piece by piece, I began to build "Vicky" back up again. I spoke to my supervisor at work and explained what had really been going on with me and why my work had suffered. The support and understanding I received was incredible and I was able to take some time off to let my mind and body rest. I started visiting my GP once a week to have a chat with him about the medication I was now on and how I was doing. Slowly but surely, I began to return to life. I not only spoke with friends regularly now, I met them for coffee, cooked them dinner, had adventures.
I told my dear friend and fellow ReachOut.com colleague Nigel what was going on with me and got amazing support from him. By taking my recovery day by day, I began to conquer the darkness. When I was having a bad day, I spoke with somebody about it and rationalized my feelings. I could now see that a bad day was just that, a bad day. It did not define me or my life. As I shifted my perspective on this, I began to have more good days than bad. The enjoyment I once had for hobbies and activities returned to me. For the first time in a long time, I felt like me again.
While I did not feel like celebrating on New Year's Eve, I woke up on the first day of 2014 and felt strong. I had survived my year from hell. I had faced extremely painful experiences and come out the other side. A little bit bruised, a lot more wiser, but still me. My hope, my idealism, my passion... I still had it all. I'd had it all along. My depression had clouded it, temporarily. But it had not stolen it from me permanently.
I am filled with so much hope and excitement for this year. I'm changing careers, I taking the time to travel, I'm working on projects that are very dear to my heart, I'm enjoying quality time with my friends and family. I am living again and I want you to know that no matter how doomed your situation seems, it isn't. It never is. There is always a solution, there is always help. There is always so much more good to come in your life - don't throw that chance away. It sounds corny, but life is a gift. Yes it's unpredictable and messy but that's part of what makes it so amazing; you don't know what wonderful things you could experience in 6 months time. I got to the point where I questioned this. I never want to go back there again. So, chin up, heart strong, spirit brave. Here's to the future; there's so much of it to live.