I am a naturally positive person, and I have depression.
It feels like an inherited curse that I tried so hard to run from. You see, depression runs in my family, so over the years I've become very aware and vigilant with my own mental health. I've known that I need to 'keep an eye on it' and take a proactive and preventative approach. Meditation, self-care, journaling, movement, fresh air, getting enough sleep, managing my stress - I did all the right things. And I still struggled.
I've spent years avoiding the signs and trudging through the depressive episodes with toxic positivity. Being hard on myself and being my own biggest barrier from receiving support. I exhausted myself trying to fight the tide and refused to ask for help from Dr's because of my own stigma. It felt like I was swimming against the current but rather than sabotage I naively saw it as grit and resilience.
I have my challenges and experience difficult situations and emotions just like everyone else does but my life is pretty amazing. I have a loving husband, my friends and family are all awesome, I have a career I am obsessed with, we just bought our first house and recently got a puppy too. This it not to boast but to say I SHOULD BE HAPPY. Shouldn't I? Whatever stage of my life I was at I kept saying that to myself 'I should be happy. I should be happy!'. But I wasn't. I was depressed and struggling to get out of bed. Struggling to work or cook. I didn't want to be around people and isolated myself even more (if that's even possible for an introvert during a pandemic!) Weeks went by where I just felt like I was waking up for nothing and then just waiting around for the day to end so I could go back to the comfort and unconsciousness of sleep again.
I think when people think of depression they think of uncontrollable sadness. Crying constantly, overly emotional, just really, really sad. But that's not what my experience is with my latest episode. With my depression I feel complete apathy. Nothingness. A numbness that no joy could ever fill. And all the things that used to make me happy or excited for life just didn't anymore. I didn't feel happy but I didn't feel sad. I just felt empty. Like a black hole had sucked all human emotion from me and even smiling was a chore.
I've made it through every depressive episode since I was 19 (and there were many) so I didn't want to give in to meds. I put it off and resisted for months. It's not that I thought that medication was a bad thing as such. I just thought I didn't need it because my depression wasn't 'bad enough'. Which is ridiculous and completely gatekeeping myself from getting help. Hello self stigma!
My job is to coach women and empower them to make decisions that support their confidence, happiness and mental health. So needless to say, I would NEVER dream of telling a client to not get help for their depression. In fact the opposite is true. I have always been a huge advocate for women to look after themselves in every single way, especially their mental health. So whether that looks like therapy, setting boundaries or anti-depressants, I would always support them fiercely and encourage them to do whatever it takes to feel better. But it was a different story when it came to myself.
'I should have my shit together'.
'I'm a coach, how can I be depressed?'
'I need to just shake this off '.
'I have no reason to feel like this!'
So not only was I dealing with this crippling depression that left me struggling to get out of bed and not wanting to shower but I was also battling this internalised stigma and a little imposter syndrome too. 'Who am I to preach to women to look after their mental health when I can't even look after my own?!' I wasn't kind to myself and it was a horrible feeling (plus made me feel even worse because it added a layer of shame too. You know, just in case the depression wasn't enough).
Before I thought that saying yes to anti-depressants meant I was giving in or too weak to 'heal on my own' but what I've realised now is that mindset was actually getting in the way of my healing. Sometimes the strongest and bravest thing you can do is reach out for help and try something new. Even if that means anti-depressants.
So after a lot of encouragement from my husband, sister, Mum and a few close friends, I made an appointment with my GP to tell them how I'd been feeling. After a good chat with them they suggested that I try Sertraline.
I was nervous to try them because of the potential side effects and also up until recently when I was diagnosed with the chronic pain syndrome, fibromyalgia, I'd been kind of against medication of any kind. Again not for anyone else, just for myself it's not what I wanted (I'm now realising this was a lifetime of conditioning from dancing and society that tells us we are weak if we take medicine). But all that aside I was also worried that an anti-depressant would make me 'lose my spark' but in reality I had already lost that. So I thought, what have I got to lose?
Today is Friday 16th April and I have been taking Sertraline for 17 days now and after some interesting side effects in the first few days (hello night sweats and nausea) I'm actually starting to feel like myself again.
I am so grateful for the people around me that cared about me enough to encourage me to get help which ultimately led to me feeling so much better. I'm sure there will be days where I still struggle and lack motivation to do anything but I feel a hell of a lot better for taking this step and I actually feel empowered by making this choice. I'm still working through some feelings about being on medication and who knows maybe I won't be on them forever but for right now it absolutely feels like the best option for me and my mental health.
The reason I'm sharing this is not for sympathy but to hopefully get the message out that if you can just push past your own self stigma and stop getting in your own way, it will get better. There are options. There is help available and most importantly, you deserve that help and asking for it doesn't make you weak. It makes you incredibly brave and it's surprisingly liberating. It was one of the hardest things I've done but I am so proud that I did.
This is just the start of my journey with Sertraline but I am not ashamed to say I have depression and I am not ashamed to say I take meds for it. If I had diabetes and was taking insulin for it no one (including myself) would bat an eyelid. Because when it comes to our physical health we have a lot more acceptance and understanding that medications are often a very important part of treatment and recovery. So why is it such a different story when it comes to our mental health?
Let's stop the stigma by challenging our own beliefs around mental health and medication.
I would love to open up this conversation so if you feel comfortable, leave a comment below or reach out to me on Instagram. Thank you so much for taking the time to read this blog post, I know it's a very different vibe to my usual work. If you found this helpful then please feel free to forward to a friend if you think it could help them too.
Lots of love,
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