A braver me

For the first time in quite awhile I actually feel good. I guess I could say happy even. I feel that almost all aspects of my life, including my family, work, health etc are in balance and I don’t have any current major worries.

This hasn’t always been the case and mostly it is my mental health that is out of kilter. I am a sufferer of depression and have been on anti-depressants most of my adult life. I have never felt so bad that I have wanted to take my own life or have been hospitalized but it is a constant in my life. Until the last couple of years I was ashamed to admit it and I felt I could tell only my closest friends and family. Even though I knew mental illness is just like physical illness and is nothing to be to be ashamed of, I was. Matching what my head knows with its distorted thoughts has always been a problem for me.

Why has this changed? Why can I now freely write about it knowing new friends and old may read this, as well as total strangers. I am not entirely sure.

Making new friends online, thanks mainly to Twitter and the incredible sharing and kindness of the information profession, has made me more aware how common mental illness is. The supportive nature of my personal learning network (PLN) of info peeps has made me feel more comfortable to reach out and share my experiences.

Finding a really good counsellor who I felt I could truly open up to also helped as well. I had seen other mental health professionals before but I never really clicked with them as I did with Antonia. For some reason she was able to make me see how I am and why I do things that no other psychiatrist or psychologist had. It is because of this that I have started the journey to find out who I am.

But most of all I think I have changed. Not so radically that I am not the same person I was before. But in more subtle but beneficial ways. I am not so hard on myself. I listen to my body, both physically and mentally. If I need to nap on the weekend I do (thanks Mr A for your support with this one). If I need quiet time away from people I make sure I get it. I used to have to regularly take mental health days at work (and even high school) when I couldn’t face the world. I haven’t had to for awhile now. But now I know the signs my body is telling me so I am better at looking after myself before I get to the having to lock myself away from the world stage. Sometimes this is just taking myself off to have lunch by myself at a place I know I will be less likely to run into people I know.

I am also more brave. I have always been one to try new things (in a former workplace I was the only female to go paintballing just because I wanted to try it) but now doing these don’t seem as hard. I still struggle sometimes with small talk and faking it til you make it is a constant. But the negative internal chat before I do something is not as bad. I also don’t have to prepare as much mentally before hand. I used to have to know everything about a situation before I went anywhere e.g. if I was going to a party, who would be there; if I was going away what I would likely be doing so that I could plan at least 2 or 3 outfits for all weather contingencies. But now I don’t have to do this. When I first realised this it kind of freaked me out, but knowing that I can go with the flow is very liberating.

Finally, having Miss A has helped. Knowing that I am responsible for another human being and being their advocate until they grow up has helped me put myself out there. Babies and children are a great ice breaker. They can be a source of unwanted attention and advice, but they do help to build connections. Since having Miss A, I am now friendlier with the staff at my local chemist, and a women who works at the nearby RSL. I regularly find myself talking to strangers at the shops, or parks as Miss A has gone up to them and joined in with what they are doing. Sitting down on a picnic rug of complete strangers in the park to talk because Miss A has sat down is still a weird experience for me but not as uncomfortable as it previously would have been.

So for 2014, the braver me will continue to grow and flourish and hopefully I will continue on this path of happiness.




5 thoughts on “A braver me

  1. Lisa

    I love how babies/kids help build connections – mothers group being most significant for me. I’ve had stages in years gone by where I’ve really felt like I needed to be brave, or bold or push my limits or whatever (not because *of* something but rather an inner feeling to *be* brave, shake things up I guess …was just thinking I haven’t felt that for a while, then it dawned on me I’d better get ready coz with Thomas starting school and meeting all new friends I will need to get out there and meet a whole new bunch of mums to help cozy up his new friendships. Be brave? And suffer the small talk!

  2. Ravs

    I’ve been lucky, for some reason I was able to be open about having post-natal anxiety and taking medication for it right from the start, maybe because I was an older Mum. Actually I wonder if it can still be called ‘post-natal’ given that #2 is almost 7yo now! I wasn’t able to be as open about the anxiety when I was younger, at high school and Uni (so really I’ve always had anxiety issues, they just escalated when #1 was born). Like you I have never felt suicidal (perhaps anxiety doesn’t tend to result in that as depression does), but I did ask to be hospitalised and sedated once – when the panic attacks were too severe – in the end only mild sedation was necessary.
    Getting older has been very freeing for me. 40 was probably a turning point. I was never really fashionable, or into make-up, but now I feel much more able to wear whatever I want, and can go to a party with no make-up on at all (’cause it makes my skin feel grotty) and not feel in the least bit self-conscious.
    I still like to be organised, but like you I don’t ‘overpack’ as much as I used to. Having children helped me learn what is essential and what is not, and I learnt to have things organised so when an activity was suggested we could just about ‘grab it and go’, being spontaneous without the stress.
    Well done. Enjoy the journey.

  3. Michelle

    Well done Rachel and thanks for being so transparent. I have family members and friends with similar issues, so I understand as far as I can from the outside.