For many of us, mental health slips off the radar. It’s the last thing on the list of things to do. Move it up the list. Please. I am sharing this to help you see what happens if you don't prioritise your mental health.
(But also - as @mattzhaig suggests - let’s look at what’s really going on. Capitalism is killing us.)
I’ve had anxiety and depression for quite a long time now. I think my first panic attack was during my art A level exams when the computer I was digitally manipulating an image I’d printed on froze and I thought that I’d lost the entire thing. I thought I was having a heart attack. I couldn’t breathe, move, scream. I’d stayed in at lunch to focus, so no one was around. Rather scary. Somehow it passed and I forgot all about it.
It reared it’s ugly head again, this time in 2013 when I started having panic attacks, feeling low and crying all the time. I always managed my anxiety and kept myself balanced with exercise - hockey and netball at school, rugby at uni, and then running after I’d had Eoin. It seemed to do the trick.
But at some point, the running stopped keeping it all at bay. Despite running 20-40 miles a week from 2016-2018, eating healthily, meditating, having a supportive husband...I found that I couldn’t cope. My anxiety was unmanageable. I started therapy alongside trying citalopram. I felt ashamed. I shouldn’t have. (I don’t now.) I thought I was doing ok so I stopped taking it in early 2019.
Last year, I became suicidal. I found myself in an incredibly dark place where I’d never been before. I didn’t feel anything. My kids weren’t making me laugh, my concentration and self esteem were awful and I knew I wasn’t well.
I didn’t know how to tell James that I was thinking about killing my self. Things were - on paper - good. Loving family, roof over my head, superb sex life, great job, thriving political career...
This is a photo of me trying to pretend I was ok. Not knowing who to tell that I was thinking about driving into a tree every time I got in the car. Not sure how to explain that I thought everyone would be better off without me. I was avoiding driving. I was avoiding being alone but also knew how miserable I was to be around.
The morning after this, I took my phone out and left a voice message for my friend. She was a local friend who had disclosed to me similar feelings a while before and she saved my life by supporting me. I knew she would get it. That feeling of utter hopelessness.
Since then, I go to yoga, and meditate, I don’t drink caffeine after 4pm, I try to rest, I keep a gratitude journal...but most importantly: I take my medication (well, I am still a bit rubbish, but getting better at remembering...) and I talk about the shit that matters. I don’t pretend I’m okay. If I'm struggling I reach out.
I know those things don't always work. And I also know that I'm in a position of privilege where I can access support and have people around me daily who can look after me.
But what I am trying to say is DON'T GIVE UP.
You are magical and I care about you.
Even when you don't care about yourself (believe me when I say I know EXACTLY what that feels like) I will be here to listen if you need me.
It's okay not to be okay. Please reach out. We will listen. ✨💕