Depression (CW depression, suicidal ideation, self injury)
Those who have known me a while know that I’ve experienced depression on and off for many years. Thankfully, I no longer have that particular burden to carry around, but it is not something I’m going to hide because it’s a part of me and who I am.
Now for me, most of mine was related to stuff that happened to me when I was a pre-teen/teenager, and which I had absolutely zero skills to handle. Some of it was way beyond what anyone should have to deal with, some of it more like the sort of stuff that most teens experience on one level or another. But all of it together meant that I had no way of figuring out how to move forward and grow the way most people do.
I essentially became stuck in the mind of my approximately 14 year old self. I thought life was pretty horrible, people were scary, and I didn’t always want to live. I spent quite a few years convinced that yes, there was a Hell, and we were already living in it…it wasn’t something we were likely to end up in if we didn’t behave.
I hurt a lot, and for a long, long time. But I was really motivated most of the time to get better. I didn’t LIKE feeling like that, I just didn’t know how not to. So I tried all the things. I tried to “fit in” to make friends, because surely that would work? I tried religion, because I could see the community and desperately wanted that. I tried to be really good at school because at least when I got “As” I felt good. I tried talking to my doctor, to therapists, to counsellors. I tried antidepressants, sleeping tablets, anti-anxiety medication. None of it truly helped me to figure out how to live a life that I enjoyed and wanted to be in. Sure, the meds were good for making sure I wasn’t actually suicidal, but that’s about all they did. They did help me WHILE I figured out what was going on though, and I never tell anyone they need to come off the meds when they’re helping.
It was frustrating. I really didn’t want to feel the way I did, but no one seemed to have the answers for how to feel any other way! I bought self help books, although I didn’t always read them (surely just owning them OUGHT to help? 😉 ). I remember reading Paul McKenna’s book and listening to the CD. I think it was the Confidence one. For me, it did absolutely nothing for my confidence, but it DID help me sleep really well for the first time in weeks, so there was actually some benefit, even if it wasn’t why I’d bought it!
I still remember waking up in the morning with a constant feeling that there had to be more to life than this. I’d go to work—and I actually did enjoy work, but I couldn’t break out of the hold that my negativity had on me. It was all very hard, and it just all felt like it shouldn’t be. Everyone else seemed to have their lives together and enjoy!
For me, some of this led to a social phobia that meant that I struggled to go out and meet new people, or spend time in clubs and bars like my compatriots. I had a really hard time making friends, because somewhere along the way, I seemed to be missing one of the instruction manuals on how to actually be around people. It felt like everyone else knew something I didn’t, and I was desperate to find my way. I was lonely, but too scared of people to manage much in the way of doing something about it. I joined online communities because at least there, if it all got too much, I could just click on the big “X” in the corner, and blame the internet if anyone asked why I disappeared. It was the late 90s, so the internet was unstable and if anyone called the house, the internet switched off. It was a valid excuse, that I could use whenever I felt uncomfortable.
This method did help, and slowly I actually made friends in a particular chatroom (some of whom are still friends today). But I still found it hard to handle anything more than 1-1 interactions, and although I kept trying, I never did really get the hang of the group meetups.
At that point, I didn’t realise that my biggest problem was a lack of self esteem. I didn’t just not love myself…I didn’t actually like myself at all, and much of the time, I hated myself. With that behind me, it’s no wonder I couldn’t figure out so many of the other things. I didn’t value my own needs, my own wants. I didn’t understand how looking after me was vital for being able to interact with the world. I couldn’t figure it all out.
I still remember sitting in the office of one of the counsellors I went to. I’d told her the previous week that I was self injuring and she clearly had zero idea how to handle that information. She told me if I didn’t stop that immediately, she’d have to section me. That wasn’t a helpful response, even if I do get that I probably scared her. But honestly, we’d been talking about my depression for weeks, it shouldn’t have been that huge a surprise. So I sat there, and told her that yes, I was handling it, I was doing much better. Inside my head, I was screaming “why am I paying you if I can’t even be honest with you??”
But my mouth kept saying the words. Appeasing. Somehow, even though she was the professional and supposed to be helping me, her discomfort was more important than mine.
I can still find myself appeasing people in some situations. I don’t always handle conflict well, for example. But I am a work in progress, and I’m NEVER going to sit there and tell a counsellor–that I’m giving good money to, anything other than the best truth that I’m able to admit to myself at any given time.
And so, I kept trying to figure it all out. Mostly alone. I retreated into books (sci-fi/fantasy mostly as it really was proper escape) and to the horses (the one place I’ve always felt safe and sane).
Desperately trying to figure out how to be happier in life, I signed up for a particular MLM. Now, if you’re social phobic and don’t talk to people, doing an MLM is probably not your best bet. I tried very hard to sell things to people without talking to them. I didn’t do very well, unsurprisingly! But one of the things that this company really did excel at was training. And so, having essentially decided that I wasn’t going to continue, I ended up accidentally going to one last training.
I have no idea what else was said in that training. I don’t remember who else was there. But Richard Wilkins did one of his talks, and I SWEAR he was talking straight to me. He might not have known it either yet at that stage!
I bought all his books that day. I signed up for the course that he and his partner Liz Ivory ran back then, called Beyond Words. I went on that. I started being coached by Liz.
I still remember the day I told her about my tendency to self injure. I hadn’t been seeing her for very long, but I was beginning to feel safer. Now keeping in mind my experience with my previous counsellor, I was VERY nervous. I wasn’t sure I could handle that sort of rejection again.
She looked me right in the eyes (a challenge then, I don’t do eye contact all that well) and said “well of course you do…I knew you had SOME crappy coping mechanisms, it was just a question of which one!”
The relief was palpable. We talked it all through, and she reminded me that so far, I had a 100% success rate for surviving. Yeah, crappy coping mechanisms might not be the best idea in the world, but it kept me on the planet. In that sense, it was significantly better than the alternative. I was deeply shaken by this. I’d been taught to hide it, to be ashamed of it, that I had to stop NOW. I spent so much time beating myself up over it that it made it even harder to care enough about myself to stop.
About three months after telling her, I realised I’d kind of accidentally stopped. When I was accepted truly for who I was, I didn’t need to hurt myself anymore. I simply stopped thinking about it. I can’t give an exact date for stopping, because I didn’t actively stop. I just never bothered going there anymore.
About a month after that, I stopped considering myself depressed. Sure, I sometimes had bad days—who didn’t! But I had good days too. I might not LOVE myself yet, but mostly, I didn’t hate myself. And as time went on, I had moments…to start with, incredibly brief glimpses, but moments, when I was able to love myself for who I was.
“Regardless of what I do, I totally and completely love and accept myself exactly as I am right now” was the most powerful mantra I’d ever come across. It took a few months, but I was determined, and eventually I actually believed it when I said it.
About a year in, Liz and Richard developed Broadband Consciousness, and I already knew how amazing it would be so I was the first person to ever sign up for it! 5 days with them, learning about the Script and making choices, and how it’s okay to not be okay, and many more things. The most magical 5 days of my life.
These days, I live on my amazing horse farm in Nottinghamshire. I run a small livery yard (that’s where people pay me to keep their horses on my land), where I have to deal with people literally every day. I handle conflicts and setting rules and making sure folks behave appropriately daily…and mostly pretty successfully. I’m a mindset coach when I’m not chasing horses around, helping sensitive women who are feeling any of the things I used to feel to find their real “me” and to like—or even love, themselves. I have several spaces where I’m accepted for EXACTLY who I am, and a bunch of friends. I have a partner who loves me very dearly. 1 ½ horses (I share one with my partner), 2 dogs. I spend my days mostly laughing, enjoying all the amazing things in my life, handling the challenges that everyone gets, and grateful for every wonderful thing!
“Because if you don’t even believe in the possibility of magic you will never find it.” Richard Castle
“Real change is when you see the same old things differently.” Richard Wilkins