Mental Health Awareness Month
Did you know that May is Mental Health Awareness Month? I must admit, I didn’t! But it started in 1949 in the US, and I thought to share a few things with you here today. I am pretty private about my life regarding these topics, but three years ago, I had the worse depression in my life. I couldn’t get out of bed, cried all day long, considered suicide and had to take medication. As medication wasn’t something I wanted to use, I did everything in my power to get better and restore my mental health. I won’t go into too many details about the things that happened in my life, but it’s safe to say it’s been a rollercoaster at times. Feel free to share this post with someone that could need a hand!
Disclaimer: I’m not a therapist or a specialist in depression and mental health, nor will my advice be a cure for you. My goal is to help people with tips and tricks that might work for them. If you need professional help, please reach out to your GP or health care specialist.
How it all started
Looking back, I had my first depression in 2008, if not earlier. I felt weird, something was off, and I didn’t have a lot of energy. I tried to escape to sunny destinations (I worked as a flight attendant) and partied my way through it (I was young!). After a while, I felt better again. Until 2012! I was diagnosed for the first time with clinical depression. I thought I was just very unhappy in my job (which I was!), but there was so much more to it. My GP advised I would take medication and start therapy. I started with treatment, but I refused medicines at this point. But I knew my mental health was fragile.
My first therapy sessions
I learned SO much from therapy! And I realised this is something everyone should do at some point in their lives. My therapist was amazing, and I had weekly sessions for about 4-5 months. I changed a lot of factors in my life. So much so, I broke off a relationship, I moved house and got a new job! I also started reading books about depression, mental health and wellbeing. One of the first books I read was The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. After a few months, I felt like I was back on track, and life continued as usual.
2017. A year I would like to forget. Looking back, however, this was a lesson that made me the way I am now. So I embrace 2017 now! As this wasn’t the first time I felt gloomy, I thought I knew how to cope. But boy, was I wrong. Slowly I ended up severely depressed. I couldn’t get out of bed and used to wake up crying. Sobbing is a better word, I guess. It would take me around three hours in the morning to get ready before going to work. The smallest things would throw me off, and it only got worse. After six months, I finally went to my GP, when it was nearly too late. I was put on medication straight away, and I went on the hunt again for a therapist.
Throughout the years, I’ve noticed how hard it can be to get the right help! There is still a significant stigma around depression and mental health, although I believe people are slowly more open about it. When I lived in Ireland, I was lucky. The first therapists I met was excellent, and the road to recovery was pretty straight forward. In 2017 I lived in Germany, and although I speak German, I instead prefer to communicate in English as this is so much easier for me.
It was extremely tough to convince the health care provider to offer and pay for therapy in English… It delayed the process by about 2-3 months at a time where time was very precious! I was offered support in German, and I tried, but it failed. In the end, I found a great therapist who spoke English. But I paid for this privately. I see it now as a good investment. But every setback was one too much, and dealing with the bureaucracy didn’t help!
Taking matters into my own hands
I wanted to get better! I didn’t recognise myself anymore. And the girl that always has a smile on her face was in bed crying all day long. The medication started slowly to do its thing. But I wanted to take matters into my own hands. The first thing I did, I joined a gym! I’m not the sporty type AT ALL! But I realised I needed endorphins. It was good for my mood as I had a feeling of achievement and accomplishment. But it also had a lot of positive side effects. Nowadays, you won’t find me in the gym anymore; it’s still not my place. But I try to practice yoga daily. And with the help of beautiful yoga mats from Yoga Hero, it’s even easier!
Adding positive side-affects
I stopped drinking alcohol altogether! Alcohol is one of the biggest depressants, and I wanted it out of my body. And as I went more often to the gym and the pub-crawls were gone, I also stopped smoking! I lost some friends along the way as I was now classed as “boring”, but I didn’t care. People that don’t look after you are NOT your friends. So I was happy they left me alone. And instead of partying my way through this depression, I had grown up and taken control of the situation.
Meditation and finding myself
I was also curious about finding the real reasons for my depression and finding the core problems. I knew my depression was due to particular circumstances. And I realised if I eliminate those circumstances, I will get better, and I can recognise them better in the future. Apart from therapy, I read a book that helped me a lot with this. The book is called Reinventing Your Life by Jeffrey E. Young and Janet S. Klosko. I needed clarity about why this kept happening, and I found my answers with this book’s help. I also started meditating daily. At first 2-3 times a day, and I still do this every single day now. I use the Calm app, which is a great and easy way to get started. In 2020 I found the amazing Sah D’Simone. He’s become my spiritual leader in many ways, and I love his meditations, the Sah Method and his book, Spiritually Sassy: 8 Radical Steps to Activate Your Innate Superpowers!
Another way to help me cope was by adding creative projects to my life. This could be going on a photography walk, knitting a sweater or make a macrame masterpiece. I started to paint (badly!) and go on walks in nature. Also, I did whatever I could find to make me feel better. What helped as well, I started to be grateful for what I have. When I wake up every morning, this is one of the first things I do. Write down what I’m grateful for. I use an App called, The Five Minute Journal, but you can also just write it down in your journal.
Speaking of journaling…
I’m not someone that writes a journal a lot. I’m more like a to-do list kinda girl. But I did two things that helped me a lot. I wrote down all my thoughts in a cute notebook throughout the day for months. This way, I could spot specific patterns. And I created a weekly calendar with a traffic light system. Every hour I would write down what I was doing and whether I felt happy (green), so-so (orange) or terrible (red). This was another way to spot patterns. I then tried to eliminate the red completely, the orange as much as possible and do more of the green activities. And my mental health thanked me for it!
The road to recovery
Somewhere deep inside, I had a fire BURNING! I wanted to be happy, and I wanted to live! It took me about two years to feel ok again. I was on medication for about eight months before I slowly stopped. When the worst was over, I kept doing a lot of things that helped me so much! I also added a few things like a healthy routine and yoga. Try to add some healthy habits to your life this month. Look out for a friend that needs your help! These are not easy times for many of us. And when I travel, my routines are not much different. Check out how I try to stay healthy and fit when I’m on the road in the blog post here.
And I wanted more. I wanted to live like I never had before! And I can honestly say that after 2,5 years of work and self-love, I felt happier than I did in comparison to the last 15-20 years! Mental health is SO SO important! And at the time of writing, I’m even happier than six months ago! Yes, we are in the middle of a pandemic, work is hard, I can’t travel to my loved ones, I can’t explore new places, and I’ve been homebound a lot. Yet, I feel that all the work I’ve done in recent years helped me where I am today. I am happy I’m not a teenager anymore. I’m even glad I’m not in my 20’s anymore! The older I get, the wiser 😉 But all jokes aside, I feel more humble now. And happy! And I want to continue this journey and inspire others where possible! Start looking after your mental health today!
Disclaimer: To be fully transparent, please note that this blog post contains affiliate links and some purchases made through such links might result in a small commission for me (at no extra cost for you). Not all links are affiliate links as I just want to share knowledge and tips with my readers, and this blog is not aimed to make a ton of money! However, every little helps, of course, to fund future travels.