"Depression for me, when I think about it, it was just this absolute greyness. I could go and do something, and I had this awareness that this was a cool thing that I was doing, but it didn’t feel cool. I couldn’t feel that joy or that happiness."
Hannah felt like she didn’t belong. She sought help by reconnecting with people and building her support network to rediscover her sense of joy.
I used to not want to be around people because they scared me, whereas now I know that it is actually by having connection with other people that I feel alive.
So right from when I was at early age, that sort of deadening and dullness to my experience of life was just all around. So the first time that I was actually formally diagnosed with depression was in my teenage years.
What had actually happened was I was in the process of taking the perpetrator of abuse against me to court, and I think that that created quite a huge amount of stress in my world and was a catalyst for some stuff that was already brewing. Like I say, I think, that sort of greyness to my world had been around for quite some time.
As my mood darkened, my need to find some kind of way to find some light in my world expanded. So it became this survival technique to find whatever I could to make myself feel better. And so at 15, for me, that was drugs and alcohol and a sense of belonging. The only place that I really felt like I belonged was with other people who felt like me. They might not have been able to articulate that, but we gravitated towards one another.
Depression for me, when I think about it, it was just this absolute greyness. So I could go and do something, and I had this awareness that this was a cool thing that I was doing, but it didn’t feel cool. I couldn’t feel that joy or that happiness.
Anxiety for me is I’ll feel busy even though I’m not busy. Like, everything’s fast but it’s not fast. That something’s about to go wrong but I don’t know what it is that’s going to go wrong, so I’ve got to try and figure it out. That racing becomes much more physical and much more … I have no ability to control it.
I first started actually seeking help myself when I was 15 and I wasn’t coping at school, and I would see the school counsellor. But I think that my expectation at that time was that they were going to fix me, whereas when I became pregnant with my son, fine screwing up my life but I had someone else I was responsible for, so I needed to go and sort myself out. And that was a major mind shift for me in terms of what I expected to get out of my therapy. So that was when I started re-exploring medication again.
I’m really pleased that I thought perhaps it’s time to actually try this and actually put aside the stigma around taking medication.
In the past, I’d expected medication to make me happy, whereas this time round, I expected it to be part of my support kit. So it formed one piece of the pie which was my recovery journey, and that it did what I’d hoped it would do. It gave me a pocket to be able to think clearer, understand what was going on and to do the work with my counsellor at a completely different level to what I had done previously.
I have come to weigh up which is more important: being well and experiencing life and feeling life and being around for my son and for my family or feeling a bit groggy for a couple of days or maybe a little bit of feeling heavier. And this is actually way more important. Like, this is the stuff that matters, not what someone else thinks about medication. Not what society … I perceive society might still say about that stuff. So this is the stuff that money’s made of, this is what life is. Not this stuff over here.
Now that I’m so much more well, it’s like there is a wow in my life, so, I can go and do something and it’s actually funny and it’s actually fun or it’s actually sad, not depressed. So when I think about staying well, there’s lots of things that I do. So connection with others is really important, with my family, with my son and with my partner and with my friends.
I take my medication. I take my medication every day, and whether that changes over time is up for debate, but at the moment, that’s what I do.
My work for me provides me with a sense of belonging as well. Like, I feel like I've found my people. I'm with other people who’ve also had a lived experience of challenges with their mental healthiness, and so I’ve got some connection with others and it gives me a purpose.
When I think about where I was to where I am now, it’s like the clouds have cleared and I can feel the warmth on my skin again. And I know that when you’re in it, you don’t know that that stuff is there, and all I can say is it is there and there is a possibility, one step at a time.