Written By: Samantha Ferguson
For those of you whom have not read my previous blog entries before, I’m Samantha. Sam at work/in public and Sammy when my thoughts are captivated by depression. Sitting here right now, I’m unsure what exactly motivated me to start writing posts about my mental health but if anything it was to have someone to talk to. And, it’s helped. So thank you to everyone who has read them so far. It is my ambition to become an Approved Mental Health Practitioner. I cannot advocate for people if I find myself oppressed and hidden in society. So here I am, speaking out, breaking my own stigma. Hopefully encouraging you to break yours too?
So, since we are being honest right now - I have to be frank - I've been mulling over for some time as to what to focus on writing about in my third blog entry. I have very high standards for myself, and so was a little stuck on what to explore in my writing. With some guidance from my loyal Twitter followers, I've decided to review both my progress through this maze of uncertainty and the navigators I've cherished along the way.
When I think back to last Christmas, my life in general was a little unsettled but not enough to rock the boat. My birthday was amazing. I was exploring Paris with my best friend, the person I loved more than anything in the world. The underlying thoughts of harming myself, ending my life, and not being able to cope began to surface again long after these wonderful adventures.
I remember waking up one morning and I felt quicksand between my toes. Boiling hot sand, but the blood in my veins freezing cold. I didn't know what was wrong with me, but I knew this time it was potentially my worst encounter so far. It was the most “real” panic attack I had ever encountered and I felt so powerful I could die. The feeling of being paralyzed, sinking, and feeling heavier and heavier was at the point where my body disengaged and my everyday functioning became non- existent.
"I remember waking up one morning and I felt quicksand between my toes. Boiling hot sand, but the blood in my veins freezing cold. I didn't know what was wrong with me, but I knew this time it was potentially my worst encounter so far."
I muddled on. Things muddled on. Everything was muddled. And I do think it's fair to say that the relationship between myself and my significant other suffered initially. I had no diagnosis and no professionals around me to guide me through this maze I found myself in. So how could I possibly explain myself to my other half if I couldn't make sense of it all myself?
I can vividly remember feeling anxious about the most ridiculous things. Wearing myself out over the most ridiculous things. Feeling like a ticking time bomb and trying to estimate if he, my significant other, would be gone before or after my brain imploded. I was full of fear and I was full of hate. I hated feeling so trapped in my mind, but I was scared of the detrimental effects this would have on HIM. I would obsess over things, clean like I was being paid in diamonds;, I was restless and I was miserable.
I began to speak about things, slowly and surely, when I realized that I was projecting my misery onto him. He appeared to feel disheartened, and I didn't want things to escalate, because I loved him.
"Reaching out to him probably saved my life. As the quicksand started to drown me - I had to offload in an attempt to survive. And, luckily for me, it worked."
My approach was gentle. I didn't want any alarm bells to ring. I wanted him to help me understand myself and not forget the Samantha he fell for. Reaching out to him probably saved my life. As the quicksand started to drown me - I had to offload in an attempt to survive. And, luckily for me it worked.
I can't lie to you and say things will always be rosy; they won't. Your partner may not have encountered mental health in the past and he/she will therefore may be, quite simply, completely and utterly clueless about how the little things can trigger your spiral at a million miles per second. He took time to fully understand what I need and that was not in vain.
I will admit that I push people away and I fear/obsess over being ‘left’. A crazy cat lady on her own in a shed in the middle of a field. That's what I picture every time I panic, anyway.
My first blog post for Depression Army was the turning point in our relationship. I'm really not just saying that either.
When it was published I copied and pasted the link onto Twitter. I was crapping my pants about who and how people would respond. I waited. Deep breathing and pacing up down - up down. *ping*
*phone got a little bit excited*
People liked my blog post.
People empathized and related to my blog post.
Was this really happening?
Well I had to be sure, didn't I?
I copied and pasted the link and sent it to HIM. I asked HIM to read it. I felt slightly relieved that I didn't have to try and keep up the act of the person I once was (when we met). I wanted him to know me - all of me.
To be honest - as soon as it sent I thought - ‘oh, f’ck. What have I done?’ BUT, he gave me a miracle. He said he was proud of me.
Since then, I haven't looked back. When I learn new stuff at counselling, I’ll share what I have learned. I want to teach him as much as I teach myself. This is so he can handle me. And in turn, I can try my hardest to control any relapse.
With this achievement, I soon learnt that in order to stay afloat and maintain what is important to me, I needed to talk. Going into work has always felt like I had a bumble bee inside my ribs getting angrier and angrier. Puncturing every organ and ounce of flesh, muscle, and nerve. Scared to make mistakes and scared that they would sack me for my illness and label me ‘incapable’. Again, my first blog post and sharing it on my Twitter opened up doors for me.
I was going through a really bad time. I had called in sick for a few days because my mind and body were not talking. So, from my bed I sent my boss an email - brief and to the point. Requesting one hour a week to attend clinical counselling for my depression. Please note the ‘my’; I have accepted ownership of my illness so that I can learn how to live with it and stop it from ruling my life.
Bombshell officially dropped.
Again, I thought, holy sh*t. You're going to lose your job. But her response was amazing.
I guess what I'm trying to tell you all is that we are all human. My relationship and job are what keep me alive. Living. Hopeful. And I know that the only way to maintain these elements is through self-care.
"I guess what I'm trying to tell you all is that we are all human. My relationship and job are what keep me alive. Living. Hopeful. And I know that the only way to maintain these elements is through self-care."
So, if I can offer you one bit of teeny tiny advice. It would be TALK to your partner. Because if they don't say they are proud and don't try to understand - you need to raise your standards. If they are arseholes about it then are they really going to aid your recovery?
We are all love-able - with demons and all.
Be open with your boss - so that you can take time out without it affecting your performance.
You'll feel less pressure to wear that mask to work each day. Trust me.
It's okay to still feel crap each day, or to not know what you enjoy or want to aim for. There's no incorrect way to have depression, have anxiety attacks, have suicidal thoughts. These things just are and will never discriminate against you or I. But having the resources and support network around you is what matters. Self-care isn't just putting the kettle on, having a bath, or stuffing your face with doughnuts (no? Just me?). It's about reaching out and making yourself heard. Reclaim the power over your mind and over this illness. The less afraid you are of it - the less afraid others will be. A little like Pandora’s box…..