Today, I openly share my story with you…

Are YOU feeling down, stressed, anxious, depressed, feeling like you’ve lost all zest for life, and can’t understand WHY you’re feeling like this?

Well, I’ll be honest with you when I say as a friend… I’ve been exactly where you are, and you’re not alone. As hard as that is to believe please remember, YOU are not alone.

Yep, that’s right – even an advocate for positive energy like me has come from a dark place in order to see the shining light I see today.

If you can relate to any of these things and feel that it’s all doom & gloom from here, I can reassure you that you’re going to come out of this black hole you’re in and be a much stronger and better person for it!

As they say, the proof is in the pudding and guess what? I’m the pudding! If you don’t believe me, fire it all at me and I’ll happily prove it to you! :)

You’re not far away from being in a positive headspace like me, and I want you to know that I want nothing more than to help you get out of this mindset and to see you standing proudly beside me having conquered the battle of your own mind.

Today, I openly share my story with you…

From September last year (2013) up until March this year (2014), I had my own personal battle with anxiety and depression, which some of my friends would be hearing for the first time as they read this post right now.

There, I said it.

My story is about detaching the stigma around these issues, with mental illness being the focal point, so that others can feel comfortable enough to talk  to someone about their problems and get help if needed, just like I did.

For about 6 months (which felt like an eternity) I went on this roller coaster ride which at the time, I had no clue would be a blessing in disguise as it would change my life for the better!

To cut a long story as short as possible, my ‘trigger’ was when I went into a job which I felt was higher than my level of expertise as a Creative Designer. I’ve always been thrown into the deep end with all jobs that I’ve had, but this time something just didn’t seem right. I found myself getting overwhelmed, having terribly bad panic attacks and crying before & after work over the whole situation. Everything in my head was leading me to believe that I just wasn’t up for the challenge this time, as a ‘Digital Producer & Brand Manager’. There were other factors surrounding my trigger that added to it such as, negative energy I had experienced from a previous work colleague, another work colleague (Jacquie) who I really got along with had left, and my bestie (Annie) had moved to Perth. These things, although they may seem insignificant to you, left me feeling unsettled and to a deeper extent unknown to me at the time, very unhappy…

After a two short months at my new job, I decided all of this stress and anxiety just wasn’t healthy for myself, or for my relationship with my loved ones, so I put in my resignation to shamefully end it right then and there, in tears. It was one of the most humiliating experiences I’ve had to deal with as I’ve never been one to run away from a challenge and leave a job after such a short stint.

In my head: I.. felt.. awful.

Awful… for letting down my family, myself, the company I worked for, and just genuinely humiliated that the job I had proudly landed within a day and that I had talked up so much, had all crumbled away in my hands and disappeared within a blink of an eye!

In my head: Shock horror.

From there, I began to walk further into a black hole where humiliation, self-doubt… “you suck!”, “you’re not good enough!”, “why are you so dumb?”… all started to replay in my head over….and over…and over…!

It was the worst broken record I had ever heard in my life.

All of this self-torment led me to believe these things to be true. So true that I lost ALL confidence in myself and felt that I no longer had a purpose in life. The most simple things people take for granted such as picking up a phone call, walking out in public, bumping into a friend on the street, ordering a coffee from a cafe, stepping out of the front door and just simply getting out of bed became THE hardest thing in the world for me. All my ‘zest’ for life had vanished and I questioned the point of living.. as scary as that sounds now.

I struggled to hold what normally would be an effortless conversation with my brother (Robert) and sister-in-law (Kym) and something as simple as picking up a phone call from my bestie – which I ignored for about 4 months straight – was hard. She rang…and rang… and rang, but no one answered. Yep, as you can imagine, it was a very painfully sad experience for both her and I when we were so used to speaking to each other, “voxering” and laughing together everyday. As guilty as I felt for not answering her calls, I absolutely couldn’t bring myself to pick up the phone, despite my partner (James) desperately encouraging me to speak to her, as well as every other person that called me relentlessly during that time.

James, my rock and best friend was the most supportive person in the world for me as I saw him day in, day out. He watched me struggle everyday and I’ll forever be grateful for him pulling me out of bed each day and making sure I got up to see the sun (as much as I just wanted to roll over in bed and pull the blanket back over my head). He pushed me out that front door and made me go running with him (FYI, I couldn’t run to save my life). As tough as it was, the exercise really helped me physically and mentally.

From there, my supportive and extremely generous father (Richard) flew me back home to Darwin NT for 2 weeks to give me some time to essentially ‘clear my head’. It was sad to be home and not be able to enjoy it as much as I normally would have. In some ways I felt unstable without James around even though I had family there to support me. I continued to have anxiety attacks and struggled to sleep at night. I still distinctively remember having a panic one night whilst staying at my brother & Kym’s place. Rob was out with friends and Kym and I were home with their two kids (my niece Maya and nephew Dane) fast asleep. I didn’t enjoy being in the dark with the horrible thoughts going through my head and no matter how hard I tried, I struggled to sleep. Kymmie, the sweetest person you’ll ever meet, even tried to pat me to sleep and give me a back tickle just to calm me down while I said to her, “please tell me everything is going to be ok and that this isn’t going to last”. In that very moment with her, I realised how important family truly is and how dearly loved I am by each and every one of them.

When James, my family and my bestie all realised that there was more to my problems than they first realised, they encouraged me to go see a doctor who could refer me to a psychologist.

Enter: Dr. Brooke Dougan (Clinical Psychologist) from PsyCare, who I spoke to after initially seeing a different psych who just wasn’t right for me.

This beautiful, young lady became my sounding board for about six sessions, 1 hour per week. She listened, never judged and gave me the most powerful tools to curb my negative mental state, and replace it with a positive one. At the start I was sceptical and thought, “what could this lady possibly do to help me?”, but little did I know at the time just how much she could! Being in my condition where I could barely leave the house and go anywhere by myself, made me cling onto the closest people around me which were James and my loving Mum (Elena) who lives on the Gold Coast (along with my sister Jenalyn & niece Ella). James kindly sat in with me at these therapy sessions with Brooke for the first 2-3 times until I slowly began to build up my confidence and managed to go without him. My mother even went out of her way to help me when I needed her most by swapping her shifts at the aged care home she works for from days to graveyard shifts, just so she could take care of me during the day and give James a much needed break to focus on his business (ZOVA). They continued to ‘tag team’ if you will, as much as required to help pull me out of the rut I had so deeply put myself in.

This leads me to the whole reason this blog exists today, why I’m a better person and such an advocate for positive energy and more importantly, MINDFULNESS. My sessions with Brooke consisted of Cognitive Behaviour Therapy. We went through positive affirmations, encouraging myself to do things that ‘made me happy’ which was nothing at the time, but would usually be things like making art, designing, going to the beach, soaking up the sunshine and stopping to smell the flowers.

Unfortunately, none of these things were really hitting the spot for me. Brooke then introduced some mindfulness techniques (meditation) to make myself more ‘self-aware’ of my thoughts, my surroundings and my interactions.

As described in the dictionary, Mindfulness is moment-by-moment awareness of thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment, characterised mainly by “acceptance” – attention to thoughts and feelings without judging whether they are right or wrong. Mindfulness focuses the human brain on what is being sensed at each moment, instead of on its normal rumination on the past or on the future.

I didn’t believe in this technique at the time, but soon after finishing my sessions with Brooke, I discovered the amazing power of it. Practising mindfulness was one of the main contributing factors which got me out of the depressed state I was in and in return, spat out the happy person I am today. I can now confidently say that I’m back to myself, but better! I now have a 100x more happier & healthier mind which I couldn’t be more proud of.

I continue to practise Mindfulness everyday and look forward to continuing to share my story with you. This is only the beginning.

For those of you who are struggling as much as I did, please remember:

It’s ok to not be ok! We are all unique, we all have our struggles and YOU are not alone in feeling this way. Today, try to put as much effort as you can into channeling all of your energy and courage to speak up and let someone do their best to help you. The person you think might not understand, may very well turn out to be your saving grace.

For those of you who haven’t experienced anything like this, if you could take anything away from this story today, please remember:

Be kind to everyone you come in contact with, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

Thank you x