Sorry Okay, but you’re kind of dull.
In my pre-depression life, when people would say, ‘how are you?’ or ‘how was your weekend’? I wouldn’t say ‘okay’ or it’s even blander word-cousin, ‘fine’. I’d say, ‘I’m fabulous! My weekend was wonderful.’
But for most of Twenty-Sixteen, okay has been my Go To word of choice.
‘How are you?’
‘How was your weekend?’
‘It was okay.’
This is so not Me.
Okay can mean ‘I’m still here’.
Okay can mean ‘I can aspire to feel fabulous again one day.’
Okay can mean ‘One moment I’m teetering, the next moment I’m not’.
And Okay sometimes means, ‘Ask me again and I’ll be honest this time and tell you I’m not okay.’
I feel as though depression, amongst its other bold acts of thievery, has stolen my use and love of adjectives.
A tragedy for any word-lover.
Because they had lots of adjectives in them.
Bold, spunky, vibrant adjectives like special and wonderful and brave and courageous and inspiring.
It’s horrible to admit this but each time I read one of those lovely words, I didn’t feel deserving of that adjective being used to describe Me.
depression had pummeled my confidence and self-esteem so much that I couldn’t even read a message from someone who I know loves me, without feeling unworthy. I wanted to crawl into the white spaces between those heartfelt words and hide away from everyone.
Because I was afraid that you would see me the same way depression does.
As someone weak.
As someone broken.
As someone undeserving.
As someone unlovable.
I couldn’t even ‘like’ the comments made on Facebook as I felt like such a fraud.
depression had made me feel like a bad person.
I KNEW I wasn’t a bad person but when you deeply FEEL like something is true, that becomes your truth until you can work your way through it.
Some days I felt like a person who could no longer contribute to society in a meaningful way.
A person who was finding it incredibly difficult to maintain important relationships.
A person who was unnerved even by the thought of being in a social situation involving more than two other people.
A person who felt as though she no longer had anything interesting to say.
But it's these little things that depression wants you to fail at. Like any bully, it thrives and feeds on the lack of self-worth of its prey.
I’ve struggled with feeling worthy my entire life so to have depression squeeze precious liquid-gold drops of self-worth from me has been so incredibly hard to deal with.
When my doctor first recommended putting me on a Mental Health Plan (to see a psychologist subsided by Medicare), I didn’t feel worthy. I felt there were other people out there who needed that support more than I did.
There was nothing wrong with my life. I just needed to find my positivity again and all would be well.
I had friends with cancer who needed it more.
I worked with families who need it more.
I didn’t feel at all deserving of receiving such support.
And unfortunately, the way society tends to deal with mental health doesn’t help either. Our mental health isn't something we need to be embarrassed, ashamed or silent about but there’s still such a stigma attached to it all.
It took me a long time to feel as worthy of support as I would if I had a physical illness. I only got to that point after realising just how much depression was impacting on my life; when I understood how loud the voice of depression was and the influence it was having over me. There isn’t a positivity stick big enough in the entire world to combat depression. depression has an endless bag of tricks and games up its sleeve and it takes great pleasure in using them.
depression is a master manipulator.
Young people are ending their lives over comments and photos posted on social media sites. This is so unbelievably tragic. It physically makes my heart ache to think about it.
But as loud, obnoxious and overbearing as depression is, I know the conversations about mental health are more frequent, louder, more compassionate, more inclusive and involving younger people more than ever before. depression doesn’t want us talking about it or working together to combat it. It likes to keep us isolated as it gives it more power.
But the conversations are working and we need to keep having them so future generations can discuss their mental health in the same way we discuss our physical health.
We need children to know that it’s okay not to be okay.
I definitely wouldn’t be any closer to using any bold, spunky, vibrant words to describe myself.
I suspect even ‘okay’ would be far far out of my reach.
My psychologist and doctor supported me to return to work after having six weeks off. Which was hard. So very very hard.
You see, I’ve often felt very incompetent in life - with my finances, in my love life and particularly with anything that requires coordination or balance(!) - but I've never felt incompetent at work before. I'm nerdy and efficient and although I'm not quite a perfectionist, I like to do things well. Even when I've had jobs I haven't liked very much (hello, 10 years as a legal secretary), I've always been good at them. I don't mean to sound conceited but it's just that work has never been an area in which I've felt deficient like I have in other areas of my life. I've felt challenged and stressed by work but incompetence was brand spanking new.
So to go back to work and feel overwhelmed by the smallest of tasks really rocked me.
While I first started my sick leave, just the thought of returning to work caused me a huge amount of anxiety. On Day 2, I remember laying on the couch working out how many sick days I had left before I had to go back. I was literally counting down the days on my fingers. At that point, I still had 11 days left and my body was absolutely riddled with anxiety. I felt as though there could never possibly be enough time to heal before I had to go back to a job which seemed as huge as Mt Everest.
When I did return to work I soon realised I wasn’t going to be able to cope with everything the way I would have like to.
My manager quickly created a ‘return to work plan’ for me which definitely helped me ease back into the workforce over the following weeks. But it wasn’t enough I’m afraid.
So in October, I made the tough yet inevitable decision to resign. I knew I simply couldn’t do my job any longer. I gave two months notice and I left The Smith Family yesterday. After seven wonderful years.
It hurts to write those particular words. I like working. I like contributing to society in that way. I like knowing my taxes are helping those who need additional support. I like having that structured sense of purpose. I like the satisfaction and enjoyment I've gotten out of many of the jobs I've had.
The fact that I'm comfortable with the decision I've made tells me how much I need to do this. I’ve still had moments of doubt of course, I'd actually be worried if I hadn't. But I haven't totally freaked out. I haven't gotten stuck on worrying about whether I'll be able to get another job. This surprises me the most as I haven't resigned without a job to go to since I left to live in London as a naïve and excited 21 year old. I'm a security gal. I like to know where my next pay check is coming from as I'm not good with the financial unknown.
This is such foreign territory for me.
But it all came down to worrying more about what will happen if I kept working.
If I didn't stop.
At the end of the day, that's way scarier than the unknown could ever be.
So I’ve let go, I'm falling into the unknown and most importantly, I'm trusting I’ll be Ever So Much More Than Okay.
And for me, this has included taking anti-depressants. I took them fifteen years ago and I couldn’t wait to get off them. I hated admitting I was taking them. Actually, I probably didn’t tell many people at all. I felt embarrassed that I couldn’t cope with life. I felt like a failure because I couldn’t beat depression on my own.
I feel very differently about anti-depressants this time around. If my brain needs help to keep itself balanced with serotonin and dopamine for the rest of my life, I’m totally okay with that. I just look at it the same as I would if I needed to take insulin for diabetes. I wouldn’t think twice about taking it. And I definitely wouldn’t feel embarrassed or ashamed that I had to take medication in order to live a healthy life.
Right now, my brain needs some help and that’s totally okay.
It’s been very disconcerting to realise just how many typos and mistakes I’ve made over the last few months. My nerdy nerd self just isn’t able to notice typos the way it usually does. Proof-reading doesn’t help as my brain sees what it wants to see. I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve swapped words like ‘and’ and ‘at’ in work emails over the last few months. It appears that Brain simply thinks any word starting with the right letter will suffice. You're okay Brain, at least you're trying and we'll get there together.
But I'll lose my nerdy crown if I’m not careful.
But sadly I completely understand where he was coming from.
We react to what is tangible.
One tip I'd like to give people about supporting someone with depression.
Try not to say, 'you look alright' or 'you look good', especially with relief or surprise in your voice. Saying anything like this indicates you think there's a correlation between our outward appearance and our Fucked Up Brain Chemistry. Because that's what depression is - Fucked Up Brain Chemistry.
Tell us we look beautiful or fabulous but don't express surprise that we can pop on a lovely frock, do our hair and appear as healthy as we usually do.
Because we're not. Our inner world is in turmoil. And you'd be surprised at how overwhelming it was to plug that hair straightener in or to put on mascara.
I'm trying ever so hard to go with the flow and bend with the twists and turns of this experience but some days I really struggle.
On those days I’m not okay.
And that’s okay.
I finished work yesterday and I’m now unemployed and that’s okay too. Even though I feel incredibly wobbly about it today.
Because I’ve taken a major step toward being able to once again say, ‘I’m fabulous!’ when you ask me how I am.
‘There is a thin line that sits in between fear and courage that asks us to balance doubts of the unknown with the pull of discovery. Fear reminds us of risk. Courage reminds us of possibility. We need both.’ Rebecca Ray