The gift of depression and anxiety. Why my burnout was a blessing in disguise
Mental health issues are not generally discussed in glowing terms and certainly not as a gift. Those of us living with some sort of mental health issue don’t actually enjoy the symptoms or challenges associated with them.
And there are a lot of us. The Beyond Blue website states that in Australia an estimated 45% of people will experience a mental health condition in their lifetime. In any one year, around 1 million Australians have depression and over 2 million have anxiety.
It is 5 months since I recognised that I was not okay and just over 4 weeks since I finally quit my job. In that time I have come to the conclusion that for me depression is not something I am going to cure but that I am going to have to manage for the rest of my life.
Now don’t panic because I am okay with this. If a magic cure is out here of me I will be up for it but I really do think this condition is here to stay and accepting that actually is a relief because I know what I am dealing with. Furthermore don’t think I am going to be sad or negative because I am not. Depression is not sadness. It is so much more.
I really do feel that the burnout I experienced last year was a blessing in disguise. At the time I wrote about it and that my overzealous determination to remain resilient became an adrenalin high. In that post I wrote that I had to dig deep, get real and go within to figure out why I burnt out. (Read that post here)
Now several months later I appreciate what I have learnt and am able to acknowledge the gifts my depression and anxiety gave me.
Gift number 1.
Depression gave me a rest. A deep rest (Deepressed?)
I was forced to stop long enough to allow myself the opportunity to listen to my inner voice. Clearly, I wasn’t listening to the subtle warning signs nor even the not so subtle ones! So finally my brain shouted enough and cut off my supply of resilience. I was denied energy, concentration, sleep, joy, insight until finally I stopped and rested. And rested some more.
My depression offered me a break from all of my obligations and permission to escape. There was a point when I couldn’t even drive. Well I could have but my concentration and energy was so low I felt that I was a hazard to others and myself.
Gift number 2.
An opportunity to say I am not okay.
Something was gnawing at me, trying to get my attention to say things were not right. Something was stirring. Suppressed truths were bubbling like kundalini awakening. I became more gentle with myself and developed a sense of compassion to allow myself to just be and embrace the journey to determine my next step in life.
Gift Number 3
Resetting of self-care needs.
Commuting to work, working full-time and having 2 major family issues in a matter of weeks had created a downward spiral to my self-care. I watched a TED talk posted by midwife Sara Wickam. Sara was also reflecting on self-care. The speaker said, when we become the carer for another our own self-care must double. In order to care we must ensure our own needs are met and more, that we have reserves in our tank.
Part of my practical plan to manage my depression included the regular self care tactics as I discussed in my post on Resilience. I thought I was looking after myself but I wasn’t. I was living on coffee sugar and adrenalin and had stopped exercising and yoga.
I was about to reduce my appointments this week thinking the sessions I had indulged in had surely done my job, hadn’t they? Then earlier this week with my psychologist I discussed recognition and prevention of a relapse. She told me monthly massages were not enough. Not only have I been instructed to body work but to step it up! A reminder on self care!
As I left I grinned to myself. I was about to let slip the very things that were making me better, nurturing. The counselling session was very timely and we wrote down and formalised plan. (I do love a good list)
Gift number 4.
My beautiful partner, Rod stepped up and demonstrated love compassion and patience. While this has not been an easy time for our relationship we have come through stronger and closer than ever. I am incredibly proud of him.
He did so many little things for me like taking care of the pets and house, feeding me and making me coffee. There were grander gestures too. One weekend when I desperately wanted to visit my grandson (Mason) in Wangaratta he drove me all the way there and back, seven hours each way.
Not once has this amazing man tried to fix me, give advice or lose his patience with me. Many, myself included, may not have been so patient and understanding.
Gift Number 5
In what could almost be described as a self indulgence I have reflected on many issues and questions. How long have I really been depressed? Is it genetic? Am I crazy? Why can’t I control this? What do I want to be when I grow up? Should I cut all of my hair off?
Some of my reflection has provided clarity, some even more questions but it has all been useful and an opportunity for growth and self recovery.
Gift Number 6
I quit a job that no longer served me.
I know deep down I was not happy in my work but unsure of what else to do.
5 years ago I moved from midwifery into health administration, mostly quality and risk management. I do not regret the move as I have learnt so much and for the most part enjoyed the work and was pretty good at it, I am told. However it was not my soul work.
As well at quitting quality I needed a realignment of work/life balance. I was working full-time after vowing 3 years earlier not to. I was also commuting an hour to and from work each day. When I step back I can see this was totally nuts and that it was never sustainable. I accepted my mistake, then I embraced it and quit. See post on quitting
Gift Number 7
I Started writing.
For a long time I have wanted to write. There are a couple of books in there waiting to be written and I have LOTS to say on many issues. Mostly birth, feminism, mental health, parenting and once I started and couldn’t stop. My soul found a release and the words just flowed.
Gift number 8
Insight and humility
I have developed a much deeper insight into the journey of others. Many of us are struggling and living with challenges. As Buddha says. Life is suffering. I hope I can support others as I have been supported and always approach a person or situation knowing each and every one of us is going through some sort of issue right now. We all have challenges, big and small. With some insight and humility I hope I can approach the world with love and compassion.
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