Like a lot of women of my generation who are told they can – should, in fact – have it all: A partner, kids and a fulfilling career, at 26 I was feeling the pressure…
The depression started with feeling so empty and miserable that my heart would physically ache. Then silent crying started at random times in work at my desk but somehow I still just hid it and ‘got on with it’.
I had a steady office job, lovely colleagues, a fantastic best friend and lots of cash to spend on dresses for even more wild nights out until 3.00am and yet I was miserable.
As far as I was concerned I was apparently unlovable not having had a long term meaningful relationship (I totally disregarded the fact that several men had fallen for me, they just happened not to be my type), I was still living with my parents and had tried so hard, yet completely failed my A-levels and was now stuck in a crappy job.
Anyway, with the help of my Dr (I was meant to have a counsellor to but got referred to a girl younger than me who wanted to use me as a case study for her uni work!), my parents, best mate I got my head together. I left my job, moved into a lovely house share, easily gained a new qualification and made a group of new friends.
I followed the usual advice about ‘defining your goals’ and ‘small steps to achieving success’ given out sporadically by womens magazines. I even had a ‘Life Plan’ folder with deviders which included a ‘to do in life list’ and an inspirational section.
However, the real break through came a year later. The temp jobs dried up & I’d failed to find a long term job. This also meant I failed at getting my own flat and ended up back at my parents. Bare with me here… I’d tried for a year to learn guitar with great potential (and a fantastic teacher) but still failed at that. I’d fell in love with a married man & failed to find ‘the one’. Half of my friends had moved on and drifted away as well.
I wrote breakthrough rather than break down because I realised that I’d drive myself crazy if I only measured my happiness by success and achievements.
After all I’d been strong enough to get over that earlier depression without meds or counselling (by an odd sequence of necessity rather than choice and I do encourage anyone who’s struggling to be persistent in seeking help) by thinking positively, catching and countering negative thoughts with positive ones. Recognising my emotions and playing devils advocate with myself to gain some perspective and other excersizes similar to those involved in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy I’d picked up through a lot of research.
I thought this time around I’ll actively choose to be happy with my little lot in life. I’ll stop pilling on pressure and learn to be truly happy with the little things, one day at a time – one hour at a time if that’s what it takes.
Ta da! That’s the breakthrough!
I decided I’d list simple things I was glad about every week in a little journal. Here’s the first list I wrote (cringe):
Things I’m Glad About
I’m glad I have a roof over my head a comfy bed.
I’m glad I have two parents who drive me mad but love me.
I’m glad I have a couple of good mates.
I’m glad I have a good mate who might be more ;0)
I’m glad I’ve managed to teach myself how to sing. Thanks to copying Cher, Celine, Whitney, Christina although my voice is no where near as strong.
I’m glad I don’t live in a country at war and that I feel safe walking down the street.
I’m glad I have natural rhythm.
My memory is crap and I’m ridiculously clumsy but (through necessity) it’s made me find ways to stay tidy and organised.
I’m ‘kind of funny looking’ but I can carry off alt styles that my mates would look ridiculous wearing.
I’m glad I live in a town where I can go to the local supermarket or order take away at 11:00pm if I choose.
There is a lot of beautiful countryside only a bus ride away to appreciate.
I chucked the ‘Life Planner’ in the bin, it had served it’s purpose as a project and I bought a scrapbook instead. I stuck anything in it that reminded me of fun times I’d had, like film ticket stubs or postcards and anything that I couldn’t glue down went into a memory (shoe) box. I deleted my neglected weary old blog and started this one instead. I started going to step class for the fun of doing something social & high energy to lift my mood (improving my fitness and co-ordination was just a bonus). I said yes to lots of low commitment fun type things – before I could talk my self of it.
Basically I learned how to enjoy life by just being me. I consciously stopped relying on excess drink or food or other instant gratifications to make myself (temporarily) happy. I stopped being my own critic. I accepted my own limitations and I gave myself a break.
One evening I was feeling a little bored and phoned up a friend of a friend I’d just met and asked him out ‘for a beer and a laugh’. That was The Bloke by the way. Glad I made that decision!
I’m unemployed, I don’t have my name on a rent book and have a very small circle of friends, I’m skint and yet I’ve never felt happier! It’s all about perspective :0)
What are you glad about?