With a good number of years of sobriety under my belt, I rarely think about alcohol these days.
I do mostly live in the light. The problem is, as is probably patently clear from Part 1, I have also lived with depression and anxiety for over 30 years. There are hardcore AA members who will insist that it is all part of my alcoholism, but this is not my belief. I can only speak my own truth. You are perfectly free to come to your own conclusions.
Once I put down the drink, I was left with the mental health issues that were always there. Mostly these have been managed. I believe the brain is an organ that can get out of whack and sometimes needs its chemicals adjusting. If I had diabetes because my pancreas wasn’t functioning, I would take the chemicals needed to balance it without hesitation. I also believe in a holistic approach. The two are not incompatible.
In sobriety, I retrained as a person-centred therapist, built my own private practice from nothing and have watched it grow and thrive (until Corona-gate). At this point, I can see some of you recoiling in horror, wondering how someone so clearly unhinged can possibly make a good therapist. I can – because good comes from bad, light comes from dark times – and because I can sit comfortably with my own darkness, I can sit with others in theirs. I have raised my girls, completed an MSc in Psychology with Distinction while working full-time and got married to Husband No. 2 in January. We had the most beautiful wedding and I was happy for four days – but I can tell you honestly that these were the only days in the last 6 months, possibly as long as a year, that I have experienced joy.
By the time I finally admitted to myself and my doctor that I was struggling, things had reached unbelievably dark places. Again. Raw truth time again, but I pull no punches where mental health is concerned. Until 3 weeks ago I had not showered or washed my hair for 4 months, or changed my clothes, and I couldn’t even tell you when I had last changed my underwear. There wasn’t a single day where I didn’t want to be dead – and the harsh reality is that I even resented the people I love for existing and providing a reason for me not to make what I felt was a rational choice to end my life. I cut myself and punched myself in the face. I had no motivation whatsoever – I was unable to tidy my house, cook, clean. Depression robbed me of my connection to my spirit, I could not feel joy, excitement, optimism, hope, pleasure. I could not appreciate the beauty in the world and in my life. I wasn’t eating or sleeping, and I lost over 3 stone, meaning that I am still a stone below the lowest acceptable weight for my height.
This lockdown period has been my recovery time, and it has been a painfully slow process. But I asked for help – please, people, ask for help – and am under the care of my GP, the mental health team and a consultant psychiatrist, having been diagnosed with severe complex agitated clinical depression. I’m not big on labels but I feel validated. I am beyond grateful to have these people in my life. ‘Healer heal thyself’ is nigh on impossible. Recovery is never a straight line – it’s wonky and wobbly and sometimes it nosedives altogether. It is soul-destroying to believe that you are improving and then crash, back into the utter darkness. I am learning all the time…
Learning to start with the basics – I’m still in the process of trying to eat 3 times a day.
Learning to keep hydrated and rest if I need to.
Learning to be my own friend, to love myself enough to look after myself.
Learning patience…and faith. It will be ok.
I want to share the day I realised it would be ok. I sat in the garden with the sun on my face and had the tiniest, briefest glimpses of the Jenny that I recognise. I cling onto those moments. They are becoming more frequent and I am coming alive again.
Sharing this in all its gory detail is not because I want sympathy. Please know that. It is because I am done with dirty little secrets and I know I am not alone. I am passionate about removing the stigma that surrounds mental ill health still to this day and encouraging open dialogue.
We don’t do this well enough. We don’t share honestly with each other and we feel alone and isolated. We can do better. So I have shared my reality and if it helps even one person feel less alone, it will have been worth it.
It’s ok not to be ok.
Love and light to you all.