In October 2016 I was in bits. Stressed, anxious and depressed. Feeling like I was just about coping one minute and then feeling totally overwhelmed and broken the next and when I say one minute to the next, I mean just that, well, maybe hour to hour!
I was on a rollercoaster of emotions that I could not keep up with, let alone understand. I must have seemed so out of control and erratic to those around me.
At work I was managing to keep some sense of balance and control on the outside but the amount of energy that had to be expended to do this was huge. So much so that when I got home in the evenings I simply crumbled. My partner Rhys was on the rollercoaster with me for a lot of the time and he continues to be an incredible source of support and wisdom. I will be eternally grateful and blessed that he decided to stay on the ride, he could have got off at any time and I would certainly not have blamed him.
The unrelenting pace of life, a long commute, my ongoing quest to be perfect at everything I did and the start of the menopause all came together at once and over the course of about 12 months my ability to hold it all together started to crumble around me. I frequently cried, my sleep was disrupted and my head never stopped racing.
I would ruminate over what had already happened and worry about what was to come, spending little time in the present being grateful or even noticing all the great stuff I had. I kept how I was feeling to myself. How could I explain what was happening when I had no idea myself. I was scared about what was happening to me. I couldn’t remember people’s names, I would leave the lounge to get a drink and then forget what it was I wanted when I arrived in the kitchen a few moments later. Then I started to cry at work and it became impossible to keep everything together.
I was approaching my birthday and had a long weekend booked to celebrate at one of our favourite places in North Wales. A few nights in a yurt, back to nature in every way. An opportunity to switch off from life, no mobile phone signal and nothing but rest and enjoyment. It was bliss and I loved being in the moment, finding it surprisingly easy to switch off. Then came the realisation that I had to go back and face my life again. The feelings flooded back but we had a week in the Lakes booked for a couple of weeks later so I managed to keep myself together until once again I was able to relax and catch up on sleep.
We ate well, slept well and went on long walks in the fresh air. My consumption of alcohol dropped, I didn’t need to numb myself and my body and mind responded. My thoughts slowed and I started to get some space in my head. I got on my mat and did my yoga practice every day out in the garden, even in the rain. I was living in the moment and it was bliss.
Then the inevitable happened. The end of the holiday, back to the early starts, the 2-hour journey to work and the day to day busyness. This time though there was a big shift in my ability to cope. My body and mind continued to relax and basically took over. I lasted a few days and then I was unable to function, I had to go to the Doctors to get help.
Thankfully, work and the Doctor were very understanding. The Doctor explained I was stressed, anxious and depressed and offered to put me on medication but I knew it was not right for me so I asked if there was an alternative and they suggested Cognitive Behavioural therapy, CBT.
For me, this meant looking into starting a meditation practice, giving my mind a chance to quieten down and create the space I so needed. It was so effective that 4 weeks later I was back at work but something fundamental had shifted in me, a door had opened to a new world and I wanted more of it. This was the start of a magical journey of discovery. Learning to take care of myself and pause. To spend as much time as possible in the moment. Sure you need to plan for the future but not to the extent I used to plan.
I started a daily meditation practice and I read as much as I could about mindfulness and meditation. I put my learning into practice and life started to change in ways I never thought possible. I slept better, I became more aware of my emotions and how I was feeling which creates a space for me to decide what to do. To make a choice in the moment rather than feel I have no choice. My sleep is much better (although the night sweats are still there!) and I am more grateful for what I have rather than craving what I think I want or what I think will make me happy in the future.
I trained and qualified as a meditation teacher through the British School of Meditation, I am now a Mental Health First Aider through Mental Health England and I am the proud founder of The Health Head Company, a start up business which aims to help others to quieten their minds and build resilience through exercising the mind.
Am I balanced and zen like – not at all! This weekend I had a minor melt down, stressing about what I had to do and setting myself unrealistic expectations of what I think I “should” do. My breathing became shallow and erratic, my heart beat rocketed and I sobbed and sobbed, but I was also aware of what was happening and, along with some much-needed support and reassurance from my partner, I am now sitting calmly writing this blog in front of the fire with a glass of wine thinking how lucky I am and feeling pretty proud of how far I have come.
Far from feeling vulnerable, I am stronger than I have ever been. My self-awareness has grown hugely and I have great resilience. There is no end to the journey I am on. I will continue to learn and practice, to fail and pick myself up again but I am doing it. Day by day I am building my awareness, living more in the moment and facing my fears rather than turning away from them. I no longer want to be somewhere else on the premise it will be better than where I am because, even on a bad day where I am is pretty bloomin awesome.