On 1 July 2018, I will be running the Gold Coast Half Marathon (21.1km) to raise money for beyondblue.
Right now, over 1 million people in Australia experience depression and 2 million are experiencing anxiety. On average, 8 people take their lives every day in Australia. In real terms, this means that everyone you know will either be directly affected or will have a loved one who is.
I am using this run as a driver to change the conversation around mental health, one step at a time. I want to break the stigma associated with mental illness. To do this, I am being open and honest in sharing my story with you.
Disclaimer: the purpose of sharing this very personal story is not to feel sorry for me. What I’m learning is that mental illness is an illness and it is not be ashamed of. Keeping silent helps no-one.
My life, by every objective measure, is very good. I have a wonderful supportive husband, a great job, I live in first world conditions, and have wonderful friends and a beautiful family, and in spite of all of that, I struggle every day with my self-esteem, my self-worth, and my value. That’s because I live with depression and anxiety….
Even though my mental illness tries its best, I don’t want it to control me, define me, and I definitely don’t want to be stigmatized by it.
While I have lived with depression for over 20 years, it first began throughout those dreaded high school years - being bullied, social anxiety, and fear of getting laughed at for saying something stupid in class, made me very aware of anything that could make me look like an idiot.
When I finished high school I threw myself into work. It gave me an identity and I could hide behind it. I sought some help for my depression but I never really dealt with it. I was ashamed and embarrassed. I thought it I ignored it it would go away. This sort of worked for a while.
However, last year anxiety began to express itself in all sorts of ways. I became worried about everything. I became tired, irritable, and emotional all the time. I felt alone, ashamed, and vulnerable. I tried to continue a normal life and put on a brave face at work as it seemed to be the only thing forcing me out of bed every day as life went on around me.
I felt like I had a choice between myself and work, because I simply didn't have the energy for both. I felt that I wasn’t worth it so, work it was. I felt like it was the only place I knew my role or had any value. My self-worth was directly based on my job, what my boss thought of my work or how my co-workers saw me. I was a people-pleaser and would say yes to everything asked of me so that I felt accepted and liked. I was afraid of failure and set unrealistic expectations of myself and those around me. I’m scared of disappointing people, and of being disliked. I stopped doing what I loved like running, gym, and socialising with my friends. I felt like I couldn’t trust anyone who wanted to be close to me, because I was convinced that I was stupid and worthless and the only reason anyone would want to be my friend was to make fun of me. I put everyone else’s needs and wants before my own and eventually it caught up with me.
I can still remember being at work that day that eventually everything caught up with me. I was exhausted. I took some time off work. Fortunately I have an amazing support network in my husband, some work friends and managers, and family who immediately stepped in to pick up the pieces. It locked me in a time warp though. My movements, words and thoughts all slowed down to a 90 year olds pace. I was forgetful. Doing the most basic everyday tasks became completely overwhelming and stressful. I was really scared that I would never feel normal again and frustrated that I couldn't cope with doing the most basic things by myself.
As well as this overwhelming sense of hopelessness that things would never get better I was completely convinced that in my state I was of no use to anyone. I thought that by being unhappy, lethargic and forgetful all the time I wasn’t any use at work, I was no fun for my friends to be around and my family would be better off without me. I pushed away the people I wanted the most in my life and I told myself that it’s because I needed to learn to live without them, and this stops me getting hurt. I thought why would anyone want to be friends with me - I am dumb and pathetic.
While I’m pleased to say that I have made great progress in accepting my illness and getting treatment, I still have a long way to go on this journey. I still have days I don’t want to get out of bed, I have no confidence and terrible self-esteem. I lack concentration, and I forget my words.
For 20 plus years I’ve missed out on a lot of things. All the things that people do when they are living their lives, all those experiences that make up a life, my depression and anxiety got in between me and doing them. I haven’t been living. I’ve just been existing. It hurts me to think about all the opportunities I missed out on because of sadness and fear.
With the support of my loved ones, employment, and medical professionals. I continue to put myself out there and have joined a great group of people in Evolution Runners where we support each other in not only our running goals but our life goals as well, and who inspired me to participate in this run.
One of the primary reasons I’m completing this run is so that I can make the difference in someone’s life that I wish had been made in mine when I was young. I have suffered with mental illness for so many years, because I was ashamed, I was embarrassed, and I was afraid. It’s time to change the conversation, one step at a time.
I understand my story may be nothing compared to what some people face, but if even one person relates to this it was worth writing.
This is my story…
If you'd like to sponsor me, you can donate online here. All donations are tax deductible, and your donation, of any amount, would be a great help toward making a real difference to the lives of people affected by anxiety, depression and suicide.
Thank you so much for your support. I will think of you proudly as I bravely pound the pavement for 21.1km.