2018 was a difficult year for me, depression reared its ugly head again and it affected me for most of the year. I know I enjoyed a lovely summer holiday, been to Paris, stayed at the Ritz and more but it was still one of the hardest years I’ve had to face.
I’ve suffered with depression on and off for the last eight years. I was never the sort of person to get depressed before then, not even when I had my children, I never suffered with postnatal depression, but life is strange, things can change so quickly. When a spanner is thrown in the works as the saying goes, it disturbs my equilibrium, it disturbs my whole life. My mum has always suffered with depression, I remember her dark and depressed moods when I was a child, it had a profound effect on me, its funny how some things remain with you into adulthood. Having said that, pre-eight years, I never suffered because I was more like my dad, strong, fun, happy-go-lucky and optimistic, I am the complete opposite now. I do still have his shrewd personality, his organizational skills and his love of travel plus like him, I never let anyone take me for a ride.
I feel guilty because although on the surface it appears to many that my life is good, however everyone who suffers this debilitating illness will agree that it makes no difference. It’s a bit like the saying “money doesn’t buy you happiness” and it’s true…. well, in part. Outwardly, the people who appear to have everything, the holidays, lovely big houses, cars and can afford to go out to restaurants without even thinking about whether they can afford it are still deeply unhappy. This is because depression can affect anyone and at any time, it doesn’t matter if you’re the Queen or living in a council house, depression doesn’t have a preference but there’s always a trigger no matter who you are. There was a trigger for me in 2012 that intensified my already low mood that began in early 2011 but that’s something that I keep buried deep inside me. I’m dealing with it and nearly put it to bed. My point is, there is usually always a trigger that will set off a low mood and depression and affect an otherwise steady, happy person.
When you’re in the throes of depression,the fact that you have a holiday booked next week or the cleaner is coming to clean your immaculate 5 bedroom detached house makes no difference. Trust me, I think if I had a lovely big house which I need and didn’t have to think about money because having money issues does bring on depression, I’m sure I would be whole lot better than I am now. Maybe this is the problem and it’s only just now hit me because as a family I know we need a bigger house and more space. Right now, I feel I’m sinking, confined and trapped, my house always looks untidy because I need an office for my computer, my files and paperwork and my many, many food magazines and books. I need a utility room to store my laundry, a larder, an extra bathroom and bedroom, you can see how thinking about all these things which are continuously spinning around in my head can trigger negative feelings and it’s a downwards spiral into a dark place that is so difficult to climb out of. Anxiety is an altogether new emotion gripping me like the black Venom character in Spider-Man, tension, fear and feelings of impending doom; that something bad is going to happen and it’s so difficult to shake off. Sometimes anxiety goes hand in hand with depression as does sleepless nights. Tossing and turning, overthinking, problems are always magnified in the middle of the night. I don’t know why that should be and then you wake up, you are rendered a zombie, unable to function during the day.
Something else that I hate is January – I hate the New Year, I hate how quickly the year just flies by, one minute you’re packing the Christmas decorations away and then it’s autumn again and before you know it, Christmas is literally around the corner and so it starts all over again. Last Christmas was tough for me, I got ill, and I didn’t enjoy it, so I was worried that this Christmas would be the same. I was absolutely dreading it, dreading the thought of buying the presents, decorating the house, baking and cooking even socializing, something I’ve always loved. I couldn’t face Christmas and I couldn’t wait for it to be over. With a new year comes the realization that another year is over and new one is beckoning and I’m a year older. I loathe New Year’s Eve, I hate the following day, January 1st, just thinking about it now makes my stomach churn. I don’t mind the party or the get together, the flow of champagne is so welcome…..I’m still on a high from Christmas but come the following day, I know it’s all over. I feel deflated, empty, lost; I am left wondering what the new year will be like, will it be different this time? Will this new year be a better one? When am I going to feel like “me” again.
This is me lately, this is my life, this is real life for many. The hours move to days and the days to weeks and then the weeks become months. My whole life is whizzing by me and I just want to say STOP PLEASE! Can I get off and start again? There is so much pressure now to pack as much as you can in a day because there is just so much to do!!I often feel overwhelmed by it all and that’s when I begin to feel down.
I am the sort of person that thrives on routine as boring as it sounds and when something happens to destroy my every day, I get overwhelmed and I start to worry about every little thing, it destroys my happiness literally. The last eight years have been immensely challenging. I try to find the reasons why I started to feel this way, when did it all happen? Was I ever happy before? What’s it like to feel “happy” and “normal” again whatever normal means. When I was knee deep in nappies in my 30’s which I can’t even remember by the way, I was never depressed. I had four children by the time I was 36 and I loved life, I enjoyed my kids, I enjoyed the shitty nappies pardon the pun and the vomit and the tantrums!!
I got to 40 and things began to change. I felt a distance from my husband that I’d never felt before, all sorts of things were going through my mind, things that I shouldn’t have been thinking, doubts, trust. I also had my gall bladder out a year later and with that came the steady weight gain and the reliance on alcohol, I felt fat, ugly and old. I stopped going to the gym which is supposed to make you feel better, but I just couldn’t face going, there was no enjoyment in life anymore.
The reasons my husband was “different” was because he wanted to sell his business, the high street was changing, the recession had started, he could see things that perhaps you and I can’t – we non-business people are oblivious to these changes and sure enough, the recession hit with a vengeance. I gradually came around to the idea and I understood why he wanted to sell the business, but I wasn’t happy about his next venture. When our shop in Pinner was finally sold in October 2010 after 11 happy and successful years, everything I ever knew and had come to rely on was gone, the comfort of knowing the bills and the mortgage were going to be paid and there would be money for food suddenly seemed fragile and in the balance. Mistakes were made but we came out at the other end and in the summer of 2012, we had a new business. It didn’t last long because my husband got itchy feet again and he suddenly felt uneasy about the future and where the business was heading, was it a mid-life crisis? I don’t know. He felt the time had come to move on and this time, I was fully on board with the idea.
Another trigger in 2012 was my eldest son going off to university. I cried bucket loads when he left for Manchester. Add another departure when he left in February 2016 to teach English in South Korea, this time, he was gone for two years and I missed him dreadfully, it just added to the depression. He’s back now and working in London. He’s got his head screwed on, but I miss him as a cheeky teenager. He’s older now, 24, he’s man not a boy, am I stupid wishing my kids were younger again? I miss those carefree days when they were little so much. I know I should be happy they’re finding their feet and moving on with life.
Fast forward to 2015, my husband relocated his business to Henley-on-Thames and it was by far the best decision he’s ever made. It’s an affluent part of England which is important for our business to thrive, his customers are wonderful, there are no airs and graces, everyone has welcomed him with open arms and he really is part of the community now. Henley is where he should have come to in 2010 after he sold the business in Pinner but you can’t look back, you can really beat yourself up if you keep looking back, it benefits no one, it’s something I learnt when I had CBT (Cognitive Behaviour Therapy). I really recommend everyone suffering depression and anxiety tries CBT before seeking medication.
Something else that added to my stress was starting a part time job, in June. It was only two days a week so I feel a bit pathetic admitting that I found it difficult to cope with. I hoped and planned that the job would fit around my blog and other commitments and anyway, I was looking forward to earning my own money again. However, it soon began to get me down, it felt like a massive effort going to work, I felt that I wasn’t giving my blog the time that it needed to grow, and it was hard to fit everything else in. My daughter began to show signs of anxiety as the stress of her final year at school and GCSE’s beckoned. It’s why I decided to resign from my job so that I can support her throughout the next very important year. My job has unofficially been kept open should I want to go back. If I do, I will be much more organised and I will definitely get a cleaner in to help me.
Add a new business to the mix and my stress levels were at an all-time high towards the end of 2018. My husband’s expansion of his business is a brilliant thing, he’ll be moving more into the commercial sector of dry cleaning/laundry servicing hotels, restaurants and offices, it’s been in the pipeline for 18 months now.…we may even be able to move soon yay!
But it will mean him working longer hours while he trains staff and possibly less opportunity to go away. He completed on the new premises on Friday so it’s a happy time in that respect. But I’ve seen my husband stressed and worried during most of 2018 while getting this expansion under way and seeing him stressed has had a knock-on effect on all of us. To see him tired and exhausted not wanting to go out or do anything at the weekend, to see him so often asleep on the sofa instead of in his own bed has been difficult. You can imagine how it’s come between us and you can understand why I’ve spent so much of 2018 feeling unhappy and depressed. Does it put a strain on a relationship/marriage? yes, it does and trust me, both my husband and I were like ships at night passing each other by with hardly a word spoken, it’s caused arguments and a lot of pain but we’re both getting back to normal now, it takes a lot of hard work though. The new business opens in February so I’m excited about that more for him than anything else, it will be good to see him happy again.
I think you know there’s a problem when you don’t find much joy in the things you used to enjoy, for instance, going out to dinner or on holiday, even going to my beloved Paris felt like a massive mountain to climb. I’d describe this feeling as a bit like trying to walk through treacle. If I’m feeling like this about going to Paris, then I know there’s a serious problem. Yes, 2018 has been hard, life since 2011 has been hard.
As if I didn’t have enough problems, I realised I was also going through peri-menopause, let me tell you, going through both is not a pretty thing. I’ve been lucky and not really suffered that much with the dreaded M but it’s definitely had an impact on my mood. I wanted to deal with it naturally using supplements, eating well and exercise but I relented and took my GP’s advice to try HRT. I’ve been on it for 6 months but I’m not sure if it’s done a lot for me so far. It’s helped with sleep and my moods/anger but because I’ve not suffered in any other way, it doesn’t feel like the miracle cure or the wonder drug that so many women are shouting about. I’ll probably stay on it for the rest of the year, but I’d rather tackle in on my own, I really don’t want to take too many artificial hormones. By the way, you may be wondering, if I’ve taken any medication for depression? I haven’t. I feel it just masks the problem, it makes you feel like a zombie and gives you brain fog or so I’ve heard. The underlying problems are still there, and you need to sort those out before you begin to feel better. I’m not saying if you’re suffering with depression don’t take medication, I’m not advocating this, I realise some people need them in order to get out of bed and function.
You might be wondering why I would want to reveal so much of my personal life, but I think it’s so important to talk, mental health has been taboo for so long but not anymore. If I can help just one person feel better, get the help they need, to know it isn’t just them feeling horrid, that depression can affect every single person at some point their life. So many bloggers live this artificial life in the glare of social media and it’s not right, it can take over your whole life and that surely puts undue pressure on. Competing with everyone else is horrible, maybe I’m wrong, I just get the impression that a social media influencer/vlogger’s life isn’t all that happy, exciting and glamorous as they’d like us to believe it is, all glossy, shiny and perfect. I’m sure that’s why there is a lot of depression in our younger people, correct me if I am wrong though. They need more solid role models. Another thing I feel is happening is many of the younger bloggers (married or not) might delay motherhood for fear of losing their status as a top blogger. Inevitably their following and position on Instagram will fall if they’re not posting as frequently as they’d like. But life changes and you have to accept it and if starting a family is on your agenda, the blog will have to take second place, for a while at least. You can however incorporate family into your blog, one blogger who has fitted motherhood into her blog so well and made it part of her blog so successfully is Louise Loves. I admire her so much, the way she’s embraced motherhood and incorporated parenting into her blog is fantastic, if anything, it’s enhanced her blog and the same applies to Poppy Loves who’s recently won the Vuelio award for best London Lifestyle blogger.
Towards the end of 2018, I got some shock news which ended the year on a real downer because I lost an ex-boyfriend to cancer. He was my first love, we were the same age, we were inseparable for most of 1987 when we were both 20. We connected on Facebook in July after 30 years, it was so good to hear from him and to hear all about his life in Kansas, America. I knew he’d always wanted to move to the States, he was a high school soccer coach in his spare time, he was happily married for a second time with two grown up daughters. A couple of months later, I learnt of his illness, he succumbed to Pancreatic cancer, diagnosed and dead within 5 weeks. I was in shock, upset and truly heartbroken for him and his family. All I could think about was the handsome, fun guy I met in February 1987. He was half French, half Spanish, he literally took my breath away, we spent our 21st birthday’s together and he was now gone, I still can’t quite believe it. I did think about him from time to time over the years wondering if he was married, what he was up to, do you ever really stop thinking about your first love?
2018 really wasn’t a good year but something I’ve learnt writing this post is that life really is just too short, it might be a cliché but it’s true, it has also been very cathartic, I didn’t realise how much until now. It’s made me realise that I’ve spent way too long feeling negative about myself and my life. Holding on to negativity, guilt, anger, disappointment is just so damaging, damaging to mental health and damaging to those around you because emotions seep from your pores and spread like a disease and affect everyone around you like my mum’s depression affected me. Holding on to these feelings and emotions has been like an albatross around my neck. I realise that I really am lucky, I have four healthy, wonderful children and a husband who loves and cares about me and our children always working hard and striving to make life better for us. I have a roof over my head and more importantly, we have our health and that’s the biggest prize of all.
There’s so much to look forward to in 2019 after all and I aim to take each day as it comes, embrace the good with the bad and make the most of life.
If I’m having a bad day, I’m just going to go with the flow and tackle it head on. If I don’t feel like doing much and I feel overwhelmed, I’ll just sit down with a cup of tea and a book for 30 minutes, watch a film or go out for a coffee even if I’m on my own. As much as I may not feel like it, I’ll go for a walk, just being outdoors in the fresh air is so beneficial and better than any antidepressants. I’m going to do things that make me happy however small. If I don’t want to go back to work, I won’t. My blog has given me a lot of happiness and confidence these last 18 months and I’m beginning to love it again after neglecting it when I was working. I can’t wait to make some changes and add a couple of new categories.
The biggest icing on the cake was finding out that I’m a finalist in the 2019 UK Blog Awards! It’s given me the boost that I really need to face 2019 with a new-found confidence and excitement. I hope in writing this post, I’ve helped you in some way, if you’re suffering, know that you are not alone, there is no shame in feeling depressed. There’s so much help out there, more importantly, love yourself, you come first and there’s no need to feel guilty about that and remember, there is always sunshine on the horizon and there is happiness in every single day.
Love Helen x 🙂
If you’re suffering mental health, there are a lot of charities that can offer help and assistance, seek advice from your GP first. Mind are a good charity to go to. https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/
Some really good advice with extensive information can be found here. BetterHelp is an organisation that can offer help in all sorts of forms via therapists who are also available on-line as well as putting you in touch with other organisations offering help and support for individuals, couples and children. Help is out there, don’t be afraid to seek it.
Please note, I am not a medical professional, I’ve only talked about my own experiences and first point of call is to seek professional adivce from your GP first.