3 million Australians are living with anxiety or depression. Suicide is the leading cause of death for Australians aged between 15 and 44. Most people don’t want to die, they just want their pain to stop.
We all know someone that is going through a mental health issue: a family member, a work colleague, a friend. Still, it’s a topic that is not talked about enough.
I’d like to contribute to break the stigma by telling my story.
I was diagnosed with severe depression when my son was 9 months old. Hospitalised four times with heaps of medication. A wonderful group of professionals took care of me: psychologists, psychiatrists, nurses, doctors. I also got a lot of love from family and friends.
I tried everything: group therapy, mindfulness, art therapy, gardening, meditation, reiki. Even more than ten sessions of electroshock therapy.
Nothing was enough to lift me up.
If you’ve been in this place, you know how it feels. Like having a dark cloud on top of your head continuously, while there is sunshine for everyone else. You don’t care if you die tomorrow, because life is only unbearable pain.
Lars von Triers described depression in the most beautiful film, Melancholia, with great sensitivity. An unforgettable viewing experience, that can only be created by someone who has deeply been there.
I eventually got a bit better and was sent home. The hospital was after all, a safe place. Being home alone with my tortured brain wasn’t easy. The cloud got bigger and the days and nights endless. I had a mental health nurse that would come and visit me once a week, Victoria. She would drag me out of bed and took me outside, to feel the sun on my face and sit for a chat and a coffee. She was the most extraordinary person in my recovery journey. I will always remember her and be forever grateful for all her help. I cried when she left me because she changed jobs.
Months went by…. I had to get a job, get my life back. Do things, pretend to be well and happy. The cloud on my head was still there, on and off. My medication, therapy, breathing techniques, walks in nature.. weren’t doing much for my recovery. I wondered If I was ever going to get back to my old self.
One day, a meditation teacher suggested I should call an ayurvedic doctor for a consult. I had vaguely heard about Ayurveda, the Indian science of life. Hesitant and sceptical, I decided to give it a go. I had a Skype session with the most amazing practitioner. Somehow she knew everything that was going on for me, without me telling her anything at all.
She suggested drastic changes on my lifestyle and my diet. My whole routine changed. Getting up at 5.30am, going for a walk, getting home, doing yoga and meditation. No red meat, no most carbohydrates, no sweets, no alcohol. I was overwhelmed and grumpy. The lack of sugar caused me mood swings for a couple of weeks.
But I embraced the challenge. I had nothing to lose and I was sick of my life as it was. I put all my energy into this, and I started to feel much better in a couple of months.
My ayurvedic doctor told me on the first session that the purpose of this treatment, long term, was that I would stop taking my medication. I got excited and told the news to my psychiatrist. He laughed at me. He said I would be on my meds at least for five years.
It’s been a year since I started my ayurvedic journey. I lost ten kilos and haven’t been sick since (not even a cold). I’m now on the minimum dose of my medication, before getting off it forever. It’s been an incredible ride. My life gave a 180 degrees turn. I’m happy, I’m alive and I will never go back to depression.
I wanted to tell you my story because you can overcome depression too. You will need determination, some work and the will to turn your life around. It is possible.
And no, you would never go back to your old self. Because this experience will change your life forever. It will mark you and it will make you review many things. But you’ll be a richer person with a great story to tell others. Your time to change is now. You can do this. And I’m happy to help if you need me.
If you’re in Australia and need help, please reach out:
PANDA National Helpline (Perinatal Anxiety and Depression Australia)
If you’re overseas, please contact your local institutions or visit your doctor.
No matter where you are, at least once in a lifetime, you should do the Happiness Program course from the Art of Living foundation.
Take care, and drop me a line if you have questions or comments.