This October we will have been in the UK for 6 months, that’s a third of the way through our current 18 month plan here. It’s been a crazy ride and a year ago this time we were hoping for a new adventure, but we never imagined we would be living this life!
Just over a year ago I also rebranded this blog and started to share my journey toward a happier, healthier life. It was one of the lowest points in my life and I was struggling to see a way out. My self-esteem had been crushed, we were living in a city that we just couldn’t seem to call home and possibly the worst of all, I was bored out of my mind. I needed an escape. So, I dusted off the blog and rebranded it as The Finding Happiness Blog.
A year on and I am rebranding it again, to The Living Happiness Blog.
I’d been searching so hard for something to pull me from the deep pit of unhappiness I’d fallen into and the blog was my outlet. It was a way for me to connect with people who were going through the same struggles I was in silence. Today I am happy to say I am now LIVING happiness, no longer searching for it, but it wasn’t an easy journey.
Before I go any further I want to make it clear that this is my story, my experience. Every person is different, and everyone has different experiences, so please don’t compare. I am finally sharing my story because I finally don’t feel ashamed to say that I struggled anymore (and some days I still do). If that can help one other person know that they are not alone, that it’s ok to feel the way you do and that there is a way out, then that’s enough.
I’d been struggling with some or other form of depression since I was a teenager, maybe even since I was younger. I remember having bouts of sadness as a young child, not wanting to go play with friends and walking through the house aimlessly. It got worse as a teenager, especially when I was about 16. My family was going through a very tough time and being the stand-up kid I was, I felt like I needed to keep it all together. Throw in a good dose of peer pressure and being a pretty awkward looking 16 year old, everything simply felt out of control.
I won’t go into detail of these years as they are still quite painful to think about sometimes, but I did not look after myself and hurt myself in ways that will leave scars for the rest of my life. I was lucky enough to have the most amazing support system in my friends and family, and that got me through it. I still have the scars to remind me, but now I look at them with love because I know the pain I overcame.
Since then I’ve had bouts of depression, it came and went. By then I knew what the signs were and I’d be proactive, go and talk to someone, change friends, pull closer to my family. While at university I had a wonderful therapist who helped me work through most of my anger and sadness and after that I was able to deal much better with my triggers and emotions.
That was until last year…
I’d come back to South Africa from Oxford extremely disappointed in myself because I didn’t finish it the way I had planned. Once again everything in my life felt out of control. My family was once again going through a difficult time and I was in a work situation where I felt like a constant failure. Over two years the imposter syndrome grew in my mind and I began to doubt my own abilities in my career (despite being so passionate about what I did and having worked extremely hard to get where I was).
Despite having a wonderful man by my side who was my best friend and biggest supporter and cheerleader every single day, I was spiralling. It got to a point where I dreaded waking up in the mornings and I would move through the week like a zombie. On top of the depression I was developing sky high anxiety about everything. The future, about doing something wrong at work, about driving around Johannesburg and not being safe, about money. It was a very dark time.
It reached breaking point last year October when I broke down in tears at work and simply told my boss I needed to go home. I went straight to the doctor and broke down there as well. Once again, I was lucky enough to have an incredible doctor at the time who was calm, understanding and wanted to help me get better. She knew that I was past the point of talking, and for the first time someone explained to me exactly how depression works in the brain. You’d think someone who’d been battling this demon for so many years would know how it works by now, but no one had ever taken the time to explain it to me.
I was put on a 6 month schedule of anti-depressants. I could feel a difference after a week already. It was like everything had been foggy before and all of a sudden I could see clearly again. Things just weren’t as intense anymore. I could distinguish between when a situation was directed at me, and when it was just because someone else was having a bad day. I could make clear decisions and finally things weren’t so out of control anymore. After 3 months I felt calmer, clearer and more focussed on what I wanted my life to be.
I knew I didn’t want to be on medication for too long simply because I don’t like being dependant on external things and I made that very clear to my doctor. After 6 months she assessed me and was happy for me to slowly go off my medication. I was very scared to do that with our upcoming move to the UK so I stayed on it for about 2 months into our move and then went off them very slowly. Half, a quarter, every second day, every third… until I was off.
Today I don’t feel any different than I did when I was on my medication because during my time on them I made a conscious decision to change my lifestyle as well. Started exercising in a more healthy way, set a goal for myself (swimming Midmar Mile, which you can read about here), upped my meditation and spiritual commitments, worked on my anxiety and found ways to curb it (read more here) and took time to see how amazing, strong, smart and beautiful I really am.
I don’t know if I would have been able to take on this new adventure of moving to the UK if I hadn’t cleared my head when on anti-depressants. Things were too dark for me to see a way out. I also don’t know if being on anti-depressants would have been as successful if I hadn’t had the amazing support system that I had. Friends and family who showed me so much love and knew that I needed a bit of extra care for a while.
Most importantly I had my husband and best friend catching me at every fall. I’m not saying you have to be married to get through depression, but you have to have that one person who you can talk to about it without feeling nervous or ashamed. You have to have that person in front of whom you can cry and look ugly and who sees you at your worst and loves you even more for it. That person needs to be there for you unconditionally. Needing that person is not selfish, it’s the reality of living with a demon like depression. What makes it more special though is that your demon makes you love so unconditionally that you will be there for that person as well through your struggle.
The blog was my outlet to help me deal with my depression, even before I was willing to acknowledge how far it had gone. It was my search for happiness. I’ve now found happiness in myself. I’m no longer searching for it, but I am living it because I know that happiness starts inside all of us. Sometimes we need a little bit of help to find it, or rediscover it, but it’s always been there.
My job now is to shine out the happiness I have in me. To live and celebrate my happiness in everything I do and to find new ways of accessing that happiness. I still have bad days, bad weeks even, but I know to return to the places and things that bring me happiness before I fall into the hole. I hope that by sharing my happiness journey I’m able to help you, reading this, realise that your happiness lies inside you as well. We all go through tough times but we can get through it by unlocking the happiness inside us.
If you are struggling with depression or any other form of mental health, talk to someone, go see your doctor. It can be really scary to take that step but you can do it and you will thank yourself for believing in YOU!