“For many people, Christmas is the most magical time of the year. A time for peace, gratitude, joy, and unity. I have always loved Christmas; there’s something quite warming about spending time with loved ones with no limitations. For many years Christmas was my favorite time of the year, but the Christmas of 2020 was the complete opposite. I’d go as far as saying that Christmas 2020 was the darkest time of my life, leaving me with a year-long battle with my own mind as I navigated my way back to mental well-being.
It hasn’t been easy. I have celebrated many highs and suffered devastating lows, but I have managed to pull myself out of the dark hole I found myself in as well as pull others out with me. I have spent the last 12 months digging into the locked archives of my mind in a bid to unearth any possible causes for my struggles and to make amends with my past in order to move forward, into a much more promising and peaceful future for me and my family. This is my story…
The build-up to Christmas 2020 was the same as every other year, with a little added excitement as my partner and I were expecting twin boys in February. We were all in good spirits as we awaited the holiday season, counting down the days until we broke up from work to fully indulge in the festivities with our loved ones. Covid restrictions were still pretty tight so we knew Christmas was going to be different, but we were willing to accept it and make do with what we had. I broke up from work and made my way home, calling my partner just before I left the site to let her know I was on my way home. The rest of that day I was ecstatic; I arrived home, showered, and slipped into my Christmas pajamas with no intention of doing anything for a fortnight.
The remainder of the night was pretty relaxed as my partner and I were discussing what sort of things we’d get up to, as it was our last Christmas as single people without the great responsibility of parenthood. As we went to bed that night, I could feel the atmosphere surrounding me start to shift, I felt different but I couldn’t quite put a finger on what was happening within my mind and body. I remember thinking to myself that I just needed to get to bedtime and, after a good night’s sleep, I’d be okay again. I was wrong.
I woke up the following morning and things were a lot worse. My mind was in overdrive, every thought more disturbing than the last. I was convincing myself that I needed to commit suicide in order to keep my family safe. How do you make sense of that? It’s an impossible concept to process but in those moments even the most ludicrous of ideas seem logical. Wave after wave of panic attacks were battering my body to the point I was sleeping for hours in the daytime and trying to picture how I’d rid my family of the burden during the evenings. I was becoming drained and the longer it went on, the further from reality I became. I was in sheer distress and felt like I had to face it alone.
I felt like I was going crazy, going as far as calling the doctors one morning and telling them I needed to be sectioned for my own safety as well as others. The turning point for me was just before the new year. I’d been drowning in a sea of negative energy for around a week and I couldn’t see my way out until I received a message from a friend of mine that noticed something wasn’t right with me. With every message that I sent and received, I could feel the psychological weight lifting from my shoulders, and the whirlpool that was drowning me suddenly become placid. The air became tranquil for moments. I knew it wasn’t enough to see me through it all, but it was a start.
The following morning I started to piece together the steps to my recovery. Firstly, working on discovering and managing my triggers, cutting out anything that may influence my thinking. From music and film to alcohol and caffeine, I had to completely change my way of life to accommodate my anxiety. I called my GP and told her what was happening to me and she was happy for me to start medication, which was fine by me. I started taking Sertraline, and I’d be lying if I said that things didn’t get a whole lot worse before they started to get better.
Intrusive thoughts rocked me to the core every waking second of the day, for months on end. I knew I couldn’t rely solely on the medication so I continued with my plan and started exercising, running long distances, and weight training at the gym which made a massive difference to my mental state momentarily. I was taking two steps forward and then a step back but I wouldn’t let that dampen my spirits.
Thinking back to how the conversation with an old friend made me feel, I decided to start documenting my journey online via my blog. I was apprehensive at first as I wasn’t sure that people would want to hear what I had to say. In hindsight, I had nothing to lose and everything to gain from it. The reception my blogs were receiving really did blow my mind; people from all walks of life were contacting me as they could relate to the struggles I was facing, and I was inspiring others to speak out too. I’d made a small community for myself and others on social media. We’d exchange stories and ideas on how to alleviate our worries. I could really feel a sense of belonging.
Of course, I also ran into a few trolls but they were nothing compared to what I had already endured; they were brushed off with the confidence I hadn’t seen since before all of this happened. Helping people helped me. It gave me a chance to talk about how I was feeling as well as listen to others. I felt that my friend saved my life so this was my way of giving back.
The birth of my twin boys in February 2021 was fast approaching. During the run-up, it felt more like a doomsday than the greatest day of my life because I’d put too much pressure on myself to be completely recovered before their arrival. I’ve learned that I could not rush my recovery, there is no shortcut or faster route by GPS when it comes to mental health recovery. I had to learn to live with my anxiety as well as cope with a lifestyle change of great magnitude.
My boys being here was bittersweet in the beginning as I was kept busy all the time, taking my mind away from the negative thought processes that were manifesting inside of me. But I still felt the hindrance from my internal battles. Being home all weekend was my biggest struggle. I felt that was when my thoughts could really get to me when I was around my children, so I was on edge a lot of the time, almost anticipating something that wasn’t coming. I spent the next few months trying different methods of self-care including CBD oil, meditation, and counseling, documenting my journey along the way. I was hoping it would help others along their journeys too. Eventually, I found what worked for me and what didn’t and stuck to my game plan.
Counseling was a real lifesaver for me. I decided if I was going to do it, I’d go private with a company local to me. My counselor has helped me understand my anxiety and most importantly, to accept it. Helping me understand the behaviors of my early years so I could put the demons of my past to bed. Soon, I started to notice that I was taking five steps forward before I’d take a step back. Once I started to see my progress improve dramatically, there was no stopping me, the new lease of life was spurring me on as I could see better days on the horizon. Bad days still occur even to this day, but I know now that one bad day does not undo the hard work I have put into my recovery. It only reminds me of how far I have come.
This time last year I was waking up every day wishing I would die, fast forward 365 days and I’ve never felt more alive. I’m not quite out of the woods yet, but I’m on the exit trail. I’m still in recovery but the changes I have seen within myself have been nothing short of remarkable. I am aware that there is still a lot of work to do but the best thing I did was invest in myself; I am so grateful that I chose me. I dread to think what may have happened had I not. It has been a long journey full of hard work and great sacrifice, taking baby steps towards my end goal but baby steps forward are better than staying in the same place, right?
I’m slowly reintegrating the things I once sought pleasure in back into my life, bit by bit. Although I have endured a very tough year, I will be eternally grateful for the lessons I have learned from this experience. I spent too long neglecting what my body needs in order to grow. I have gained wisdom through experience. Mental health illness is devastating for everybody involved. It tears people down silently. Please check in on your loved ones, even those that seem the happiest as you just never know what somebody may be facing behind closed doors. I know just how hard it is and I wouldn’t wish it on anybody. I made a decision to fight back, I chose me, I chose life, I chose a secure future for my children. Anybody can do the same too.
JUST CHOOSE YOU.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Marc Davis. You can follow his journey on Facebook and Instagram. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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