Raising the Roof with Anna
Meet Anna (and her adorable daughter!):
Anna has battled with Depression and Anxiety on and off since the age of about 15. Alongside these she has also battled with self-harm, suicide attempts and eating disorders. Having had two particularly difficult periods in her past that she nearly didn't survive Anna believes that she would be classed as recovered.
Although, she feels as though the fear of the Depression and Anxiety returning will always be in the back of her mind. This had a negative impact when Anna was awaiting the arrival of her daughter Zoe. Anna explained to me that: "Even now with a few years of being 'healthy' mentally it's always there in the back of my mind, like a dark shadow following me even in the warmest sunshine."
When we first started chatting you mention that you would be classed as "recovered", do you feel that recovery from anxiety and depression is a definitive thing or do you think it is something you will always have to be conscious of?
I don't think depression and anxiety are anything that you ever do really recover from. I know for me since my last period of depression I constantly worry about it returning. After having Zoe I worried so much about getting postnatal depression when I should have been enjoying time with little Zoe.
I don't think you ever recover, I think it just goes away for a while and if you are lucky if it goes away forever. I myself am pretty sure that it will come back at some point. I am not sure if that's just me being negative, or whether it is a fact.
Sometimes I have a run of a bad few days and occasionally thoughts start to creep back into my head. I always hope that it's not coming back: I hope that it's just a few bad days, like everyone else has. But that doesn't always help.
It must be very difficult to feel as though it's hanging around in the background, especially when you have a child, has your depression and anxiety changed your opinion of yourself?
I think it has changed me as a person and therefore my opinion of myself.
I believe myself to be stronger and more resilient than I was before. I think that it has helped me become more empathetic to others, making me think that I'm a more patient and understanding person than before.
This question may sound odd, but do you feel as though you have had a relationship with your depression and anxiety?
It's like a living, breathing thing sometimes. Like a person or an animal. Have you heard of the book where the author refers to it as a big black dog? Sometimes (when I'm feeling low) that is exactly what it's like - like having something big and black follow me around.
And also when I'm struggling with my brain (this is hard to explain) telling me stuff, and I try to tell it to shut up; it's like talking to a person.
(The book Anna is referring to is I Had a Black Dog by Matthew Johnstone, you can find a copy here.)
Does it help you to give it an identity?
I don't know if it helps or not to be honest. Maybe making it a 'thing' means that it's something I can control? Or at least I have the power to ignore it or make it go away? To be honest I've not really thought about that before. It's not like I consciously thought to give it an identity that's just what happened.
What do you find helps when you are having difficult days?
Well, having some time to myself really helps. I'll ask Martin to look after Zoe, or take her to the park, so that I can have an hour or so to myself. Maybe do some crafting, tidy up something in the house that has been annoying me, or even just having the chance to sit down with the laptop to write a blog post or read other blogs. I do love a nice long bubble bath with some lush products too - very relaxing!!
I find that talking to someone helps. I have one friend who is an excellent listener and he's great at seeing through all the 'stuff' and helping me see what the real issues are. I tend to focus on problems A, B and C when really it is problem D that is causing A, B and C!
If you had to describe depression and anxiety (either as a whole or in separate entities) how would you describe it/them?
I would describe the depression and anxiety that I feel as an internal monologue at the back of my head (sort of like someone standing behind me) and whenever I have a thought, it butts in with unwanted comments, for example:
Me: I think I'll go shopping today
It: Why? What's the point? Nothing will fit you, and you'll have to talk to people, and get there, and walk.... that's far too much effort - just stay in bed.
It also feels a bit like an oppressive black cloud, or a big black dog following you around all the time. It's always there, sometimes it's quiet and sometimes not.
You mentioned before about some really dark periods when you were younger which included suicide attempts, the development of a lot of self harm and eating disorders, this sounds like it was a really turbulent time. How did you survive going through all of that?
The first time, to be honest, I'm not sure how I got out of it. I tried different counsellors none of which seemed to help, or they did for a while but I ended up back where I started. I think that once I removed myself from a certain situation that I was in, things improved; because my day to day life was better, my long term mental health improved. I still had bad days, times when I would shut out the world for a week or so, but those became rarer.
I think if I hadn't been so socially isolated that things might not have escalated to the point that they did but I'll never know I guess.
Knowing that you have survived it before, does it give you strength now?
Yes! Yes, yes, yes!
It's like I know I've done it once so I can do it again. A bit like giving birth - I've done it once so I'm not worried about doing it again!
I love the positivity with your answer!
What is the worst thing that comes with dealing with Depression and Anxiety?
The worst thing about dealing with depression and anxiety is that feeling of hopelessness that you will never be out the other side; that there is no other side. Even when I've been through it and KNOW that there is an end it's still hard to cope, to see the end when you are in your darkest time.
I also struggle with talking to people. I know if I talk to people sooner then I'm much more likely to get out quicker or not get in as deep. But I tend to feel like I'm bothering people with my problems like I don't want them to worry so I don't tell them what's going on. That's hard.
There is still a large stigma that surrounds Mental Health issues, what would you say to somebody who is afraid or sceptical of Mental Health issues?
Not to be afraid! There is so much help available out there for people. If you are worried about someone, talk to them, ask them how they are doing. Just listen to them, even if they don't want to talk, just being there might help. I think that the more people talk about it and the more it is in the media, the better the understanding.
I remember when I was younger, there wasn't a lot of support available - I found a lot of support online. Knowing that other people have gone/are going through the same as you really does help.
Thank you Anna!
You can find Anna and her blog over at http://thedustyatticblog.blogspot.co.uk/
If you are struggling with a Mental Health issue please don’t suffer in silence. If you need unbiased support please contact one of the charities below:
Talk to The Samaritans
Call: 08457 90 90 90 (UK)
Call: 1850 60 90 90 (ROI)
Or email: email@example.com
Rethink Mental Illness
Call: 0300 5000 927
Call: 0300 5000 927
The Mind infoline
Call: 0300 123 3393
Or email firstname.lastname@example.org
You are never alone; there is always someone who will listen to you. I will listen to you.
Please feel free to email me on email@example.com if you want/need to chat or to find out how you can get involved with Raising the Roof on Mental Health.
Remember; there’s strength in numbers….Raise the Roof loud and proud!