At times over the last few months, if you had told me to look on the bright side or see the positives, you would have been blacklisted. Blocked. Cut off. When you are battling your own mind, being told to keep your chin up feels insensitive and hurtful. But as I start to walk out of my fog, I’m starting to see that there are positives to being so ill. There are things I have learned and experienced all thanks to depression and anxiety. Some really good things.
1. I understand myself better
When you tear yourself apart and slowly rebuild yourself, you get to understand a lot more about your motivations, fears, loves and boundaries. There isn’t much else in adulthood that will afford you such a profound period of reflection and redirection. When you feel so vulnerable and stripped bare, everything is exposed. And there’s no better way to renovate than when you’ve cleared everything out.
2. I remembered things I enjoy but had stopped making time for.
When I became a Mum, there was an immediate shift in the amount of time I spent on doing things for me. I’ve spent my life doing things that I enjoy but when you become a Mum, it’s easy for those things to become a really low priority. But in order to recover, I needed to do things that made me feel good. So I picked up my kindle and started reading again. I went on walks. I put make up on! I’ve started cooking more which I really enjoy (cooking was one for my wedding vows 😝). My cupboards are more organised. Small things that add up and make a big difference to your mental wellbeing. Self care is not selfish – it’s ok to spend time doing things you enjoy.
3. I found new things I enjoy
This experience lead me to writing my blog. I love my blog – it’s a place where I can express my thoughts. I can be creative. I can use my brain. Finding my voice has been wonderful. I’ve also met so many amazing people because of my blog. Having the courage to put my experiences out there has really paid off for me.
4. I valued my happiness
When you become a Mum, the happiness that matters most is not your own. You spend all of your time making sure your tiny baby is happy and comfortable and all their needs are met. As your tiny baby grows, they remain number one. I would give up anything if it meant my daughter would be happy. But I also now realise that I can’t give her everything she wants and needs (ie my time and attention) if I’m not happy myself. So I’ve started to see that investing in my own happiness is good for me and my daughter.
5. I changed my values and priorities
Sometimes, it’s easier to just keep going than it is to stop and change direction. I was forced to stop by a mental health crisis. At times, I felt frozen still and must have looked almost catatonic. M would go to work and when he returned I hadn’t moved. But in my stillness, my mind raced. I was searching for a way out of my own prison. I was looking for a way to live a life I loved. As time went on and I started to work my way through my muddled thoughts, I realised that my mental health and my family are my first priority. And that means no more trying for a baby right now. We need to focus on what is here right now. Little things have changed too – I’m late more often now because instead of bundling out the door I try to take time to put make up on and have a quick tidy round – again, my priorities have changed. A tidy house and looking good are more important to me than being exactly on time. I’m happier this way. It may seem small but it’s all had an impact on my wellbeing which is massive.
Would I go back and change everything? Honestly? No. I’m glad that in my heart there are 5 more babies. They stayed for a short time but I’m lucky that we got to have them, if only briefly. I wouldn’t want to experience a single day of deep depression or anxiety again. But I also want to keep everything I’ve learbed. So no, I wouldn’t change a thing. It was hard, but I got through it.
I’d love to hear if you’ve discovered any positives from mental illness or any bad/difficult experience. Let me know in the comments if you’ve looked back and discovered there wasn’t good amongst the suffering.