I used to appear to everyone else as an optimistic, happy-go-lucky type of person. However, on the inside, I was a lifelong worry warrior crippled with self-doubt. The climax of this came on Tuesday 4th June 2019, the worst day of my life. This was the day I was supposed to be managing a large event at work but couldn’t physically get out of bed. Yes, the black dog had well and truly entered my life and was taking me for an exhaustive walk.
It all started when I didn’t sleep at all for 3 weeks due to relentless to-do lists filling my anxious brain. This culminated as 14 weeks off work, no routine and constant darkness and discomfort for most of them. By discomfort, I mean chronic fatigue, restlessness and a stabbing pain in my stomach caused by the stress hormone cortisol operating in overdrive. With this brought shame and a sense of mourning for my own ‘normal’ life. Because funnily enough when you get so stressed that you burn out at work it’s usually because work makes up too much of your identity and how you see yourself. Now, I can’t confess to planning my escape route from life but if someone had offered me a fatal accident, at that moment in time I would have snapped their hand off. Although deep down I did want to live, I didn’t want to live this particular version of life.
But, thankfully, with the incredible non-judgmental support from a close network of family, friends, work colleagues and a fantastic new loving relationship combined with some professional therapy from a cricket fan in a shed (yes, really!) and a small dose of Sertraline I began to see some light.
One of the most notable examples was when I travelled home after walking in the Lakes with two of my biggest supporters, my dad and brother who insisted on ‘Test Match Special’ being the background accompaniment for our commute. At first, I was less than impressed by their selection bearing in mind I’d first fallen in love with the game of Cricket back in 2005 with the Ashes winning summer that year and nothing had quite compared. Since then, I’d probably unconsciously fell out of love with cricket. Anyway, I soon decided that I had no other choice than to relax into the drive gazing at the passing mountain tops, with the World Cup commentary blaring out of the stereo. All of a sudden, I found myself giggling in the back seat and felt alive again for the first time in months. Who’d have thought the dulcet tones of Aggers & Vaughan could be so therapeutic?
That wasn’t the only time Cricket gave me joy this summer. Not only did I obviously enjoy our Super Over World Cup win, but I also played the beautiful game myself. My first family holiday in ten years meant a throwback to our youth and a makeshift cricket wicket using a child’s Tennis racquet for a bat. I’ve honestly never felt so content than scoring my maiden century in the Spanish sun and stopping between overs to sip on our San Miguel’s! This was all a sign that I was coming back to life with the vigor I had before.
Shortly after returning from Spain I was offered a new challenge at work which has allowed me to fully feel like myself again. Now I’m focused on living life experience by experience as opposed to chasing a never-ending goal of finding my perfect ‘happy’ life. I’ve become passionate about supporting others who may currently be at rock bottom and play a small part in preventing this. So, if you’re currently feeling a little (or a lot) out of sorts, here’s the advice I wish I’d been given:
- Remember, you are not your thoughts
Try to remember that you are not the sum total of your darkest thoughts. For example, just because you might be struggling to get out of bed and hate yourself right now, it doesn’t mean you will never be a confident morning person again. It just means YOU ARE ILL. Try not to judge yourself as it will only hold you back. Your previous successful days might have included scoring 100 runs or bowling the whole opposition out, now it might simply be getting dressed. Celebrate those little victories.
- Remain hopeful
Even at your lowest, remain hopeful and constantly challenge yourself to believe you will enjoy life again. Look back and remind yourself of the moments you felt joy and love for others. But most importantly, if there are days you literally can’t lift your head off the pillow and just feel like eating ice cream whilst watching re-runs of past Ashes series, then do it. Then whenever you feel you can, be brave and embrace the world. Write that stuff down, each day list your achievements however small. Reflect and keep writing until you no longer need the list.
- Be proud
I know the proudest moment of my life will never be a job promotion, getting married or buying a house. It will always be the day I got showered and left my house before anyone else for the first time in three months. Once you experience happiness again, after you have felt rock bottom, I promise that every experience you enjoy will now feel like a legal high. Be proud of your journey, no longer fear the judgement of others and see expressing your vulnerabilities as a strength.
- Train the brain
The brain is also part of your body, so it needs to be given attention and daily dedication in terms of training. We are all different, what works to keep one person well won’t resonate with the next. Work hard to find what works for you and you will reap the rewards. Here’s some ideas that work for me:
- Guided imagery mediation videos like https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=t1rRo6cgM_E
- Podcasts like ‘Don’t tell me the score’
- Ted talks on self-improvement like ‘What ping-pong taught me about life’
- Runs in the rain
- Playing sport for fun with friends
“THE COMEBACK IS ALWAYS BETTER THAN THE SETBACK”