Episode 92: A Very Personal Episode: My Journey Back To Mental Health
In this episode, I will share a journey that has a massive impact on my life. I will share what brought me to actually go and get diagnosed, what it felt like to have it, how it affected my life as an adult, a mother and as a businesswoman. I will also share how it got treated, how my life changed for the best, and what you should do if you feel you are experiencing similar symptoms.
Listen to Episode 92: A Very Personal Episode: My Journey Back To Mental Health
Podcast: Download (Duration 17:44 — 24 MB)
- [00:00:45] “R U OK?” day
- [00:03:33] Being diagnosed for depression
- [00:04:06] How it came to a head
- [00:06:07] Trying to get off medication
- [00:07:08] The symptoms
- [00:08:33] The effects on my family
- [00:11:15] Irrational fear of debt
- [00:12:02] Hypnotherapy
- [00:12:32] A massive turnaround in terms of property
- [00:14:30] Stigma around mental illness
- [00:15:15] What you need to do if you suspect you have it
- [00:16:31] She Renovates Live
“I always knew that I could do anything but when I tried to, my illness actually held me back. As a result of treatment, I have been able to perfect my craft. I've been able to build a business. I've been able to impact the lives of other women and experience a lot of joy that wasn't available to me in the past.”
Hello, renovators, it's Bernadette back with another episode of She Renovates. And today, the day of recording is the 10th of September, which is “R U OK?" day. So, given the theme for the day, I thought that it was appropriate that the topic should be my journey back to mental health. Now, I'm always happy to talk about my experience because I know that there are a lot of people out there suffering and they are doing that undiagnosed. So, if I prompt just one person to go and do something about it, then it's worth it. It's still a very taboo subject in lots of circles and I do find that quite frustrating because if someone has a heart condition or diabetes or anything else, then it's just expected that you get treated. But for some reason, depression is treated differently and there’s a certain amount of shame that surrounds the topic and I just don't think that's on.
And so today I'm going to share basically: 1) what brought me to actually go and get diagnosed, 2) what it felt like to have it because I think if I had known that my symptoms were actually depression, I would have done something earlier and not suffered for so long, 3) how it got treated, and 4) what you should do if you feel that you are experiencing similar symptoms.
Now, I think it's important to differentiate between depression and just having a period of time where you're just a bit down because I think everyone experiences times, a short term form of anxiety or depression, but they are short lived and I think that's quite normal. However, if it's prolonged and it impacts your life, then you really need to do something about it because what you may not realise is it's not just affecting you, it's affecting the people around you. And that was, for me, the biggest revelation and also the biggest sadness that I felt because I realised that I was making the people I loved very miserable as well. And while I'm at it, I'll mention that it had a very serious negative impact on my property journey as well. So, I'll touch on that once I get into the episode.
I'm going to begin by saying that it was about a decade ago that I was diagnosed and the incident that caused me to go to see someone about it was I had no idea there was anything wrong with me. I thought that the way I was thinking was normal. It was the way I had thought my whole life, my whole adult life. I didn't remember how I thought as a child and I thought that that was normal to be like that. But it came to a head one day when our oldest daughter, Hannah, she would have been in her very late teens, said to me, "Mum, either you go and do something about what's going on with you or I have to move out because you're impossible to live with". Now, that just blew me out of the water. I had absolutely no idea. I'd had a few inklings along the way. And not long before that, when we were going to bed one evening, Stephen said to me that he thought that I was quite hard on one of our children. And I said to him, "No, she was just being a brat". Seriously, that was what I thought. And now that I look back on it from a position of wellness, I realised he was absolutely right. And I just had no idea that I was being so unreasonable.
So, I tootle off to the doctor and told her what was going on and how I felt. I'll go into that in a minute. She said to me, "I think that you are suffering from depression". "You could have knocked me over with a feather" I said, "I can't believe that". Anyhow, she sent me off to see an expert and I ended up being put on medication, having counseling. The amazing thing was within three weeks, I felt like a different person. I felt like someone had turned on the lights, and I realised at that point that I'd been feeling not well or suffering from this condition all my adult life. It was just so incredibly liberating. I felt like myself for the first time in a very, very long time. Everything changed, everything changed for the better. I have had the periods of counseling at different times since then.
I've been on medication the same dose, same medication ever since then as well. A few times, I've thought about getting off the medication. In fact, I have attempted to get off the medication, I've lowered the dose and tried to free myself of it but it's all just come streaming back. The last time that I did this, I made the decision that, you know what? If that's what I have to do to feel well, well, then so be it. I'm not going to try to get off the medication anymore. I cannot tell you the number of ways it has improved my life. I really can't recommend strongly enough that if you have been feeling or suspecting that you might be suffering from a mental illness to go and speak to someone. Speak to your local doctor about it and get treated because there is a whole world out there that you're missing out on.
Now, let's talk about some of the symptoms. So, I have a form of clinical depression. I don't really know what the difference between that and any other form of depression is. I suspect I inherited it from my father. He also suffered from very severe depression but unfortunately, his could not be managed very well with medication. You know, he had good times but a lot of times he was not that well. He died at an early age and I believe purely as a result of that condition. So, I see myself as being really lucky because I've got more than a decade on him and I've managed really well. But early in my adult life, I would overthink absolutely everything. I could not let things go. I would lay awake at night not going through everything in the day and feeling ashamed of how I'd acted, what I'd done. And now that I look back on it, I just don't see where the shame came from. Whatever I did, any encounter I had, I would analyse that over and over again in my mind. I didn't sleep at all well, so I suffered from severe insomnia. I'll be up half the night worrying, basically. Stephen would say to me, "Why are you worrying about this? Just forget about it". And I just couldn't let it go. I didn't understand why and I couldn't understand how he could. It was incredibly debilitating. I would have times where I felt really irritated and angry about things. And that's the result of not sleeping, I would be tired all the time.
Now, we have four children. I often had a project, a reno project on the go, I was over achieving. I put 150% into everything I did and as a result, I was exhausted all the time. I felt worthless. The worthlessness got worse as I got older. This was something that really became prominent in my middle age. Felt that nobody really appreciated what I did. And guilt about everything. Stuff that I have no idea why I felt guilty about them, but I did. I worried about our children incessantly. I remember when Hannah what must have been in about year one. She brought some work home from school that she had done and they'd been asked to fill out a questionnaire. And one of them was, "What did she love about school?" and I can't remember what she wrote about that. But "What didn't she like about school?" she said that she didn't like excursions because she was afraid someone would steal her while she was out on an excursion. That was my thoughts being reflected on her because I was paranoid about keeping our children safe.
I wouldn't let them play in the front garden because I was worried someone would pick them over the fence, like I do sound like a lunatic. I do think that they had a happy childhood. I think a lot of that is as a result of they had a very laidback father, so he compensated for me. In fact, I do remember going out - I used to go and shop on the weekends while he was at home with the kids - and I remember coming home one day and they had dragged all their bedding out onto the front foot path. So not only were they playing in the front garden but they had all their bedding out in the garden. I don't know what they were doing, but he was quite okay with that. When I first saw it, firstly, I felt anger then I thought, "You know what? That's what they need". He allows them to play freely. And he was supervising but he was obviously not at all concerned about the blankets and dirt and whatever pillows. I just let it go, which was pretty amazing.
I had a completely irrational fear of debt. I hated debt. We paid off our first mortgage in just a few years. I didn't like to borrow money for anything. I like to work with cash. Well, that's fine. And I guess it prompted us to save really hard, which we did. Each really negatively impacted our property journey. I would buy a property, a project, and then the minute we had it, I would then stop panicking about it and have to get it done and get it sold so that we could get rid of the debt. I realise now that that was so crazy but at the time, that was where my thinking was at.
In terms of things that have improved since then, I just can't count the number of things that have improved. I still don't sleep very well. However, I am currently having hypnotherapy and it's just commenting to Stephen this morning, I've really only had one night this week where I have not slept soundly and that's incredible. I'm on a three-month program of hypnotherapy, so let's see how that progresses.
In terms of property, that has been a massive turnaround. I'm able to think clearly since I've been diagnosed and treated that I've been able to really think through the system that we now use to produce a substantial profit from renovating. The things that I've needed to do to start a business I could not have done before, like I had to learn to public speak. Up until now, if I had to speak, not even in public like to a meeting with 10 people in it, I would be the person in the fetal position in the corner. I was absolutely terrible and I've been able to work through that. Now, that's one of the things that I absolutely love doing because I know that it will impact someone else. That's the joy that I now get that was not available to me in the past.
Obviously, I am a much more laid-back grandmother than I ever was as a mother. And I do think some of my irrational methods have actually paid off. Things like when our children were little, we would never have take-away because I wanted to sort of have control over everything they ate so they always eat healthily. They have turned out to be of a similar vein as adults themselves. So, they're great cooks, they're not into eating crap, which I think is a plus if you had to find some moments of glory out of my misery. But I certainly feel that I can do anything like, I always knew that I could do anything but when I tried to, my illness actually held me back. As a result, I have been able to perfect my craft. I've been able to build a business. I've been able to impact the lives of other women and experience a lot of joy that wasn't available to me in the past.
I did say earlier that there is a lot of stigma around mental illness. When I was first diagnosed, we had a girls’ weekend in Melbourne. I told them what had happened and how I'd been treated and how I felt on top of the world. One of my best friends at the time actually went off her head about me taking medication. And to this day, I feel really betrayed because of it. I was sharing the joy of feeling normal, and she just didn't understand. Yes, it is alive and well and I will shout it from the rooftops if it helps someone else get through that stigma because it's just like any other illness. You've got it, you need to get treated.
Now, if you do suspect, if you've had any of these feelings that I've described or others, obviously my form is not the only form. Then what you need to do is firstly go to your local doctor, tell your doctor how you're feeling, and if you don't get a good hearing, go to another doctor. Doctors are human just like us. You just do whatever it takes to get to see the right person to get treated because I promise you it will make a massive difference.
Now, if you've been experiencing symptoms since the Covid break out, please don't feel you can't get help because you think it's only short lived, to use a word that's been threshed in unprecedented time. It's quite normal to really be feeling sad, anxious, depressed about what's happening in the world. If you need help for a period of time, it may only be short lived but why suffer? Go and get the help. I know a lot of people are finding this time quite hard to deal with. Sometimes you just need some help to get through it. Reach out and don't be ashamed because there's nothing to be ashamed of.
Speaking of support, we're getting together, we renovators on the 1st of November at the She Renovates Live conference. We still have some tickets, if you would like to join us. We've had to make a pivot because it looks like the borders are not going to be open. If you're in New South Wales and you would like to come to the live event, we have some live tickets and we also now have an online streaming ticket. What will happen if you buy a streaming ticket? We'll have to post your goody bag out to you but then we will stream the event live over the Internet. We've got some amazing prices and lots of fun to be had during the day. Come and have a day out with us and I'll look forward to meeting you in the flesh.
That's it for today. See you next week!