Sunday, 12 April 2015

How reading saved my life

Okay folks, let's get real for a second. I thought about doing a post like this for a long time, but always managed to find a reason to talk myself out of it. There have been quite a few post on the subject popping up here and there and after reading through a good dozen I kept thinking, 
'Why am I being such a coward? All of these people are so brave to put their feelings out there, so why can't I? 

So today, I'm going to try and add my views and personal experiences to the subject 'Reading your way out of depression.'  I'll talk about the experiences I've made and what kind of role reading played in my battle with depression. 

This post will probably consist of a lot of rambling, so just bear with me. Writing this post is something I've been meaning to do for over a year so there'll be a lot of ground to cover. 

I've been meaning to make my posts a little more personal in general, rather than just churning out clinically neat columns about this and that, I thought, what I really want to do is add something that y'all can perhaps relate to as well. 

Right so, I've was diagnosed with Bipolar disorder about a year and a half ago and have been plagued with anxiety attacks for a couple of years beforehand.  I can't actually put my finger on a specific date when it all started, thinking about it now, I'd wager that I was around 15, maybe a little younger.  At the time I thought that the negative thoughts I felt would fade away, or that it was just the way I was meant to feel. 

Illnesses of any kind weren't really something my parents took very seriously and never had much sympathy for if I'm being honest. Being the perfect little daughter was that mattered to them most, so my siblings and I grew up believing that, too and so, for many years, I thought I was just being overdramatic and that it was 'just a phase’ I was going through. 

Alas, that was not the case. I can't describe what I went through apart from saying that there were days where I thought I was going to die. Yup, straight up thought, ‘alright chaps, this is it. I guess I've had a good run. Catch y'all on the flip-side.’   

I know that this'll be hard to understand if you've never experienced a full blown panic attack, but it's the truth. All I can say is that I wouldn't wish those thoughts and feelings upon anyone, not even my worst enemy. 

I've had weeks where I didn't do anything but stare at the white washed walls of my room. Sounds super fun, I know. Luckily, one late September day a good friend handed me a copy of Virginia Woolf's 'Ms Dalloway' and everything changed. I finally found the comfort I'd been looking for. I found solace, but most importantly, I found peace, for a little while at least. My depression is and will always be a part of me, but reading helped me  find a way out of the haze. I finally felt like I could crawl out from under the huge rock I'd been trapped under for so long.

Like I could make choices for myself again rather than letting my thoughts control every moment of my day and I've gotta tell you, I'll never forget that feeling. Never. Reading brought me an immense relief because I was able to lose myself in the vast depths of each new novel I picked up. With each new book, I felt my confidence renewed and with that came a new found passion for living. 

So, yes, I think books can be a great help if you're struggling and can't find a way to deal with negative thoughts, but you also have to realise that literature alone cannot cure you, so please don't unnecessarily put yourself through hell like I did. Get help and get help soon. Don't put it off because you're ashamed. Having mental health problems is nothing to feel to ashamed about and you'll only regret wasting precious moments. Don't underestimate the importance of counselling and seeking help from your local GP. 

Finding the right medication can work wonders and bring the change that your life needs. If I'm honest, at first I didn't believe it either. I thought taking medication would do more harm than good, but take it from me when I say that I couldn't have been more wrong. Yes, it's a little tricky to find the medication that suits you just right, and yes, it'll take a little while to adjust but trust me, it is SO worth it in the end. 

When I finally made the choice to seek help and got my diagnosis, everything finally fell into place. All those years of self loathing, blaming myself for thinking I was just being overdramatic and hating myself for not being able to just 'snap out of it' like everyone told me to finally came to an end and even better, none of it had been my fault. 
Just hearing that was worth all of the stress.  

Yes, it was super tough, I cried like a baby in my first evaluation and thought I wouldn't ever be able to talk about my problems to a stranger, I mean, I hardly understood them myself, so how on earth could I explain it to someone else, but I somehow managed to and finally got the help that I needed. 

So yes, I firmly believe that literature can help dealing with depression, curing it however it cannot. Please make no mistake when it comes to the gravity of depression. Mental health is no joke, so please don't treat it like one. 

If you're still reading this, thank you for you time and thank you, Christabelle for your copy of Ms Dalloway all those years ago. I don't know where I would have ended up without it.

(Phew, it's done! *High five*) 

All the love as always,