Although my recovery from severe anxiety and depression has since plateaued, in the first few weeks following diagnosis I was surprised at how much better I felt so quickly.
A number of things had changed during this time:
- I had spoken to the doctor about how I was feeling, and entered the system of seeking treatment.
- I had written about how I had been feeling, and had a lot of conversations with people on and offline about mental health.
- I took on more responsibility at work and got a pay rise.
- The gym re-opened and I developed a regular exercise habit.
- I overhauled my diet: less carbs, more protein (including shakes and supplements after working out), less alcohol, and started taking daily vitamins.
- These last two resulted in visible changes to my body, with people telling me I felt more toned (I can also feel my abs move when I walk, and so have taken to keeping my palms pressed to my core).
Basically, I started doing stuff and I started seeing results of what I was doing. It reminded me that one of the most powerful things you can do to improve your happiness is to feel in control of your own life.
Granted, in the midst of depression this can be difficult. But even things like choosing to and being able to cycle somewhere (previously I had been to anxious to get on my bike) made me feel powerful. Small wins towards my goals, like making it to the gym for ten minutes or turning down a second biscuit at work, built up momentum and I was gradually more able to feel in control of the bigger things.
Once I had decided that control was a key to happiness, I started noticing it everywhere.
I noticed it in my job, where I support adults with learning disabilities to have more choice and control over their lives. I suddenly “got” person-centred planning in an emotional way. Of course it is crucial for people to be at the centre of their own lives, to make decisions and to drive things forward, rather than have things happen to them.
I noticed it in the books I was reading, where I realised that the flip side of being in control is feeling like a victim.
“I had stopped being the heroine of my life and somehow ended up a victim again. I had forgotten that being the heroine (or hero) of your own life is hard work. It requires consistent effort on your part; you have to believe in yourself and you have to work on it every single day. You have to be relentless in your search for the positive, which isn’t easy. Being the victim, on the other hand, is. A few days of feeling sorry for yourself very easily stretches into a month, then that month becomes a year. If you don’t realise this is what you’re doing and get in the driver’s seat again, then before you know it, being the victim is your only story.” Philippa Moore, The Latte Years
I had gotten in the drivers seat by building a consistent exercise habit, breaking my addiction to simple carbs, and by writing about my life. Writing is so important to my healing process.
In a professional capacity I am interested in “How do you support people without curtailing their freedom?” and in a personal capacity I am interested in talking publicly about anything that makes me feel discomfort or shame.
What makes you feel in control of your own life?