Six years ago I was in a very dark place as Christmas approached, and in early 2013 all the light in my world disappeared. After months of silence I finally went to my GP and was diagnosed with clinical depression and severe anxiety.
As I began to emerge from the blackness, I found reading other people’s stories enlightening and immensely comforting after the despair, shame and fear that had engulfed me.
To my horror, I had discovered that some people I thought would be there for me were not; that some chose to judge what they did not understand. But the closed minds, cold hearts and mean spirits did not crush me.
As I walked away from those who brought me down, who questioned my abilities and who saw my tears as a sign of weakness, I discovered there was a whole new tribe waiting in the wings to lift me up. I can never thank those people enough.
And as I grew stronger, I chose to rise above the hurt but never to forget what it taught me. I chose to create something positive, something good, out of my journey with the black dog. I was determined that it would give me a new sense of purpose. And it has.
I found my voice, began speaking publicly about my experience and started keeping a journal. That journal became a book. The fact that Changing Lightbulbs has resonated with readers is humbling, and quite wonderful.
I am thrilled that my book has provided comfort and hope to others, as well as some insight into, and understanding of, anxiety and depression. I hope that it will continue to raise awareness and help reduce the stigma that sadly still exists in our society. I hope it will encourage others to tell their story.
Anxiety and depression are not a sign of weakness. They are simply a part of the human condition, and in sharing our stories we share our common humanity. In reading other people’s stories, we learn that we are never alone. Reading, writing and speaking helped me to heal, to find my voice, to gain strength, and to thrive once again.
As the year draws to a close, it is my wish that no-one ever feels the shame that I did, that no-one stays silent as I did for too long, that people who are struggling find the support they need amongst friends and family, at work and in the wider community.
It is my wish that everyone has the confidence to reach out and ask for help when they need it without fear of reprisal. That would be the best Christmas present I could receive.
If you are supporting someone with depression, it’s tough to see a loved one suffer but your support could save a life. Try to simply be there, be present, listen and don’t judge.
I am living proof that there is joy on the other side of pain and hope on the other side of despair, and that it is only by experiencing darkness that we can truly appreciate the light.
You can read the full story of my journey from darkness to light in Changing Lightbulbs, and you can contact me on [email protected] to book me as a speaker for an event in 2019.