Five years ago today was intended as a cause for celebration as I would turn 20 when the clock struck midnight but it ultimately ended in the mental breakdown which triggered the journey through mental realignment.
And now, half a decade down the road, life is good.
As much as I would like to say that when I set off on my three-month backpacking trip in March 2015 after nine months of therapy that I was effectively cruising off into the sunset into my happily ever after, I must confess that it doesn’t work like that. Despite the fact that four years ago when that trip ended I had myself convinced that all was well with my mental health, again, I must tell you that wasn’t the case.
The best way I can describe depression is a lot like hunger, it comes and goes. One thing that took me a long time to grasp is that depression is an illness I will suffer from until the day I die.
The biggest difference between me now and me five years ago is that back then I didn’t accept the situation I was in with a mental illness. I would just tell myself that it doesn’t happen to 19-year-olds and ignore it, from there it would build and build until eventually, I had the inevitable mental breakdown.
Whereas now, although the depression is still there and always will be, I’ve taken responsibility for that part of my life. With that, I can avoid the parts which had me in such a state of despair five years ago, to the point where it’s as if I don’t have the illness – that’s what self-care looks like.
30th May 2014.
The end of this day was meant to mark the beginning of my 20’s. Instead, it will go down in the history of my life as the day I hit my lowest of low points and I had my mental breakdown in the streets of Colchester.
And today, for the first time, I’m going to describe it in a way I have never done so before – It was the best thing to ever happen to me.
I’m not saying this because of the cliché ‘Think of all I have done since’ with my travels and London to Paris cycle etc, sure, they probably wouldn’t have happened, but it’s not about that, it’s about so much more.
The most important thing that arose from that night was that I reconnected with myself. Once I reconnected with myself I could reconnect with other people, with interests of my own instead of what society tells me I should pursue. I started to say yes to the things I wanted to do and no to the things I didn’t – sounds simple, that’s because it is, but it makes all the difference.
If I didn’t have the breakdown that night I would have continued to live my life the way I was at that point. With that, the inevitable breakdown would have surfaced at another time, but it would have been completely different. Who knows how it could have happened or where I would have ended up.
The Most Important People In My Life
On the night of my mental breakdown, one of my closest friends calmed me down before another two very close friends helped me into a taxi and got me home. The former, my pal Lyndon gave me tips, motivation and advice for my first backpacking trip having been on a very similar one himself a couple of years earlier, and we still meet up for a Nandos all the time and discuss the current situations of our respective football teams (Arsenal and West Ham) The latter two, Ryan and Summer, I spent three of my five weeks in Australia with nine months later.
After that night was a tough week followed by the doctor’s appointment where I confessed to my mental illness. One of the things he said to me was ‘Friends are very important during all of this’. And he wasn’t wrong!
Starting with the friends I’ve known for most of my life and am blessed to still call my closest. They knew me before diagnosis and throughout recovery and their continued support has motivated me to keep going in the right direction.
(There are many people here who I don’t have photos with – If you don’t see yourself don’t doubt the positive impact you’ve had on me)
Then there are the friends I made in some of the biggest moments of these past five years, on my travels. Whether I skydived, bungee jumped or explored a city with you, hiked to Machu Picchu or around Grand Canyon with you, even if we crossed paths in a laundry room. You all played a huge part in what I consider to be the best days of my life and I’ll always count myself lucky for it, you truly made them what they were – perfection.
Also a special mention to my travel agent, Lauren, for creating three perfect itineraries which these trips blossomed into.
It goes without saying that my family have been hugely important, impactful and always will be. My Mum, Dad, two brothers, sister in law and pet dogs, I love you all.
And finally, five years down the road, I have to say thanks to my therapist, Vanessa – I owe it all to you.
I can’t begin to imagine where I would be with without all of these amazing people and the many others in my life – luckily, I don’t have too.
Here’s to the next however many years.