One of the most challenging experiences that humans have to navigate when experiencing deep depression and anxiety is to rise above the deep, dark tunnel of the doom to build a healthier and brighter state of being.
My intense feelings of suicide were real. I gave up on any hope for a happy or better future. I felt so lonely and isolated within the confines of the walls of my house, as I shut myself off from all contact from the outside world. I had no meaning or purpose and no will to carry on. Life was pretty bleak.
My treatment plan consisted of visits with psychiatrists who prescribed medication. I attended some helpful mindfulness workshops and I received valuable support and encouragement from a Pathways support worker, Mary Downes. I quickly developed a rapport and trust with Mary as it was the first time since becoming unwell that I was able to talk to someone about my feelings and personally reflect on what was actually happening in my life.
All humans need social companionship and I remember very vividly the first visit to a café with Mary. That was a big deal for me. I never realised how cut off I was from any social contact. Mary was a good listener and she encouraged me to try new things that were at times outside of my comfort zone, but we progressed at my own pace. She encouraged me to brainstorm to explore activities I would be willing to have a go at.
It is magical when you have a support worker who cares for your wellbeing. Mary was not only very supportive, encouraging me to start a daily planner of activities, but she also helped me develop self-care strategies like meditation practice and exercise.
My breakthrough was firstly when I was able to attend the colouring-in group at the library by myself. That was a great boost to my confidence. Secondly, cycling came up when we brainstormed, so I started to venture out to the estuary cycle way, even though I had not ridden a bike in over 30 years!
I made a commitment to Mary that as homework, I would do some bike riding during the week. I handled the anxiety about going for a ride beforehand by listening to the “fragrant heart” meditation Mary recommended. It was a pleasant surprise that I developed a love of cycling and was getting stronger and venturing further each day along the cycle way.
Cycling improved my mood and increased my energy. I started sleeping better and I felt I was doing something useful each day. My rheumatologist and psychiatrist asked me what had made the difference in my mental and physical health. My reply was “the support and encouragement from my support worker to start doing things again, discovering my love of cycling and most of all getting my life back."
This changed my mindset from fear, despair and anguish to hope, opportunity and gratitude. I was starting to have more good days than bad days. I felt so much gratitude mindfully noticing the beauty of the sun shining on the clear sparkling water while on my bike rides along the estuary. I started to develop a calmness (helping my anxiety) when I did my meditation practice and even managed a few laughs with the ladies at the colouring-in group.
With the support from my Workwise employment consultant and Mary I am so excited to have now started a part time office position 5 days a week.
All in all, what made the difference to me was that my support worker believed in me recovering and empowered me to believe in myself that I was worthy of a happy and fulfilling life. When I reflect on the first day that I met Mary compared to this present day, it is two worlds apart. It is like my mind has been re-wired or reset, where all the links that fell off my bike chain have now been connected.
There is no doubt that my support worker has made a huge difference to my mental wellbeing. She gave me a sense of hope when I lost all hope and a sense of purpose and meaning when I had lost the will to live.
Thank You Pathways, you changed my life.