Back in late 2016 depression hit me out of the blue. We’d recently moved house, my youngest had moved out of home and I kind of felt a bit lost. I didn’t know what was wrong with me. I felt sad and miserable. Really didn’t want to do anything. I didn’t have the energy to do anything either.
I would break down in tears for no reason at all. I’d gone from being a happy, positive person to a sad, negative one. So eventually I plucked up the courage to go to my family doctor and start looking into my mental health.
It was like being in a horror film
I was put on medication and told to go out walking. I was a walker anyway as I have two dogs. Over time the medication up and changed and I still didn’t feel much better. I had insomnia and absolutely no energy. When I did sleep I was having awful nightmares, it was like being in a horror film. Then the anxiety started. I was too frightened to go out. If I did have to go into town I would have my hood up and couldn’t make eye contact with anyone. On a daily basis I was terrified.
I felt numb
I lived in this kind of brain fog, my memory was shot. I’d walk into a shop but couldn’t remember what I was in there for. I felt numb, I had no interest in anything, I remember it coming up to my birthday and I really didn’t care. I think if I’d have won the lottery it wouldn’t have meant anything to me. On top of all that the panic attacks started. I would have a pain in my chest that felt like my heart was ready to burst out of it, I couldn’t breathe, I’d be sobbing. It was like everything got louder and brighter and I felt like I was trapped.
The panic attacks started
At the beginning I thought I was dying but thanks to a kind nurse I realized it was a panic attack. It’s so frightening to experience something like this, I felt like I was suffocating and that the room was closing in on me. I had numerous panic attacks, I even had one in a mindfulness class!
The point of me sharing my story is to give people hope. I never thought I’d be back to the person I once was.
So what did I do?
Firstly I talked a lot, to anyone who would listen. I heard what worked for some people, I tried as many things as I could to try to get myself better. I’m extremely lucky to have such a supportive family who really looked after me. I got rest whenever I could. If I was tired during the day I went to bed and I was lucky to be in a position to do so. My husband would know how I was feeling and would tell me to rest, it took me a while to listen to him and my body but in the end I did.
I went for counseling
It took me, three different counselors, to find the right person for me. When I got to the stage where I had nothing left to say I knew I was getting better.
The Havin’a Laugh charity was very helpful. They are a charity based in Sligo and they offer vouchers for life-changing experiences for people in mental health counseling. I went for a seaweed bath. It inspired me to take my camera out of the bag. It had sat in for so long and take photos again.
I felt like someone outside my family understood how I felt and I still feel like that. I wanted to give something back to Havin’a Laugh so two and a half years ago I started a monthly coffee morning in a local food and coffe place, The Blind Tiger. It was still running up until the COVID 19 pandemic, now the coffee mornings are virtual and are on every Monday.
My blog helped me
I wrote, all the time – on my blog and in a notebook. It helped me to get the thoughts out of my head. I also started being kind to myself, my mind was my worst enemy and I would beat myself up about the smallest little thing. I read as much as I could to learn more about panic attacks, anxiety, and depression. My blog readers were brilliant in suggesting books and reading matter.
I learned to say no!
I used to put everyone ahead of myself. You can’t pour from an empty cup and self-care is not selfish, it’s a necessity.
I found art, and started painting and drawing. Now I’ll never be brilliant at it but I find when I have a paintbrush in my hand I go into a world of my own.
Probably the biggest thing for me was what my friend had said at one point. She is a nutritionist and suggested that I might be deficient in B12. There’s a strong connection between depression and anxiety and lacking in B12. My doctor did a blood test and it turned out I had a B12 deficiency so I was given 5 injections of it over two weeks. Now I have an injection once every 3 months and I feel it’s made all the difference to my life. Gradually I cut down on the medication I was on and now I’m just on B12.
What has worked for me might not work for everyone
Now I’m no expert and it’s certainly not a ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to mental health. What has worked for me might not work for everyone. I’ve always been fairly vocal about my experience with depression, anxiety, and panic attacks. I’ve written about it extensively on my blog www.magnumlady.com. I felt so lost and alone when I was going through it and I hope my writing might help people out there who might be suffering. People say I’m brave, I’m not, I’m just honest. If I had a broken leg I’d talk about it so for me, mental health issues are just the same.
I hope that one day the stigma will end and I think that talking about it will help.
About the Author
Val Robus, is a photographer, social media manager, a writer, and an expat. She made a decision to move away from her home 28 years ago. So, she made a new home, a new story.
Her blog Magnum Lady proudly gave voice to one of west Ireland’s most beautiful towns – Sligo. Her web site Sligo Hub became a go to online place for all thing related to Sligo. She also started a Havin’aLaugh Coffee Morning, which is a way to support the mental health in the local community.
Val’s words on multiculturalism: “Multiculturalism is the essence of our society. We have so much to learn from each other and so much we can teach others”.