My period arrived bang on time this month! But 2.5 days in, it’s on its way out. I felt bad using sanitary towels for so pitiful a period- definitely a slap on the wrist from Ms Thunberg! ‘What’s the problem?’ I hear you ask; A period so brief you barely noticed it? What a result! But what if I told you that last month this flighty visitor was 20 days late preceded by a fortnight of continuous cramping, no sleep, teary hissy fits, sluggish days at work and bloating? You might not think me so blessed. And I’m not. My period has been under the spell of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) for the last 20 years. It’s been one of the most defining conditions in my life but within eighteen months, since the start of the pandemic, I went on a path of discovery that has set me on the foothills to figuring my way out of this. So much so that I think it’s important to share this journey, not only to support fellow sufferers who might be at the beginning but also for women curious about how their bodies work.
Earlier this week a letter by Einstein was auctioned off for $1.5 million. Its contents included his take on success and happiness:
“A calm and modest life brings more happiness than the pursuit of success combined with constant restlessness”.
This comment got the media’s attention. But it also got mine. It reminded me of an experience in April where I was caught in an emotional maelstrom that got me questioning success and happiness. The trigger? Well to anyone “normal”, here’s the anti-climax. I received an amazing job offer that would catapult my career into an infinite realm of opportunities. But when I got the offer my stomach turned, I thought I would projectile all over my desk.
I agonised over the decision about whether to take the job. Therapy, gym, confiding in friends, drawing up a pros and cons list; not one iota of anxiety budged. I came out of it feeling pathetic and frustrated at myself. Now that I have had time to reflect, I realise that I was experiencing the collision between my ambition and anxiety; two diametrically opposite but POWERFUL forces. One is driven by a desire to excel, the other coloured by a crippling fear. It was such a potent feeling that I wondered just how familiar it had been to others with mental health issues. So read on if you relate!
This month Prince Harry hosted an event with Heads Together, a mental health charity. In front of sports stars and the press he revealed how much he regretted the fact that he had not opened up earlier about the death of his mother, Princess Diana. Then only on Friday Prince William talked about how he dealt with loss when comforting a 14-year old boy at a hospice that supports youth bereavement. The headlines in both cases were very poignant and would tug at anyone’s heart strings. But more importantly it points to our attitude of overlooking how children deal with bereavement.
I don’t know what triggers these urges to write myself off as a human being but they are there. Fear of being stigmatised for it, made me regress deeper into myself. Until now. The point is I have it and am doing something about it. Some paper over the cracks, others choose to ignore it and soldier on.
I decided to get real about my condition. Bit by bit I have found ways to take the edge off it; my Buddhist faith, exercise, hobbies, travelling, writing and therapy – it’s a zillion-pronged strategy. Read on to find out my survival skills – they might be the signposts to your own road to recovery.
Throughout my experience of depression, I’ve had to stomach old-school attitudes towards mental health. The times I heard the phrase “snap out of it”, “be more resilient” or “read this self-help book”, made me want to scream. While things are getting better, the stigma towards mental health is still strong and dealing with it is part of the sufferer’s journey.
If Part One of my story leads you to say “This girl needs to chill out”, I hear you, but it’s not in my veins to chill out. Why? Well since that crunch moment, I have done an in-depth post-mortem of my past, to trace the roots of my breakdown.