December Challenge Day 31. Stressed, depressed, anxious……. What now?

Depression and Anxiety are all too prevalent in our modern world. So, which way do you turn……..antidepressants, counselling, relaxation therapy, combination? Doctor, psychologist, councillor, psychiatrist?

The answer to a large degree is up to you, the patient. The key is to recognise and accept you have a problem and then seek help.

Eight and a half years. That is how long I have been on antidepressants. In anyone’s book, that is a significant amount of time.

It all started back in my teens. I was and still am, a high achiever, a perfectionist. I learnt to be a master of putting pressure on myself, continually striving for more but most notably never recognising my achievements. Nothing was good enough for me.

By my early 30s this had driven me to a degree, post graduate qualifications, sporting achievements, travel, a husband and kids. All was well….. seemingly. But on the inside I was anxious, insecure, tired and unable to recognise how well I was doing for myself.

Then…..something broke. The trigger was very personal and not relevant to this particular topic, but it undid me. All my insecurities bubbled to the surface and I fell apart. I knew it was bad and I went straight to my doctor (at least I think I did……maybe my mum persuaded me?).

My doctor put me straight on antidepressants and sent me to a councillor. It took a while but, eventually the pills started to take the edge off. I chatted to my councillor every week. We discussed the event that caused my breakdown. Not once, did I discuss the inherent issues, the ones that had been there since my teenage years. This was because at this stage, I didn’t recognise them.

I was ok.

I stopped seeing the councillor after a couple of months, by which time I had the pills working and stable.

This is the way I carried on for the next 7 or so years. Occasionally upping my dose, under the direction of my doctor, if situations became tough. Then easing them back when I was feeling better.

A couple of years ago, I started to notice I didn’t like the way I was handling or more accurately, not handling stress. Even on the pills, my stress was too frequent. I was blaming others and the universe for why my life felt hard (by the way, this is the life where I have a good job, I don’t have to worry too much about money, I don’t work a 60 hour week, my kids are slowly starting to get easier and I have a helpful husband). In reality, my life IS NOT hard compared to many. I was just choosing to take on too many different things, getting overwhelmed and blaming anything and anyone around me.

I turned 40 twelve months ago and something inside me said “it is time to change”. But still I didn’t know how. So I just kept going until there was another major trigger, this time at work (yes I was still on the pills). I fell apart again but sort of in a more controlled fashion!

And finally…………. I realised this is a long term ingrained problem, not just the issue that triggered my latest breakdown or the one before that. The way I look at myself and the way I handle these situations is the problem, not the situations themselves.

This was the very first time I had seen it this way!

I took myself off to the doctor again (this time I definitely did it without persuasion!). She told me to take more pills and asked if I would like to speak to someone. I said yes. She referred me to a psychologist and I went into her office positive and almost excited. Her first question was “Why are you here?” My answer “Because I want to change”.

This is the place where I tell you…… you are the answer to your treatment. Prior to this point, I hadn’t wanted to change. I wanted to take a pill to make life easier, I had wanted someone to validate me and tell me I would be ok. But, I hadn’t been ready to work on myself.

My psychologist has been fantastic. She has given me strategies to deal with situations and enabled me to look at things differently. But, mostly the change has been inside me.

I have accepted my weaknesses and begun finding ways to deal with them and most importantly I have stopped trying to hide them! I have started saying NO, I have started spending my spare time doing things I enjoy and that feed me (like writing, reading and swimming) and accepting it is sometimes ok to do nothing.

I am learning that accepting my struggles displays strength. Knowing how to manage them displays courage.

We all need to know we are not alone, but that our story is our own (no two are the same). We all handle things differently and that is OK!

The options for help are out there and we just need to figure out which one is right for us and know that it might change along the way. If one direction doesn’t work, try another. The key is to identify and accept.

So after 8 and a half years, something happened. On my way across the world on the holiday of a lifetime, I lost the pills! Literally lost them!

Now, what do I do? See a foreign doctor or risk a detox? Is the universe trying to tell me something?

Either option sounded scary.

However, I knew that for the first time in probably 15-20 years, my mental health was pretty good and what better time than on holiday when my stresses are low?! I chose to detox.

Let me just say, this is not the recommended way to do this and I do not advocate it (please always seek medical advice). Fortunately I was not on a high dose at the time. If I was, I know better than to have tried going ‘cold turkey’. I also had my husband and family by my side. I told my husband he was my eyes. He needed to watch my behaviour and if he deemed necessary, I would go to the doctor.

I had a couple of really tough days with the side effects of coming off. I was dizzy and nauseous. I developed a rash and if I am honest, I got a bit paranoid! I had a few days where I couldn’t concentrate and the kids thought I was funny, getting out of the lift on the wrong floor and not listening properly. I felt like they were giving me a hard time and making fun. My husband had to remind me they were not having a go at me.

Throughout it all….. I still functioned fine and I thoroughly enjoyed the holiday. One of the best (if not the best) in my life! Since, I have lived 6 months without the pills. Of course I have had some ups and downs, but I have found ways to overcome them and manage them in a healthy way.

I have started making changes to the way I live my life, finally allowing myself to do things the way I want, instead of the way I think I should be doing them. I have started listening to myself.

I used to think being on antidepressants was in some way bad or embarrassing, something I needed to hide. Same thing in regards to seeing a psychologist. I no longer feel that way.

There is a saying ‘It is what it is’ or ‘You are what you are’. Some of us are naturally predisposed to these types of mental weaknesses and always will be. They don’t go away. We just need to accept them, acknowledge them and find ways to manage them. We can do this more efficiently if we are not ashamed of them. Often it is these very same traits (namely perfectionism) dragging us down, that also drive us to accomplish great things.

I still have to work on myself daily. I still have to remind myself not to slip into my old habits. What I don’t need to remind myself anymore, is that it is ok to be me and that I am worthy of love and respect.

2018 has been a huge turning point for me. I have faced my demons, grown hugely as a person and Stressaholics Anonymous was born. Thank you to those who have been reading, a small but important bunch of people.

Tomorrow I set the scene for 2019 and beyond. One of confidence and positivity, one in which it is ok to have set backs but it is not ok to dwell on them.

If you think today’s story would help anyone you know, please share it. I think the only way for us to deal with the prevalence of mental health issues, is to talk about them and support one another.

So, as the sun sets on 2018. Here’s to an amazing 2019!


December Challenge Day 29

An early blog today, but I am pretty sure today can’t get better than this!! After a crazy few days of Christmas excitement, two days work and today’s morning swim, it is time for some peace, quiet and appreciation.

Appreciation…….. of what I have and those around me, but also more importantly, appreciation of myself. It is time I started focusing on my own assets. Too often we focus on the things we don’t like about ourselves. We get bogged down in negativity instead of celebrating the positives.

So here I am, in my hammock, reading and appreciating.

In doing this I notice my first asset. My legs. These legs have carried me far and wide this year. They have walked me through the streets of New York, provided my outboard motor for swimming in several open water events, walked me up and down the pool for hours coaching kids, carried me back and forth to school and well actually I just like them. They are strong. They have a few weird spots on them, but they just make them unique and mine. So…….. I appreciate my legs.

The rest of my view. I appreciate the green! I have watched birds, butterflies, a plane, helicopter and a king skink while lying here. (Thought I might have needed my strong legs to run away from it for a moment, but he was not very interested in me or my legs!)

So two and half days left of 2018. It has been a tough year in many ways, but one that has taught me so much. Looking forward to a new start.


December Challenge Day 27

Tough day today. It always is, the first day back after some time off, but it seemed especially difficult today. I have had some kind of crisis in confidence. As soon as I am trying to do multiple things, it all goes a bit wrong in my head. I fear this is the way it is going to be for the rest of the school holidays. I am sure many working mothers can identify. But…………………. I have to remember I can only do one thing at a time.

  1. Something I learnt today: I have to back myself more. A difficult situation at work and I am completely thrown. Why? Because I don’t back myself, I doubt myself as an automatic response. I automatically think I am wrong.
  2. Something I am grateful for: Pretty sure I have said this before, but today seems appropriate to say it again. WINE!
  3. Something I want to improve: Well after yesterday, not having anything to say and feeling content, I feel the complete opposite. I feel like there is a list today. It comes down to the fact that I want to improve balancing motherhood, work and my own mental health. But, that is being very harsh. At the end of the day in all situations, I did the best I could at the time. I am not superhuman. I am just a regular human trying to get by. The standards I set for myself are just way too high.

Tomorrow is a new day.


December Challenge Day 26

There it is…..12 days off, gone. I feel sad it is over so quick, but I also know I used my holidays wisely, enjoying lots of time with the kids and other family and friends. At least it is a relatively easy way to ease back in……only two days work until the weekend!!!

1. Something I learnt today: Time really does fly when you are having fun.

2. Something I am grateful for: Our little boat. It isn’t flash. It isn’t big. But, it is fun. All the kids had a great couple of hours out on the water today. The weather made for a bumpy ride in the biscuit, but that just added to the entertainment. Spills, thrills and plenty of smiles.

3. Something I want to improve: Nothing springs to mind today. I guess that means I am happy with where I am in this moment!


December Challenge Day 25

And so this is Christmas!

Huge day……..Presents, beach, kayaking, swimming, food, drinks, family and friends. Giving and receiving.

My favourite part of the day was my son getting involved in the food preparations. This really was something new for him. I was pleasantly surprised by how much he enjoyed helping, took pride in his work and realised how nice it is to make something for others. Proud mum moment.

Feeling tired, full and grateful.


December Challenge Day 24

So……… I didn’t fulfil my mission today. I do not however feel like a failure! I may not have donated anything to anyone less fortunate than myself, but I did try. My mum always taught me that ‘it is thought that counts’.

After my early morning swim, the first thing I did was call the centre providing Christmas lunch for those in need. I asked what they needed and if I could donate anything in particular. Unfortunately this was via voice mail and after several attempts I couldn’t get to speak to anyone. I did receive a call at 5pm today thanking me for my kind offer of assistance and informing me that they had all that they needed and wishing me a Merry Christmas and God Bless.

1. (Something I learnt today) Again this was a reminder of how truely amazing the community is, in which I live. I was genuinely surprised to learn over 200 people had registered for the free Christmas meal provided by the United churches for those struggling and even more pleasantly surprised to learn our community had provided for them easily, and without need for last minute donations.

2. (Something I am grateful for) This has made me truly grateful and privileged to live here.

3. (Something I want to improve) Next year my good thoughts will be put into action and I really hope my children can learn, that being kind and compassionate to others truly is worth its time and effort.

I had a wonderful day today catching up with friends I haven’t seen for too long. If nothing else, I love the way Christmas reminds us to check in with loved ones and friends. It truly is the most special time of the year.

Merry Christmas everyone. Stay safe and enjoy all those special people in your life.


December Challenge Day 23

Complete and utter contentment. It is the evening of the eve of Christmas Eve. Here I am sitting on the veranda, glass of wine in hand, keyboard, lovely balmy temperature and a soft flowing breeze.

Quite unexpectedly I have a moment of solitude and peace. In what has been the usual crazy busy build up the Christmas, this is truly a welcome break. The boys are off helping a friend. My daughter is at the movies with her friend.

  1. Something I learnt today: Helping thy neighbour truly is rewarding. We have a large contingent of animals in our care for the next few days. The kids are being paid for the care and our lovely neighbour gave me the money in front of the kids with strict instructions that if they do not help, mum is to spend the money on wine!! Very cleaver lady. Of course they are quite taken by the animals and pledge to do a good job. They spent 30 mins playing with the dogs, getting to know them this morning. Actually I am quite smug because either way it is a win win for me!! I also took a different neighbour some baking today, apparently it was just in time as she was wondering what to have with her cup of tea. Made my day. Such simple things.
  2. Something I am grateful for: A small snippet of peace and solitude.
  3. Something I want to improve: I have a terrible confession to make…………. and I promise to make it right tomorrow, somehow. I keep looking at the bins in the supermarket and various other places, collecting items for people less fortunate at Christmas. Every time I walk past I think ‘ Dam’ there isn’t anything in my trolley I can spare today (quite wrongly I am sure!). Consequently, I haven’t donated a thing. So tomorrow, somewhere, somehow I will donate something to someone less privileged at Christmas.


December Challenge Day 22

Hot hot hot!

1. Something I learnt today: Homemade shortbread isn’t meant to be perfect in appearance. Every year I make shortbread for Christmas. Every year I do it differently. Every year I am disappointed with how it looks (not how it tastes). I realised today, it isn’t meant to look perfect and if it is perfect rectangles I want, I should buy a packet! Imperfections mean handmade with love.

2. Something I am grateful for: Great friends. I had an awesome day today because I saw several of my friends. Some intentionally for significant periods, some unintentionally for a few minutes but just seeing them felt important. Too often during the year, we get caught up in work, kids, sport etc and go weeks without seeing anyone. I love at this time of the year we are all trying to catch up and are generally out and about enjoying ourselves. We all deserve it!

3. Something I want to improve: My blog name! Agghhhh it is only 10 days until I change my blog name and hopefully the vision I have of myself. A Stressaholic no longer.


I still don’t know what I am changing it to. Or even how to change it!! Time to get my thinking cap on.


December Challenge Day 21

Wow, today went by in a blur. Christmas preparations are in full swing. I finally got around to starting the baking and sweet treats. In amongst that, I was researching and booking a holiday. So exciting!!! I love having something to look forward to.

1. Something I learnt today: Western Australia is huge! Of course I always knew this, but when you sit down and start to plan a road trip, it really brings home quite how vast it is!

2. Something I am grateful for: My kitchen helpers. Got things done twice as fast with them mixing and biscuit crushing. I think there might have a fair bit of taste testing happening behind my back though!

3. Something I want to improve: My food planning. I could benefit a lot by being more organised when it comes to meals. I go through phases of meal planning and then get bored or side tracked and let it slip. It really does make life easier though both from a shopping and preparation perspective. Even today I had to run out to the shops twice due to poor organisation!! Didn’t matter this time though, I was just happy to be spending time on food for my family and friends to enjoy.