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An open letter to my children about mental health, depression and self-worth...
Dear Jason, Nigel & Adam,
There’s so much I want to share with you from what I have learned on my journey of self discovery. There’s so much I want to protect you from, especially relating to the way you navigate your emotional well-being. 

There’s a prison that many of us live in every day. I am not talking about being locked away in a physical prison, but about the mental prison we can often find ourselves in when life takes us on a difficult path.
  • It can seem to come out of nowhere 
  • ​It can drain the joy out of life
  • ​It can keep you from your dreams
  • ​It can take your appetite away
  • ​It can make you comfort eat 
  • ​It can make it hard to concentrate  
  • ​It can make you feel lost, isolated and lonely
  • ​It can wreak havoc on your relationships
  • ​It can destroy your confidence in social situations
  • ​It can result in one being extremely irritable and difficult for others to be around
  • ​It can keep you awake or awaken you from your sleep with repetitive negative thinking 
It’s not just about being down, sad or blue, it’s worse than that, to be even devoid of feeling altogether and as time marches on, it often gets worse to a place where you often feel physically paralysed, unable to do anything without mustering up what feels like some sort of superhuman strength, even to get out of bed in the morning.
Why am I telling you this?
When right now life is going rather perfect. 

The simple reason being is that no one knows what is in front of us and I don’t want any of you having to suffer unnecessarily in silence, if you ever find yourself living with even one of the symptoms of depression, an illness that literally affects millions and millions of people.
Yet anyone who has suffered from depression, will tell you the same thing, that it was lack of knowledge and awareness of what it actually is, that resulted in them suffering much longer than necessary until they reached the lowest point in their life before they felt the ability to seek help.

You may be rolling your eyes right now at your dearest mother and that’s okay. It’s my job to educate and guide you. 

You may think this isn’t relevant to you right now but prevention is better than cure and who knows you may end up helping ease the pain and suffering of a close friend from what I am teaching you today. 

I know it hasn’t always been easy living with a mother that suffered in silence with depression. That is a hard thing for me to admit but in my defense I was doing my best in the most difficult of situations. 

When you were young, you may not have understood some of the decisions I had to make, but as you all have grown older, I am sure it has become apparent. It has always been my job to protect you all, and some of the greatest pain I have ever felt was a direct result of my depression and my fear of it negatively affecting my precious sons.
I have seen long term friendships come to an end over the negative effects of depression, marriages torn apart and people bringing harm to themselves as a result of this devastating illness. Lives literally shattered over the consequences of loved ones suffering in silence, not believing they have any way of escaping the clutches of their deep despair.
Now as a health & wellness educator, the one thing I hear the most is that they wish they were given the tools they needed sooner. With that being said, I want to pass down a few words of wisdom to you boys in this letter.  
The key is an open mind... 
When it comes to depression, there is no single magic formula to healing but a balance of a handful of little things can result in baby steps to massive improvements….
Without going into too much detail and dragging up memories from the past, I want to try and explain how all of this transpired. Having married quite young to whom I thought was the love of my life, it turned out to be a destructive, abusive marriage. I choose to stay in that situation for what I believed was the right thing to do for the three of you, that had consequences for all of us.
Regardless of what happened, I will always choose to remember that you three boys were by far the best thing that ever happened to me in life and I would do anything for your happiness. I give thanks for having the three of you in my life, each and every single day.
As you now know, with everything now out in the open, I suffered mostly in silence from clinical depression for over 9 years. At the peak of my troubles I was taking 9 different forms of medication, struggling just to get through daily life.
I have experienced first hand the worst possible effects of depression and I do not have to remind you of that horrific time where I experienced my mental breakdown and the subsequent devastating actions I took. 

All as a direct result of how low my mental health had deteriorated to such a level of feeling totally and completely isolated from everything and everyone, to the point where I continually questioned the point of my very existence.
I hope you can forgive me for this truly devastating time in my life and the horrendous effects it had on the three of you. I do know in my heart you understand that I was very ill and the last thing I would have ever wanted was to cause you any pain or suffering.
At this point I was absolutely exhausted, trying to cover up my depression but little did I know at the time, I really wasn’t very good at it.
I always try to look on the bright side, from all the pain and suffering, came the point where I finally reached a place where I knew I had to seek help. This was a momentous turning point in my life…
For my biggest fear was people finding out that I secretly suffered from depression and all the stigma surrounding that. That they would somehow judge me for being less than which resulted in a never ending feeling of shame and loathing self-worth.
Thank goodness things are very different from those dark dark days, I have learned so much on my journey of self discovery. 
  • Medication can play a vital role in ones recovery from depression but there is no silver bullet that is guaranteed to help everyone so you need to be open to trial and error. 
  • After using the medication prescribed by my doctor to regulate my moods, where I was more stable with less dips, my doctor helped me wean myself of all my medication within 6 months.
  • I have now been completely medication free for nearly a year and a half!
  • I embraced holistic therapies alongside counselling and CBT.
  • ​I changed my diet and gained a greater understanding of the relationship between a healthy body and a healthy mind. 
It has been a long journey of self discovery but here’s what I want you to always remember:

#1. If you ever suffer from any of the symptoms of depression, you do not need to be afraid to acknowledge this and seek help, for there is absolutely no shame in suffering from depression, the only shame is missing out on life as a result of your suffering in silence. If you find you cannot talk to myself, other family members or your friends, the first person you should talk to is your GP, depression is an illness but does not necessarily need to be treated with medication. Your GP will be best equipped to guide you in the right direction.
#2. Being emotionally authentic and genuine by expressing how you are truly feeling can be a game changer for your relationships with your friends and family. When you stop talking about how you are feeling with your nearest and dearest, those relationships can deteriorate quite fast as your friends and loved ones may think they have done something wrong, sometimes taking offense as you become more and more isolated. This may be the hardest thing you will ever do but I promise you, talking it over with someone that loves you will be a weight off your shoulders.
#3. Being tired and stressed out can multiply the symptoms of depression by one thousand fold, getting good sleep can be the difference between a small issue in your day being viewed as a minor hiccup to that minor issue taking you over the edge simply because you are very tired and irritable which heightens the stress in any potential situation. Therefore it is important to take time and learn how to quiet your mind, whether through meditation, yoga, exercise, reading or anything else that helps soothe and balance your mood.
#4. Study after study has proven with certainty that mild exercise, such as a short brisk walk can help mild/moderate depression due to the release of natural endorphins in your body as a result of exercise. Try to be more aware when you may need to take a break from whatever it is you are doing and go for a quick brisk walk, it might just be what you need to give you some relief.

#5. Know your self-worth. In the wise words of Lyania Vanzant, “Comparison is an act of violence against the self”. Social media can actually exacerbate symptoms of depression, anyone who is not feeling so good and then spends time on social media comparing their life to the false online life of others can result in a dark cloud coming over you, making you feel worse than you already where. The fact of the matter is that many people try to make themselves feel better by portraying the perfect lifestyle on social media which is often not a true representation. Remember...
“You are worthy. You are someone. You are the only version of “YOU” to ever exist in the universe. You are great. You are Special!”
#6. Talking things over with family and friends will always bring relief in any stressful situation and therefore should never be avoided. But sometimes people who have not personally experienced the effects of depression themselves can sometimes find it difficult to fully understand. 

This is perfectly normal and should not stop you from sharing your thoughts with your nearest and dearest. Although it can be helpful to be open to seeking guidance from others who have had first hand experience of depression and can guide you to the different techniques they have tried on their journey to emotional well-being.

The most important thing to remember is no matter how bad it gets, if you take the right steps, talk to the right people, days where you feel depressed, can and will pass.
I have learned that rather than running away from my problems it is better to embrace them.
One more thing: I want you three to know how proud I am of you. I’ve been proud since the minute each of you were born. You will always have me by your side. 
We all know, I am far from perfect. I have had plenty of struggles, but I have learned from them and I have rebounded from rock bottom. I now have a mission in life to empower as many people as possible to take the first step in seeking to regain control of their own emotional well-being. 
The last 9 years, have been far from easy, but it has all been worth it if my pain and suffering can help teach you and others even one small nugget so that you suffer even a little bit less as a result of me sharing my story to better health. 
You will get knocked down in life. There’s no question about that. It’s how you get back up that counts. 
You are worthy
Love Always, 
Mum

PS - Please share my story if you know someone currently suffering from depression or anxiety and you think they might like to read about my journey to better health.

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