One of the things I've really focused on as an important pillar of my recovery is the opportunity to be able to help others who may be suffering in a similar way to myself. Through breaking down the stigma around mental illness, offering an understanding ear or helping provide information to help people cope through the research I've done, I hope that this will help me navigate the path of recovery.
Since I have 'come out' about my illness, a great many people have reached out to me offering their support and friendship or sharing their personal stories and struggles. The sheer weight of response that I've had has really inspired me to get up and do something.
I have no professional experience in counselling, psychotherapy or mental health, but I am a recovering sufferer with first hand experience of severe depression and a strategy to build it, that has to be of some use to someone right? Back in November, I was at the beginning of my journey and with the support of some important people in my life put together a proposal to present a seminar on mental wellbeing, depression and strategies to prevent and overcome at the drinks industries biggest annual gathering. This was the first time I had plucked up the courage to submit a seminar and I put my heart and soul into writing it. Unfortunately it was not successful.
The disappointment I felt upon finding out my seminar had failed to make the grade was enormous. Hosting this seminar was a key focus point for me and my recovery and I was really looking forward to making it happen. Did I write a terrible pitch? Was there a mistake in my submission? Is the drinks industry not ready to openly discuss such heavyweight topics? So many different, almost always negative, questions ran through my head. I could feel the storm clouds rising and the pain, still fresh from my latest relapse, began to return.
It is a sign of the strength of my recovery that I didn't fall down the hole and recede into the darkness of my loneliness. Against my will I got out on my bike and put in a good solid 3 hour ride, hoping that the endorphin and adrenaline kick I get from cycling would keep the storm at bay. I made sure I meditated, focusing on visualisations of filling my body with light rather than just the mind calming focus on breath and I made a conscious effort not to retreat into my shell.
Whilst I'm extremely disappointed that I won't be presenting a seminar, I'm not overwhelmed by it as I would have been in the past. Due to my condition I am, as anyone who knows me will tell you, extremely sensitive to disappointment, rejection or failure but I feel that I am now beginning to build a stronger base with which to analyse my emotions objectively before acting and letting them engulf me and the people around me.
This is not turning a negative into a positive, which so many self-help guides to depression misguidedly tell you to do, but learning to deal with the negatives in a different way that doesn't lead to a mental and physical explosion. This is a big step forward for me.