My Unexpected Journey
Sometimes our lives don’t follow the path we had expected. If you had told me six years ago that I would be a beyondblue ambassador, a published author, and teaching at the School that built the Lighthouse, I would have looked at you as if you’d just told me Donald Trump had won the Nobel Peace Prize.
In 2013, following the death of my sister, both parents, and a work colleague, I spiralled into depression – something I had never experienced before. It took me a long time to come to terms with it, and even longer to talk about it, but gradually, with patience and persistence, I found my way back to a life I love and appreciate.
Educating myself about depression and anxiety was an important part of my journey. I was also determined to create something positive and use my experiences to reduce stigma surrounding mental health. Speaking for beyondblue and writing have been very important aspects of my journey, and I hope that sharing my story with others has had a positive impact.
PLC’s approach to health and wellbeing is one of the many reasons I love teaching here. The Lighthouse is a fabulous facility, and I feel privileged to have access to it. Once or twice a month, I take my Year 11s to the Lighthouse for a guided meditation in Spanish. I have signed up for the fitness centre and use it regularly. Most recently, I have connected with the wonderful women in Communications & Engagement and will now be a regular contributor to Lighthouse News, sharing my thoughts and reflections on the mysteries and wonders of the mind, and life in general.
Doing the Work
My lived experience of depression has transformed the way I look at mental health. I have learnt that it doesn’t discriminate. It affects everyone, regardless of education, social status, postcode, income or circumstance. I have learnt that depression and anxiety are not a sign of weakness, but simply a part of the human condition. I have learnt that it takes great strength to show our vulnerabilities, whatever they may be. I have learnt that we are never alone. I have learnt that those of us who have/had depression are in very good company: JK Rowling, Lady Gaga, Prince Harry, Emma Thompson, Beyoncé, Ellen de Generes… to name a few. I have learnt that, sometimes, the obstacle in our way is an opportunity to find a better path. I have learnt that reaching out, seeking help and doing the work to improve your brain, nourish your mind and feed your soul is an important part of maintaining your wellbeing. That’s the key – you have to do the work.
It’s More Than Just a Mindset
A common misconception about depression and anxiety is that it’s a switch you can just flick on and off. The truth is that recovering from depression is a lot like recovering from a serious physical injury.
Seven years ago, I broke my wrist. When the cast was removed, I could barely move it, and worried that I would never play the piano or swing a tennis racquet again (catastrophising is one of my great strengths!). Thankfully, with the help of a patient Occupational Therapist and weeks of rehabilitation, I gradually regained full movement. I did the work, and things got better. The pain that had been keeping me awake at night got less and less, until one day it was no longer there.
I had to repeat the healing process the following year, only this time with my mind and spirit. I was grief-stricken, broken, depressed and beyond despair. But, with the help of a fantastic doctor, an insightful psychologist, the support of family and close friends, and reconnecting with the things I love, the pain began to diminish, until one day it was only a distant echo.
Persistence, Purpose and Passion
I am living proof that with persistence and resilience you can recover from almost anything. I transformed my life by finding a renewed sense of purpose, by learning, and by connecting with people. Now, I’m sharing my passion for languages, in a truly amazing school, and I couldn’t be happier. Funny thing, life.
I look forward to sharing more of my thoughts and experiences with you next month.