SPECIAL GUEST: Tracey Hardy, S is for...Sound advice
No, this isn’t advice about how you should stay indoors to help combat the current worldwide pandemic that is Coronavirus… that should speak for itself. The government isn’t asking you to stay indoors for a laugh, it’s to save lives and protect the NHS from becoming overwhelmed by this dreadful disease. I won’t go into how the government could have helped years ago by properly funding the NHS, I’m sure that’s a story for another time… But seriously, STAY THE FUCK AT HOME! This entry is something I’ve been thinking about writing for a while and its basis is a piece of advice that was given to me by Chris years ago:
"It’s okay to not feel okay."
Now, that might be obvious to some people but having been in some of darkest places in my life, I didn’t think it was okay to feel the way I was feeling. I felt like a failure and that my life wasn’t worth living. Here’s a small bit of backstory on my past depression and anxiety for those who care to read it and don’t already know.
Since the age of around 15 I suffered continuously with excruciating pelvic pain. Over the years I saw so many different doctors, nurses, specialists and counsellors to try and get to the bottom of the problem or at least learn to cope with it. When I was 24, I got a new GP, he used to work as a specialist in Obstetrics and Gynaecology. I went and saw him and explained for what felt like the thousandth time, my problems. His first words were ‘You’ve got endometriosis’. Now, I’d never heard of this, so it was nice that someone was looking at taking a different approach to my pain. I was referred to a surgeon at the hospital for diagnostic laparoscopic surgery.
On Wednesday 2nd December 2015 after my surgery, I woke up in recovery feeling like complete death but a little excited to finally have an answer to my years of pain. The surgeon came to see me and talked me through what had happened during the surgery. Turns out I did have endometriosis but also many adhesions and a lot of scar tissue in my abdomen (probably from previous appendix surgery). It was such a mess inside, that a 1-hour surgery had turned into 5 hours and further investigation. Whilst operating, they performed a dye test which is where they insert blue dye through your uterus and into your Fallopian tubes to check for blockages.
He had to explain to me that the scarring of my tubes was so bad, it had rendered me infertile as my tubes were completely blocked. His words were ‘It’ll be a miracle if you ever conceive a baby naturally, given the amount of damage’.
I remember feeling like my world collapsed. Chris was sat next to me and we didn’t know what to say to each other. We’d always been open with each other about our future and children were a big part of it for us both. That dream had been taken away from me and us. I was only 24.
From that day, I spiralled downwards into a darkness I can’t even describe. I felt useless, worthless and like I’d failed at life. In April 2016, I had been on the sofa for 3 days, I hadn’t showered, I’d barely eaten, and I’d cried. A lot. I rang the doctor for an emergency appointment and went in that day. I sat in his room and sobbed for a long time. I explained my feelings and he listened. We spoke between us and decided I should try some anti-depressants/anti-anxiety medication.
After a while I started to feel okay again. I could laugh again, feel again, sing and dance again. I finally felt able to get out of bed in the mornings. Life continued like this from then on.
The best part of my story is that, as many of you know, Chris and I have an incredible little boy named Marley. I’ll write another entry about our little miracle another time, but he’s helped save my life.
Back to the point at hand… the advice that Chris gave me all those years ago. I am so lucky to have such an incredible support network around me, including my amazing family, friends, and colleagues to help me deal with the dark times in my life, but the man at the forefront of that support is Chris. I can’t find the words to thank him enough for everything he’s done with me and for me. He’s been by my side through the darkest times in my life and brought me back to the person I am today.
He wrote a book (yes, he is a published author now too 😊, *correction by Chris - self-publisjed) last year which is called S is for Something: Short, Sweet, Simple, Silly, Serious, Stupid, Smart, Self-Help. It’s a self-help book which I was apart of helping him write and doing so, I was able to have the mental strength to come off my anti-depressant medication. He’s supported me everyday through the process and been by my side through the few ups and many downs since Thursday 29th August 2019. That was the first day I didn’t take my meds.
232 days or, 63.5% of a year or, 33 weeks + 1 day or, 5568 hours or, 334,080 minutes or, 20,044,800 seconds.
I am so proud of what I’ve managed to do. I’m not putting anyone down even the slightest bit for being on anti-depressant or anti-anxiety medication. I understand better than anyone how important they are and, if anyone doesn’t have the strength to stop taking them, that’s also okay. But this is a huge thing for me, I had thought I would be on them for the rest of my life.
Some people may disagree with Chris’s outlook on life and think he’s a bit “hippy” and I’m not gonna lie, sometimes its all a bit much for me because, y’know, Chris loves to talk. I’ll ask if he wants me to make him a cup of tea and before I know it, there’s no tea and we’re balls deep in a conversation about seahorses. But his love to talk is what our relationship is built on and the reason we’re strong. He encourages me to talk and face my fears about everything. In the past I would freeze up, get angry and walk out. But I’ve learnt that, for us, that doesn’t work, and I end up getting depressed again. He brings me out of myself and pushes me to be the best version of myself, even when I can’t see that version myself. We’ll be talking and I’ll get overcome with anxiety, cry or shut down but he’ll continue to allow me time and get through it.
I sat in a pub with Chris and his brother Adam not so long back and we were having some deep conversation about the past and we got to talking about me. Adam didn’t know much about my depression and how bad it had been in the past and it was nice to see him proud of his brother and how he helps me.
I was having a bad patch a week or so ago, probably because my routine is all out of whack (like the rest of the world, I know) and my anxiety doesn’t like it. But Chris said something which really resonated with me and that was “Periods of depression and anxiety are like checkpoints. You pass through them and come out the other side. Its not the end of the race."
Like, what the fuck kind of deep shit is that?? But how true is it? It comes back to how it is okay to not feel okay. Its okay to wake up feeling depressed and have a crappy day, I’ve learnt coping mechanisms now which mean I can tell myself that its just a day. It’ll get better and I will feel okay again. Its okay to feel all the bad, dark, awful things and I’ve now learnt that I can deal with them without letting it consume my entire being. Having Marley has been a saviour for me in so many ways. He gives me reason to be alive, reasons to smile and reasons to love myself again. I can’t describe how it feels to have a person look at you with all the love their tiny little being can hold. Its incredible.
Marley and Chris are my world. We are such a good team and we will battle anything else that life throws at us. We are in it together and it feels amazing. Something someone supposedly said “I think the saddest people always try their hardest to make people happy because they know what it’s like to feel absolutely worthless and they don’t want anyone else to feel like that.” Robin Williams. “There’s millions of survivors out there. Make it one million and one.” Tom Hanks. Songs Better Together – Jack Johnson Keep Your Head Up – Ben Howard With or Without You – U2 Don’t Look Back in Anger – Oasis Everybody Hurts – R.E.M.