A Time When I Wasn’t Okay

From time to time I write about my depression.

It spanned roughly 3 years from 2010 to 2013, and I was around 30 at the time.

It was a terrible time and one that I’m relieved to put in the past, but every now and then, I am reminded of the pain, either through a trigger or days like today – RU OK Day, which is devoted to asking the question, “are you okay?” and bringing about awareness of mental health.

You see, back then, no one asked me this question. Not directly anyway. They would dance around it but never a direct, “Hey Wendy, I can see you’re having a tough time, are you okay?” So the fact we have a dedicated day to stop and ask this very simple, yet possibly lifesaving question, is a huge win in my opinion.

And before you assume that this post is going to be a pity party about me and my dark days, it’s not. I guess the reason I’m sharing this is because I want you to see that mental illness affects more people than you might think – and perhaps even the people you LEAST expect. People you might perceive as strong. Everyday people you think have it all together.

Yes, mental health affects people just like you and me. And yes, things CAN turn it around for the better if you’re in the depths of depression, if you can just bring your mindset to believe that this time WILL come to an end. There IS light at the end of that never-ending tunnel.

I’m living proof of it.

You see, a lot of people see me as a strong, fiercely independent business woman, doing deals, busting ba**s and cracking the whip to get what I want in life, for myself and those closest to me. This includes my clients.

Nothing phases me.

Well, the truth is, yes I am strong. I am determined. I am driven and I’m all those things you THINK I am from what you see of me on social and out and about.

BUT I AM ALSO A HUMAN BEING.

Even the strong ones need a little help from time to time. Even the independent go through a bad run, or need someone to lean on when life gets all too much. Even the tough ones get sick.

I am incredibly saddened when I see or hear about someone who, in Charmaine Wilson’s words, “has decided to take themselves home”. It too, hits home for me because I know just how close I came to this, but at the same time, it reinforces my own inner strength and resilience to overcome such a difficult time and crippling illness.

Yes, depression is an illness.

Some make it out, and sadly, some don’t.

I was one of the ones who did.

Once I had made the conscious decision to live, I took things day by day. Sometimes hour by hour. I did things that gave me reason to smile. The pugs played a huge role in helping me get better because they gave me a reason. A routine to stick to. They needed me.

This is why losing Samson just 7 weeks ago has hit me hard. He was, and will always be, my little boy – my baby. His crazy pug antics have always kept me on my toes and given me a reason to get up in the morning. I am missing him, but I am also in a much better place these days, and as much as it pains me he is no longer here, I CAN move on with my life in his absence.

And despite not wanting to be around people back in those days, I pushed myself to be social.

I joined the Gold Coast Pug Club and went to meet-ups every other weekend. I liked that these people had no idea of my past or what I was going through at the time. They didn’t judge me. They didn’t know. But the times I spent with them made me happy, even if it was just for a few hours. I got the serotonin hit I needed.

Some days on the drive home I would cry and cry for no reason at all, just because I was feeling low, but at least I knew I was taking steps in a forward direction. I knew that eventually, the good times would outweigh the bad.

They had to.

I stopped seeing anyone who made me feel like crap. I decided that I’d rather be alone than be in the company of someone who reinforced my depressive state.

Day by day; week by week; I made conscious choices to work on getting myself better. Believe me, it was easier said than done.

There were good weeks and then there were bad weeks where I would revert back to that negative mindset.

I tried the anti-depressants, but they only made me worse.

This was the rollercoaster that I had to ride for years but one day, it came to a slower pace and it began to level out. The highs and the lows weren’t so extreme. The good times began to outweigh the bad. Eventually, I had a few wins. This gave me a little more confidence and by about the third year, I had mostly come out of it.

This was around the time I began working as a Buyer’s Agent in Brisbane, and within the next 18 months, I had made the decision to go out on my own as Wendy Russell, Independent Brisbane Buyer’s Agent. The rest, as you can now see, is my reality. I am incredibly blessed to be in the position I am now in.

I made it out.

So you see, it takes time to turn it around. It took me years. It was a slow and grinding process. I took 1 step forward and then 2 steps back every other week. It was F*cking hard.

This is why it is so important to ask those you care about, are you okay? Because you never know, they too may be somewhere on that rollercoaster – it’s just you don’t know about it.

I was, and always have been very forthcoming in my journey, but others don’t feel as comfortable wearing their heart (and their feelings) on their sleeve like I do. This is why you HAVE to ask.

And if you’re one of those souls who is still on that ride from hell, hang in there. Please. It does get easier. As a good friend once said to me, “Wendy, you just need to have a little faith it will all work out.”

Because, she was right. It did.

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