I recently read a quote that said, “Having anxiety is like when the video game combat music is playing but you can’t find any enemies.” I’m going to add that having depression is like sitting in a dark room and telling yourself that you don’t deserve to turn on the lights. That there aren’t even ones to turn on anyway. I knew that there were people out there who did what they could to combat their anxiety/depression issues but it had never occurred to me to do something for myself back then. I didn’t know about Finest Labs Terpenes, St John Wart, medical marijuana, and so many other treatments for people who needed that support.
This past December I became unemployed. I had been on stress leave from work for two weeks and decided it was best for everyone that I left. I loved a lot of aspects of my job: being a manager, the leisure industry, my coworkers, but for various reasons I hit a wall and broke down. I came home from work one day and could not stop crying. I was the clichéd apoplectic in the bathtub, I cried myself to sleep. I woke up and sobbed big inky mascara tears into my oatmeal, then reapplied my make-up and wept richer ebony to my boots.
Because I am fortunate to have a loving partner, he promptly took me to the hospital where a patient-doctor (bless you NHS) signed me off from work and prescribed anti-depressants. I came home and cried some more.
Depression has many colours: There’s the deep mauve of pain, the glaring hopelessness of black, ochre’s sharp sting of resentment and the sickly chartreuse of shame. The most worrying is the blandest colour, the numb, flat, lacklustre, and endlessly-unfeeling grey. The apathetic-forever-empty-sky grey. Hospital Grey. I realise that this may come across as clichéd; the bane of any writer, but synesthetic applications work in this scenario, and depression always felt to me like the ugliest painting at Ikea: black, purple, yellow, green and grey. I am thankful that this time grey was not in the colour pallet of my depression – my dark room still had lights to turn on, but my pallet held all the others; and my painting was still seriously ugly.
Anxiety and depression came hand in hand over the second half of my 20’s. I had depression at 22, but anxiety was the late bloomer. I didn’t know what was happening those first few times; when the alarm bells were sounding but you can still sort of breathe. Those confusing moments where the music is playing at full blast while you’re brandishing your weapon, looking around like a moron. I had never known these feelings, never sympathized with people who were too anxious to go to the party, too stressed out with the idea of eating at a restaurant alone. I was the girl who at 20 years old went solo to Kolkata, and now I couldn’t even get on the subway.
When you’re deep into depression and anxiety, that “fearless” person that you were before starts to feel like another lifetime. I couldn’t imagine how I was once able to stroll so casually onto an airplane, travel solo, have my own apartment. Looking back I see now that I should have asked for help sooner, found a therapist to talk to, tried alternative therapies such as Gold Bee CBD products, or even attempted something like meditation. It reached a point where I couldn’t be alone with my thoughts for too long, couldn’t give myself time to question my breathing, evaluate my sadness. If I kept in company, kept occupied, kept my focus on others, it wouldn’t be a problem. But in reality, I couldn’t do that either. My mental health caused me to miss out on so many occasions with friends (my beloved Lauren, I am forever sorry for missing your 30th birthday) and medicate myself too many times with wine. By November I was crying so often, panicking so frequently that I left the best job I ever had. That fearless girl had kept walking, and I needed to catch up and find her.
Because I am fortunate to have a loving mother, she offered a visit to her guest property in India for 6 weeks. I could be in the sun, practice my favourite language, swim in the sea and have my Mom to take care of me. It would be a stressful journey, 3 solo flights and hours by myself, but I had an opportunity to begin to recover. Experience had taught me that this required more than a holiday to solve (this isn’t Eat Pray Love) but I would have an outlet to recuperate.
So I cried and popped Ativans and draped myself in self-care (The biggest bag of chocolate covered almonds? Airplane neck pillow you judge others for wearing? Pulpy addictive novel? Check Check Check!) and I travelled from London to Goa for a total of 30 hours. I experienced both ends of the spectrum of my mental health in those six weeks. I cried myself to sleep, couldn’t eat, had panic attacks and broke down, but I met incredible people, challenged myself, cared for others, travelled to more cities(!) and wept tears of joy for the fullness of my heart.
We love #TravelTuesday over at #DoTheDaniel! We’ve been keeping up with London Contributor @brittany.levett’s tour through India & it’s astonishing. From Kolkata to Mumbai, Brittany is having the time of her life checking out new places like Chowpatty Beach ? & trying new foods like Kulfi ? #dtdtravels #dtdteam #tourism #foodie
#DoTheDaniel London Contributor @brittany.levett followed her heart and it led her all the way to Mumbai ? This elaborate dish is the “Fish Thali” and it was full of delicious flavours that completed each other ? The #DTDTeam lives for travel! Where would your heart lead you? Let us know in the comments ? #tourism #passion
India has always had the ability to check my perspective and my privilege. Its wealth disparity yes, but I don’t want to paint a picture of poor orphans teaching me gratitude. I’m a middle class white woman, it would be insulting to use a Country’s poverty for my gains, to ignore the fact that India is so full of joy and possibility and love. India gives you the power to keep exploring, keep asking questions, to love deeper and more freely. India has its flaws like everywhere else, its people (especially it’s women) needing change, but the colours of that Country are the colours that enrich my pallet with hope and gratitude. I am not cured, my mental illness will always walk beside me, but I will take the gait I am given because life is forever worth living, and I am so grateful for every beat of my heart.
At my old job, there was an elderly man who would come in and talk to me. He ran a Christian radio station and in typical north american customer service/ female self-preservation I entertained him at the counter so as not to be rude. I am sad to admit that I lied about being Christian, out of pleasantry, but he was kind and I was at work. One day he asked me “And what would you like our prayer group to pray for you this week?” and I instantly felt guilty for lying about my religious standing. He stood waiting for my response and I stammered “patience” as it is far from a personal strength. He smiled and said, “So then we will pray for adversity for you, because that is how you will get better.”
I think that old bastard brought back my mental illness.
But, I think my mental illness has given me some patience.
All the best,
Photos: Brittany Levett