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#SelfcareSundays: Asking for help is OK

03 Apr 2016

In February of this year, I got the call from an NHS psychologist that I scored 25/27 on a test for clinical depression and severe anxiety, my response was “Oh, really? Again?” I was writing my #SelfcareSundays articles about the importance of looking after myself, I was listening to my playlists, I was meditating, doing pilates, eating well, making time for my friends and making time for myself. So what exactly was I doing wrong? I was also drowning in this heavy, and unexplainable, overwhelming feeling of pain, anxiety and sadness.

I called my best friend and confidante, who also happens to be my mother. Of course, being a gem who was a teenage care-giver to her own mother with bipolar disorder, she was extremely supportive and proactive. “So what’s the next move?” she said. “Therapy for four weeks”, I grimaced.

For as long as I remember, I have lived with crippling low moods. These aren’t moods where I feel a little bit down and tomorrow will be a better and brighter day. There are times when I have been late for work because I cannot physically move and have to get someone to tell me to put one foot down, then another, then walk to the bathroom and wash my face, then brush my teeth and get shit done. It’s an unpredictable way of being, but it also hasn’t stopped me from living a vibrant and busy life. For example, I am looking forward to the next couple of months where I’m going to Glasgow Zine Fair with gal-dem at the end of the month, have exciting meetings in New York and get to see my good friends, then off to Paris with gal-dem for AfroPunk, and then to Lagos to get some vitamin D and fresh plantain.

The first day of group therapy, I was late. I hadn’t prepared myself for what I was about to experience; in fact, I didn’t think about it all. I had a production meeting that ran over at work, which meant that I missed my bus and I was arranging yet another house viewing in between finding directions to the hospital. I had missed the cringey icebreakers and introductions.

When I eventually arrived at the hospital, it was like an episode of Community: everyone was different ages and ethnicities. But there were more commonalities than differences: we were all Hackney residents, we all had work-related stress symptoms, we were all nervous about being there. But, most importantly, we had all asked for help.

We sat in a circle, nodding in unison when one of us would talk about our feelings and how we could problem solve. It was a safe space, and I was appreciative of that. But I couldn’t help thinking I could be doing something else with my time.  As soon as the session finished, I didn’t give myself any time to reflect on my tasks for the rest of the week, I had a house viewing to get to.

As the weeks went on, my score for anxiety and depression improved vastly (5/27 – shout out NHS). Different methods work for different people; informal counselling from friends and family, professional counselling, medication, or maybe sunshine in the Caribbean.

Seize the moment, enjoy your life, reach out to friends and family and remember you must NEVER be afraid or ashamed to ask for help. Everyone you meet is fighting a battle, so we’re all here to support each other.