Mental health has been a big part of my life for a good few years now, but I think the biggest obstacle in the way of my recovery has been my inability to accept it for what it was. Deep down I think I knew that it was depression, but it’s too easy when you have a good life, great friends, and a loving family, to convince yourself you’re fine and continue your life in denial. I know I did. I had problems, sure, but then everyone did, and my self-doubt and feelings of worthlessness lead me into a mental health spiral I wasn’t even fully aware I needed to get out of.
My turning point came when I was volunteering in Nepal last summer (2018). I had gone alone and met people out there, and I think being so far away from home had given me the much-needed space to think. The culture there was so different that I was able to separate myself from all the problems that had contributed to weighing me down and trapping me in such a low place.
On the weekend I had decided to trek in the Himalayans, and the landscape was so beautiful and unlike anything I had ever seen before that I was able to completely immerse myself in my surroundings. I felt like a different person, I felt free from the depressing mess my internal thoughts had become. I think it was the combination of being technologically cut off from the outside world, seeing the complete happiness of the locals who had absolutely nothing compared to my own rural village in England, and being surrounded by nature and like-minded people.
The moment it really hit me though, was when we reached our highest point and were able to look back down over the mountains we had climbed to reach this peak. It was breath-taking. I remember suddenly thinking to myself ‘Oh my God, this is what it means to be happy.’
It was in this moment I almost laughed at myself, and I was finally able to think enough is enough, I do not have to feel this way, if I allow myself to admit that there is something wrong, that I am struggling, then I will be able to finally take the necessary steps to begin a road to recovery. A road that will hopefully lead to a place where happiness was the norm, and my dark days the few and far between. I had become far too used to a feeling of emptiness that it took a trek up the Himalayans to realise that happiness was within my grasp if I wanted it.
I was ridiculously nervous to travel to Nepal on my own, I have suffered with anxiety too, and this led me to trying to think of every single possible way I could get out of going when it finally came down to a week before my departure date. Thankfully, I took the plunge and forced myself to do something scary in order to reap the rewards. Sometimes I think you have to make yourself do things outside of your comfort zone in order to break your normal routine and make a more positive change in your life. I had gotten so caught up in my head over A-levels that Nepal was exactly what I needed to make me realise the way I was living my life was becoming detrimental to my mental health. It was time I spoke to someone, even if that person was just a friend.
We have a lot more control over our lives than we realise, and although mental health isn’t an illness that can be beaten alone, the first steps do have to be taken alone, and we have to be willing to take them. Everyone has their turning points, and this was a win for me in more ways than one. I had also beaten my anxiety and am now able to travel abroad alone without any issue.
Although this was a massive point in my life, it didn’t automatically mean that I was on the road to recovery, it was more like I was on the journey towards recovery rather than having quite made it to the home-stretch. There are going to need to be a few more turning points to reach that landmark, but at least I am now pointing in the right direction.