The year that will probably go down in history for being the most challenging, eye rolling and fucked up year there has been (in my life time at least). 2020 has affected all of our day to day routine lives as well as effecting our mental well-being and challenging our mental strength. Over the past 12 months my mental health has slowly declined back into the dark hole of depression and crippling world of anxiety, but it’s now that time of year where we look back at the previous months, self-reflect, laugh, cry, say to ourselves ‘What the fuck happened there?’ and get ready to welcome a new year.

In June 2019 my application and visa for Canada was granted for 2 years, this was going to be the start of something completely new for me. A new career, a big step towards the future I had in my head and a country where I look at pictures of the crystal clear lakes, snowy mountains and lush greenery and I am just in awe. The country seems to have everything that would make my life a dream. I had 12 months to get into Canada so I decided to head back to Australia purely to work and save some money to get me there.

At the start of this year I had been working in Australia for about 4 months and everything was going well. I was actually happy at work, socialising more than what I had done for a while and I was enjoying my time here. I had a flight booked back home to Manchester in March so I could spend some time with friends and family before flying to Canada in May. I actually ended up pushing my flight back to April so I could work here for a bit longer to get some more money and because this is genuinely the first work place I have ever worked at where I have been happy. To be honest I wasn’t quite ready to say bye yet and jump into the unknown.

It wasn’t until February time when COVID-19 started to pop up in more places throughout Australia, I didn’t think much of it at first up until around late March when all travel was impacted. As Canada was going to be a longer and possibly a more permanent move for me, my time back home in April was for me to spend as much time with loved ones as I could before saying farewell. We all knew Canada was going to be more permanent, meaning no one knew when I would next see them, so I had weekends away planned, days out, evenings, self-care days, it was all planned out and it was something I was so looking forward to, but eventually I decided it was better for me to stay in Australia as I was out in the countryside away from major cities, I had a stable job, wage, friends and more of a life here. The risk of flying home and then getting stuck in the UK was too big for me. I left the UK for a reason and despite my mental health being poor at the moment, I honestly dread to think what it would be like if I did end up catching that flight home back in April.

The news that Canada closed its borders to all international travel hit me and my first thought was ‘What the fuck am I going to do?’. My flights were cancelled, there were no updates on air travel, borders or even the money I spent on my flights. Although I didn’t realise it at the time, this was when my anxiety began to build up inside me. I wasn’t sad about the situation but I felt a lack of control, and those who have anxiety know how scary, daunting and frustrating that can be. At this point in the year I was just floating, I wasn’t going backwards, I also wasn’t going forwards, I was just floating in the nothingness of the unknown.

During May my hours at work had been cut in half, so I had a lot more free time, which is when I started Mental Health May. Mentally I was in a great place despite everything that was going on, I was exercising more, taking my self-care pretty seriously and I had a nice balance between work, social and my personal life. May was by far my favourite month of this year. For the following couple of months my life here was becoming less and less temporary. I was seeing my job as being more long term, my partner and I moved into our own place and I started to feel as though I was moving forward again.

During August my anxiety started to flare up again and it seemed to flare up extremely quickly, to the point where I felt that I had easily been defeated and lost all control. The realisation hit me that my original plan for the following 2-3 years of my life wasn’t going to happen, and at the time I didn’t really have a back-up plan to fall back on to, so I just freaked out about my entire future. Where was I going in life? What was I doing? Where am I going to end up? My God, the anxiety absolutely loved this uncertainty and it just went crazy over it, it just spiraled out of control.
Towards the end of the month I was dealing with some personal issues that completely threw me off wack, and absolutely messed up my mental health. I’m not yet ready to go into the details yet but August, September, October and November have genuinely been the most challenging months I have faced, since before I started therapy back in September 2017. I honestly haven’t cried that much or that hard in years, I haven’t been that confused in years, and because of that, during November I flicked my switch off because I genuinely had had enough of how I was feeling, what I was thinking, everything else around me seemed so normal and I just wanted that so bad. I wanted normality, I was fed up of always crying at work and home, I was fed up of drinking a lot more alcohol than usual for me, I was fed up of feeling angry, frustrated, hurt, I was so fucking fed up, I just switched off and I became a person that I never thought I would be again.

My switch didn’t stay switched off for long, in the end I couldn’t ignore how I was feeling and part of me didn’t want to. Since finishing therapy I have always promised myself that I would never become the type of person I used to be, but by flicking off my switch I was doing exactly that. I allowed myself to go back to being that person, even if it was for just a couple of weeks. I decided to flick my switch back on, felt everything that I needed to feel and came to the conclusion that I need professional help. A couple of weeks ago I had a doctors appointment, to which the first 5 minutes I spent balling my eyes out whilst Dr.B gave me a sympathetic look till I managed to compose myself. It was a successful appointment, I was given some homework to do, I was referred to a therapy centre and prescribed escitalopram. The Dr pre-warned me of all of the side effects of the meds which could last up to 2-3 weeks and I should then get the mood boost around the 4 week mark, however I wasn’t expecting the side effects to kick in almost instantly after taking the first tablet.

The nausea, insomnia, lack of energy, loss of recollection, spacing out (and I mean proper spacing out to the point where I sometimes would stare off into the distance for minutes at a time, come back to reality and have absolutely no idea what happened), inability to concentrate, speak properly and focus began to not only effect my home life but my work life to. Then there was the complete loss of appetite. The depression had caused me to lose some weight anyway, but once I started these meds, holy shit I dropped weight very quickly. Not a lot of people realise this and whenever I get asked what diet I have been on, in my head I always reply ‘Oh I’m on this new called diet called anti-depressants, I wouldn’t recommend it to be honest’. Then there’s the compliments I get about how I look to which in my head I reply ‘Thanks, it’s the depression’. In the end I felt worse on the meds than before I started them so I just stopped taking them. I had a check up appointment with my Dr the other week and we both agreed that the if the meds were impacting me that much, then powering through the first few weeks of side effects could be too risky.

Since my last appointment I have been going back to the gym more often, eating a bit more food, trying to get out of the house, as well as maintaining the care of the house as well as the care of myself. I’ve really had to go back to basics and take baby steps in order to get myself better. This year, especially the last few months have been life changing and I know I am not going to be the same person I was several months ago, I have to and I am rebuilding myself because I crumbled into pieces this year.

I actually started this article back on the 17th November, since then I have restarted this article 4 times and then put it on the back burner to hopefully be done before the end of the year. I restarted this article from scratch on 27th December and I have managed to finish it within 3 hours. I haven’t written since my mental health nosedived back in August as I find writing hard to do when there is a lot of whirlwinds, questions, doubts, fears, mumbles and negative crap going on in my head. My writing for me is like therapy, it’s a way of expressing all the chaos in my head but it’s also deep and honest, which is something that I haven’t been ready for. In some ways this article has become a goal for me to reach. If I can manage to get something written and posted then at least I know for sure that there is positive improvement in my mental well-being.

I like to think that in the future, the difficult experiences we are going through now, turn out the be the life experiences we look back on and we look at how the shaped us. We remember everything we thought and felt during those times and we can either allow those experiences to shape us positively or negatively. Don’t allow the experiences to shape you negatively, it’s never worth it. The pain, hurt, sadness, anger is all temporary, keeping hold of those kind of emotions will only hold you back. Use the experiences, use everything you thought and felt to benefit you or others. That is what will make those experiences worth it.

I’m not entirely sure how to describe the year 2020 other than being fucked up, but in some ways it has brought us all closer together. We have all been in the same boat, we have all been feeling similar feelings and we are all beginning to value our time. Use your experiences this year to pick yourself up, dust yourself off and begin a new chapter in 2021. You have fucking got this! I have so much faith in you!

And of course I am always here and I am always happy to help.

Here’s to the next 12 months, may they all work in your favour.

Sending so much love and support you all,

Emma xo