It Really is Ok Not to Be Ok

I’ve been wanting to write this blog for a while but the timing has never been quite right, until now. …….

Twelve months ago I was down visiting my brother and sister-in-law near Newmarket for the boys’ October holiday and I had just had a breakdown. Some of you might know what I mean when I say that I slid down my bedroom wall sobbing uncontrollably and feeling like I just couldn’t keep going. Today I am down visiting Ed and Sam again with my boys and it feels really good to be here, in a very different place to 12 months ago. 

So now feels like a good time to speak up about my big wobble or breakdown, or whatever else you want to label it. Too many people are afraid to voice how they are feeling, everyone else seems so happy and seems to have their life together, and yet you feel that you are the only person in the world experiencing feelings of sadness, anxiety, panic and helplessness.

It had started three years earlier with a few episodes of feeling more and more anxious and panicky as life threw various challenges our way. My way of dealing with challenges has always been to keep my head down and keep going, keep working hard, keep smiling and it will all be ok. I always believed that I thrived under pressure and my response to people asking if we were ok was always “still standing”. 

Well now I wasn’t still standing, I was a sobbing, snotty mess on my bedroom floor and to make it all so much worse it was my 8 year old son that found me.  I knew I needed to get help but the thought was so daunting. I had a busy vet practice to run and a young family to look after, and yet just doing the basics for the first few days felt like I had a mountain to climb. The practice which had given us so much and yet seemed to have taken so much, felt like a weight around my neck. The thought of walking into the building and facing the normal daily challenges was overwhelming and I wanted to hide away from everything and everyone. I cried every single day for several weeks, little things would set me off and for a while it felt like I would never feel happy again. 

I had headed down to Newmarket with the boys to see Ed and Sam and this gave me some much needed headspace and time away from the pressure of the practice. I spent my days crying, and walking or running, all the time trying to gather the courage to make a doctors appointment. One morning I drove up to the gallops on Newmarket Heath and sat for 3 hours in my car before I finally plucked up the courage to call the Vetlife helpline. The lady on the end of the phone listened as I cried down the phone. She told me that I needed to speak to my doctor, something I knew but didn’t really want to hear. Another half an hour later and I finally plucked up the courage to make an appointment. It felt like a weight had been lifted, I had made that first important and very small step forwards. 

I had a while to wait before I could see the doctor I wanted to see but when I did finally get there I was still crying daily and having to force myself to walk into the practice each day. I explained to the doctor that I was just feeling very sad and anxious and wasn’t sleeping very well, and that we had been under a huge amount of pressure personally and professionally. I didn’t think I was depressed I just didn’t know how to start feeling happy and excited about life again. It was quite hard to hear her list everything I had described as symptoms of depression. We discussed several different options including counselling and medication and although I was convinced I didn’t want to use medication it was again a big wake up call to be told that this was a real possibility if the counselling that I had chosen didn’t help. 

I won’t bore you all with everything that happened over the next few months but gradually after several counselling sessions and enough time with the pressure off I stopped feeling so sad. I wouldn’t say I started feeling happy and excited about life again, it was more of a gradual feeling that I just felt ok, not sad, not happy but ok. A while later I started recognising the signs of excitement again, something good was happening and I was actually looking forward to it. I was starting to look for challenges and I finally started to feel happy again. 

So twelve months on I am back in Newmarket with my boys visiting Ed and Sam, running the same routes I ran 12 months ago but in such a different place mentally. Some of our personal challenges are still here but business is really good. After a turbulent couple of years things are not only back to where we were two years ago but actually so much better. We have a fabulous team who have worked their backsides off and their trust and support over the last little while means so much. 

Apart from my husband, family and friends my biggest thank you must go to Vetlife. Without that nudge to call my doctor I don’t know if I would have gone through with it, or if I would have tried to tough it out and convince myself that I could sort it on my own. It’s really important that everyone working in practice knows that Vetlife is there for everyone and not just vets and nurses. Practice life brings such unique challenges and pressures and these affect the whole team.

So if you are feeling overwhelmed, stressed or sad I want to let you know that you aren’t alone. We may all look like we have our s**t together but the reality is often very different and as I’ve discovered it really is ok not to be ok………..





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