Amanda's Story Depression, Anxiety, and Me . . . I would like to share my story with you - about Depression, Anxiety, and Me . . . The 3 of us travel together, and have done since I was young. Anxiety clambered onboard at 6. Depression launched in at 15.I like to use a car analogy, being a petrolhead, to offer you a visual on the dynamics of ourrelationship.We share a rally car - and I try to maintain a grip on the steering wheel, follow the racingline, and manage the accelerator speed, all of the time.I’m in the front, I’m in the driving seat. When I’m in control of my destiny through my freedom to choose, that’s when I’m ME . . .My direction. My speed. My journey . . . I’m happy when I’m ME. ( Despite my 2 passengers, my career journey has been varied and exciting.I can sustain achievement and success through my episodes of Depression, andgenerally mask my Anxiety well. ) Smile, laugh, be animated! - Or cancel, and don’t venture out!Anxiety sits mostly in the front seat, next to me. And Depression sits, or lies, mostly in theback. Neither wear a harness. Sometimes they move around from the front to the back. Sometimes they are awake, orsometimes asleep. Sometimes their presence is very strong. Anxiety firing on all cylindersand fuelling Depression to breathe its toxic fumes throughout the car. . . . Occasionally, I’m able to forget that they are even there at all. My sweet spot . . . I acknowledge them. I accept them. I allow them to be. To come along for the ride . . .But it can be exhausting living in Fight, Flight, or Freeze - AND juggling the role of Driverand Navigator at the same time. I am constantly adjusting stability, and we can just about survive to maintain pace, andstay roughly on track . . . That is, until we come to a grinding halt - mostly after hitting an emotional potholein the gravel, I really didn’t see coming. I sit in my seat, rigid - Anxiety and Depression fall on top of me, stopping my ability tomove. My airbag deploys, and I’m barely able to breathe. ( I haven’t always reacted well to life events. The result of early rejection giving me adesperate need to be liked. To be loved. To belong . . .And often this need has led me to make unhealthy choices in my relationships ). I’m very familiar with the crippling feeling when I’m engulfed by Anxiety andDepression. I’ve had it many times. It grips me. I just want to curl up under myduvet, and sleep . . . Here, my stable car with roll cage support, becomes a rickety cycle.A cycle that slams downhill - gathering speed - out of control - with no brakes - untilI hit rock bottom. At this point, Anxiety and Depression have really got a strong hold over me - andthey invite 2 further Passengers to creep into my unstable world and cling on too.Pressure on my lungs, and pressure inside my head. Grief and Guilt. Such anunhealthy cycle of events - Automatic Response behaviour kicking in. I have hit rock bottom on a few occasions. The last time, in recent years, was a prolongedepisode. Ongoing challenging life events - lack of hope, lack of motivation, myPassengers crowding me.I considered ending it all as a way of release. Achieving a calm podium finish . . .However . . . It’s amazing how events can turn around just at the point you believe it’s allcompletely hopeless . . . A topical conversation with a friend, a text from another friend enquiring “ How are you? “,and then sharing a takeaway with another friend - all of whom I couldn’t ignore, as theywouldn’t let me. None of them knew my space at the time. Nobody did. Including my husband. I had noteven shared my thoughts with my dogs, my tortoises, or even my chickens. My friend’s incoming text enquiring, ‘How are you?’My avoidance response - then her follow up reply stating -‘Not good enough! Either I’m coming to get you, or you can meet me in the woodsfor a dog walk!’ - was pivotal. I didn’t know what to do ....I didn’t share. She wasn’t aware . . . I had forgotten to switch off my phone. ....... So, we walked with our dogs. Just enjoying each other’s company. On foot - nocar - no Passengers. My mind calmed, and my driven desire to complete my Final Stage, subsided.I pulled back from the edge. Literally. And to that friend, I will always be grateful andcherish her for being in my life on that day. At that time. I had missed my moment through friends being in Action, without their knowing . . .This period of time was an all time low for me, and I saw my GP for an emergencyappointment to share my emotional and physical state, as soon as I could. And for thefirst time. He was shocked that I had reached such a low level, especially as I had been takingmedication to support the management of my Anxiety and Depression, for a number ofyears. He asked me what I thought I needed, and what we could do together to mobilise mythoughts in a more positive direction - and one I would be able to sustain. We both decided I would see a Psychiatrist to overhaul my Mental Health, Recovery, andWellbeing - and my Medication - and formulate a new team strategy. The Psychiatrist also asked me what I thought I needed.I felt both specialists cared, listened, heard me, and were passionate about supportingthe next stage of my journey in a more stable way - but still as ME, (Powerful, Peaceful,Courageous - and Fun!).Or as my Psychiatrist put it, in terms of coffee, ‘A frothy cappuccino with chocolatesprinkles. Not a flat white!’ Together we have addressed the chemical imbalance in my brain to improve the balancein my thoughts. And with this new found emotional balance, I enjoy support when needed from a CBTtherapist, consciously practice mindfulness every day, and try to remember to breathe! I love nurturing - whether it’s my pets, or friends, or enjoying taking the time to chat andlaugh with people I come across along the way. Spending time is such a lovely gift - and hugely rewarding both ways. It feels good to be intuitive, connected and aware of others around me, and to notice anychanges in their way of being or talking. If I sense my help is needed to inspire and encourage, then that’s what I do. And enjoy.Passionately. I love to walk through the woodland near my home with my dogs and friends. Or just withmy dogs as OUR little pack of 3! Feeling the leaves underfoot, seeing the dappled light shine through the trees, andimagining the many visitors treading the same path over the years. Being in the present.Being in the moment. I love to bring laughter!One evening not long after my near miss, I enjoyed an amazing evening and dinner withour neighbours and their friends - none of whom I had met before. Two of the those incredible guests shared their stories of Mental Health. I was so inspiredby their openness, honesty, and authenticity. Wow! I felt a sudden sense of freedom. Could I share My Story of recent events witheveryone as well? I did - and felt a huge release of pressure, as all my Passengers - Anxiety, Depression,Grief and Guilt - softened their grip, and I felt I could at last, breathe! This story has been shared many times - you never know who, or what, inspires you toset off on your Recovery journey. I will always remember, and be so thankful for, the gift ofHope. The Hope shared that evening opened up new Possibilities for me - Choice,Freedom, and Life . . . A few days later I got in touch again, and asked how I could also be involved with MentalHealth opportunities - to share my story, and to motivate others to change gear and moveforwards on their journey, with positivity and joy too. Within the next week, I had attended the Viewpoint Forum, the Hope and OpportunityConference, joined the local Community Wellbeing Project, and joined New Leaf Collegeto Volunteer, and co-produce a new course ( The Peer Development Pathway ). I now Volunteer for a number of organisations and charities - fulfilling many differentroles . . . I share my Lived Experiences. I am very comfortable sharing My Story. Openness, honesty, warmth, and authenticity, reward me with lots of amazingconnections with others. Meeting new like-minded friends . . . in many different settings.I upscale my knowledge in Mental Health, Recovery, and Wellbeing, through attendingnumerous courses. I love learning and sharing, and inspiring others - Connecting and Communicating. A symbiotic relationship. Through all this involvement I hope to inspire and encourage others with LivedExperiences to feel the same positive way. A sense of belonging - of coming home. It’s OK to feel - feelings. It’s OK to express how you’re feeling. It’s amazing to connectwith others to share support and offer strength. It’s great to feel in a safe space withothers who understand - who get it. No judgement. Just Acceptance, Care, Love, andSupport. Each day now, I live in the moment. I drive along with my Anxiety and Depression. Theywill always be there - but I’m allowing them to be Passengers - and that feels verydifferent now. If I begin to feel they are edging a little too close for comfort, I mobilise myself and ask forhelp and support. I’m in action, not in sleep. I too want to pass on this gift of Hope - through sharing an insight into how my journeyhas veered from the straight and narrow, to off-road, through many potholes, and overmany crests where my landing has been anyone’s guess . . . ..... And how I now choose to travel on a more gentle, but still fun (!), track - more inControl, and filled with Opportunity, towards a much brighter, and very optimistic,future.