This year, I’ve entered for the local business awards. One of the categories is the Enterprising Women in Business Award, and as part of the process I had an interview with one of the judges, Rachel. I had thought it would be a very serious, business-like meeting – despite having met Rachel before, and not really thinking she was a “power-suit” sort of person. It wasn’t serious at all; it was a lovely chat about my business, my blog and my life in general – which was a relief since I know about those things, and I’m not so hot on the whole “grown up business” thing!
When I meet people I don’t usually shake their hand and say “hi, I’m Vicky and I had a massive nervous breakdown…” But when I think about everything in my life right now, it’s all there because of the breakdown.
Hands down, the biggest and best thing in my life is being a mother. Having S has not only helped me to get on top of my mental health issues, but also to find my “calling” as it were. If I had never found myself in September 2012, a single mother sitting on the sofa after my daughter’s bed time and wondering what to do with my evening, I would never have set up this blog. Without this blog I would not have rediscovered my love for writing, or learned how to use social media to successfully promote my blog. If I hadn’t done those two things I could never have set up a business where my main sources of income are writing and social media.
During my interview with Rachel, I spent an entire hour recounting all the reasons I’m a bit awesome. I told her about my weekly piece on Wave 105; my column in the local paper; my upcoming appearance in The Sun; my January appearance in The Times; my podcast; my appearances on various radio stations commenting on current affairs; the fact my blog has climbed up the Tots100 chart; my Klout score and the fact Thomas Power complimented me on it. I also talked about my work and how I love the blogs and content I write for my clients, as well as the training I’ve been doing lately and how much I’m enjoying that.
All of these things have happened because of my blog. My blog happened because I was a single mother in need of a voice and an outlet. I was in that position because I’d split up with S’s father, a person who I believe targeted me in the first place because I was recovering from a breakdown. For me, all of this stems from my breakdown. And actually, I think I’ve done bloody well.
I also think that having been through something like that, I am stronger, generally. People say I’m “brave” to have shared my experience, but I just feel very strongly that we shouldn’t all be ashamed and trying to hide things like this. If you’re ill and you don’t seek help because you’re scared of being labelled as mad, or seen by someone walking into the offices of the local community mental health team, the chances are you will get worse before you get better. If I can stand up and say “Look at me, I went completely bonkers but I’m ok now and actually doing quite well thank you very much” perhaps someone else will see this and feel like maybe there is hope for them.
I am glad I had a nervous breakdown because, as the saying goes, from great struggle comes great reward. I reap my reward every day when I look at my daughter’s face. I am one of the lucky few, and I remember that every single day.
When you have a breakdown, it can feel like you’re on a very slippery slope with no way of ever climbing back up again. I felt like my life had changed irreparably, and as they say, “you can’t go home again.” There was no way “back” to where I had been before. As it happened, that was true; I didn’t go back. But I had been suffering with a low-level depression for years, and actually “back” was not somewhere I would want to be any way. When I eventually came out the other side of my illness, I found myself in a much better place – a place I believe I could not have reached without first going through the horrific experience of a massive breakdown. Nietzsche said that which does not kill me makes me stronger and I think he made a valid point!