My most savoured moment of the week is a cup of tea in bed on a Sunday morning listening to the radio – a weekly ritual that I revel in each time it comes around. This moment of serenity is one that I let linger while I take note of feeling happy, something I will never take for granted again. Anxiety and depression were words without a huge amount of meaning to me before 2020 – I thought the former meant a bit on edge and the latter feeling sad for a while. I quickly learned the true meaning.

In 2020, as the pandemic started sinking its teeth into our idea of ‘normality’ and tearing it to shreds, I’d started working in a new environment and lost the psychological safety that comes from feeling at ease and secure in a role. Without realising it, this cocktail of challenges was chipping away at my mental health and dismantling my resilience piece by piece.

‘I’m fine,’ I’d tell myself as I cried in my home office for the third time in a week after a call. ‘This must be normal,’ I’d think as the nausea set in and became a permanent fixture in my stomach. ‘Is this happening to other people?’ I finally asked myself as nausea turned to retching every morning. After eight months of going down this slippery slope, slowly at first, then gathering speed, I became a runaway train, spiralling out of control into a catastrophic and inescapable pit of severe anxiety. I couldn’t work, could barely eat and, cruellest of all, couldn’t sleep.  

Sometime around that eight-month mark the anxiety squeezed me even harder and turned into what I now know was depression – the sleepless nights were compounded by the loss of any desire to get up each day, crippling back pain, a golf ball-sized lump in my throat, panic attacks, a fear of the dark and the feeling that I was being physically crushed by the world. My home, once cosy and welcoming, had become a terrifying prison that I wanted to escape but was too terrified to leave. By that point I was only able to go out while clinging to my fiancé, a friend or one of my parents. Eventually I began to disassociate as a defence mechanism, to pretend that none of this was really happening to me and that I’d soon wake up and realise it was all a bad dream.  

My fiancé and my family encouraged and supported me to speak to a therapist and, despite telling myself that this was still a bad dream, I finally followed their advice. Luckily I connected with the most incredible therapist. She acknowledged the level of distress I was in, and the first sessions were focused on helping me actually engage with it and feel safe enough to let go of disassociating. She also encouraged me to speak to my GP about medication. Deciding to take antidepressants was not easy, but in time they enabled me to engage better with my therapy sessions.

Gradually our weekly Zoom sessions helped me make sense of how I’d got to this awful place that I’d become trapped in, and gave me the tools to change how I thought and rewire my brain to escape the vicious cycle of rumination, catastrophising and disassociation.  

Slowly but surely I began to sleep again and found my appetite. My heart rate was slowing back to normal and the aches and pains began to ease. As our weekly sessions continued I found myself waking up and thinking I could face the day ahead. Once I became able to engage with the therapy, after eight weeks I realised I was looking forward to the day. This came in the nick of time, allowing me to finally give my attention to planning my wedding. Thanks to therapy, I went on to have the happiest day with my now husband and everyone near and dear to us.

Three years on I still check in with my therapist every couple of months to keep building my resilience for whatever life throws at me. Therapy has changed my perspective forever and, in a funny way, while I would rather not have suffered in the way I did, it pushed me to learn about my thinking patterns and how my mind works, something I’ll be forever grateful I did. Now, when the warning signs creep in, I have the tools to avoid getting dragged down into the abyss.  

I’m so glad therapy enabled me to enjoy my wedding day, but I’m even more glad it taught me to enjoy the ‘everyday’ – and that special Sunday morning tea-in-bed ritual that I will always relish.