In 2018 I wrote an article for MyPlus Students’ Club How to seek help, support and advice from the Uni about being diagnosed with clinical depression at 13, being medicated since that time, becoming very ill with suicidal thoughts and tendencies, and the psychodynamic psychotherapy treatment I received through the local NHS mental health team. I recently re-read my 2018 article and realised that a follow-up was needed as much has changed since then, both professionally and personally.
After 9 successful years of working for Enterprise Rent-a-Car as a Branch Manager and Talent Acquisition Specialist, I made a big decision to move sector and join the University of Derby as Operations Manager of DANCOP (Home – DANCOP (teamdancop.co.uk). I chose to make this move as I was keen to use my Sociology degree more in my work and help impact the lives of young people in my local area. It proved to be a great decision, and 3 months after joining I was promoted to Deputy Head of DANCOP and was also interim Head of the project for 2 months! This demonstrates that it was worth taking the leap and moving sectors, even though it pushed me out of my comfort zone. It also shows the progress I’ve made with my mental health. Previously this change may have been very challenging, but actually, I was inspired and energised by it which allowed me to excel and progress quickly! My experiences with depression have definitely developed my resilience.
My mental health has also vastly changed. I have been signed-off as an outpatient by the Derby mental health team and have been medication free for around 2 years now; the first time in almost 20 years! My treatment and progress were such a success that my Community Psychiatric Nurse invited me to speak about my experience to an NHS panel that was tasked with reviewing the mental health provision in Derbyshire. I explained to the panel that my psychodynamic psychotherapy was key to my recovery and how grateful I was that I had received it.
So how did I go from being seriously ill to medication free? I have learnt that numerous factors can help on your journey to recovery. Firstly, the intensive therapy I received and the brilliant work of my therapist. Secondly, speaking to friends and family openly about my health was incredibly helpful, as was disclosing my illness at work. This allowed my network to support me and gave me the opportunity to help others who were also struggling with their mental health. Finally, I began caring for myself more both mentally and physically by taking up rock climbing which gave me physical strength and time to be mindful; you can’t think about anything other than the wall when you’re climbing!
It hasn’t all been an easy and steady climb though. Recovery for me was very much like climbing. At times the route is easy to navigate, at others, it can seem like an impossible route to conquer and I felt stuck. But the key for me was to recognise that every climbing route was within my reach, I could do them if I stepped back and evaluated the problem in front of me, and that challenges are a normal part of everyday life. One big challenge I faced was finding out I was potentially being made redundant after many years with the same company. This situation really challenged me and at times I worried I may become ill again. I overcame it by using my support network of friends, family and colleagues, and maintaining my mental and physical self-care. I also gave myself the space to feel sad, worried and anxious, rather than trying to put on a brave face all the time. And I conquered the climb.
Throughout my journey, one of the greatest things I have learnt is the shift from viewing myself as ‘broken’ and ‘irreparable’ and thinking ‘this is just the way I am’; to realising that my condition was caused by a multitude of factors, sometimes outside of myself and beyond my control. I was not broken and irreparable; I was ill and could get better by controlling what I could control. It was a very empowering feeling to realise this and it reframed the way I viewed my illness. It was not permanent, and with hard work and support I could change it, so I did. But I couldn’t have done it without the countless people that supported me along the way. If I hadn’t shared how I was feeling with the people who were able to offer me support, I wouldn’t have received the help I desperately needed.
My name is Abigail Marsden, and I am the Deputy Head of DANCOP (Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire Collaborative Outreach Programme which is part of the Uni Connect programme) at the University of Derby. In 2018 I wrote a blog for My Plus Student’s Club about what I wish I had known at university and it is an honour to be writing another blog about my mental health journey since then.