Lisa Singleton…..The Honest Truth
Written by Lisa Singleton of Zebra Design, Photography by Andrew Butler
I am lucky. I am lucky because I have a career that I love. I am lucky because I have a wonderful husband who supports me in everything I do and two wonderful sons who are the centre of my world. I am lucky because I have a network of friends who just get me and are there for me when I need them. But most of all, I am lucky because I have been on a roller-coaster of a journey through the peaks and troughs of anxiety and depression but I am now in a place where I have learned how to live with this and to manage my emotions and to be kind to myself because this is just part of my make-up and part of what makes me…me.
When I found out the second issue of Grow Exeter Magazine was about mental health in the workplace, I felt compelled to share my story. I have been thrilled that over recent months, mental health has featured prominently in the news and people are now feeling able to talk about their experiences and that the stigma attached to mental illness is starting to disappear. I have always been very open about my journey with depression and in a way having to live with it for so long has made me the person I am and has driven me to now want to help others.
I have suffered for all my adult life on and off, but since 2005 I have been on antidepressants continuously. For a long time, I would hide my illness and depression is a serious illness. I was the life and soul of the party, I was the ‘funny one’, the confident one. What did I possibly have to be depressed about? However, hiding it and putting an act on all the time is exhausting and behind closed doors and internally I was crying…I was suffering and I felt so alone.
For those close to me it was very difficult to watch. Outwardly there is nothing wrong. I didn’t look ill, there were no physical symptoms so how could I possibly be ill? I just had to pull myself together, to snap out of it.
You can’t just pull yourself together though. Sometimes just getting out of bed was a struggle, all I wanted to do was sleep. I had days when I didn’t want to leave the house and having to shop for groceries or to keep on top of the housework was overwhelming.
It took a while but once I was on the right medication, my life changed. Now I am in my mid-forties, I feel more confident and in control than ever. I feel at peace with myself. I am aware that I may have times when I struggle still – juggling running a business, bringing up a family, keeping a home, but I recognise the signs now and I can be kind to myself and get myself out of the downward spiral.
Depression is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign we have tried to be strong for too long. It is a serious illness that needs to be taken seriously. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength and a sign that you recognise you have the condition. We all need to feel we can reach out to friends and family or colleagues, line-managers and bosses without being judged. It needs to be treated the same as any physical illness. People need to take time to look after themselves, to be supported by those around them and to realise they are far from alone. It’s only when you start to be open and to talk about how you are feeling that you become aware of how many around us are suffering too.
Developing a coping strategy is so important and different things work for different people. For me it’s getting enough sleep, taking Vitamin B which combats fatigue and has a role in producing brain chemicals that affect mood. I try to spend a couple of hours outside each day and working from home means I can be flexible with when I work. I surround myself with positive people and have a network of ‘go-to’ friends who I know will listen. I don’t blame myself now if the house is a little untidy, housework can wait. Emotional intelligence is so important and is about being kind to yourself. Most importantly for me, my job is my ‘therapy’, being creative is the only thing I ever wanted to do and the fact that I am still designing and loving every minute of it, fills me with a sense of pride.
I was asked recently, who my hero is and I said my Father. I have his drive and determination to succeed and every day I remember the phrase that he still says to me frequently – never give up and never give in. I am happy and content and in a good place right now, and I want to help others to feel the same. Nobody needs to suffer in silence. It’s about finding the right coping mechanisms for you, talking openly, and remembering you are not alone. There is help out there.
Follow Lisa on Twitter @lisazebra or call her on 01647 61580