“Two years ago, after months of ignoring signs of my deteriorating mental health, I had what can only be described as a breakdown.
I lashed out at a very special person and found it hard to forgive myself for this. I was subsequently diagnosed with anxiety and depression and signed off work.
I was tearful, lethargic, had no appetite or concentration.
The lack of concentration hit me particularly hard – I’m an avid reader but could not read even the easiest of books, one of the things that I enjoy the most. I know loss of interest in usual hobbies is a symptom of depression but this was different, it wasn’t that I didn’t want to read but that I actually couldn’t.
After hearing about the benefits of knitting I took this up again, starting with simple scarves. I had learnt to knit from my mum as a young child and found it easy to get back into. Nothing complex, just knit and purl, nothing that needed any concentration.
I also found using a fidget spinner very calming, and although I found it hard I tried to get out for a walk every day.
Fast-forward and I have just handed in a dissertation as the final part of a master’s degree in data science for business at the University of Stirling.
It has not been easy - there have been up and downs; highs and lows; and laughter and tears, but with the support of family and friends I have come a long way. If someone had told me 18 months ago that today I’d have completed a master’s degree I would have never believed them.
One thing I have learnt over this time is to never underestimate the power of the question “are you ok?”. Very early on in the university course I was having a not so good day and one of my new friends recognised the signs and asked this question, for which I was very grateful. Also remember the answer to “Are you ok?” does not have to be “yes”.
What’s next for me? At this point, I don’t know. I would like to go on and undertake a PhD. As my gran always used to say, “What’s for you won’t go by you” and I now live by this philosophy.
One thing I do know is that in a number of days I’ll be celebrating my 40th birthday. Life begins, or so they say…”