I am Sadie, happily married mother of three human children and three animal children, and have just turned 34 years old. I have a varied work history from retail to modelling, and accounts, to what I do now; lecturing in the Animal sector. So anything from conservation to behaviour to biology, if animals are involved so am I! This is a very recent career change as I graduated from university in 2016 with my 1st class honours and then went on to study to gain my postgraduate certificate in post-compulsory education last year. This year sees me studying for a Masters in research in Evolutionary biology and another postgraduate teaching certificate for Higher education. Life is ‘fast paced’, but that is how I like it.
My mental health challenges; I am the proud owner of anxiety and depression. A weird expression, granted, but I have had these issues more than half of my life now, so alike my nose and my toes, they are a part of who I am. However, unlike my nose or toes, they are not as helpful on times, or constant in their appearance. That is the other weird thing to deal with, the “but you are always so happy and confident, you cannot have anxiety or depression”. How we all wish it was as simple as that. The truth is, is that no matter your profession, social standing or your personality, mental illness does not discriminate. Then comes the awkward justification of being depressed, and then not being able to explain why. See the thing is, is that it is not feeling sad and down, that in itself is on times a blessing, as at least you feel something. It is the void and numbness, the detachment and frustration, and fatigue of life in general with on times no real apparent reason. The other kicker is having anxiety attacks, this always makes life a little more interesting, wondering how you will deal with the day ahead, steaming through it like a pro and then having one in places where you feel most comfortable, like the bath!
It may seem as I am making light of these challenges, but I am not. In addition to going through this myself I have also seen loved ones torn apart, and it is much harder to fix a broken mind than a broken body. When going through bad episodes people normally tell you that what does not kill you will make you stronger. I don’t agree with this. I am still fighting my fight as I have got better at dealing with it but not stronger because of it, which does make it feel like a never ending chess game! It wasn’t until an equivalent of a reset button was pressed, that things changed in a big way for me. Nothing to do with the black dog or its anxious partner in crime, this one was just the body and not the mind, as when my last child was born we both near on lost our lives. That experience didn’t really impact my mental health challenges, but what it did do was make me grab life to chase my passions. As a happy consequence, studying biology allowed me the insight to make sense to what is physically going on within my head and body. It doesn’t cure it at all, but understanding that my emotions are guided by sensitive triggers and hormones makes me feel less broken and just super reactive (I am just a geek that wants a cape!). Last year, and those to come, see new challenges as I was recently diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and am going blind in one eye. I would be lying to say that it did not wobble me, and the anxiety certainly did have a field day for a while, but neither my mind nor my body will break my spirit. My mental health challenges have given me perspective, and I have dreams to chase, which I do most days, yet other days I snuggle dogs and hide from all known responsibilities, got to love the those hormone imbalances!
Feeling everything so deeply on times, but then numb to the world other days is difficult, and on times you are at war with yourself. I have tried many things to battle with my mind including medication and counselling, and neither worked for me (that is not to say they don’t work for others, as they do!). My most successful strategy is keeping busy. When my mind is focussed upon my passions, be it my children, my studies, my work or my creative oddities, then I can deal with anything. Everyone is different in methods that will aid them, but one thing that should be unified is dropping the stigma that this makes you ‘weak’. It doesn’t. It makes you raw and beautiful, as you see things differently. There is nothing quite like seeing the dark and not knowing your way out, to then lying in the sun again, that kinda s**t really makes you feel lucky. My advice; remember like clouds in the sky-all things pass eventually, that happiness and sadness in addition to numbness are just a mush of chemicals whirling around your body, and that help is never too far away. Speak up, even if you cannot answer their questions, just not being alone in this is sometimes enough to get by until you can bask in the sun again.
My item is a wooden sign saying “happily ever after”. Words are powerful tools for me, and I have many little quotes dotted around the house, this one is one of my favourites. It reminds me that no matter what I am going through, or what I have been through, that I can have control of my life and I write the story. I have not always felt like this, as a lot of the time depression can make you feel powerless. It has taken 17 years for me to start to believe in myself, but I am proud of me, mental illness and all! I am living my happily ever after, sometimes the plot has a twist, but every good story does.
Open Shutters will be exhibiting our portraits at Gallery Oldham from September 15 to November 10. We have launched a Crowdfunder to cover the cost of mounting the exhibition and producing a book. Please have a look at our campaign hereand help if you can. We’ve got some lovely rewards available.
If you have a story to tell and would like to take part in the Open Shutters project please give Lisa a call on 07771 553535 or fill in the form on our contact page.