Refresh YOU member Suzanne Mann describes her journey with depression and anxiety and how getting help was one of the best things she’s ever done:
Initially, when I moved to Sydney’s upper north shore, I joined a gym. It was a lonely and depressing experience.
I walked in and everyone was on the treadmill or rowing machine wearing headphones. Every time I left, I’d realise: ‘Oh, I didn’t talk to anyone today.’ I went to a Spin class and really enjoyed it but after a while realised: ‘None of the instructors even know my name.’ They probably wouldn’t even notice or care if I stopped turning up.
I was getting fit but that wasn’t enough. I was a stay-at-home-mum so this was my social life. Also, I knew fitness didn’t need to be like this. I’d done outdoor group fitness training before and it was an entirely different experience.
Fortunately, I managed to find Richard and refresh YOU in Pymble. That was 7 years ago and I’ve been attending ever since – not least because he always notices if I’m not there and asks where I am!
I’d get in the car and burst out crying
I always loved the classes but despite this, about four years ago, I found myself getting in the car to go home and bursting out crying. Then one weekend, I finished the Pub-to-Pub fun run in Sydney and, instead of feeling elated and proud of my accomplishment, I was really down on myself. All I could think was: ‘Why didn’t I run faster?’
I knew my behaviour wasn’t normal so, although very scared, I realised I needed professional help. Getting counselling has turned out to be one of the best things I’ve ever done.
Like many who suffer from anxiety or depression, I thought I could simply exercise my problems away, but I needed balance. I already ate well but I’ve added meditation, mindfulness, journaling and learned the importance of gratitude, social interaction and taking time out instead of being on the go all the time.
I’ve learned about compassion, which doesn’t just mean caring about others. Compassion starts with ourselves. We can be so black and white in our thinking and so harsh on ourselves when we believe we’ve done something poorly. When we’re kinder to ourselves, it’s much easier to get up and try again and also to be kinder to others.
Celebrating small goals together is so important
I also set up something I call The Challenge Girl. Each week I set a challenge to a group of friends – physical, nutritional and/or mental – and it’s become a way to share how we’re travelling and celebrate small goals whether a meal, a walk or a painting. That’s important – especially on days when it feels like the biggest achievement of the day has been making beds.
I still go to refresh You with Richard and still love it especially as I’m joined by my husband Chris. With three kids, it’s often the only date time we get all week and is really nice.
We drive down together and chat, we socialise with other people and get fit but I also make sure I feel good in other ways. I take time to appreciate a sunrise and the social interactions and on Saturdays we often go for coffee with other members afterwards. That’s also part of the mental health journey because we’re all congratulating each other and building a community.
Depression runs in my family so I’ve accepted I can’t say: ‘I used to suffer from depression and anxiety,’ It’s a constant journey and something I’m dealing with all the time, figuring out the tools that will work for me.
Part of that is sharing my story. When I initially told people I had depression, they exclaimed: ‘No! Not you, you’re not the type!’ but it can happen to anyone.
I’d like to think that knowing this can encourage others to open up and take advantage of the combined wisdom that’s on offer out there.
If any of this has resonated with you and you’d like to reach out to someone, contact Beyondblue
We love sharing our members’ fitness journeys and hope to bring you more over the coming weeks. If you’d like to be included, please email a few details to: firstname.lastname@example.org