During my late teens and early twenties living a privileged life in some of NSW's wealthiest beachside suburbs, a lot of things were changing around me.
My parents had a messy relationship and divorce and with that came the heartbreak of watching my younger siblings trying to understand what that meant for them.
As the eldest child of four, and our dad almost completely out of our lives just as I turned 20, I identified with being the responsible “surrogate parent”. My youngest sibling, my little brother Kurt, was just about to turn 6. I found it heartbreaking when he would turn to me to ask why dad didn't care about him anymore.
My mood had never been particularly stable but it was at this time in my life that the bouts of depression and hypomania became particularly destructive.
Reading books by great philosophical and scientific thinkers and finding ways to share these ideas with others became one of my few life rafts. One thing I've realised about myself is that when I need to learn, I write and I teach.
As a result I immersed myself in two new and exciting phenomena that were emerging at the time - blogging and online networking.
Externally I didn't say or do anything that would arouse too much suspicion or social rejection - but internally there was this large void that swallowed up the pain I was experiencing and with it the joy.
The absence of pain might sound like it’s a good thing, but in my view nothing could be further from the truth. We need to feel pain, we need to feel loss, we need to feel, full stop. It is the numbness that swallows people and their humanity whole.
Over time a persistent destructive pattern was taking shape that I believe, had I not done anything, would have continued to run its course throughout the rest of my life.
In an attempt to be pragmatic and “solve the problem” I went to see a couple of different psychologists who I didn't find particularly helpful (I was studying psychology and neuroscience myself at the time).
The first psychologist I saw focused on trying to get me to reframe things and “think my way out” of depressing thoughts - but my problem wasn’t with thinking - it was with feeling. The second, although more helpful just didn't feel like the right fit.
I'm glad I kept persisting with looking for the help I needed as, third time lucky, I met a wonderful psychotherapist, Brenda Rowlandson, who over the course of 5 years helped me to find my way out and create an entirely new life for myself.
I found stability in my on-again off-again relationship with my now husband, learnt to regulate my moods, established healthy boundaries and create a business where I could combine my love of science and communication together.
I think of these 5 years as a process that gave me the rest of my life - a life that I look forward to waking up to everyday.
I think the most incredible thing about this is that it’s not that life has gotten “easier" and yet it is still better. A life of privilege is not free of pain or adversity.
I've faced more trials and tragedies in the past few years than I did in my early twenties. But the difference is now I have a lot more insight as to how to work through this and come out the other side having learnt profound things about myself and the people around me.
When disaster strikes we’re often told we need to think about the fact that there are others who are worse off. What I've learnt is that it doesn’t matter how lucky or privileged we are - because at various times throughout our life, we face adversity. I believe the best thing we can do during these times is to be brave enough to feel our way in so we can find our way out.
Key Takeaway points