Jessica Ward was 15 when she first experienced bullying and depression. Now 21 and a recent winner of the title 'Health Blogger of The Year', a passionate blogger and journalist, she shares her story…

 

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH DEPRESSION AND WHAT AGE IT STARTED?

Depression is different for everyone. One of the common misunderstandings about depression is that it's the feeling of sadness. Although I did experience sadness, depression is much more severe and becomes uncontrollable. My symptoms of depression lasted for years and made most ordinary activities very difficult to carry out.

My depression first occurred when I was bullied at school. I suffered a difficult time with my weight, confidence and health. I lost all connection with my inner being. I disliked my appearance, I didn’t want to go out and I eventually refused to attend school. I was homeschooled for one year, after being signed off from the doctor.

Although I was very petite in school, I didn’t eat because I wanted to be slimmer than I was. The fear of food came from wanting to desperately ‘fit in’ at school and by limiting my food I was hoping to achieve a smaller dress size. I went to the gym to punish myself, not for longevity or health. I didn’t attend social occasions because I was too nervous. I couldn’t understand why people were being so mean to me, so instead of telling someone, I allowed these comments to eat away at me. Eventually, I lost Jessica and my family lost Jessica.

HOW DID DEPRESSION AFFECT YOUR DAILY LIFE?

After taking time out from school, despite my depression, I still managed to pass my grades. Although my family were in despair, they helped me get through the worst of the dark moments. We were recommended counselling, however, I was placed on a 9-week waiting list. From this point, my parents took it upon themselves to heal me from home instead. Spending quality time together, doing the things that I enjoyed, repeating positive affirmations every day and every time I experienced a break down they were there, even if they sat in silence and watched me, they were there. Time was no answer.

Because I didn’t receive professional help my depression stayed with me throughout college, however, the levels of depression varied depending on my stress levels. I didn’t know who I was as a person. In college, I started my blog and forced myself to make other people happy and positive, ignoring how I currently felt at that time and creating an imaginary person online.

As I grew older, the depression became deeper and on the occasional break down I would feel suicidal, this would only occur in moments of high stress.

At the beginning of this year, I experienced depression like never before. It had a hold of me and wouldn’t let me go. I was a two-dimensional drawing, metaphorically speaking, no living thoughts - I lost my whole personality and connection within myself again. I experienced a moment of sadness in a personal relationship and the feeling of loneliness brought back flashbacks from the past. There was a heavy feeling of tightness in my chest like someone had died, even though no one had. This depression occurred because I never dealt with the depression at the beginning of my journey.

Jess Ward Talks about battling depression

WHAT SYMPTOMS DOES DEPRESSION FEEL LIKE?

Depression made me cry myself to sleep every night, this was the only way I would drift off. Eventually, my eyes would burn and I would give in and sleep. Depression had me waking up at 3 am because my heart was racing for no reason. Depression made me stress over things that may or may not be real. Depression made me question my purpose every moment of the day ‘Am I worth it?’, ‘No one cares or loves me?’ ‘What is the point in this?’. Depression made my mood change in a matter of minutes, from smiling to unbreakable crying, the crying that grabs you by the throat and won’t let go, causing you to choke and feel sick.

Depression made me uncontrollably shake, twitch and sweat – I would then go from hot to cold and eventually become exhausted. Depression made me cry, real, deep, painful tears. Depression made me feel nausea. Depression made me feel crippled. I had to make up excuses for my behaviour and make excuses about why I couldn’t attend an event. It had me closed away.

DID DEPRESSION IMPACT YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH FRIENDS AND FAMILY?

It can sometimes be hard for the observer to understand the thoughts and feelings that the individual is experiencing through depression. Luckily my parents were understanding and patient with my condition and did everything they could to make things a little better.

Some people did view me as being irritable, angry and withdrawn from situations. This was true, but ultimately, I couldn’t expect them to understand. This did make me very distant from certain family members and it also made me lose many friends. However, difficult situations like this, highlight the individuals you need in your life the most, it also brought me closer to my parents and made me re-align with old friends.

DID YOU HAVE ANY TREATMENT OR HELP WITH DEPRESSION?

Depression is very controlling and although I wanted to admit I had a problem, I also wanted to deny that I needed to seek help because of the bad reputation depression has. Without depression, I am driven, creative and confident. I did have help from my parents and friends. However, agreeing to have treatment was life-changing, although the true treatment comes from within, by accepting you need to get better. This is the first stage of healing.

After the most difficult stage, I attended weekly private hypnotherapy classes. This therapy utilises the power of positive suggestion to bring about subconscious change to your thoughts, feelings and behaviour. I then continued the tips I had gained and carried them out at home and I also listened to various meditation CDs. This was a true stage of healing over a course of 6 weeks. Everyone is different and sometimes, therapy can be shorter or longer depending on the individual. This therapy has helped me overcome the worst of my depression and it has allowed me to have control over my mind.

CAN YOU DESCRIBE WHAT YOU DO ON A DAILY BASIS TO STAY HEALTHY?

Being healthy for me starts from within - practising self-acceptance and self-love every single day. I eat mindfully and nourish my body with nutrient-dense foods each day, these are the foods my body responds well to and the foods that keep me feeling energised. I also indulge on occasion and eat the foods that hug my soul.

I take a daily sabbatical; a moment of the day where I do something I enjoy - phoning a friend, reading a book or cooking. I try to keep active each day in a way that I love, walking, running, yoga, weightlifting or dancing to my favourite song. I ensure that I am practising self-love in every aspect of my life, this helps me maintain a healthy lifestyle.

DO YOU STILL HAVE LOW DAYS? ARE THOSE DAYS DIFFERENT NOW?

I do still have low days but these are different now. They're controllable. We all have bad days, it’s normal and the stresses of everyday life can certainly make an impact. Be aware of the stress, take some time out to relax and don’t forget to cherish every moment by yourself; relish the opportunity to learn who you are as an individual.

I accept that low days make me stronger and they allow me to enjoy the good days with gratitude. Without rain, there are no rainbows. Without rainstorms, flowers cannot grow. Some days we have to create our own light and that’s ok.

WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHERS SUFFERING FROM DEPRESSION? WHAT IS YOUR TOP COPING STRATEGY?

Acknowledge your negative thoughts, greet them and slowly remove them from your mind by telling yourself positive affirmations - I am strong and I am ambitious.

Recite the things you are grateful for; food, air, friendship – it will make you feel awesome.

Get moving in a way you love; stretch, run, dance, hike – move your beautiful body.

Ensure you are eating a variety of nutrients and stay hydrated! This will heal your body from the inside first.

Create a comfortable sleeping place, remove the things you don’t like. I slept on my living room floor for a while whilst I was in the depths of my depression, this was because I felt relaxed there. Gravitate towards the things that calm you.

Surround yourself with loved ones when you feel the need for comfort. And sometimes it is ok to want to be alone.

 

Jessica Ward on Depression

 

Jessica Ward a recent winner of the title 'Health Blogger of The Year' is a passionate blogger and journalist, an avid explorer, foodie and fitness lover. Through Jessica's own struggles with weight and bullying, she has now created a space on the internet for motivation, inspiration and positivity -  a true escape from the outside world. The ethos of her blog is orientated around turning difficult situations into positive outcomes and always looking at life through positive eyes.

Website: https://positvelyjessicaward.com
Instagram: @positivelyjessicaward

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/positivelyjessicaward/

 

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