Personal stories of reclaiming life from mental ill health

Dewbien: Add a kilo of love

Love is probably at the core of what I do and what I am.

I think, for me, I’ve always struggled with my moods and my emotional well being. Even as a child I was very melancholy and used to try and run away from home and commit suicide when I was really young.  As an adult, I was really surprised at how going through a serious life-changing event [can] bring you back to that place, when you think you’ve got over it.  I realise that the more you’re open about those things, the more you give other people the permission to talk about it. To not be ashamed. So yeah, I think it’s important that people share their stories.


I’d say my most recent experience of a deep depression was triggered by the breakdown of my marriage. That was an extremely difficult time. It took me to a really, dark place, a place where I just lost all my self- worth. I think, most devastatingly was a loss of hope. I was functioning and fulfilling my obligations and duties as a manager, as a mum, as a sister, as a friend  but I just didn’t have any hope. I didn’t see the point of being alive. I didn’t see the point of anything. I had no value of myself. It led me to try and… to take an overdose. Obviously, I didn’t succeed but for a long time, for years, I still carried a really heavy weight on my shoulders and didn’t really have hope in anything. It took a long time to get out of it.


I don’t think that other people noticed because, there was something obvious that had happened. I was definitely myself to the general public.  I was functioning. I’m a highly functioning person.  I didn’t talk a lot about deep things and I wasn’t open, so people didn’t really know. The people that did call me out when they found out about some of the actions that I’d taken, I felt like, ‘You don’t know what it’s like don’t judge me.’
I found solace in baking, I guess.  In trying to find something creative and to have an outlet and in trying to channel love, which I think helped me to get over it eventually. I took up baking before my life started crumbling.  To be honest I feel like it was put into my spirit. I really do, I feel like one day…it was put in my heart to bake.  My sister was getting married and I was like, ‘I wanna bake a wedding cake,’ she obviously laughed me out of the room. I’d literally never baked anything. You know I did home economics, which I got an A in because that’s the kind of student I am. But apart from that, I’d never baked anything. I cooked, absolutely, but baking, that was for housewives and domesticated women, which I wasn’t. Even now, to this day, I still can’t get my head around it. I bake so much and I do all this, house wifey stuff. It still confuses me!  I just didn’t associate it with myself.


I became obsessed with it.  I have this philosophy that, if I wanna do something, I can do it. Do you know what I mean? Obviously within reason and the confines of my physicality, anything I wanna do, I can do it. So I just applied myself like a mad woman to baking. After the wedding I kind of put it to one side. With my marriage breakdown, I was in and out the house. I didn’t have the mindset but once I was back in the house with my kitchen and my equipment, I realised that this was a place where I could have love in my heart. Because bitterness was knocking at the door, that was one thing I was really, really adamant about, I didn’t want to become a bitter woman.  So for me this was a way that I could have love and give love and share. How could I pour myself into something? Not watching TV. Creative, something that would keep my heart soft. I just wanted to keep my heart soft at all costs. It was like a safe place to love.


[Baking is] quite challenging and time consuming and exhausting, it’s great! I can spend hours and hours and hours. Literally be up all night, for days, get two, three hours sleep at night. I dream about cakes. It’s weird! I think about them. I think about the next cake I wanna do and I see a recipe and I can’t rest until I make it. I love giving people cakes and you know,  when they’re really happy with it. You give someone a cake and they cry! You’re like *confused voice* ‘Huh? why would you cry?!’ *laughter* You know! It’s weird, I love all that! And you create something. It just… for me it was like, survival. It was like keep your heart soft. Keep bitterness at bay. Keep it away.


Just, the difference between something baked with love and something just baked is like buying something from the shop and buying something fresh and organic.  It’s like buying some GM modified fruit.  It can look great outside and be perfectly shaped but the taste is just, there’s this void.  When you bake with love it’s like the organicness, it’s like, I don’t know, the essence of the food, the flavour’s better. Even if it looks a bit wobbly, you know the difference when something is baked with love. Like cooking in general, [love’s] such an important ingredient.


The wonderful thing about my boys is, even saying it makes me feel really emotional, what I love about children is that they love you unconditionally. You know, as a woman, as a working mother, someone who has been through a lot and has done a lot and made mistakes. I love that my boys, love me. You know, I don’t live with them full time and I speak to them every day  and when they come at the weekend they’re so happy to see me and I’m so happy to see them. It’s quite overwhelming, it’s such an incredible blessing. I love how they laugh with the freedom of childhood. It’s just wonderful. I love seeing aspects of myself in them, I love how they copy things that I say and do. I love how, I love seeing aspects of their Dad in them, you know. Obviously, we’re not together but I love that. It’s such a beautiful thing.


It brings joy to me because they were made out of love. You know, regardless of how things turned out. Like, I remember the day my first son was born, he came out looking just like his Dad and I was so happy. It was just *laughter* I can’t think of anything more wonderful. Do you know what I mean? And he’s like me, he has my character and looks like his Dad and my youngest son is more like my side of the family outwardly but he’s very much like his Dad, Inwardly, his character.  It was just so hilarious and funny and we love it.


I love how, your children don’t care that you’re a manager or that you earn this money. They don’t care, they just tell you how they feel. I love that.  It was tough at the time but when we were separating and whatever, my sons would, especially my youngest son, he would challenge us. ‘People argue all the time, they argue but they’re still together.Why have you got to get divorced? What’s that got to do with it?’ He would tell us about ourselves. I love that! Obviously it was very tough but it was true!


[My depression] really damaged my relationship with my children, for a long time, and that took a long while to rebuild. To be honest, I had a complete shutdown. I didn’t even see them as part of my family. I remember having a some marriage counselling and they said to me, ‘Write down your nuclear family, your close family.’ I wrote down my mum, my brother and my sister. He said to me, ‘You haven’t put your children down,’ that to me typified where I was at. For me because we were a family, they were all one, they all came together. So when the relationship broke down with my husband, and because we were a unit, everything went, they went, he went. It took a while for me to get my head around that. I’d been such a devoted mother before that it was really weird how, literally one day, it just shut down. My mind, my whole brain just shut down and I went from being a mother to just not being interested so that was really difficult. At one point, I took 8 months off work, just because I was a wreck emotionally. That was a really good time for us to rebuild, slowly, because the truth is I love my children, and I always have.  I think work distracted me  and so, being off work was critical with just me and the boys. Once you start getting over it, looking back, the guilt, is also very challenging.

I think my mum helped me a lot. My mum was incredibly awesome at that time, we hadn’t been close for years and I opened up to her. My mum has been through a lot and she was very wise and very patient with me and loved with me for some time and helped. She just helped me really, she kept an eye on the boys while I worked. Was patient, listened, wiped my tears. Didn’t judge, didn’t judge [my ex-husband] as well which was really important. That shutting down thing…once I realised that that was what was happening, that wasn’t my true self.


I have to be  mindful of my emotions because I can get very low but I also have a lot of drive and energy and can be very positive as well and I’m a very passionate person, I’m a spiritual person.  So I think my lows and my highs are my true self but love is probably at the core of what I do and what I am.   And when that’s not at the core, that’s when I’m out of balance.

Creativity is a big part of  keeping my mind still, even though it’s racing at a million miles an hour but it keeps it away from negativity. Baking. Photography, that’s another absolute passion of mine. I do a lot of food photography but people, and the human emotion and capturing people’s true essence… I love that  because what fascinates me is the difference between what comes out of the camera and what you see with your eye.  Incredible. I’ve done a bit of painting and art recently and I have lots of projects in my mind and it’s a beautiful place to be, where you’re seeing things and you’re bringing things to life and you’re creating.  For me, it keeps the criticism at bay. It keeps the energy flowing and nice.  It keeps the light in. Because, you can’t create in the dark space. Well you can but… I don’t want to.


The thing is, I’m a person who, if I allow myself to be dark, I wanna die I don’t just  wanna be in the darkness for ages, I can’t, I don’t do that! I have to produce. So I’d rather channel that energy into beautiful things rather than negativity and destruction.


Where would I say I’m at now? That’s a good question. I think at the moment I’m at a place of self awareness and I’m at a place where I’m moving forward, a place of healing.  I think life is a journey. Don’t know if you ever arrive.  I’m aware that I’m still susceptible. I thought I’d got over my suicidal tendencies, I thought I’d got over my depressive ways and destructive behaviour. I’ve always been a very spiritual person and I am still that person but there was a time in my life when I practiced that in a religious way, I don’t mean that negatively at all.   I felt, having that set practice and routine and structure, led me into a false sense of security that I had got over some aspects of myself and I hadn’t. So when, in the midst of my religion, I found myself, you know, trying to, kill myself I realised that, it’s a part of me, it doesn’t go away, you know, but that’s ok.  I embrace it, I don’t try to hide from it or push it to one side. It’s what it is and I just need to know how to manage it and be aware of myself and not be ashamed of it as well. I will talk to people about it, as appropriate, if it comes up.  I’m not embarrassed about it because I think that when you know yourself you can act accordingly and also, everyone’s going through their own shit.   There’s nobody I’ve met, who’s been real, who’s been able to say they don’t have darkness in their life.



Dewbien: Add a kilo of love