How opening up helps me deal with the loss of a loved one


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During a time when many are enjoying the excitement of new relationships and new possibilities, Sylvie's world came to a halt with the passing of a loved one. But by talking about her mental health, she has managed to build a more positive state of mind – as well as some of the most valuable relationships she's ever had.


It’s been estimated that 45% of people with one mental health condition also meet the criteria for two or more additional psychiatric disorders. In fact, in the UK, the most common mental health disorder is a combination of both depression and anxiety, affecting 7.8% of the population.


Together, the combination of depression and anxiety can quickly escalate into a downward spiral of negative emotions that can make life very difficult to enjoy and endure.


This was the case for Sylvie who was officially diagnosed with depression and anxiety following the loss of her father.


Isolation


Grieving for the loss of a parent was a lonely experience for Sylvie. It was a period in her life that had a "severe and drastic impact on her mental health", greatly affecting her day-to-day and making it extremely difficult to find motivation for simple daily tasks. Occasionally, depressive episodes would even leave her bed-bound.


All of this occurred during a time that many would associate with the excitement of new opportunities: university. But while others were delving into a world of possibilities, Sylvie's symptoms were keeping her from enjoying the full university experience.


"It was incredibly difficult and isolating throughout university as, for many, it is largely a social experience.”


Opening up

Eventually, Sylvie was left with no choice but to seek professional help, which for her included both medication and talking therapy.


And, even though she still can experience difficulties in social or new situations, the help she has received has resulted in episodes of feeling low or anxious becoming less and less common for Sylvie.


In particular, Sylvie found solace in being able to open up about her mental health to a professional in a structured way that respected her personal boundaries.


“When discussing mental health, it is important to not overstep any boundaries and remember that every individual struggling with mental health is different," says Sylvie.


"It can be hard to know how to help someone with depression or anxiety. But I find open and honest communication about mental health and illness to be extremely helpful. If you want to be there for someone who’s dealing with depression or anxiety, let them open up and validate their feelings.


"It helps to alleviate the stigma and shame surrounding mental health, and it really helped me realise that many of my loved ones also struggle with their mental health issues."

Something else that really helped Sylvie was changing her diet.


Even though it is one factor that often goes unnoticed in depression, making changes to the food and drink one consumes has been shown to significantly improve symptoms of depression.


For Sylvie, a focus on fresh and whole foods that were high in nutrients, alongside a healthy exercise routine proved "revolutionary" for her mental health.


A happy and healthy life

For anyone going through a similar scenario to her, Sylvie encourages facing our problems head-on.


“If we ignore our mental health needs, they won't simply go away - they will only get worse and worse until you reach a breaking point.”


And for her, doing so led to the development of high quality relationships with her family, her friends and her partner that she truly cherishes.

“I am in the happiest and healthiest relationship with my partner that I've ever experienced," says Sylvie. "The friends who have stayed with me throughout my struggles are some of the most amazing and important people in my life, and my relationships with my immediate family are now healthier and far more open and communicative than they previously were.”

Sylvie’s mental health still varies day-to-day, being affected by external factors such as stress-related issues or deadlines. But rather than placing to much pressure on herself to improve, Sylvie aims for a simple goal: "to keep that fluctuation within a manageable and small variable."


Written by Natacha Andueza

Story researcher for Talking Mental Health

Twitter: @natachavbosch

Instagram: @aimforeunoia



This article was produced in collaboration with the person who provided the story. If you would like to share your story but need support doing so, contact a member of our team at contact@talkingmentalhealth.com.