1999-2001 (17-20 years old)
I’ve had trouble sleeping, anxiety and depression since my late teens. When I was 17 or 18 and studying art at university, I was diagnosed with depression by a GP who prescribed antidepressants and sleep meds, and strongly advised me not to smoke weed because my brain had a chemical imbalance. The sleeping pills made me groggy, the antidepressants made me feel beside myself, the boy I was in love with didn’t seem to agree with me taking medication either, so I didn’t take them for long. I made myself very sick stopping the antidepressants without tapering and I took all I had left of the sleeping pills at once. Not a suicide attempt; I was frustrated and needed a time-out, I slept for a long time, then woke up and went to uni. No one noticed.
I was lovesick for most of this period. He was my first love, the first person I had sex with. I cried, screamed and punched walls over him. We weren’t a couple for long, but we slept together on and off for about 6 years. When he left for Paris to continue his studies after we graduated from art school, he kissed me on the mouth instead of the cheek, in front of his family at the airport. I stopped at a petrol station on the way home and threw up, I was so devastated he was gone.
2002 (20-21years old)
A dentist noticed a lump in my throat. I had a golf ball sized lump on my thyroid gland removed along with one thyroid and parathyroid. Fortunately, the lump was benign and according to GPs since, what’s left of the glands continue to function well enough not to need supplements. I revelled in my first experience of surgery and hospital stay. It felt like a performance art piece; “I Will Always Love You” by The Cure was playing in the operating room as I went under.
A guy I was sort of seeing at the time called me on my hospital room phone to see if I was ok. A gorgeous friend of mine had caught his eye initially. Someone told me he was a misogynist, he was a musician from Portland, he was on anti-depressants and told me that they kill your libido. He stopped seeing me because he didn’t want to hurt a good person like me, or something like that. When he left Perth some time later, he sent me a beautiful poem in the mail, typed and without a name or return address.
2002 (21years old)
I visited my first love in Paris. He had a new girlfriend who never liked me (which was fair) and wouldn’t let him stay in his apartment with me. He introduced me to a Canadian guy he was studying with and we connected instantly. We only spent a night and a day together but understood it was a rare thing and we stayed in contact via letters and email. When my first love found out that we'd stayed in touch, he told me they'd been to Berlin together shortly before we met. My Canadian sweetheart had got a girl pregnant and was planning to go back to Berlin to be with her. Heartbroken again.
2004 (22-23 years old)
I moved to London on my own after a month in Argentina with a close girlfriend. I suffered debilitating anxiety over finding a job and place to live there. I didn’t get my period for 6 months, so I saw a GP, he gave me a blood test sitting opposite me with my knees in between his legs which felt weird. My condition didn’t seem to be anything serious, I had low iron levels, I put it down to stress. I under-ate and over-exercised, drank too many G&T’s, my gut was a mess, the cold & grey made me sad. I joined a fancy gym near where I worked in Covent Garden. I went to the sauna & steam room there most days to warm my bones, worked out in the gym, swam laps in the pool, did hatha yoga, managed to get myself as well as possible before I came home.
2005 (23-24 years old)
I was physically healthy apart from being a vegetarian of 10 years which I now understand gave me restless legs and contributed to my anxiety, depression and trouble sleeping at night. My anxiety was triggered by my first long term boyfriend; he picked on my insecurities, thought it was funny, we spoke different languages and probably only lasted as long as we did because I really wanted a boyfriend.
When we met in 2005, he didn’t like my artwork, the dark and sexual tones or that I collaborated with male artist friends, or any of my friends. Sitting on the beach with him one night defending myself after he’d found the website for an exhibition I was in, I beat his leg with my fist as hard as I could over & over, I was completely exasperated. Then I submitted and gave up on myself. I stopped making art, turned down art exhibition opportunities saying I wanted to focus on yoga, broke off contact with my friends (first love included) and collaboration opportunities with them, and destroyed the artworks that bothered him when they were returned from the exhibition.
2005-2011 (24-30 years old)
I was with my ex. I didn’t know I was sick in my late 20s, the sleep trouble, anxiety and depression were just an undercurrent. I was studying fashion at TAFE, working in retail, I had panic attacks and froze in my assessments, but I don't remember telling anyone about that, or anyone asking.
When I graduated, I had 4 jobs before narrowing it down to 1. I lied on my back with my legs in the air a lot to try to settle my restless legs, I remember spending a lot of time alone, reading, doing yoga when he was sleeping or out drinking with work friends.
Once he gave me a book on Emotional Intelligence, and another on How to Say No, both of which offended me at the time and I refused to read. Now I see his heart was in the right place with those. By “different languages” I mean he wasn’t affectionate unless he wanted to have sex and he prioritised sports which made intimacy challenging for me. He teased me for having to be drunk before sleeping with him when we first started dating which made me feel bad about myself and for being a lesbian when I was affectionate with my girlfriends. Being gay was something I was bullied over since the end of primary school so of course he was a trigger.
2011-2012 (29-31 years old)
Saturn’s return, my anxiety dialled up again, lots of crying in the toilets at work, punishing myself with an intense 5 or 6 days a week Bikram yoga practice, eventually cheated on and broke up with my boyfriend of 6 years in 2011. I saw a female psychologist who specialised in anxiety and women, she told me we will do things out of character when we’re anxious. I didn't continue seeing her because I didn't like her approach that delved into my family relationships.
I reconnected with one of the art school guys I had a crush on when I was 17 and started sleeping with him occasionally after getting drunk at a party one night and a little too excited about seeing each other after all those years. It only lasted a short time and never at my house or my terms, the sexual chemistry wasn’t there and we’re back to being friends now.
I came back to ashtanga yoga, I considered myself healthy and self-caring but I continued to over-exercise, under-eat and self-medicate with alcohol. My yoga teacher wanted me to get some liver from the butcher and eat it for medicine, my acupuncturist eventually said TCM couldn't help me anymore unless I agreed to eat meat and came to him with some energy. I still had trouble sleeping and I acted out whenever I got heartbroken. I fell in love with the best friend of my now fiancé. He was enamoured by me, I thought I'd found my twin flame. The night he broke up with me, he said I'm exactly what he wants in another person, just not right now.
2012-13 (30-32 years old)
Anxiety and depression got really bad. I managed to change jobs but had panic attacks at answering the phone, interacting with people, being in public - crowded public spaces like buses/trains, shopping centres were the worst. I'd burst into tears as soon as I left the office, in every heart opening yoga pose. Eventually I was crying as soon as I entered the sanctuary of the yoga room and realised yoga wasn't going to fix this. I ended up seeing a psychiatrist, going on anti-depressants and after some trial and error, found a psychologist that I still see once a month now.
I'm happy to say the relationship with my now fiancé also evolved over this period of time from friends to lovers. We spent every moment we could with each other and moved in together within a few months.
2014 (32-33 years old)
I went through an advanced yoga kriya, or technique, under the guidance of my yoga teacher's Guru at a Tantra Yoga Ashram, 3hrs outside of Perth. Poorna Shankha Prakshalana, a complete gastrointestinal cleansing, is a rare and powerful gem in the Hatha Yoga scheme of practices. The effects on all aspects of the being are known to be profound. It involves cleansing the intestinal tract with salt water and then doing specific yoga asanas (physical postures) to help massage the internal organs and remove impurities. I abstained from consuming animal products, sugar, alcohol, caffeine etc for this period, mostly ate kitchari (lentils), kefir and mild foods for a while after. I left the ashram with some slippery elm powder to heal my gut and some brahmi cuttings for my brain health. I felt so drained from this experience, my partner was really worried about my health. I also had a lot of questions about the Swami's physical health and sexual relationships! Mostly unanswered.
2017 (35-36 years old)
Early in the year I stayed overnight in hospital for a sleep study to see if there were any medical reasons for my burning the candle at both ends. There is; stress (not using the tools in my kit to wind down), low iron (associated restless legs), and very mild sleep apnoea which could be easily corrected by surgically shifting my lower jaw forward a little.
2013-2018 (31-37 years old)
I went back on the contraceptive pill around the same time as the anti-depressants, so the side effects of medication for, and effect of mental illness on my sexual health are mixed up with those of the pill. Within a year I gained 10kgs; it’s charted in the back of a yoga journal with smiley faces at 54kg, to a frown and then no entries after 60kg. Since then my weight has fluctuated up to 70kg at times. Other negative side effects for me include decreased libido and difficulties reaching orgasm.
On SNRI medication I’ve become more aware of my body dysmorphia, returned to creative and found career work and I’m generally happier in myself. However, it is a slow journey not immune to setbacks. I’ve dealt with terrible mental stress, joint degradation, pain and surgeries, abdominal and pelvic issues, operations and trauma. Fortunately, I have an amazing partner who adores me, as well as meditation and yoga practices which support being in my body, being present so for me, essential to nurturing intimacy.
2019 (37-38 years old)
I’m still healing, clearing, resting (physically, mentally, emotionally). Here, now ready to chat.