Walking into her living room, I take my bag from my back, unpack my two yoga mats, blocks, strap, speaker, essential oils, and notebook. I say ‘yes please’ when she asks me if I’d like a herbal tea and, as I start to set up for our session, from her point of view, I’m sure I look calm, collected and like I know exactly what I am doing. And whilst I do know what I am doing, for sure, the calm and collected side of things is a whole other kettle of fish (I have this talent of looking nonchalant even when I am screaming on the inside, or when I am happy… sad… some call it resting bitch face, I call it the British stiff upper lip). Inside, the reality is that my heart is beating out of my chest, and I have thoughts of failure flying at me left, right and centre. My brain launching words like ‘fraud’ and ‘fake’ non-stop into my cerebral cavity.

 

This is a familiar occurrence even with my regular private yoga clients, that I am a fraud, that I am not qualified for the job. And of course I am qualified. Not just in terms of certification, but in terms of experience, having been a full time yoga teacher in London for almost a year and a half, with regular and consistent private clients, I know what I am doing, and I do a damn good job. But as with all mental illnesses and syndromes, there’s no rhyme or reason or valid explanation as to why I feel the way that I feel, and in pretty much every single facet of my working life, I feel like I am faking it. Whether it’s yoga, PT, translation or social media management, some days I simply feel like I am constantly looking over my shoulder, waiting for the yoga/PT/translation/social media police to come up to me, sirens blaring, and say ‘Miss Cluley? Yeah, you’re going to have to come with us, we’re onto you’.

 

It’s called Imposter Syndrome, and it’s a real thing, and I felt such an overwhelming sense of utter relief when I was told about it by a friend who’s also a psychologist about 6 months ago. There’s a reason I feel like I’m a fraud, and it’s all in my head, okay thank the Lord. Just like with any other condition or illness, being able to put a name to it doesn’t lessen the blow or the impact, but it certainly makes you feel a little better, and like it’s not all in your head (although I suppose it kinda is), and to be able to read other people’s accounts of it, and to know you’re not alone in this big ole’ world, is soothing to say the least. It also gives you a place to start in terms of treatment. And just as when the diagnosis of my depression led me to receive treatment, having a name to put to those thought patterns of ‘you are not qualified to do this Hannah, even though you have a Master’s degree in it’, put me on the path to recovery.

 

I am still on that path, and as with everything it’s not linear and it has been a slow one to heal, but it certainly helps. Especially since making the move to Bali, where for my yoga and PT, I am having to really start again from scratch, and find a new way to earn money in a new world, make new connections and fully leave behind those I made in London, it is helpful to have an arsenal of positivity and factual evidence to rebut any ‘you’re not good enough’ thoughts that my ego decides to produce.

 

If you yourself have suffered or are suffering from the same thing, you are certainly not alone, there is evidence to suggest that up to 70% of Western people¬†suffer from Imposter Syndrome, and that it manifests in many different ways and thought patterns. For me it tends to be that I am not qualified or not skilled enough for the job, or that I got there by luck (if you asked me 6 months ago how I got over 60,000 followers on Instagram, I would have said “I got lucky” – no Hannah mate, you are actually pretty fucking cool, that’s how), but for you, it could be that nothing you do is ever going to be good enough, or that you take on too much work in order to avoid living up to your true potential. Whatever it may be, the key is to correct those thoughts where possible, but never to berate yourself for feeling a certain way. Remember it’s a journey to recovery, but it’s worth it.

 

Have you ever had any of these feelings? I’d love to know, so leave a comment!

In the summer of 2016 I was diagnosed with mild clinical depression – after about 6 months of being continuously unhappy, crying a lot, feeling hopeless and getting to the point where I just didn’t really know why life was worth living anymore. I am really pleased to say that since that time it has got considerably better, I was put back on the contraceptive pill to help stabilise my mood, I made some lifestyle changes and I didn’t really feel affected for about a year or so after that. In November last year (2017) I was taken off the pill due to optical migraines and I definitely noticed some changes in my mood and outlook.

Over the past 6 months my mood has fluctuated greatly and I am often suddenly struck with a feeling of being completely overwhelmed, unhappy, emotional and hopeless. My depression isn’t severe enough that it prevents me from getting out of bed in the mornings, and for that I am overly grateful, but it can affect me quite strongly in that I often feel like I have no emotions whatsoever, can cry at the tiniest thing, or in fact nothing at all, and I have noticed it can greatly affect how I teach a yoga class. It manifests itself in the form of making mundane tasks, like looking at emails really daunting. There is no rhyme or reason to this, my inbox is never very full and the emails I usually do receive are from people I know and are to do with projects I have initiated and am in control of. Even responding to simple Whatsapp messages feels like too much and I can sometimes end up with about 20 unread messages on my phone after a day or so of not reading them. My tidiness is also extremely affected, I am not a very tidy person, organised yes, tidy no. But before I was struck with depression my flat and bedroomed remained fairly tidy. Over the past year this is something I have noticed has got out of hand and I also have noticed some tendencies to find it hard to throw things away, my life is very cluttered and this in turn creates stress, it’s a pretty vicious cycle to be honest. I have so many amazing plans for the next 12 months, but sometimes I can’t even sit down at my computer or tidy my room, and it does have a huge impact on me in many ways I think I have avoided addressing.

I guess for a long time I felt that because I was still functioning, and because I still have good days where I feel good and where I am happy, that perhaps I had no right to talk about my depression. Because I know I have friends who have days where they literally cannot get out of bed, or where they can’t go to social events with the people they love because their anxiety is telling them they don’t want them there. I almost felt like my illness didn’t count because I still am able to get up every day and go to work. But I think the percentage of people who deal with depression on the level that I do is probably use, and when it is mild it is almost harder to realise that depression is what you have, heck sometimes it takes me a whole 24 hours of feeling like shit and feeling like life is crap before I click and realise that actually this is my depression talking. So I thought by sharing my story with you, perhaps it might help even just one of you, or make you feel more like you are able to understand what is happening in your own head, or maybe even understand what is happening for a loved one in your life.

Tips on functioning through a dark day

In addition, I wanted to share with you how I do pull through on the darker days, the little things that I do that seem to help, these are in no specific order:

 

Move Your Body

It can be a run, a yoga flow, heading to the gym, absolutely anything that works for you. Moving your body, getting the blood flowing and hopefully releasing some endorphins into your system is a sure fire way to make yourself feel a little better. Exercise is something that doctors always mention when they talk to a new patient about clinical depression. Even if it takes you an hour or arguing with yourself to get yourself up and out, just try, if you don’t feel better you can stop, but it’s always worth a shot.

 

Talk To Someone

The classic depressive internal rhetoric of ‘I can’t talk about this to anybody because they won’t understand/they won’t believe me/they don’t care’ (circle as needed) is hard to shake, and I do feel lucky that generally speaking I am not worried about talking about the emotional nitty gritty, having said that, it can be hard to talk about it sometimes. But have that person in your mind who you know won’t judge you, who you know understands you and who will undoubtedly be able to give you some advice. I find it hard to talk to people who have never had depression, because actually, it’s a very hard thing to describe and if the person themselves hasn’t experienced something similar, their advice may not be helpful, so if you can find someone who either currently suffers or has done in the past, not specifically with depression but perhaps with another mental illness it can be super helpful.

 

Follow Motivating People on Social Media

Sure social media has its cons, but you cannot underestimate the power of motivational quotes or instastories of people you follow who may be going through the same thing. I think that’s why I share what I share, because if one person sees my story and it makes them feel better, then I consider my job done. So in turn, someone I follow might have something valuable for me to listen to. Today for example, I watched two instastories from two separate people and one was about finding motivation when you’re not motivated, and the other was someone who woke up like me feeling relatively shit, and her ‘don’t let this ruin your Monday’ schpeel actually helped me.

 

Remind Yourself That This Is Temporary

The beauty of mild depression is that it is mild. It is not so overwhelming that you don’t have good days. I have a lot of good days, and remembering that tomorrow I will probably wake up with a totally different attitude definitely helps. Just like physical illnesses or injuries, our emotions and hormones are just PHYSICAL things, although they may not feel it, because they manifest in our minds, remembering this, remembering that what you are feeling is not YOU, it doesn’t define you, and brighter days are just around the corner helps me a lot to just settle into how I am feeling and just run with it as best I can.

 

Do Something Satisfying

What satisfies you on a materialistic level? Maybe going through your wardrobe and clearing out some clothes you don’t wear will make you feel better, I went through a random drawer that hadn’t been touched in months this morning and honestly it felt so good to just cleanse my surroundings a little that it made me feel marginally better. Maybe a good clean of your bathroom or a hoovering session will not only make you feel like you’ve done something productive, but will make your surroundings a little nicer too, win win.

 

Write Down How You Feel

If you don’t journal, then start. Getting words down onto paper (or onto the notes app of your phone) is very healing, and it can also help you to unjumble all of those crazy thoughts that are flying around your head 24/7. And if you don’t know how to journal, that’s cool, because neither do I really, all I do is pick up my pen and start to write, it doesn’t really matter what form it is, maybe you ask yourself a question, for example if you’ve been feeling anxious about a situation, get a notebook and a pen and write at the top ‘Why am I feeling so anxious about X?’ and then just write out your answer. If this doesn’t gel with you, you could write it in a letter format, sometimes I write the universe a letter, or when I was going through a breakup with my ex I would often write a letter to him (that obviously I never sent).

Just getting words down will make you feel so much better, it also allows you to say things that perhaps you wouldn’t feel comfortable saying to someone, because although it’s good to be open and honest sometimes there are still things we don’t feel comfortable talking about to others, and this way you still get to say it without the fear of judgement.

 

I hope this has been helpful, if you have anything else to add then feel free to leave a comment with any tips for anyone reading this!