Cantabrian Maria Thackwell describes how she fell apart after the earthquakes and what helped her back to wellness

Our home was destroyed in the February 2011 quake, so we lived out of a caravan for six weeks at a friend’s in Rangiora. My work challenges immediately became high as my job involved sitting in broken homes with vulnerable people.

I didn’t want to talk to others about my situation because they were dealing with their own issues. I had the attitude “I am not going to let these earthquakes beat me down”.

Life seemed to slowly spiral out of control. My daughter moved into a flat so, as a parent, I was also dealing with the normal emotions experienced when a child moves out of home. The earthquakes had fast-tracked this process and I was not ready for it.

Then I left my employer in June to start up my own business and went on holiday. It was while on holiday that I started to feel like crap.

Feeling like a complete failure

In August, I finally went to my doctor with my daughter, burst into tears and didn’t stop crying for six weeks. I became very ill and depressed, and couldn’t hear or understand what people were saying to me.

I was a high performing person and suddenly I felt like a complete failure. The sheer amount of loss and change was overbearing. I had a massive grieving process to face – grieving for my loss of confidence, loss of normality and loss of trust in people. I was unable to work or function normally for six months.

Finding support in my anxiety

I attended a series of workshops for people with anxiety disorders. Just being in the company of others with similar feelings made me feel normal again. The workshops covered simple things like the importance of looking after ourselves physically, and how to process feelings, which derive from thoughts.

The continual use of the term resilience made me feel even worse. I kept on thinking, “why am I not coping when the rest of the population seems so resilient?". Resilience should not mean business as usual. It means people bend and bounce back. I bent and fell over.

I am doing things more slowly now – it’s a marathon not a sprint. And I’m more conscious about keeping an eye on myself, and being gentler as a result. My partner is an absolute rock.

Content and image copyright: Guy Frederick from his NZ Mental Health Media Grant project, The Space Between Words.