Anyone watching swing dancer, Adriana Klick, bounce through the Lindy Hop would be shocked to learn she has had suicidal thoughts.
The bubbly, energetic 42-year-old has struggled with her emotional well-being since her teens and been on anti-depressants for two decades.
Staying positive, especially as someone living alone during the pandemic, still takes daily work, but she is happy to share her story to help tackle the stigma and shame which she feels can deter people from seeking help for mental ill-health.
The death of her father by suicide when she was a baby was a family tragedy which cast a long shadow. The circumstances of his death were never discussed and questions from a curious and confused daughter were discouraged as she grew up. Until the age of 10, Adriana, didn’t know what had happened.
Adriana of Govanhill, Glasgow, said: “It was a huge taboo, a family secret that we couldn’t talk about. My mum did her best bringing me up, given her own trauma, but it had a huge, emotionally damaging effect on my childhood. I felt like I didn’t fit in at school and like I wasn’t connected to anyone emotionally. I later found out my dad had bi-polar disorder and that I may have a predisposition to a chemical imbalance.”
Her feelings of high anxiety continued when she went to college and even during an exciting year studying in America.
Adrian said: “I was having these amazing experiences, but mental ill-health dominated everything I did. I didn’t understand why I felt so frightened or why I couldn’t relax. I was looking for the love I didn’t have as a child and the people I leaned on for help were often not good for me. I didn’t understand that I was ill and needed help.”
Over the years Adriana also developed an eating disorder and struggled to openly discuss her sexuality – but she did well academically and went on to have a successful job with a mental health organisation in the Highlands. However, a crisis in 2017, led to her leaving her job and later moving to Glasgow where she felt more able to openly identify as Pan-sexual and where she has gone on to build a happier and healthier life.
Medication, counselling, talking therapy, studying mental health issues and a life coach have helped Adriana tackle her problems. She has overcome her eating disorder and is a healthy weight and now recognises triggers which affect her mood – like the weather, poor eating habits or being stuck indoors. This enables her to take proactive, positive steps to improve her mindset.
Avoiding alcohol and showing yourself kindness and care are crucial, according to Adriana. Music, dancing, nature, feeding the birds, walking, caring for her houseplants and good nutrition bring her happiness. She has an emotional first aid kit – a box full of comforting and soothing items like photos of friends, fairy lights, sweets and fragranced body lotions – which she goes to if she begins feeling low.
She said: “My own emotional well-being is on-going. There are still ebbs and flows.
“If you have anxiety and depression, you can become insular and lose your connections with people and your community. I’m a terrible self-isolator and that can makes things worse. You can get locked into your inner self-critic.
“People can often be ashamed that they are struggling when others appear to be coping with life’s ups and downs. I used to think, ‘This is pathetic, I should be able to deal with this on my own – other people can’. You feel useless, incapable and a burden to others.
“I think society has conditioned us to think we have to be very strong individuals with our lives sorted and that has led to a wave of mental ill-health, loneliness and depression. Every day I have to remember that I’m a super capable person, but I should not expect to do everything by myself – sometimes I need help and that’s fine.
“I’m waking up and realising I don’t have to be afraid of this. My life experience has been a huge educator for me and I can use it to support other people.
“I’ve been helped by lots of people including my GP, Lifelink and Glasgow’s mental health team. I want to support other people now.”
Adriana understands how difficult it can be for people living with a loved one with depression – how they can feel powerless to help because they don’t understand.
She said: “When you have suicidal thoughts, it feels like a hopeless situation. People have told me to put my big girl pants on, pull myself together and get on with it, which adds to the shame. I don’t expect anyone to have the answers or ‘fix’ me but a conversation where the listener guides me back to my sense of hope is the greatest help I can receive.
“Some people think suicide is a selfish act, but it is not. It’s an act of deep despair due to acute mental and physical, paralysing pain and fatigue. People don’t need to understand depression to help a loved one.
“Your logic will not be the same as their logic. You have to accept that is how they are feeling, even if you can’t understand why. Helping is about showing them patience, empathy and kindness. Accept that they are ill, encourage them to talk about their feelings and listen and accept that is their reality, no matter if outwardly, their life seems good. You can also gently encourage them to get help and if the situation is urgent, call 999.”
Adriana hopes to use her own experiences to help others by volunteering with a mental health charity this year. In the meantime, she continues to invest in her own health and happiness.
SOURCES OF HELP
- If you are experiencing confusing or distressing thoughts, or if people around you have expressed concern about your well-being, call NHS 24 on 111.
- If it would help you to talk with someone, then the following are here to help:
- Samaritans – 116 123 (freephone)
- Breathing Space – 0800 83 85 87 (freephone)
- If you, or someone you know, needs URGENT HELP please call the emergency services on 999.
- Further information is also available at www.glasgow.gov.uk/chooselife