After depression robbed her of 12 months of her life, Sharon Yardley decided to put pen to paper letting others know it was possible to overcome an “insidious disease”.
The mother-of-two published her first book last month, detailing her experience of living with bipolar, including a psychotic episode that lasted months.
Entitled Don’t be Afraid of the Dark Sharon’s 128-page book is a personal account of what she calls her “road back”.
“It’s my journey of living with bi-polar,” she said.
“It was not a nice time, in fact it was a very dark time for me, and for my family.”
Sharon has been a teacher at St Catherine’s Catholic College in Singleton for 15 years.
A decade ago she experienced what she refers to as “the darkest time of her life”.
Having lived with depression for years, Sharon was diagnosed with bipolar in 2008.
“I battled with alcohol for a few years prior so if I’m completely honest my journey started at least 15 years ago.”
At the age of 40 Sharon experienced a complete mental breakdown in which she was incapacitated for months.
“My life was turned inside out and upside down,” the mother-of-two says.
“I completely lost track of reality.
“I believed I was running the school I was teaching at. In fact I believed I was an educated deity and yet I couldn’t even shower or feed myself.
“Not only did I hit rock bottom but I stayed there and my husband and I worried this was going to be my new reality.
“I was suicidal, and not working at the time put me in a very dark place.”
It has been a year since Sharon’s breakdown.
“It’s strange to talk about it now,” she says.
“It feels surreal. It happened in 2008/2009 and the recovery took over 12 months.”
The lessons she learned from the experience feature in her book.
“I have a mental illness but I’m okay,” Sharon says. “We all carry something.”
“We’re all on some kind of spectrum for something.
“Sometimes life throws you challenges and often the test is not about the challenge, but how you face it and overcome it.
“I understand what living with depression is like, I know the devastation and pain that it causes. But I made it out.
“Not only did I make it out, but I used this crippling experience to completely rebuild myself.
“I looked at what I could take from this situation and use it to create a better me. I am stronger, I am resilient, and I am wiser because of my journey.”
Her book, Sharon says is for anyone who has ever felt ‘the dark shadow of depression’.
“I’m not bipolar, I have it, but I am not it,” she says.
“If my story helps one person I will feel it was worth telling it.”
Sharon’s adult children also contributed to the book.
“They were 16 and 18 at the time of my breakdown,” she said.
“They wrote a section for the back of the book about how it was for them at the time – they literally lost their mother for a year.”
Honesty was a focus for Sharon when completing her book, she admits.
“There isn’t a great deal of books out there that tell you how depression and bipolar rocks your world,” she said.
“If you have ever felt the dark shadow of depression, I am here to tell you, you are not alone and there is a road back, there is always a road back.”
Sharon says she is now the happiest she has ever been.
“I live in the now. I’ve had to rewire my mind to focus on the now and I live in tiny increments.
“I do journaling, lots of self-talk and I am learning self-love.”
Sharon also has a website entitled My Beautiful Bipolar, including a regular blog and resources.