I know first-hand how hard it can be to talk about your mental health. I know how scary it can be to share what’s going on in your mind without any guarantee that you’ll be met with compassion or support.
But I know my story won’t necessarily resonate with everyone and encourage them to seek help, which is the ultimate aim of this post. That’s why I’m so grateful to all the people who kindly agreed to share their story for this post to show how mental health affects us all differently and how talking made a difference to each and every one of them.
Today is the perfect opportunity to start a conversation about mental health and change yours or someone else’s life. I hope this blog inspires you to do just that.
Toni, 27, was diagnosed with PTSD, anxiety and depression when she was 18 years old.
“My mental health struggles started after I was sexually assaulted at university. This then manifested into a life of drug addiction, because I had no idea how to process my trauma or how to cope with day to day life.
Following an overdose, I really wanted to get better, but I was surrounded by people who normalised burying emotions with drugs and alcohol.
It wasn’t really until I met my now husband and built up a strong support network, that I started to get better. Having those people around me, gave me a reason to want to carry on.
If I hadn’t have built up that support system of good people and started talking about what had happened, I don’t think I would be here today.
My advice to anyone struggling to talk would be to start by writing down your emotions. Sometimes just getting it out of your head and into the universe, allows you to acknowledge that your feelings are real and valid. Once it’s written down, you may feel you can articulate it, when speaking to someone out loud.”
Louise, 47, has struggled with anxiety for a number of years.
“I think that I have always had anxiety but it became more noticeable during lockdown when the systems I'd subconsciously put into place no longer worked.
Talking is one of the best things you can do; the more you talk, the less you feel alone. It has shown me that there is help out there and the more you talk about it, the more you realise that it doesn't rule your life.
The best thing that I have found is that talking has opened up new opportunities and new people in my life that would never had been there without talking. Even though struggling with your mental health can feel so lonely at times, you are not alone. There are lots of people who will sit and listen to you without judgement."
Joe, 26, started struggling with health anxiety in 2022.
“I began facing mental health challenges after a health scare triggered my first panic attack, leading to health anxiety (obsessive checking etc.). In the last year, I’ve lost my grandad and I am currently caring for my grandma with dementia which have led me to be diagnosed with panic disorder and depression.
Suffering with your mental health is tiring enough but it’s even more tiring to pretend you’re okay. Talking to people allows me to be more authentic with how I’m feeling that day and it means I’m not trying to process my feelings all by myself.
For someone finding it difficult to discuss their mental health, my advice is to acknowledge the challenge of taking that first step. It is big. I try to create a brief pause before responding to "how are you?" which helps me break the default "I'm fine" habit. Remember, as cliche as it sounds, it's okay not to be okay, and opening up has been a crucial step in my journey.”
Jay, 23, was diagnosed with SLE (Lupus) and experienced their first manic episode during lockdown.
“My manic episode was embarrassingly evident through my use of social media at the time. The aftermath, the mortifying understanding of the things I had done and said, once the mania had faded put me into a pit of depression and self-hatred.
The only thing that pulled me out of it was talking to a friend who, as it turns out, had a similar experience of a manic episode. They echoed the feelings I was feeling in that moment and taught me how to care for myself and speak to myself in the aftermath. They truly helped me find compassion for myself and it’s something that I believe helped me out of a really dark time in my life.
Talking to those who experienced the same symptoms and reading stories and memoirs of those who detailed their own experience of mania was the key to my recovery.”
Anton, 31, has struggled with low self-esteem, anxiety and depression since his late teens.
“I first realised I wasn't well when I was at University. I've always found myself not quite fitting in amongst my peers, and when at University as a young adult I found myself so alone and isolated. My thoughts have been hyper critical of myself for as long as I can remember, and whilst this helped me do well in my education ("I must work harder", "I should do better") it really left me vulnerable once I started in the working world.
Talking was so valuable, it literally saved my life. I was really spiralling down a dark path as I had tried to help myself and had got nowhere.
I was lucky that my first job was in an amazing team who helped normalise receiving therapy, and I had an amazing counsellor who helped me get curious about why I talked to myself the way I did. I now know that there is no self-control without self-awareness, and talking about my mental health has really helped me (and others) by opening myself up to other ways of being - such as responding to my mistakes with kindness and acceptance, instead of cruel judgement and harshness.
I would say that it is totally normal to be apprehensive, nervous, or afraid at first - but that it really is okay to not be okay and talking about our health and wellbeing does get easier with time. "If nothing changes, then nothing changes", has always been a quote that has given me courage when I've needed it. I'd also say that you don't have to talk to someone that you don't want to talk to, and that finding the right people to talk to can be a very worthwhile thing to do - whether they be a group of friends, colleagues, family, professionals, or someone else.”
Sian is 33 years old and first experienced depression and anxiety in her early teens as a result of bullying and isolation at school.
"Talking made me realise that I wasn’t alone, that I wasn’t weird or weak. My symptoms of anxiety can sometimes be embarrassing and finding out that those symptoms are common was life changing to me. I finally realised that I’m just normal. Nothing is ‘wrong’ with me.
I never used to be able to go into people’s cars because of my severe anxiety and when I started a relationship with my now fiancé, we would drive everywhere separately. CBT helped me to the point I could drive anywhere with him now. It has been life changing because it’s made my quality of life 100% better than I ever imagined it could be.
You matter, your mental health matters. You have as much right to healthcare as anyone else does.
Start small if you have to, but just start somewhere. A text, an email. Therapy comes in all shapes and sizes. Just start and reach out. People will listen and people care. You are loved."
Kirsty, 49, has been living with depression for most of her life after first being diagnosed at the age of 14.
“Talking about my mental health has helped me a lot as it is good to find someone to talk to that will listen and to help with ways to help you cope.
If you are struggling, talk about your mental health. You need to remember that everyone suffers from different things and your problems are just as valid as someone with a problem you can see."
If you need to talk to someone, please call Samaritans on 116 123 or text SHOUT to 85258.
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