“Two years ago, after months of ignoring signs of my deteriorating mental health, I had what can only be described as a breakdown.

I lashed out at a very special person and found it hard to forgive myself for this. I was subsequently diagnosed with anxiety and depression and signed off work.

I was tearful, lethargic, had no appetite or concentration.

The lack of concentration hit me particularly hard – I’m an avid reader but could not read even the easiest of books, one of the things that I enjoy the most. I know loss of interest in usual hobbies is a symptom of depression but this was different, it wasn’t that I didn’t want to read but that I actually couldn’t.

After hearing about the benefits of knitting I took this up again, starting with simple scarves. I had learnt to knit from my mum as a young child and found it easy to get back into. Nothing complex, just knit and purl, nothing that needed any concentration.

I also found using a fidget spinner very calming, and although I found it hard I tried to get out for a walk every day.

Fast-forward and I have just handed in a dissertation as the final part of a master’s degree in data science for business at the University of Stirling.

It has not been easy - there have been up and downs; highs and lows; and laughter and tears, but with the support of family and friends I have come a long way. If someone had told me 18 months ago that today I’d have completed a master’s degree I would have never believed them.

One thing I have learnt over this time is to never underestimate the power of the question “are you ok?”. Very early on in the university course I was having a not so good day and one of my new friends recognised the signs and asked this question, for which I was very grateful. Also remember the answer to “Are you ok?” does not have to be “yes”.

What’s next for me? At this point, I don’t know. I would like to go on and undertake a PhD. As my gran always used to say, “What’s for you won’t go by you” and I now live by this philosophy.

One thing I do know is that in a number of days I’ll be celebrating my 40th birthday. Life begins, or so they say…”

Fundraising for SAMH

Claire has fundraised for SAMH by taking part in the SAMH Stomp and the Dundee Kiltwalk. Find out more about how you can fundraise for SAMH.