“I first realised something was wrong in 2010, aged 19, whilst in my 2nd year of Uni. I was at the dinner table when all of a sudden, I felt faint, yet bursting with energy, jittery but only wanting to retreat to safety. My mind was racing but I wasn’t thinking about any one thing. I thought I was going to die. I was hysterical. My family phoned my GP.
“I saw my GP the next day and discovered that I had experienced a panic attack. I was offered medication for what was described as probably just a blip in my mental health due to the often-pressured university environment.
“I kept thinking, why am I worrying? What do I have to worry about? I‘ve got family, friends and people who care for me.
“Whilst in this state of flux, of constant fight, flight or freeze mode, I was terrified to do anything. Too fearful to try a prescribed pill to see if it even helped in case something bad would happen. I was so anxious and had butterflies all the time that I could not stomach food, and the thought of it made me gag. I lost a stone and a half in a few short weeks, eating but a slice or two of toast each day.
“Everything that entered my mind was negative, it never switched off.
“I would put a face on it and try to attend social gatherings, I was always desperate to have something to take my mind off things but equally frightened at having a panic attack away from home and in front of people.
“I did eventually learn though, that no matter how hard it was, self-care and distraction would be key to my recovery. I have learned to better control my anxiety and panic attacks through Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and talking about my mental health with loved ones.
“I’ve also learned that ‘my mental health blip’ was not a blip. It was not a one off. I have come to realise it is part of me – that mental health is just like physical health.
“We don’t think twice about telling someone we have the cold, or a sore leg, so why do we seek to hide our mental health? If you have a sore back, you avoid what’s causing you pain, you rest, exercise, medicate if necessary and get back on the horse.
“Fast-forward 11 years. I am now a qualified primary school teacher, wedding band singer, amateur dramatics performer, church organist and lover of everything social! I bought my first house and got engaged into the bargain! All things that I thought would never happen at one stage in my life. Learning to look after yourself and doing your best to manage your mental health is a balancing act, it can be tricky, but if we get it right we can flourish.”