Mental health is an issue very close to my own heart as since childhood I've suffered from Anxiety which has impacted on both my professional and personal life to varying degrees and there were times throughout my life that the emotions I was feeling became almost unbearable as I realised that somehow I was 'different' to my family and peers. I can openly admit I did go to some very dark places previously and often felt isolated and alone despite having a close knit family and large circle of friends.
Growing up I simply dismissed how I was feeling and put my inner struggles down to 'growing pains' however when they did not subside but only increased due to various circumstances and incidents I became more aware of the sensations I was experiencing and was actually relieved when I was able to get help and discovered that I was suffering from Anxiety. I spent so many years hiding how I was feeling from loved ones, I felt embarrassed and confused as to why my body and mind reacted the way it did and was afraid that if I did confide how I really felt I would be judged or ridiculed and so I took the easy option and chose to ignore it, which actually was very easy for me to do due to my outward appearance of being a very confident and vivacious young woman. It's a huge misconception that sufferers of a mental health condition are introverts that's simply not true, mental health can affect any one of us at any time and it was a huge shock to some of my loved ones when I eventually confided in them how I had been feeling as they had only seen my outer shell and not realized what had been happening internally.
Due to my openness , natural desire to help others and low self-esteem I was a human sponge and magnet for emotionally unavailable partners who I allowed to take advantage of my nature as I felt empty within and was deeply self-critical of myself. I craved love from outside sources to fill the void I felt, I honestly believed that I was not important enough to deserve real love and I didn't feel I could accept it and so as a result I was drained of my light and energy whilst I received nothing in return but a general feeling of worthlessness, leaving me feeling emotionally and physically exhausted. My self-belief plummeted and I reached a point where I felt I hit a wall. Too make myself feel better I would comfort eat and therefore my weight fluctuated constantly depending on how I was feeling emotionally. I knew I had to make radical changes as I was punishing myself for allowing these troubled souls to cause me harm both mentally and physically so thus followed a period of 10 years where I chose tremain single whilst I healed internally as I knew that I had to do something radical so I could not only change how I felt about myself but also to give out a different vibration from 'damaged and hurt' as that only attracted the' broken birds' who needed healing and I knew deep down that I was worth so much more but I'd just lost who I was and had to re find me again. Strangely enough my lowest point came with the purchase of my beloved home, which although brought me so much contentment also led to a huge increase of pressure as I felt an over whelming sense of responsibility, especially being a single woman. I've always worked hard but I literally went into over drive, sleeping only 4-5 hours a night, working 7 days a week, I had no life outside my work and obviously my health began to suffer I would have constant heart palpitations, wake up in a sweat throughout the night leading to a constant state of exhaustion and within a year I had lost 4 teeth through grinding. My friends and family expressed concern regularly but it fell on deaf ears as although they meant well as they were concerned for my wellbeing I took it as a personal criticism and a lack of support and as a result felt completely over whelmed throwing myself into my work even more in an effort to regain control . However when my dentist remarked it was the worst case he had seen and if I didn't make the necessary changes soon my health would be seriously affected it was the wakeup call I needed. Today I am so much more aware and despite still working hard I try to balance in a little relaxation now too although old habits are hard to change and I am still working on this but I fully appreciate someone must have been really looking down on me because I continued this pattern for 15 years and how I never got seriously ill and actually the fact I can now tell my story is a miracle in itself.
All this hard work did pay off however as through sheer determination and focus (the only way I could control the constant fear within me) I paid off my mortgage in half the time but at what personal cost and I'm only too aware now of how different the outcome may have been.
Due to taking the time to heal my body and mind over a number of years through a combination of holistic therapies, inner child work and self-development my self-esteem has been completely regained and I am relishing feeling my personal power once more, I am no longer self-critical of my actions but instead feel myself smiling as I realize how far I have come and the complete transformation I have under taken. As a result my Anxiety is now very mild and actually almost undetectable although I am always aware of an undercurrent and so am very careful to avoid triggers which I know will cause concern and the weight is also gradually coming off as my body unwinds from the tight coil it originally was. A huge breakthrough came for me only a few years ago when I discovered tantra and the healing power it can bring to the body and mind, it literally turned my life around from going from a place of darkness to feeling real joy, the transformation I have felt emotionally, physically and spiritually is astounding which is perhaps one of the reasons I am so passionate to preserve the sacred reputation of this life changing therapy and as a result I am very driven to educate people about what it really means and protect it from all the unfair negativity which unfortunately still exists around it, simply due to a lack of understanding or being mis lead by un authentic individuals! The people and connections I have made through my passion are the most honest and beautiful souls I have ever met and have enriched my life beyond belief for which I will be forever grateful. I'm only too aware of the very different person I am today, I now live my life with complete authenticity instead of wearing the mask I previously did and pretending that all was well when it clearly wasn't. I'm completely open emotionally and am no longer afraid to voice what I feel instead of feeling afraid to do so. I finally after all these years feel free and the relief that has brought to my own life and the personal happiness and joy I feel is immeasurable. I've realised that you do not need to suffer in silence, help is available but the first step is always to be honest about your feelings as its only when you can be completely authentic that the real healing can begin and you can become your true self.
Today I attract only positive and loving energy into my life as that is a reflection of how I feel internally about myself and as a result I attract the loving relationships that I deserve. I feel very proud that I was able to overcome the hard ships but still grateful for the invaluable life lessons I learned as a result. My future is now something I am eager and excited to embrace as opposed to being overshadowed by the fear that used to reside within me. If my life experiences and story can make a difference to just one person then for me my own personal battle and the roller coaster of emotions I have experienced as a result will have made my journey completely worthwhile
My story begins when I was sweet 16. I had known Nick, 15 years my senior since I was 6 months old. He was a close family friend, part of an amateur dramatics group. This group of friends was based around one family, they were friends with my parents so I was also invited to events/parties. When I was coming into puberty he started treating me slightly differently, more so when we were alone. Nothing specific just looks, smiles, jokes.
When I was 16 I knew it wasn't just in my head. We were out bowling with our group of friends and it was the happiest day of my life, he secretly held my hand. For the next 3 weeks I was walking around school like a Cheshire cat.
I was happy not only did this man want me but I wasn't living in the happiest of households. My parents either didn't speak or argued, my mum stayed for me (the whole family should stay together view). I thought this was my Disney's prince charming coming to rescue me.
We spoke over the internet, he wanted me to get a webcam so we could see each other. He sent me images and wanted me to reciprocate. Every party we'd sneak out, kiss and fool around. When I was 17 we had arranged to sleep together, I wasn't ready but knew this is what 'grown-ups' did and I didn't want to lose him.
It was a mission as I was driven and picked up from everywhere.
A month later I told a 'friend' about us and it got back to him, he ended it immediately. I didn't understand why.
He blackmailed me and said if I didn't tell everyone that it was all in my head then my parents wouldn't be invited out anymore and they'd lose all their friends. So I did. I still have that false reputation to this day. The silly little girl who makes up stories. Stupidity I still loved him and he started to talk to me again online, He also had started seeing someone else. Saying he wanted to be with me but had to hide it, so he was with her to throw off any suspicion. I so wanted to believe him and wanted him back I ignored all logic and big red flags, the worst being he had cheated on me 9 days after having my virginity, later on, Valentine's Day!
I found this out while out in a big group so I couldn't react, I couldn't laugh, I couldn't cry, I just had to stand there and take it.It was the worst moment of my life.
(FYI - Age restriction is 18, not 16 when you are in a position of trust i.e. tutor, family friend, someone in authority - it comes under 'statutory')
My 'friend' Joe who I was in college with knew all about Nick. When we were at a house party (both drunk) he took me outside. I thought to fool around but it went further. He didn't ask. When I'm scared I freeze, it was happening and I couldn't say no or stop. He then ignored me for the next 3 weeks, which was hard to do in a class of 12.
He then pulls me aside and tells me he is also seeing a girl in the year below and he thinks he's going to stick with her. Despite what had happened I would have ignored it as I just wanted someone to be with. To be normal, to be loved. Was I only good for one time on bed and then tossed aside?
Over a 5 year period, I kept being pulled back into Nick's advances, I stopped it several times but I still longed for the happily ever after. Over this time my body confidence was chipped away to nothing. I wore black baggy clothes, which was hard as I was also in musical theatre and they love you to be in Lycra. I couldn't be naked even in my own company. It was so hard not being able to talk to anyone about it. I was alone. I had to see them together and 'get on with it'.
Years later I was seeing a guy called Jack who lived in London. I thought I was starting to get my life back on track.
I missed my last train so stayed at his, and said before he went to sleep 'I don't want to have sex'.
I didn't want to make the same mistake. I woke the next morning to find I didn't have a lot of choice in the matter.
It didn't even bother me. 3 times a charm!
By this point, I knew I was damaged goods for life and this is what men did. It must be me, I was Bridget Jones, Made to be alone.
Then I met James. He was different. He didn't put any emphasis on a physical relationship at all. He just wanted to cuddle. It was a breath of fresh air. I thought here is someone who wants to get to know me, for me.
Over the years I got more confident with my body again and tried to encourage a physical relationship but unless he was drunk or it was 3am and I was asleep he wasn't interested. 6 years later we moved into a property owned by his parents. By now I was in the beauty industry and said I'd move if I could work from the garage as it did mean giving up my business and starting again.
Despite paying 50% of the bills and now not earning, it took 8 months to get my salon. (I had to wait for his dad to do the building work)
When I did though it was beautiful. Perfect, I had made it. I had my home (which was and is my only ambition in life), my salon and my best friend. I trusted him completely.
2 years passed by, with a content routine. He never wanted to get married or wanted children so I convinced myself I didn't want those things either. I was content with my lot.
On 1st July 2018, he woke up and ended things, no warning, no communication, and no reason.
He joined dating websites the next day and seemed to switch personalities. This wasn't the person I gave up my home and business for. Thankfully, I moved back to my parents. I was right back where I started 4 years previous.
To top it off I found out I was pregnant (I didn't find it odd how in the last few weeks we had been together twice, where before we had 8 months with nothing)I was a stone underweight with stress and even had an underactive thyroid (so I should have been putting on weight).
When I told James, he went to a party instead of coming and talking to me. My worst fears had come true.
I was homeless, without a job and now going to be a single parent. I was going to end the pregnancy but I couldn't. For some reason, I knew she was a girl and I fell in love with her.
When I was 11 weeks I read a conversation between James and another woman, it dated back to a few days after he ended things with me. He told her straight away he'd known for ages ' I didn't want to marry her, I didn't want to have kids with her'. - Why did she get to know and I got 'it's not you, it's me!
I felt something ping. I was losing our child.
No one knew. Once again I had to deal with the worst trauma alone.
I officially moved out 8 weeks after he ended things. I left a note to say I had miscarried a few days before.
I didn't even get a text message to say 'sorry for your loss'. Who was this man I had given my life to?
I was so pumped with adrenalin I thought I'd join these dating apps to keep any confidence I still had up.
I knew I wouldn't fall into anything long term, as I had booked to go to Oz for 3 months (Why not I had no clients to lose no bills to pay)11 weeks after losing my home and business I met Matt.
Not only does he like me for me. (and I wasn't looking my best at the time, being underweight) but he made me feel sexy. I went to Oz 6 weeks later and still spoke every day. He even came with my mum to pick me up from the airport.
Over a year on and he still makes me feel sexy and wanted.
It's hard being with someone new after such a long time we are both working on being the best versions of ourselves.
He supports me when I'm down and unlike before doesn't make me feel ashamed for having 'down days'.
I never thought a physical relationship was important but when you're with the right person it's a great addition!
I am still living in my family home and I have re-started my business and looking into different avenues within the beauty industry, including an old love of singing.
As I'm self-employed it will take a few years to look good enough on paper to get a decent mortgage.
I am determined. I want a home. I want somewhere to feel safe. Somewhere to work from and grow. Hopefully, I'm on the right road and with the support I have from Matt and my parents I have no doubt I will get there.
I think the main reason I was able to move on from James so quickly was that I could talk about the pain. I didn't have to hide it like the times before.
I guess the moral of the story is to talk and seek help, use your support network.
The anger never goes away, but the pain does ease with time. I still get down and upset, but like an angry sea, you have to ride the wave and know calmer seas will return.
I've suffered with bouts of anxiety & depression for at least the last 30 years. In more recent years it's predominately been anxiety & panic attacks, which always seem to be triggered by a series of stressful life events & experiences which would have occurred over a number of months. The anxiety starts off slowly & is usually triggered by a downward spiral of negative thoughts, self-criticism & low self-esteem - I am & have always been my harshest critic. Being totally honest, there have been times when the anxiety has been so bad that I would think of ways leaving this world - just to escape the anxiety. My most recent episode was earlier this year, again there had been a series of events to deal with, I crashed my car, and we had 2 deaths in the family and stress at work (due to self-inflicted pressure). Over the years I've been on & off anti-depressants, I've tried CBT & had numerous counselling sessions. All of which were great at the time & helped me but after this recent bout I decided it was time to take control, stop being so harsh on myself & equip myself with the tools to deal with whatever life decides to throw at me; So, I started with some counselling sessions & then had some hypnotherapy sessions, both of which helped immensely. Since then I've become more focused on being in the present moment, mindfulness & making time to meditate - all of which I have been doing regularly - on my yoga mat - for the last 5 years ! Today, although I still have some way to go, I am getting regular exercise, I talk more to people how I am feeling & I attend regular group meditation sessions, as a result I am a lot calmer, happier & more positive.
Mental health, as I've found out myself, can strike in many different forms and hit anyone at any time. Even when you least expect it.
My favourite soap opera recently showed a dark storyline. It involves a couple where the man is using manipulation and blame to cause his partner, who has always been portrayed as a confident and strong person, to suddenly be filled with self-doubt and confusion.
The storyline starts with what looks like a loving relationship of a happy couple. Very slowly, however, the man starts to make his partner doubt them self and how people see them. He plays mind games. He becomes dismissive and puts blame on everything. It starts with small things, so his partner is not aware of what is happening.
As the storyline transpired, it sparked something in its similarities to my first long term relationship. I found watching this couple distressing. It made me feel anxious and upset, even angry.
I googled the storyline and there it was in black and white. I was faced with memories of a time I thought I'd got out of my system. Even though I'm now in a very happy, loving and strong relationship, I suddenly felt vulnerable to a memory from the past and the effect it had on me. Even though I walked away from the situation years ago.
It has taken until now to realise the reality of what happened to me back then. I remember being made to question myself. My actions. My upbringing and what people thought of me. Like on the soap opera, all this happened behind closed doors. To everyone who knew us, my then partner, was such a loving and caring boyfriend. He had a habit of making people around us think I didn't appreciate him and therefore I didn't deserve him and he was this amazing person to stick with me. He would play on the fact that I was not scared of confrontation, by making snide, unpleasant comments, very carefully and quietly, so no one around us knew what was happening. Sadly he would get the reaction he wanted, me looking like a bad and ungrateful person. I started to become immune to his comments and actions, often causing situations in the relationship to spiral out of control. I tried on several occasions to explain and show him what he was doing, but he wasn't interested and made me feel like I was fabricating everything and I was not normal. He tried to make me dependant on him and because I wouldn't let that happen, the relationship finally ended.
I lost the respect from people who knew us and I pretty much lost all my friends due to his actions when we spilt. I had no fight left. I did have, however, an unexpected sense of relief. My family were brilliant and so supportive, once I opened up to what happened. Thank goodness, because that's all I had left.
I moved on very quickly, or so I thought from this awful time in my life. The storyline has brought back feelings and emotions that I'd not addressed for years. I began questioning myself again. Simple flippant remarks and negative views have started to affect me. I've found it difficult to get motivated and found putting my feelings across to people very hard. My energy levels became low.
The hardest thing is: now I know this person who I loved, meant me harm. This has shocked me to know he knew exactly what he was doing and was happy to throw away something that could have been so amazing
Slowly now I'm starting to feel more positive. I'm lucky to be able to have the support of my husband, family and friends. Life coaching has helped and exercise. I'm setting myself goals to motivate me and gain back confidence. I'm on a journey to get back to being me!
I want to thank Elizabeth, who has had the forethought to use her extensive therapy and healing skills, to start a charity where she proactively helps people living with mental health issues. Thanks to Elizabeth I was able to put my story out there
Growing up I was a very shy and self-conscious child. This led to anxiety in social settings which led to depression, feeling as if I didn't fit in, that I wasn't good enough. It wasn't until I was a young adult that my symptom as such were given a diagnosis and there was medicine that could help. I first went on Prozac which initially made a massive difference. For the first time I suddenly had lots of energy and was excited about life again. I stayed on Prozac for a few years then decided that I was stable enough to try life again without medication. For a few years I was fine though winters with the lack of sunlight and when I was travelling I always struggled with depression, slowly over the years it got bad enough that it was effecting my relationships and work so back to the drs I went.
This time round I didn't feel quite the same emotional lift but it did help steady my moods. After been on antidepressants for a few more months I decided to come off the medication and start looking for natural alternatives I discovered St. John's wort and also started taking vitamin D supplements, both of these helped and I continue to use them today. I found for me another useful tool was my mental approach and realising that my low moods don't last forever that they do eventually change. When I am feeling unworthy, unloved, that there is nothing wrong with me I remind myself that these feeling will pass and tomorrow is on its way and with tomorrow comes hope and self belief”