Opening up about mental illness isn’t always easy. But it can make all the difference – as Sarah, 31, found out…
My anxiety manifested over time. It was like being in a really messy room and not knowing where to begin to make it tidy. That’s how I felt inside; my head was the messy room.
I couldn’t concentrate on anything and it took me ages to get menial, mundane, little things done – like invoices and sending emails. That’s where it started.
At the time it started to really surface, my dad was really ill. I was working both as an exam invigilator for children with special educational needs and part-time as an actor after doing a degree in theatre a few years before.
So I had an unwell parent, I was going to auditions, I was sorting out school schedules, I still had a house to run and the gravity of the situation just started to shut me down.
I wasn’t turning up to things on time, not sending auditions off – even the build-up of my washing pile at home was ridiculous. The only thing I stayed true to were the schoolkids.
It took me a good while to tell my best friend. She kept asking me to come out and there were about about five occasions I agreed and then cancelled – we even had a fallout about it.
I began to lie about why I couldn’t make it – I was telling her I couldn’t meet up because I was too busy when actually I was just sat in bed in the same place all day.
There was one occasion when I got dressed, had my bag ready to go at the front door, but still couldn’t bring myself to leave.
It was then that I called her and said I was too nervous to leave the house. She asked if I was OK and I said, “No, I don’t think I am.”
She told me that while she might be qualified in the world of friendship, I’d probably benefit from talking to a counsellor.
I didn’t really want to go and talk to someone about my feelings, but she explained that I didn’t have to – that I could just explain it the way I’d explained to her.
Even though she’d just had a baby she said she’d come with me if I was nervous, which I can’t thank her enough for – not many people would do that just after giving birth.
So I made the phone call. After that conversation with her I started to look for some real answers about what I was feeling.
It was the first time I thought, “Oh my god, I actually do suffer from anxiety.” That was the first step to getting better.
Now I feel way more comfortable talking to people about it.
Opening up doesn’t mean your problems go out of the window – you have good days and bad days. But the fact that I know what’s going on has given me enough clarity to know when I’m feeling anxious and how to work through it.
I’m so grateful I had a friend to say, “You should talk to somebody” – and I’m grateful to myself for actually listening and doing something about it.
A lot of people – myself included, initially – don’t want to do it because of the stigma.
But if you don’t open up, the bigger and heavier it all gets.
Even if it’s only a tiny alleyway they can sidestep down, let someone in.
It’s the best thing to ever happen to me.
Lloyds Bank is working with Mental Health UK to help end the silence and stigma surrounding mental health, encouraging us all to #GetTheInsideOut.
To find out more visit lloydsbank.com/getttheinsideout