Today is Time To Talk Day, supported by stars including The Saturdays singer Frankie Bridge, telly presenter Matt Johnson and TV doctor Ranj Singh.
The campaign encourages people to open up about depression, anxiety and other conditions.
It calls for us to have a conversation about mental health – whether that is face to face, on the phone or online.
As Jo Loughran, director of Time To Change, the charity behind the campaign, said: “We’ve come a long way in recent years but too many people with mental health problems still feel isolated and ashamed
“This is an opportunity to break down those barriers.”
Lynsey Hope asked four women who have battled mental illness to each share their own key ingredients.
Find out more at time-to-change.org.uk.
‘Sharing story keeps recovery on track’
SINGLE Billie Dee, of Walthamstow in East London, is head of PR at a law firm. Vlogging has helped the 29-year-old cope with borderline personality disorder. She says:
"I never felt normal growing up. My feelings seemed more intense than friends’. I’d got so upset and angry it scared people.
"My parents divorced when I was five. My dad was Australian and my mum English. When they split, I moved to England with Mum.
"At 15, I was the victim of a sexual assault yet I blamed myself.
"I started to self-harm but felt so ashamed I kept it to myself.
"By 17, I was getting drunk and sleeping around. One night I took an overdose but as soon as I did it, I knew I didn’t want to die.
"At uni, it was normal to drink all night and sleep all day. Afterwards, I kept partying. At 25, I got my dream job working for a music company and was in a happy, long-term relationship.
"But then I was made redundant. My relationship fell apart and I was alone in a flat I couldn’t afford.
"I had a total breakdown. I was depressed and started using cocaine. I plucked up the courage to ask for help and paid for therapy.
"I was diagnosed with borderline personality disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. People on social media helped me understand what I was going through. I eventually went on antidepressants and gradually my life has got better.
"I started a drug and alcohol recovery programme and I’m no longer dependent. I started sharing my story by vlogging. Updating my followers kept me on track with my recovery."
‘I get out all negative thoughts at the gym’
NATASHA Benjamin runs an online support service for children affected by domestic violence, having herself been diagnosed with PTSD after a traumatic childhood. The 34-year-old, from South Woodford, North East London, says:
"My mental health problems started when I was a child. My parents separated and my mum married a violent man. We fled when I was 11, but by that time the damage was done.
"I was too frightened to speak up about how I felt. I’d been taught to behave and keep quiet.
"I started comfort-eating, and I was overweight and an easy target for bullies at school.
"I struggled to make friends and had low self-esteem.
"Somehow, I survived school and started a degree in media at Coventry University. I wanted a new start so I put on a show and became the life and soul.
"I’d go out drinking all the time but was very unhappy. This “new me” was just a plaster over my problems.
"After getting my degree, I moved from Birmingham to London where I got my first job.
"My life spiralled out of control. For five years, I was on a treadmill of going out, hopping from one toxic relationship to the next and suffering health problems. The tipping point came when I was bullied by a boss at work.
"I started having panic attacks – I’d feel shaky and tearful as if I couldn’t breathe. There was a big internal investigation at my work, which I won, but I took voluntary redundancy and moved back to Mum’s. I’d hit rock bottom.
"I saw my GP when I was 28 and started having therapy. Since then, I’ve gradually turned my life around.
"I still have ups and downs. I do reiki and meditation and I love to exercise. I love weight training – it’s allowed me to feel strong and reshape my body.
"I can go to the gym with my head filled with negative thoughts and get them all out at the gym.
"For that hour or so, I am concentrating on getting the exercises right and not on my problems.
I"t’s healthy for my mind and for my body – a win-win."
‘I will always battle personality disorder’
STUDENT Katie Scott, 21, of Guildford, Surrey, battled anorexia and self-harmed as a teenager. She was later diagnosed with emotionally unstable personality disorder. She says:
"I was 14 when I developed disordered eating and started to self-harm.
"It was a form of punishment as I thought I was fat. Mum noticed my eating had become an issue and wanted me to go to the doctor, but I refused.
"She went by herself and I was referred to Child & Adolescent Mental Health Services. I was put on antidepressants but at that point my weight wasn’t dangerously low.
"In desperation, my parents paid for me to go to a private clinic. My weight kept dropping and in April 2015 it became critical. I ended up in rehab.
"I was forced to eat and started to gain weight but my mental health hit rock bottom. I started behaving impulsively. I tried to run away and took overdoses.
"In November 2015, I was sectioned under the Mental Health Act and moved to a secure adult unit further away from home. I was diagnosed with emotionally unstable personality disorder, including anxiety and depression, as well as my eating disorder.
"There, I was given more independence and started to feel more positive. When I was discharged in July 2016, I went back to sixth form and finished my A levels.
"I’m now at Surrey University studying food science and nutrition. I still have therapy sessions. I will always have to battle the personality disorder but you can manage it.
"Mental illnesses are stereotyped. With OCD you picture someone obsessively washing their hands.
"Similarly, you see someone with anorexia as emaciated. It’s important we ignore stereotypes.
"I wouldn’t have got through my struggles without the support of family and close friends. They have always listened to me without judgment.
"It is my key ingredient for good mental health."
‘I kicked myself for not speaking sooner’
BLOGGER Emily Lavinia says mindfulness helped her after she was diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder. The 28-year-old from central London says:
"My mental health issues started when I was just 13. I didn’t want to go to school, I didn’t fit in and struggled to relate to my peers.
"I’d suffer panic attacks regularly. I’d get so worked up that my heart would be palpitating, I couldn’t see properly and my hands and arms would tingle like I had pins and needles.
"Sometimes I couldn’t leave the house at all, I’d just sit at home crying.
"But academically, I still did well as my anxiety meant I put pressure on myself.
"All through my teens and twenties, my feelings became even more intense.
"I did go to the doctor a few times but didn’t tell the whole truth. I didn’t want to be the crazy girl, I wanted to be the girl at the top, the one of whom people would say: “Look at her, she’s doing really well.”
"It reached a point where I was experiencing serious agoraphobia and couldn’t go to work.
"By the time I sought help I was in my early twenties. I went to my doctor, who referred me for therapy on the NHS.
"Opening up about my feelings changed my life and I was diagnosed with generalised anxiety disorder.
"I had no idea one in three women has a problem with mental health and I kicked myself for not saying something sooner.
"I still have therapy and I take medication. But I also make sure I get enough sleep.
"I practise mindfulness and breathing exercises. I do yoga. It all sounds a bit hippie but these little lifestyle changes have really helped me.
"I used to think it was a fairly pointless exercise – I mean, how can you think your way out of feeling anxious?
"But slowing down and thinking about different situations and my reactions to them has helped me to take back control of my life.
"Acknowledging my feelings – and taking the time to take care of myself – has transformed my life."
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