Today is #TimetoTalk day.
Talking about mental health is so, so important to me and has been one of the most important parts, I believe, in my journey.
I wanted to take today as an opportunity to share a potted history of what's been going on, where I'm at and why talking means everything.
In my final year of university, I knew I wasn't ok. Realistically, it had been going on longer than that, but at that point, I started to struggle to a point it was affecting my life.
Everything scared me.
Everything was too much.
That was a few years ago.
The last few years have been a rollercoaster, to say the least. I've been through really rocky patches, and really positive patches, but throughout that the shadow of anxiety has remained.
For most of this time, I've been able to function, to work, to see friends.
When people would hear I had anxiety they'd say 'You? But you've always been so confident!'
I was just really, really good at pretending I was ok.
I put on a mask every day and got through it. Some days I felt great, then there were periods where even getting into a car, stepping onto a train, or eating a meal weren't feasible options.
In June of last year, I crashed.
My body couldn't take any more pretending.
I had been working on the little surface issues but not on the deep fears at the root of them all. I had been putting little plasters over huge wounds.
I wasn't eating properly, sleeping properly, thinking properly or functioning properly, and realistically I hadn't been for a long time.
That wake up call in the summer has led to some big changes.
I finally found the right counsellor, and he helped me connect the dots I myself couldn't see.
He helped to equip me with new words to explain how I was feeling, and encouraged me to make progress.
In October, an incident happened to me outside work which sent everything backwards all over again.
Even walking down the street was suddenly terrifying.
And I began the slow climb back up again, continuing to work hard in my counselling sessions and beginning to do the real work. The work on the deep, dark fears that have been holding me back for so long.
I'm doing ok. Not great, yet, but I'm working on it.
I'm facing up to huge fears and huge challenges.
I'm going through a bit of a 'lifestyle overhaul'. New surroundings, new home, new hobbies. I'm surrounding myself with the people who fill me with hope and happiness and who support me relentlessly.
Talking is everything.
I'm incredibly open about what I've been going through because it's absolutely vital that these conversations happen.
A few years ago, I really knew nothing about anxiety. I didn't know that's what I was feeling, or how to get help.
I let it get to the point where I was struggling with generalised anxiety, health anxiety, social anxiety, depression, phobias... you could throw all sorts of labels at it. I wasn't eating properly. I wasn't sleeping.
It went way too far, and if me being open about it can help one single person look for help sooner, or realise what they're feeling isn't normal, that's all I could ever ask for.
I don't want to see anyone feel the way I felt during that 'crash' in June.
I don't want anyone to go through years or fighting with their own brain, being scared of everything, and thinking they're not good enough.
If you're struggling with your mental health, you have an illness and there is support out there.
You can learn to cope, and you can learn to thrive.
You can remember who you were before these unhealthy thoughts started taking over.
People are here for you.
THAT is why we need to talk.
These conversations shouldn't be taboo, and nobody should feel ashamed if they are finding things hard.
Start those conversations, and if someone you know is struggling, listen to them.