Christmas can be one of the hardest times of the year when you have a mental health problem. Becky is sharing her story as part of our Christmas fundraising appeal.
The first time that I noticed something was wrong was on a normal day. I was in my final year of university, on a bus on my way into town. I started to feel strange and shaky. I felt like I was going to faint. I felt hot all off a sudden and everything in me wanted to get off the bus.
I saw my doctor who said it sounded like a panic attack. I thought it wouldn’t happen again.
"I’ve been trapped in that cycle of panic attacks for 10 years now."
But it did. Soon they started to happen most days – in everyday situations like on buses, walking around town, in shops and supermarkets. At university, I found it really hard to go to lecture halls, and to sit through lectures. I discovered that when you’ve had quite a few panic attacks you start to worry that you’ll have more so it becomes a vicious cycle really. I’ve been trapped in that cycle of panic attacks for 10 years now.
During these 10 years, I've experienced some very dark days and many sleepless nights. I’ve become depressed and life has felt frightening, and the future has looked bleak.
I watched people going about their normal days, going into supermarkets and looking happy and coming out with all their shopping but I couldn’t bring myself to just nip in to buy a couple of pints of milk.
I knew what I was dealing with but I didn’t know how to get help. I’ve tried medications and I’ve tried counselling but I’ve found it hard to sit in a small room to talk to someone – I couldn’t stay calm as I was always scared I’d have a panic attack.
"Christmas is meant to be joyous but some years it has been one of the hardest times for me. Mostly because of all the celebrations and the pressure to socialise."
Christmas is meant to be joyous but some years it has been one of the hardest times for me. Mostly because of all the celebrations and the pressure to socialise. I’ve always been very sociable by nature but it became really hard because I didn’t know what was coming. I’d worry about all the social events, the restaurants being busy, where we’d sit, and if I had a panic attack, would I be able to leave.
You think “I’m supposed to be enjoying myself like everyone else.” I feel the pressure of everyone feeling happy throughout this period, it’s hard as I think I should feel happy like everyone else.
At times like these I’ve felt really alone and isolated.
The depression would be really bad at night and I’d often sit in my room and couldn’t sleep at all. In the middle of the night when all my friends were asleep with their phones switched off, those are the times I’d feel completely isolated. I’d sometimes go on Google. There are some really strange things on there and you don’t know if what you’re reading is true.
"The Mind website has actually saved my life – I've been close to ending my life, and just reading a story online of somebody in a similar situation has given me a small glimmer of hope, to keep going."
When I found the Mind website, it felt so different – it’s trustworthy. There’s medical and support information available but also other people’s stories – which is so important. I felt like I wasn’t alone.
On a couple of occasions, the Mind website has actually saved my life – I've been close to ending my life, and just reading a story online of somebody in a similar situation has given me a small glimmer of hope, to keep going... to try again the next day... to choose hope, despite the darkness. It’s been a vital lifeline to me during my darkest moments.
It's also given me wise, clear information, when I've wanted to make sense of my debilitating condition and tips and advice on things that might help. I’ve changed the way I eat and I’ve started running. Having the fresh air and running beside the beach is lovely because I can see the sea and that calms me down. If I’m starting to feel down I do something I love, like something creative or playing piano and I start to feel calmer and feel more like myself because when my mind’s engaged in something else and it takes the edge of a bit.
I’ve visited the website a lot over the Christmas period on my worst days. On one of these last year I read a story by someone else who said they found Christmas hard. It really reassured and comforted me. Knowing I wasn’t alone was such a relief.
Read about Information and support
When you’re living with a mental health problem, or supporting someone who is, having access to the right information - about a condition, treatment options, or practical issues - is vital. Visit our information pages to find out more.
Blogs and stories can show that people with mental health problems are cared about, understood and listened to. We can use it to challenge the status quo and change attitudes.