Louise shares her experience of low self-esteem and anxiety, and the importance of reminding people that they deserve to feel special.
When I was 20 my younger brother was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and was sectioned a number of times over the following years. At the time, mental health problems were often not talked about and the only cases you ever heard about were like my brothers - extreme and often dramatised.
Fast forward 20 years and I began struggling with my mental health too. I felt terribly out of control and tearful and I had a constant feeling of high adrenalin going round my body, as if waiting for something terrible to happen any second. I remember describing it like I was always about to fall off a cliff - that heightened apprehension you get when scared or nervous about something, but this was how I woke up, and more often than not, how I went to bed.
When the doctor told me it sounded like I had generalised anxiety disorder, I was actually relieved.
I knew something was wrong when two days before coming home from a family holiday I couldn’t stop crying, and cried all the way to the airport. When the doctor told me it sounded like I had generalised anxiety disorder, I was actually relieved. I was still shocked though, as I have always been the ‘coper’ in the family and in my friendship circles, always the one to turn to in a crisis.
One of the first things the doctor wanted to do was to sign me off sick, but being self- employed, that would have added to my anxiety. I work as a spa consultant and manager for spa and beauty product company Temple Spa and decided I needed to talk to them about what I was going through.
I can remember really clearly the day my manager and the head office team asked me what they could do to support me, and not asking if I needed to step down. This was huge for me, as it was the first step in sharing my mental health problem with someone other than my husband or my closest friends.
I can remember really clearly the day my manager and the head office team asked me what they could do to support me.
Over the next two years, I took some medication and had great counselling including cognitive behavioural therapy. I continued to run, got a dog (she helped me get up in the mornings) and really learnt that I did deserve good things to happen, and that I was good enough.
I realised my anxiety stemmed from low self-esteem. I actually didn’t believe I deserved my husband. I thought that my kids deserved a better mother and that anything good that came my way was luck or maybe a mistake. I remember in one of my sessions, when we were really getting to the bottom of my anxiety, saying I thought I was worthless. Basically I was the least important on my list.
This was over five years ago now, when I was in my early 40s. I have two teenage children and have been happily married for 15 years. I live in a beautiful village in Devon, and have a pretty lovely life. I love my job, was pretty good at it, though I didn’t realise I was at the time.
I love my job, was pretty good at it, though I didn’t realise I was at the time.
It still makes me feel so sad that I felt this way. Lots of people didn’t understand how I could be suffering from anxiety, and one of the things I noticed within a year of it was how I had stopped being invited out. While I was recovering, I didn’t want to socialise anywhere near as much as I had done, and so I said no to many things - I think people just got fed up or didn’t know how to react.
But I did have some wonderful people around me who helped me all the way. My husband was a huge help and took on some different roles around the house. My friends dragged me out running and never tired of helping me see how lovely I was.
Working for Temple Spa was also a huge help. I would visit busy mums and working women who felt as though there was no time to take a bath or cleanse their skin, but I was able to encourage people to give themselves some well-deserved me-time because I knew how difficult this was for so many of us. Temple Spa have always made me feel important enough to look after myself and given me encouragement from the very first class I attended.
Temple Spa have always made me feel important enough to look after myself and given me encouragement.
I now deliver pamper sessions in a small recovery ward in our local hospital for women recovering from various mental health problems. I bring all my spa goodies and show the women how to pamper themselves, from a simple facial to foot scrubs and relaxation tips. I love to let them know how important they are and that they deserve to look after themselves. The staff also take part, and all of them feel relaxed and calm by the end. I’ve also begun sharing my own story of anxiety with clients, which has encouraged many of them to chat to me about their own mental health.
So when Temple Spa announced they were going to raise money for Mind, I was moved to tears. It feels like another opportunity for me to give something back to those who are still struggling.