I think I’ve always been a little anxious, but ten years ago things got bad to the point that I had to give up work. I could hardly step out of the house, and when I did I had to wear earplugs, looking down at the ground as I walked. I couldn’t bear to look up, to see what was going on around me – things were very tough.
I was eventually diagnosed with anxiety, depression, and agoraphobia. While it helped to know what was going on, it didn’t help the feeling I had of walking through a maze. This is how I felt each time I stepped outside. My son was seven at the time. He had to memorise the bus route to school and knowing how I battled when I had to go outside he would remind me to bring my earplugs. It wasn’t easy for him, and I felt extremely guilty.
Due to the condition, I was given a support worker who referred me to a mental health support group run by Hestia. I decided to visit one day while my son was at school. This was a challenge in itself, but I went because I was so desperate to find a way past what I was going through – I wanted to be more confident and be a proper mum again.
As I got closer to the meeting venue my anxieties started to play up. I nearly didn’t make it past the front door, but the group leader was so kind and supportive. Sitting with a group of people that I didn’t know though was a different story. I spent the time at that first meeting sat on a chair by the window wondering what the members all thought of me, but they didn’t seem to mind.
The fact that none of the members took offence, or treated me unkindly made me feel more comfortable and I also soon realised that I wasn’t alone in the room. Other people around me were all going through their own battles with their mental health and so I really wasn’t doing this by myself.
As the year went on I took part in a ‘Stepping Forward’ course to help those suffering with low self-esteem. My confidence was extremely low when I started, however as time went on I improved more and more each week. I now join the group when they have aerobic sessions, which I would never have done before, and even join in on the film nights.
I used to find it hard to accept that I could have bad days, but now I know that everyone has a bad day once in a while. My life is getting better and I feel happier, I’m able to get past those days when I would wake up feeling as though there was no point!
My son has even noticed the difference in me. Last year he went trick or treating with his aunt because I couldn’t face it, but this year not only did I go with him, but I even dressed up especially. I enjoy doing everyday things now and my son can see the difference and is much happier too. We go cycling together, bowling together, and I’m hoping to be able to get back into work and take on a role as a teaching assistant – no more earplugs for me!