My psychiatric challenges started when I was very young following a significant family trauma. I remember being a very anxious child and this holding me back significantly though my childhood and adolescence. At 18 I left home and brought a home with my partner; my anxiety worsened and I started to experience severe panic attacks, social phobia and agoraphobia. The relationship was very difficult and I encountered years of domestic violence, fearful for my own life. Even the simplest of tasks became a chore and it limited my ability to live life to the fullest.

Work was my safety net and somehow I managed to maintain my work in the mental health field whilst assisting people with similar challenges. However, other areas of my life became more challenging and at times this led to real despair. I had no belief in myself or my abilities. I worried so much about my managers and colleagues finding out about my challenges that it prevented me from seeking professional help. How on earth could I seek help from the team that would need to offer me support?

I worried so much about my managers and colleagues finding out about my challenges that it prevented me from seeking professional help.

Thankfully my relationship ended with me physically intact, and I was left to try to rebuild my shattered life. For the next few months I had to try to manage to live on my own, and prove to the bank manager that I could pay the mortgage independently, despite being on a low income. I also had to get through the long nights alone with awful anxiety and panic attacks. I tried to read about anxiety, and learn coping strategies for my debilitating panic attacks. I worked three jobs around the clock to maintain the mortgage and slowly my confidence started to develop. In time I met and married a wonderful man who encouraged me with my dream to train as a social worker. The birth of my son sparked a real instinct to get my challenges resolved; I couldn’t bear the thought of him growing up witnessing my despair.

A work colleague shared with me her own psychiatric challenges and I was astounded that someone that I looked up to had experienced similar challenges. She encouraged me to seek support from secondary services and to continue to develop my coping and self management skills. I was still worried about seeking help from my GP as by then I was working with my GP surgery as a social worker, so I took a spurious route to get support out of area and finally accessed some support to help my recovery.

I had already come a long way on my road to recovery by this time and I spent the next few years delving into issues from my childhood that were the probable route of the anxiety.

Although I still get anxious at times, I can engage in all the activities of a rich, fulfilling life

I have only just started to speak of these difficulties as I strongly believe that the stigma and discrimination people with mental health issues encounter needs to be challenged. If I have spent my life trying to hide this, what hope is there for others who are not in the mental health profession? I therefore feel I have a duty to stand up and be counted as someone who has survived the rich tapestry of mental health issues. I now control my panic attacks, rather then them controlling me and I live life to the full. I have a fantastic job as a Peer Employment Project Manager and although I still get anxious at times, I can engage in all the activities and delights of a rich and fulfilling life.