As we approach the end of Mental Health Awareness week, I wanted to share my personal journey of 'surviving to thriving' and how helping others has helped me in my recovery from anxiety disorders.
At the age of 10 years old, I developed a series of anxiety disorders. I would experience panic attacks. I felt on edge and unable to relax and at one stage, this prevented me from leaving the house. I felt as if I was alone and did not realise that other people experienced the same issues as me. I was surviving.
By the age of 13, I had relapsed. I found it increasingly difficult to socialise as my energy was focused on 'keeping it together'. I was exhausted and my school work subsequently suffered but I carried on. I was surviving.
At the age of 15 years old, I was referred to mental health services to help with my anxiety. I accessed Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and this helped somewhat. I was discharged feeling better but never felt that I had truly recovered. I was still surviving.
Then aged 16, my illness got to a point where I really needed help. I found it difficult to complete everyday tasks and was on the verge of breaking point. I was just about surviving.
At the age of 17 years old, I was able to access the appropriate support for my condition, after a referral from my GP and family support. I started playing football again which really helped vent my frustrations and I began feeling better and was on the road to recovery. It was then that I started a mental health awareness project in my local community with support from my local council. I wanted to help others and I made it my mission to raise awareness of mental illness and reduce the stigma. I was now moving from surviving to thriving.
At the age of 18 years old, my project had reached more people than I could have imagined and the educational resource that I had produced was used in schools, colleges and GPs surgeries. I was subsequently invited to St James Palace to meet Princess Anne in honour of my work. After completing my A levels, I was accepted onto the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy to develop my entrepreneurship skills. I was thriving.
At the age of 19 years old and three awards later, I set up Altruist Enterprises. A passionate and caring provider of Resilience, Stress Management and Mental Health Awareness training to organisations and schools. I was doing something that I loved and helping people every day. I was thriving.
Now, Altruist has grown significantly and we train thousands of people every year and I love what I do. Like most people, I have good days and bad days but am open about my mental health and have a great support network. Talking about my problems, exercise and helping others have all helped me to manage my anxiety.
I am now proud to say that I am definitely thriving.