As a young person in college I experienced my first bout of depression.
This was a confusing and isolating time and I didn't really speak out about how I was feeling. I had always been a relatively good junior athlete growing up, gaining a black belt in karate, and running at a good county level. When faced with anti-depressants and not really knowing where to turn, I lost all motivation for sport at this time.
I buried the depression deep down in the end and carried on with my life as if nothing had happened. I did get involved with sport again and tried to get back into competitive running and tried other sports such as rowing. After sustaining quite a serious back injury and having a few life events hit me, in 2010 I had a more serious relapse and experienced depression on a more serious scale.
My bed became my prison, with a constant daily battle to get up and carry on with life. Although I managed to carry on successfully in employment, the struggle was real- I put on a lot of weight, lost a lot of confidence and was not acting like my bubbly self.
After noticing my change of behaviour, a friend of mine encouraged me to visit the doctor who referred me to my local Mind. Again in a confused and isolated state, my friend helped me to fill out the relevant forms and I accessed the Mind in Croydon service. The councillor urged me to join the Active Minds sessions and I started a six-week boxercise course with three times world champion boxer Duke Mckenzie. Having the opportunity to FIGHT the depression- literally- was a massive help.
Punching the bags and pads as hard as I could released a few emotions and stress that had built up. It certainly helped to build my confidence and my drive in wanting to compete within a sport again and with Duke's support I gained the courage to join an amateur boxing club where I had four competitive boxing bouts.
Last year I embarked on a Master's degree in Sport Management, this was an extremely anxiety provoking time and my stress levels rose to a high level. However whilst doing my degree I used boxing as a tool to bring my anxiety levels down. I competed in the British University championships with a successful knockout win in the semi-final and gaining a silver medal in the final. I completed my Master's degree in Sport Management gaining a distinction and also a coveted 'service to sport' award.
With my newly found faith as a Christian and my built up knowledge of looking after myself both physically and mentally I have found it easier to keep my depression and anxiety at a manageable level. I'm enjoying sport and physical activity more than ever, getting my gloves on in Duke's boxing gym or going for a nice run whilst whacking on some really loud worship music gives me the opportunity to zone out and relax.
Having a great experience with my local Mind also gave me the motivation to give back and now I work as the 'Get Set to Go' coordinator at Brent Mind which is looking to get over 200 people with mental health problems participating in sport and physical activity to improve their health.
A highlight of my work for the programme was being invited to attend the Heads Together launch meeting The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry.
Mind is one of the eight charity partners for the campaign. Being able to briefly chat with the Royals about mental health was amazing, and it was evident that this is a subject they are all extremely passionate about! They also spoke about how their experiences with sport in the army, and on a competitive team sport level, have helped them to relieve stress within their lives.
I am fighting depression and anxiety head on and look forward to getting my Head together with others to talk about mental health and reduce the stigma associated around mental health problems!