Sanctuary Housing’s Hull-based Customer Service Officer, Leanne Bottomley, tells her story about dealing with anxiety and depression.
Before the mental health training I received in 2018 through Sanctuary Housing I was very embarrassed by the fact that I suffered from anxiety and depression. There was a limited selection of people who knew about this, and they only knew because they had to. When I was growing up people were not as open about mental health as they are now. It stuck with me and I was scared it would look bad if this was on employment records.
For years I never knew I had anything wrong with me. I thought that it was normal to feel the way I did, that it was normal to panic and feel the need to justify my every move. Even down to calling in sick, I would panic that I would get in trouble or that I was letting people down and they would be angry, or they would think it wasn’t genuine. I know now that this was the anxiety playing its part.
Then the depression would have the complete opposite effect. I wouldn’t care, wouldn’t want to be around people or do anything. I would go straight to bed as soon as I got home from work and ignore everything.
In 2015 I got to a point where I had what I would describe as a breakdown. I was unable to get out of bed or eat. I lost a lot of weight and I was very weak both physically and mentally. This was when I sought some medical help. I didn’t know what else to do, where to turn, or who I could speak to about how I felt as I had no reason as to why I felt this way. I was diagnosed and medicated. My mum was an amazing support through this.
I found it very difficult to talk about or even explain to people who didn’t experience the same. If and when I did, I could see they didn’t understand and I felt as if I sounded dramatic. I wasn’t aware that I was surrounded by people who suffered with mental health in their own ways. So I kept everything bottled up and no matter what I was feeling I would make sure I had a smile on my face and that no one could tell anything was wrong. I didn’t want my mental health to affect how people looked at me.
When I took part in the mental health training with Sanctuary, people in the room started to open up and discuss what they had experienced, and I found myself doing the same. For the first time I didn’t feel I was the only one and knowing this was such a relief. The trainer was able to describe things that I had struggled to explain for years. It was an amazing feeling to know that there was a way to communicate this and a way to help people relate to what I was feeling.
Since the training I have found that I’m no longer embarrassed of the fact that I do suffer and I have reduced the dose of medication that I originally started on. I’m not 100 per cent better, I probably never really will be and I still have good and bad days. But the fact I work for an organisation that takes mental health seriously has made me realise I don’t need to feel ashamed. I still do struggle to speak about it at times but I am now a lot more open about it. I wanted to tell my story to show people how important it is to be open about how you’re feeling. Mental health is nothing to be ashamed about and I would implore anyone not to suffer in silence.
It’s okay not to be okay.