Lauren, 20, Brighton, UK

I lived in Luton until I was 18, I am now nearly 20 years old living in Brighton. Moving away from home is  probably my greatest achievement to date! I have struggled with my mental health greatly and to some extent still do, just differently. I didn’t leave the house for around two years when I was in my late teens. The only thing that could get me out was if I was physically forced, told I had no choice- doctors appointments, exams. I’d go to school, collapse in the corridor, hyperventilate & get dent home. These days were awful. Worse than ‘normal.’ I’d have multiple panic attacks a day to the point where I’d physically soil myself, faint, be sick and hyperventilate to a point where I could no longer cope. That was normal. Almost everyday for 2 and a half years I had a panic attack- usually four or five. If I managed to make it through one day in a week without one that was an amazing achievement. 

My OCD stemmed from social situations- I had thoughts such as ‘if someone touches me on my left arm and not my right, I will have a panic attack!’ At the time I didn’t understand- there was no way I would ever admit this sort of behaviour.

I became very depressed and it was awful, I lost all my friends. I was prescribed antipsychotics and antidepressants- initially not keen of the idea of putting a 15 year old on such strong medication- it was worth it, it helped to rebalance the chemicals in my brain and helped fulfill me with confidence to take part in my therapy. Medication combined with therapy gave me a life worth living.

Now!! If you met me today and did not know my past, you’d have absolutely no idea. I had 4 years of CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) we focused on the exposure technique and I was put into situations alone until my panic stopped. Now to an anxious person this sounds awful, it was- but it worked. Ofcourse you are never forced to do anything you don’t want to. You’ve got to want to get better. Unfortunately no one can fix things for you- you need to want it fixed yourself. I am sosososo greatful for this type of therapy. I had daily challenges. The guilt of not wanting to let my family or therapist down simply helped me to stick at them. At its worst my challenge would be to open the front door and walk outside, at its best I had to take a bus or navigate my way round central London. They never went smoothly, but with time and repetition these tasks became easier. My family were incredibly supportive despite struggling to understand what was going on. If the willpower of my family was not there, I do not think I’d be where I am today.

My therapy lasted 4 years because I was not honest, I didn’t like to talk. I was too lost to know where to start. In my experience the best time to help yourself get better is in the few minutes or hour of positivity. Trying to approach things when your mindset is not in the right place is tough.

I still have down days, Ofcourse! Life unfortunately is not plain sailing and nothing is ever easy. I still become overwhelmed. I just now know how to spot the signs that I am going downhill. I know it’s okay to sit and feel sad, but you need to get back up and carry on, try something different, talk to people, look after yourself, brush your teeth etc… (writing things down in a big fat brain dump is always super helpful!)

My last ever session of CBT, my therapist said to me – ‘this is the first session I think I’ve ever heard you open up and speak honestly & now it’s the end.’ 

Explaining your own mental illnesses is difficult. People don’t understand what they can’t see. No one feels or thinks the same but people can relate. Now I look back at to how I was at my worst- I think of the people around me, I know they were probably struggling too. It just shows itself in different ways. It’s okay not to be okay!

Things do get better 💜”

You can follow Lauren on her blog or instagram.


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