Gemma, 33, Leicester, UK

“My name is Gemma; I live in Leicester, England and this is my story about anxiety.

It started around two years ago, I wasn’t sure what it was, but I was feeling down and nothing seemed to help. I was still able to get up for work every day and still able to take part in hobbies I enjoyed, with a ‘smile’ on my face, which made it difficult to detect what was ‘wrong’ with me. I found socialising difficult, but would still go to social events and when there I either stayed for just a short while or just sat pretending I was ok.

My dad and his partner lived in Cornwall and it is one of my favourite places to visit, but on a trip to see them I pretended I had a headache and just stayed in bed all day and didn’t want to do anything with them. I would blame my friends for not caring and would get annoyed if they didn’t post a picture of us together on their Instagram story when we hung out, but they posted photos of other friends. I would be upset if friends didn’t ‘like’ a post or a photo I had tagged them in, so I made the choice to have a break from social media for a short while, which was very helpful.

These things continued to happen, I felt alone even though I was surrounded by amazing friends and family. I would go to family meals and feel anxious about going and didn’t feel like I belonged. I hated arriving to an event by myself, even though the people in there were my really good friends or family. I was feeling sad, but couldn’t explain why.

I made the decision to talk to my doctor about it. She was great and listened to me. She told me I wasn’t depressed and didn’t need to take medication, which I was happy about. She gave me some leaflets about seeing a councillor; I never needed to use them. I left the doctors feeling happier and relieved that I had spoken to someone who didn’t really know me about what was bothering me.

I started to feel better and continued my daily life, but still had moments of sadness and not wanting to do things and being upset about what my friends were or weren’t doing. I decided to take up meditation, thanks to a friend recommending the mindfulness app. I found this really helpful and it worked for me as I used it in the morning before work. I also started doing yoga at home before I went to sleep, following some simple YouTube clips. Alongside these I started reading self-help books which helped me hugely. The ones I read and loved are the Fearn Cotton books, Happy, Quiet and Calm. I found these really useful as they have activities in for you to complete.

As well as these I started swimming. I’ve always enjoyed exercise and feel it is a great way to help relieve stress and feel good about you. I completed some events in the pool and then signed up to an open water swim which I successfully completed last year and I am now signed up to swim the English Channel this year in August.

So reading, meditating, yoga and swimming helped me loads, but the one main thing that has helped me and continues to help me is Church. I became a Christian a year ago, a few months after joining The Junction Church. Becoming part of a church community and following Jesus has helped me in a way I never thought it would. It has given new meaning to my life and has helped me to have a positive outlook on every situation I face. No matter how I’m feeling about anything, I have a chat with God about it and pray to him.

Two years on from realising I have anxiety and not knowing what to do about it, I now know how to handle situations that may make me feel anxious and I am so much happier in everyday life. I unfortunately lost my dad two weeks ago and was worried my mental health would suffer again, but thanks to church, reading, writing, swimming and TALKING about things, I am handling it as well as I can and trying to be strong and positive throughout this difficult time.

I think I am lucky that I have some close friends who have struggled with their mental health, and some that are still dealing with it all; as they understand and we can talk about it all and help each other through it. I suffered in silence for a long time, but I would tell anyone going through a similar situation to simply talk about it, to anybody you feel comfortable with. Talking is so important and together we need to end the stigma about mental health and make the world a happier place.”



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