My name is Eleanor and I am Head of Customer Services at Newydd Housing Association. As a Time to Change Champion, here’s my story.
As cheesy as it sounds, I love coming to work every day! My job can be very stressful, you can be thrown into a situation you have no time to prepare for. I have a fantastic team I need to look out for and support, and it is my responsibility to ensure we as an organisation are delivering excellent customer service to our customers. I thrive off the variety and pressure that this role brings. However, this hasn’t always been the case.
I think looking back I have always been an anxious person. I’m the type of person who needs a plan. I like to think about all the possible outcomes to a situation so I can be prepared.
My anxiety started to become unmanageable whilst at University. There was no big incident that caused the tipping point, it was more a cumulation of small things until I just couldn’t take any more. The final straw for me was when I got heat stroke on holiday. I was very unwell, and it was the day we were due to fly home. I was so anxious about being unwell during the flight home I think I went through all the worst-case scenarios, working myself up more and more to the point I very nearly didn’t get on the flight. I got home and the anxiety seemed to spread to every area of my life. Things that I used to do so easily without giving it a second thought petrified me.
I struggled to get the train to go to my lectures because I knew once I was on the train, I wouldn’t be able to get off. If I did make it in, I struggled to go into my lectures, because I felt trapped until the lecture ended an hour later. I struggled to go out for family meals because I knew I would have to sit there for the entirety of the meal. There were several occasions I went into a restaurant ordered my food and then had to leave because I was feeling physically sick and having panic attacks.
My anxiety was very physical. I would have bad stomach cramps and it constantly felt like someone was standing on my chest with their hands around my throat. There must have been something physically wrong with me and I had a hard time accepting that the physical issues were a symptom of my anxiety. I felt totally helpless and exhausted going around and around in my head trying to figure out what was triggering my anxiety. Even though I was surrounded by all the people I loved I would feel completely alone because nobody seemed to be able to help me.
When I look back, I can see that I could have got off the train at the next stop, I could have walked out of the lecture at any point, there was nothing wrong with me telling my family I wasn’t having a good day and relieving the pressure I was putting myself under by not going for the meal. I understand now that my anxiety is based on a loss of control. As soon as I realised this, I began to feel better. I took back control of situations and made decisions based on what I could do, not what I thought I should be doing.
I have accepted that I am a person who suffers with anxiety and that’s ok. I am no different to a person who suffers with a physical illness such as asthma. It’s something I have, not who I am. Sometimes I may have a flare up, but I also know it will pass as quickly as it started if I follow the coping mechanisms, I have put in place for myself.
There are a variety of coping mechanisms and support available, but for me it was about removing myself from stressful situations and taking back control of my wellbeing. When I feel myself getting anxious, I will take the dog for a long walk and think through what I am finding stressful and what I can do to relieve this. I let people know how I am feeling so that I don’t have the extra pressure of having to pretend I’m ok. My anxiety no longer defines or controls me. By sharing my experience I hope it will help someone who is going through something similar and doesn’t know where to turn. I am one of Newydd’s Time to Change Champions and we are a group made up of Newydd staff to help support positive mental health.
If you, or someone you know is going through a period of poor mental health please do not hesitate in talking to someone, there is help available.