Three of our tenants share their real-life stories of mental health challenges*:
Lee found that volunteering helped him get back his confidence after experiencing anxiety and depression.
I had anxiety and depression in the past due to several things going wrong in my life, all at once. I had to take some time off work and I had some Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT). This helped me learn how to stop negative ways of thinking, which is what happens with depression. I also learnt how to use mindfulness to help with anxiety.
I started doing some volunteer work for a charity and eventually gained enough confidence to go back to work full time. It was quite daunting to start with, but with time and experience I became much less anxious about everything.
That was 10 years ago and since then my mental health has been much better.
I find regular exercise very good for my mental health and make sure to eat healthy food and get plenty of rest. I talk with my family if I am struggling and would encourage everyone to talk if they are having problems.
By opening up about my mental health experiences, I want to raise awareness and reduce the stigma around this subject. I have done this because I don’t like to think of people suffering in silence and I want to encourage people to reach out if things are difficult.
Many people experience mental health problems, and this can be hard to talk about, especially at work. I want to encourage people to talk about mental health in the same way they talk about physical health. I think it is important for people to know that, if they are struggling, they are not alone and there is lots of support available to help.
Lee, Broadland Housing tenant
Penny’s employer, family and friends were very supportive once she opened up about how she was feeling.
When I turned 40, I started to feel unwell. I had a feeling of dread and anxiety that seemed to last all day. I spoke to my doctor, who diagnosed generalised anxiety and suggested anti-depressants. He asked if I felt well enough to go to work. I work as a hairdresser. At the time I thought it was important to try to keep working if I could because I do enjoy my job.
I spoke to my boss. She was really understanding and asked me what support I needed at work. I asked her if I could slightly reduce my working hours, as I felt tired a lot. This was agreed and the reduced hours helped me to make more time for myself.
I started doing regular keep fit, which I really enjoy. This helps me to relax and improves my self-esteem. I have met some nice friends through doing this.
I also spoke to my family about how I was feeling and started chatting to my friends about what was going on. At home the family started to help out more and some of my friends were helpful too, arranging for nights out to keep me socialising, even when I wasn’t really in the mood.
I realised that I didn’t value myself enough. I had feelings that I didn’t deserve my family or friends. I started to challenge these feelings, telling myself that I am worth it and I do have lots to offer.
Although I still have bad days occasionally, I feel that I am learning to cope and have found some good ways to look after myself. I couldn’t have done this without the support of my family. I would always recommend that people reach out to someone if they are feeling bad.
Penny, Broadland Housing tenant
Stuart took up cycling, explored meditation and made time to chat. All these changes have helped to reduce his anxiety and depression.
I have suffered with anxiety and depression for several years. Last year things seemed to get worse than usual. The main problem was that I would wake up early and my mind would start going round and round. This made me feel like I was in a fog during the day, I couldn’t focus on my job and I found it hard to make decisions.
I spoke to my doctor about increasing my anti-depressants dose and I started to research ways to help myself.
The Five Ways to Wellbeing (keep active, connect, take notice, learn, and give) are becoming quite well-known now. I realised I had been neglecting some of these areas in my life.
I started doing some mindfulness meditation, using online guided meditations. These really helped me to unwind. After a leg injury I had stopped exercising. This affected my fitness and the social side of things. I began doing some cycling with a friend, this helped a lot.
On the school run I started making more of an effort to talk to other parents, where before I had been in too much of a fog to bother.
In time I found using the five ‘pillars’ of wellbeing was a good structure for my life and this has helped me to cope. Along with good support from my wife, I have started to feel more positive and this has really helped my sleep. I do occasionally still wake up early, but now I get up and do something positive, rather than lying there struggling with my thoughts.
I would suggest that if you are finding things tough, to research mental health and try to find something that works for you. We are all different, but keep looking and you’ll find something that will help.
*Names have been changed to protect tenants’ identity; images for illustration purposes only