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Laura’s Story – Connoisseur of mental illness

Twitter: Laura Bartley

Blogger @metrouk

Contributor to @BegumNadiya #AnxietyAndMe.

Part of @thebusk fam.

Opinions my own.

One of my favourite quotes is “nothing changes if nothing changes” – it reminds me that if I want to feel differently then I have to DO something different. 

One of the best things you can do for your mental health and well-being is to build resilience. Don’t wait until you’re in a place of crisis; take steps towards building your resilience and you will be more able to cope with whatever life throws at you. 

Self-care isn’t all about taking baths and having a glass of wine, sometimes it’s hard things like going to therapy and talking about your feelings. 

When I first started talking about my mental illness, I was worried how people would react. But I’ve had an overwhelmingly positive reaction and I’m so glad I began talking. It’s so helpful to share your experiences because mental illness is SO common; with 1 in 4 people living with a mental illness, you’re not alone and by chatting about things you’re helping yourself and others to be more open and honest. 

It’s amazing to part of a community of people that openly talk about mental health and well-being. Everyone acknowledges that they’re things they find difficult, and it’s okay to have a bad day. There’s no judgement and you can feel safe as a group of people who are learning to take better care of themselves. It’s a work in progress and I’m always learning. 

Meeting new people is a great way to build your confidence and make new friends. I usually find that you have more in common with each other than you first thought! Loneliness can creep up on you and it’s important to remember that small steps are a great start. 

I’ve tried mindfulness in lots of different ways – with apps, at therapy, listening to recordings, with yoga and Pilates, even just while I’m walking the dog. It takes practice but is absolutely worth it. It might sound difficult, but mindfulness is basically just being present in your surroundings. We spend a lot of time absorbed by technology, or our jobs, or lost in anxious thoughts, and mindfulness gives your brain a break from all those things. Try it out and find a way that works for you. I also love that you can’t get it wrong!  

When my mental illness stopped me from working, I looked into volunteering and it’s definitely one of the most rewarding ways to spend your time! I’ve volunteered for a mental health charity, a homelessness charity, and a community orchard project. I’ve used the skills I already had to help and learnt new things too. I’ve met people from all different backgrounds, who all want to help so you’ve already got that in common. Volunteering has less pressure than paid work, so I felt able to do it when I wasn’t well enough to work, and I’ve carried on even now I’m back at work. I would recommend volunteering to everyone, even if it’s only an hour a week. 

It’s easy to underestimate the importance of relationships to our emotional and physical well-being. There are all kinds of relationships, not just partners or family; friends, colleagues, neighbours, people you see on the commute, people you play sport with, and not even people – our relationships with our pets are very important too! Learning how to build positive relationships is massively beneficial to our well-being and especially our mental health. 

When I first started suffering from anxiety, I thought I was dying. It was terrifying and I had no idea what was happening to me. The more I learnt about what was happening to me, the less I felt afraid of the anxiety. I read books, went to courses, learnt how to ask for help, and had lots of counselling and therapy. I’ve put a lot of work into my well-being as I came to realise that the better I looked after myself, the easier it was to deal with the anxiety. I now manage my anxiety well and have a part-time job that I love, a small zoo of animals that give me responsibility and purpose, and I’m able to do lots of things I thought I’d never do again. Never underestimate the importance of good well-being and learning skills to help you cope when life gets tough. 

Laura x