Our stories

This story-sharing project, started in October 2020 during Mental Illness Awareness Week in the UK, is a collection of personal stories from people who have experienced mental illness – whether that’s themselves, as a carer, or as part of their line of work. As many as 9 in 10 of us have experienced mental illness in some way, whether that’s first-hand or supporting someone we care about, and the COVID-19 pandemic has meant that more people are struggling to cope. This project wouldn’t be possible without the input of courageous people sharing their personal stories. Their doing so helps chip away at the stigma about mental illness that still unfortunately exists today and often prevents people from seeking help. If you are struggling yourself, the hope is that these stories will show you that you are not alone. If you are caring for someone with a mental illness, you too are not alone.

No two stories will be the same despite sharing a common theme. All of us have struggled in some way but some of us have privilege and access to treatment that others don’t have. I hope that people can learn from each other that within mental illness there is a huge diversity of experience. Privilege plays a huge part in whether and how we fall ill and whether and how we recover. That said, the courage it takes to live with mental illness and fight on anyway should be celebrated, and I hope we can do that here too.

New submissions are more than welcome. If you would like to share your own story, you can find out how to get involved here.

Jess – London, UK

“It’s only been in the last couple of years that I have noticed the pattern of my mental health is perhaps different than those around me. For example, majority of my days are very high days but they also come with a few very low days. I’m not sure that there is a middle ground really…”
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Julie – Kent, UK

“Coming back to work after 2 weeks of bereavement leave is tough at the best of times. I made all the right self-care choices (with a nudge from my counsellor) to not personally deliver training and coaching for 6 months, and to allow my business to grow organically rather than drive it forward. All good advice I know, because as a resilience coach I am always telling clients not to drive forward and try to build something on shaky foundations…”
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#grief #getting-help #lockdown #work

Donna Marie – Hertfordshire, UK

“It’s transformed the way I feel and see myself, I now love the body I’m in. I feel so impacted because I see my body and the work we’ve created as an ever evolving canvas and I’m still amazed how I got here. I’ve broken through fears, broken barriers and overcome big obstacles and still to this day I continue to do so as I embody my yoga practice off and on the mat…”
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#self-love #lockdown

Nate – UK

“Another night out after a long week of working in a dark room, pushing things around and telling myself that ‘a monkey could do this job’ or that ‘I wasn’t good enough’. The stories. Damn, those self-deprecating stories….”
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#anxiety #getting-help #recovery

Chiedu – London, UK

“I never realised I had a phobia, or shall I say I stayed in denial about it for over 20 years. I had all the classic signs triggered in my body; clenched fists, racing beat and fast intense breathing. Still I hadn’t joined the dots up and put it down to “silly me getting worked up over nothing!”…”
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John – United States

“Since the age of 10, I’ve known I was different. I grew up in the church so I thought I was broken because I was gay. I battled depression, self harm, suicidal thoughts until about the age of 16. I used to pray that God would fix me. I finally realized that God wasn’t changing me because I wasn’t broken…”
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#lgbt #depression #self-harm #suicide

Anonymous – London, UK

“This year has been incredibly challenging for many people, including those (like myself) who have been lucky enough to not have suffered from mental illness or be struck by bouts of bad mental health in the past…”
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#support #lockdown

Anonymous – United States

“The most important lesson I’ve learned thus far about mental health: ask for help. I’ve struggled with grief, anxiety, and self worth throughout my life. I considered making an appointment with a therapist for years before amassing the courage to actually make the appointment…”
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#grief #anxiety #getting-help

Priya – London, UK

“I have struggled with my weight since I was little, always yo-yoing from skinny to overweight. I was always trying some new diet and getting angry with myself for not being able to stick to it. I always ended up where I started. I really struggle with binge eating, and it gets a lot worse when I try and restrict myself on diets. It definitely makes my depression worse as well. But when I look in the mirror and hate what I see it’s hard not to turn to dieting. It’s always the same… starve myself, binge, feel guilty, repeat…”
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#eating-disorders #depression #family

Kristen – United States

“I’ve struggled with mental illness my whole life, and was finally diagnosed with Bipolar. During the covid lockdown, I struggled with school, a 60lb weight gain, and depression…”
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Deanne – United States

“My first real bout with depression occurred in 1998 after my father passed away.  He died the day after my birthday, right as I was about to finish school and then head off to university in the autumn.  His death, along with the life changes that were taking place, left me in a very dark place for probably a year.  I muddled through, largely on my own, as it was not something that was really discussed in my family, nor in my circle of friends…”
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#depression #grief #family #suicide

Tim – Suffolk, UK

“I grew up in an era where mental health was not a topic on the ‘common agenda’. It simply wasn’t discussed. As a child, I understood that people were either ‘normal’ or ‘loony’ and if ‘loony’ they were locked up and definitely best avoided. How ridiculous, but I knew no better and just accepted that was how it was and didn’t think about it…”
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#support #work

Holly – Bedford, UK

“For the first time in 5 years I’m not battling with chronic pain. I injured myself quite significantly playing rugby in 2015. Logically I knew that the pain was constant but after a certain amount of time I got used to it and stopped noticing that I was in pain 24/7. I had pins and needles in my foot all the time, shooting pains radiating down my leg and any clothes that were tight on it would feel like hot needles. No matter how I stood, sat or lay, pain was my ever persistent companion…”
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#pain #addiction #lockdown #recovery

Dan – Toronto, Canada

“BPD affects nearly every part of my life. It means I feel lonely all the time but struggle to maintain relationships, and it heightens my emotional response to everything. Instead of happy, I’m euphoric; instead of sad, I’m suicidal; and instead of nervous, I’m hyperventilating in my bathroom. I manage to stay functioning because I have a sub-type called “quiet borderline”. This means I internalise things and withdraw completely instead of lashing out…”
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Anonymous – London, UK

“I have been on antidepressants for 10 years on and off. I first went on them in sixth form when I was really depressed and suicidal and I remember being so ashamed of it, like it was this dirty secret that would ruin my life if anyone found out. It wasn’t even like I had a bad time at school or anything, I just thought I would lose all my friends if they knew. I didn’t take any time off school even though I probably should have, I talked myself into thinking I wasn’t really ill just because it was in my head, but I couldn’t focus on anything and my grades suffered really badly…”
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#depression #medication

Anonymous – UK

“I am in my early 70s (so not young) but still grappling with what is going on within me and without me. In late 2019, I was diagnosed with Anhedonia; a diagnosis which like many diagnoses merely puts a name to an assorted set of symptoms which the patient may have been aware of for years. It felt good to have the condition named though, if only to realise that others have also experienced what I have been experiencing since my teens…”
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Anonymous – London, UK

“I found being in lockdown really hard, like so many others. Before it started, my mental health had been great, probably the best it had been in years, and so part of me was surprised that I found lockdown as hard as I did. Being in London made me feel trapped and I struggled to stay calm. Most days I was unable to leave the house, and when I tried walking I often had panic attacks a few minutes in. My mouth would go dry, my heart would race, I would get pins and needles in my hands, I’d feel really dizzy and like someone was standing on my chest…”
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#anxiety #lockdown #recovery