It's ok, not to be ok...

Today is World Mental Health Day 


This week we have been sharing our mental health experiences and asking for yours... we have been positively overwhelmed by the response and felt that summarising them would be an injustice to you guys who have been so open and brave to share your stories. For this reason we have decided to send the responses over several emails, for the next 3 days. We hope you will take the time to read these stories as some are extremely personal and brave. Our community is so diverse and this resonates in the emails - it shows how mental health and wellbeing is so different for all of us.


Some of the stories shared are deeply moving so we must advise that if you are feeling particluarly vulnerable, or feel that your mental wellbeing is suffering at the momnet, approach with care. We do feel that every email is important to read but it is also important you look after your own head space so please stop reading at any time if you feel that it's triggering an emotional response you can't manage in that moment. Then come back to it when you are ready....


We couldn't be more proud of each and every one of you and we hope that, in some way or another, SMASH has helped you focus/pay attention to/ improve your mental wellbeing since you became a part of this wonderful, strong and inspiring community 


Now it's over to you guys, our amazing SMASH community, and your stories.


Some stories have been asked to be kept anonymous and some have specifically asked to have their name attached. We are starting with Simon (Ash's husband)...



Mental Health...Even the words get you thinking about so called ‘crazy people’ locked up in white jackets, but its a stigma that needs to change as over the past few years I have realised that so many people are affected in some way or another, and most, desperately trying to carry on and keep it hidden.  I mean we all get depressed and upset dont we?... We all have a fear of new and challenging situations and we are all anxious at times, social events, meeting new people etc..


So why is my situation any different or worse than anyone elses?.. why would I say I have a ‘mental health issue’...maybe I just need to ‘get over it’...’pull myself together’.  These are all thoughts that make it so difficult to really come to terms with the fact that sometimes you need to forget everyone else, forget ‘normal’ and focus on you... how am I feeling!? What is going to make ME better!?


Until a few years ago I had a very different mindset of the term ‘Mental Health’... I guess nobody wants to admit they want help, even to themselves.. we are all so proud and play it down and lock it away.  I guess some can pin-point what exactly caused their mental health to deteriorate.  For me, although my panic attacks are relatively recent, I think it was a series of events stemming from Childhood and the mounting pressures of adult life that all came to a head.  None of which I care to go into, but all of which I dare say had the resulting affect years down the line... that point where it all comes crashing down without warning.


My panic/anxiety attacks came from nowhere and certainly not at a time when I would have expected them.  I feel that your mental state can only be buried for so long until, like I say, without warning you break.  Your mind decides to take matters into its own hands in desperation to get the attention it has needed for so long....


I was on a business trip in China... not a particularly stressful one looking back, in a showroom in the middle of the day while working, all of a sudden I felt dizzy to the point that I had to sit down.. I felt sick, I had a headache and pains in my chest.  I literally thought I was having a heart attack.


I couldn’t be around anyone so had to walk away... I felt isolated and completely out of control and away from home and any kind of support.  I was scared as I had no idea what was happening.  On the way back to the hotel I was telling my colleague that I really felt ill and that I could feel tingling in the veins in my arms and my heart was pounding and I was sweating and incredibly hot!!


He turned to me and said calmly; I think you have had a panic attack...


I looked at him like he was crazy and said no, it cant be that as I am having physical symptoms not just mental...  thankfully he had suffered from panic attacks also and told me that it was definitely that and it affects people physically as well as mentally..


I was half relieved as I really thought I was going to die.  But at the same time I was completely overwhelmed with what had just happened and why...  like I say, It came from nowhere!  I wasn’t particularly stressed at that time...  I managed to calm myself down and stop thinking that I was at deaths door.  I started to feel a bit better.  But.  That was the beginning of my ongoing battle with anxiety attacks...


Even now; four years on I have attacks; seemingly from nowhere and without even being in any kind of stressful situation.  I can wake up in the middle of the night and have a full blown attack.


I have come to recognise and listen to my body more when this happens and can talk myself down more easily, but still amazes me what the mind can do to your body in an attack.. physically being sick, heart pounding so hard and fast, not being able to breath or swallow, sweating to the point you have it running down your face, pains in your body... anywhere!  Literally anything your mind can do to grab your attention and convince you that you are not in control.


My mind acts up like a 2yr old screaming and shouting and doing anything it can to get attention and fool you into thinking something is really wrong.


I calm myself down.. I look at the situation I am in and focus on my breathing to stop all the thoughts screaming in my head of all what is wrong with me (this time)... and I take long slow deep breaths... slowly, sometimes after an hour or so, I calm down and start feeling better.


Meditation is my anchor.  Although I have had an on/off relationship with meditation for over 10yrs I have always treated it as a ‘cure’ its my go to tool when I am having an attack, when I am angry or any other emotional state.  I use it to ground me and bring me back to the current moment when my mind has ran off dragging my body behind.  Even though I do have times when I meditate religiously every day for a certain period .. I always stop. ??


I dont really know why.  It helps me; I know it does.  I even believe it’s something that can prevent anxiety attacks.  But I just cant seem to make it a daily ongoing part of my life.  Maybe in the same way people have a stop-start relationship with exercise or a diet?


I feel that my anxiety is like an awoken beast that is now part of me and will probably never go away.  Although I feel Its something that I have to live with, I do feel that it doesnt have to control me.  In fact I think it has helped in a strange way....


It has taught me that expressing my emotions doesnt make me weak, I have learned that the words ‘I LOVE YOU’ should be spoken as much as possible... I have learned that I don’t always have to be in control and most importantly I have learned that its ok, to not be ok...