By Sasha Treharne
Founder of @thistalkco
My struggles with mental health started when I was around the age of 15 and in secondary school, manifesting in anxious feelings and struggling to deal with my emotions. But in recent years, whilst studying at uni, my mental health really hit rock bottom.
Although I was studying a subject that I loved and doing well at university, my anxiety kept growing. I felt alone despite being surrounded by amazing friends. I just felt like I couldn’t discuss it with anyone. Even though I was educated about mental health, having completed my degree in Psychology, I was still very much in denial about what I was going through. I knew I had the tell-tale signs of anxiety and depression, I knew that I needed help, but I pushed it under the rug.
Eventually it got to the point where I didn’t want to get out of bed. I considered dropping out of uni, grew apart from my friends and didn’t feel like myself anymore. I felt like I didn’t belong - that I didn’t want to be here. It’s only by looking back, and being out the other side, that I can realise how much of a dark hole I was in. After months of struggling, I finally reached out to my doctor, who put me on anti-anxiety medication.
The first month of being on pills was awful. I spent most of my time sleeping and felt like a zombie when I was awake. I would meet up with friends and not be able to remember it properly a week later. But as the weeks went on I started to feel better. The journey was not easy, but the crying stopped. The dark thoughts lessened. I started to feel more and more like my old self.
My energy levels and confidence picked up just in time to be able to finish my dissertation and study for my final year exams. I felt like my mental health was improving by the day. Once I had been on my medication for a few months I decided to start therapy. A fight with my mum, which I don’t think has happened since I was a child, was the final straw that pushed me into going to therapy. I had anger and feelings that I hadn’t dealt with from my childhood that needed to be addressed.
As weeks passed in therapy I was able to start telling myself “it’s okay to be feeling this way”. Looking back, I think it took a long time before I felt that my anxiety and depression were not unreasonable or unjustified. I was unable to link what had happened when I was a child to how I was feeling as an adult.
But as more tears were cried, and more discussions had, I stopped being so hard on myself. I am now in a position to be able to connect the feelings I have now to the experiences I have had in the past. Your mental health is always justified, whether people tell you it is or not.
Now that I am out the other side I can whole-heartedly say I don’t think I would be here if I hadn’t had conversations with the people I love about how I was feeling. It’s not easy to have those conversations. The fear of upsetting your family, or people not understanding is real. The fear of being vulnerable and honest is sometimes overwhelming. But discussing these things is so important.
Although society has become better at recognising mental health issues, and opening up the narrative surrounding mental health, there is still a way to go. Despite my education in psychology, the openness of my friends and family and support along the way, I still felt a stigma associated with how I was feeling. I still felt alone.
In light of how I feel now, and what I have personally been through, I decided to set up my organisation, this talk, to facilitate conversations around mental health. By partnering with captivating speakers, we aim to bring awareness to people through real-life, lived-in experiences of mental illness and well-being.
The last year has been spent setting the foundations for what we hope to do.
On our online platforms we have featured nearly 100 vlogs and blogs from people of all backgrounds, all careers, all walks of life.
These have shone a light on all the different struggles that people experience, and how they have chosen to deal with these.
But, the main aim of this talk is to raise awareness through collaborative discussions and workshops. By bringing speakers into corporations, schools and universities to discuss their personal experiences we hope to de-stigmatise the subject for all of those who will listen.
This talk is about providing meaning to my experience; even if one person in one talk changes their relationship with their mental health and feels empowered to open up, this talk has achieved its objective.