In this Guest Blog Post by Taya Bryant, they write about their own experience with recovering from mental ill health, and how it has impacted their relationships.

It all started for my second year of university, Doctors classified me with depression. However, my mental health didn’t just affect me, but it affected my relationship with families and friends. I kept having arguments with my mother because she didn’t understand. It broke up my love interest relationship because he felt I was ‘too insecure’ with myself and I became distant. I closed off my friends, family and even strangers. My friends noticed how distant I became and even though they would offer to listen, I found it hard to approach them for help.

When I started medicine for my depression, I felt like I was the most distant from everyone. I didn’t speak to anyone for months, not even a text throughout the day as it caused me to go inwards on myself. I didn’t see anyone or go out of the house for weeks. I even lost some friendships because they thought I was ignoring them. This all spiralled and made me feel even worse.

Every individual had different methods to help them keep their mental health stable. Whilst medication didn’t work for me, one service that helped was OTR Bristol (Off the Record). OTR is an organisation that supports young people (ages 11-25) living in Bristol and South Gloucestershire to improve their mental health. They have a wide range of services, from expressing your emotions through art, going on walks, workshops, book clubs and discussions for parents who want to understand their child’s struggle, but I settled on their free one-to-one counselling and “Mind Aid” course

The six weeks counselling helped me process my feelings and actually made me realise methods I already had when I felt an anxiety attack coming on. The counselling sessions helped me talk to my closest of friends; as if talking to stranger was a mini-step for me to talk to people whom I care for. It is always feels like a struggle talk to friends, but once you start and you realise they are there for you, you know there is nothing to be scared about.

Mind Aid was similar to a group therapy; it helped me see that I wasn’t alone in my time of need, and that others were going through a similar situation with me. It was good opportunity to hear other people’s stories and their methods. There were two good techniques Mind Aid taught me that I will forever keep.

One was the breathing and listening technique.

If you felt like your mind is overflowing with thoughts, you would stop what you’re doing, take a deep breathe, just listen to your surroundings, and focus on sounds instead of the thoughts racing through your mind. This was difficult at first, as my mind would get distracted after 2 seconds and go back to the thoughts. But my mentor told me this was normal and all I had to do is take another breath and try again. It’s a short technique but whenever I was in crowded places and felt a bit overwhelmed this technique saved me.

Another technique I have is timetabling a routine (only small one).

For example, I would start by planning a 15 minute walk every Tuesday. As the weeks went on I added more and more to the weekly routine and whenever I completed a week without going off rota I would treat myself. To help you make your own routine, start by making a list of what makes you happy. Let’s say baking pies makes you happy, so once a week you would add bake a pie in one of your weekly rotas. It gave me a sense of goal and purpose for my week, which in result helped me feel more like me.

My self-esteem started to build; I actually started to think more positive thoughts and overall just started to feel more like myself. I am not saying I am “all confidence” now – I’m not, and I still have moments of anxiety taking over. But I can now take small risks without over thinking or feeling overwhelmed (Example- going to a job interview or presentation coming up). I focus more on my skills and likes compared to my dislikes and that’s a big step for me personally.

Most importantly, I’ve started to gain a relationship with myself again.

I’m more able to start trying to build up the relationships around me. My relationships still have a long way to go, as everything always does, however I have a group of friends who I feel supported by every second. It’s even beginning to improve my relationships with my family, and time will tell how that improves.

One of my close friends has helped me the most, even now. I ring him whenever I am feeling even a little bit of sadness and he helps me process my emotions, supports me and understands how I think. He has such a kind and calm matter, it’s like I absorb it when I feel a panic attack coming along. I will always appreciate the timing of when we become close and can’t think of it in any other way now.

It was hard and it took over 6 months to even have a tiny bit of positivity within me again. But with patience, anyone can overcome any situation and help others be aware about mental health and the struggles and stigma that come with it. Just don’t give up.

For more of Taya’s work, check out her blog.

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