I’ve found that one of the problems with anxiety, is that the panic attacks are sometimes triggered by situations I can’t control. The actions of others can suddenly and without warning start the panic and the sensation of feeling overwhelmed seeps in.
You want to help, you want to sort it and fix it, but you can’t. It’s not your situation, and it’s a problem you can’t fix, however much you want to.
The Westminster terror attacks happened and that unsettled feeling descended across the country I live in, and also on me.
I wanted to protect everyone I loved, to put them in a bubble and never let them out. I wanted that feeling of fear to disappear, and the tight knot to loosen.
Anxiety like that hits straight away. It doesn’t build up, but it hits and takes control straight away. You feel helpless, you want answers, and you want someone to say “Don’t worry it will be ok”.
I realise that I’m now an adult and have to face up to the fact I live in a world where there are people who are intent on hurting others, and want to destroy the peace that so many people have built up.
As I watched the 6 ‘o’ clock news and saw the events that had unfolded that day, my beautiful 4 year old came running up to me full of excitement, pointing at the sky shouting “It’s orange. Mummy. The sky is orange”. At that moment a change happened.
In that moment I saw the world through her eyes. The innocence that we all once had, but that time had taken away, was looking at me with these big blue eyes. I looked out the window at the orange sky.
I had been too pre-occupied in the horrors in the world to appreciate the beauty in the world. In that moment I felt such love for my daughter that, when I hugged her, I asked her to change the world to which she agreed.
I’m not sure she understood the responsibility she had taken on but she hadn’t said “no”, so there was hope.
My anxiety had melted away. The fear had gone and was replaced by hope, and that feeling of needing to make the world a safer place for her came in. The control was back along with the appreciation of life and it released the fear and panic that was there.
I know as a parent that one day I will have to let my daughter into this world and tell her of the bad things going on the world around us, but for now I don’t want to ruin it. I don’t want to take away the innocence of believing in the magic, or give her worries that she doesn’t need. We take for granted being young whilst we are young, and only appreciate it when we‘re no longer that age.
It shows me that although my anxiety can come on suddenly, it can disappear just as quickly and that sometimes it is out of your control. But that’s ok, as you’ll always have the balance; you just either have to wait for it, or find it.
My dad is the first man I ever fell in love with and he has been with me through everything.
He was my first superhero, the greatest magician and best pancake maker I had ever met. As an adult he held my arm as he walked me down the aisle, and I remember the look on his face holding my new-born daughter for the first time.
Alongside my mum, he has been a pillar of strength who has supported me throughout my life.
As I grow older, I see more of myself in him. We share the same sense of humour, we’re both creative, and most importantly we both despise Brussels sprouts.
In 2013 we’d noticed that Dad wasn’t quite himself. He’d started to shuffle when he walked, which we put down to him needing to hitch his trousers up. Mum said that he’d been getting a bit forgetful, but we put that down to “senior moments”.
Then he mentioned seeing a dog in the room at night, or that the wardrobe was on fire. My parents had never owned a dog, and the wardrobe was most definitely not on fire.
When Dad was diagnosed with Dementia with Lewy bodies and Parkinson’s disease, the news hit our family hard.
I was pretty ill-educated about Dementia with Lewy Bodies and Parkinson’s as I suspect most people who haven’t had any personal experience are. I originally brushed it off, mostly likely being in some form of denial. “He will be fine. This won’t affect him. He’s my dad, and things like this don’t happen to my dad”.
Over the past four years we’ve watched how the dementia has really started to affect him. He is still Dad and in my mind he always will be. No illness is going to take that away from me. We take each day as it comes. We adapt and we cherish the moments, and the memories of good days.
As well as the impact of the diagnosis, we also saw the toll it took on my dad’s mental health and the rest of the family’s outlook.
Knowing what was to come had a pretty devastating result on my dad’s ability to remain positive; both for his own sense of identity and also the worry of what burdens he would be putting on my mum and the rest of the family.
Being diagnosed with a life-limiting condition is just one piece of the jigsaw. It’s only once you add in the depression, the anxiety and the guilt do you start to see the bigger picture and the true impact.
And it’s the whole family who are affected, not just Dad.
In many ways the impact on your mental health is greater than the illness itself, but admitting you have a problem is difficult. For too long poor mental health was something that you weren’t meant to share with anyone. Especially as a carer of someone with a condition, you’re expected to be “the strong one”.
I want people to be honest about what they have, and feel comfortable and confident in saying “I struggle with mental illness and I need help”, rather than hiding it away and allowing it to control them.
So I wanted to start something that captured people’s imagination and attention.
I had already done fundraising for Mind in the past, hosting “Crafternoon” events, but I wanted to do something bigger to create awareness for mental health. So I launched a social media campaign.
The “Mind’s Eye Challenge” was an idea that had sat in my own mind for a couple of years, but really wasn’t sure whether I could launch it as a social media charity campaign and make it work.
I spoke to a charity fundraiser at Mind for guidance and their advice was simply to go for it; they’d support me, but this was my idea.
What would be the worst that could happen? I decided that if people were willing to throw a bucket of iced water over their heads for charity, then in the age where the selfie is so popular that taking a picture of your eyes should be straightforward.
So a few weeks later I launched the Mind’s Eye Challenge campaign, and have started to make that difference to support and educate those on mental health.
Mind’s Eye Challenge is firstly for my dad, and that by telling his story that I’m leaving a legacy in his name. But it’s also to let others know that if you’re on the receiving end of bad news that it will impact on your state of mind, irrespective of whether you’re the one with diagnosis or someone who loves them.
There is no stigma, there’s no reason to hide it, and there is help out there when you need it.