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Mental Health Awareness Week 2021

Downtowns own Sales Executive, KJ Clarke shares her own experiences to highlight the importance of Mental Health Awareness Week.
KJ Clarke

KJ Clarke

The 6th April 2013 is a day I will never forget. The pains in my chest were excruciating, my left arm had shooting pains, my lips and tongue tingling and I couldn’t see straight. My body felt lifeless and like jelly. Something I had never experienced before. I was rushed to the hospital and strapped up to heart monitors, and tests were then underway for hours.. All I kept saying was, am I going to die?

Fast forward 24 hours and I was home taking beta blockers to help keep my heart rate stable. I wasn’t having a heart attack, I wasn’t dying, I had my first anxiety attack, and this was the start of my long journey ahead with ‘severe healthy anxiety’. I didn’t know what mental health meant, I didn’t know what anxiety was and I certainly didn’t have a clue how this all happened so quickly.

I could write a book on what the next 5 years looked like, suffering with around 12 anxiety attacks a day, sleeping with my TV on and setting an alarm every hour just in case I was dying, not even being able to go to the bathroom alone just in case I died, and not driving just in case I died. Then one night I collapsed. I woke up on the floor lip pouring and my face cut open. I did not want to be here anymore, I was exhausted, I was fed up, I was sick of fighting all day every day – but I was so scared of dying. My mind was a dark place, and I knew I needed to do something.

I had a Mental Health nurse who I saw weekly and had CBT therapy too. This helped me to talk about the irrational fears and thoughts in my head and assured me that I wasn’t going to die, or end up in a mental home which I was SO convinced was going to happen to me.

3 months later the horrible voice in my head was gone and I had just completed my last therapy session. 9 months later I took my last tablet and then off I went into this big world alone again, with a mission to help someone else. Do not get me wrong – I’m not cured. Anxiety lives with me every single day but my attacks are less frequent.

People told me I would get better, but when you are going through it yourself you will never see that light at the end of the tunnel. It isn’t there. It took so much strength and motivation, but I found it.  It’s now been 8 years and I am so grateful and proud that I got through it all and I have friends, family members, even strangers on social media who message me now and that makes my heart so full.

This is why for me; Mental Health Awareness Week is SO important. When I got diagnosed with Severe Anxiety and Depression no one had heard of it really or understood it, and if they did, no one spoke about it. People who have not experienced it still won’t understand, but just knowing you’re not alone means so much to someone who is struggling – that’s all I wanted. And because of that, I will continue to be the person that I so desperately needed myself.

Words by KJ Clarke

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