"WELCOME to the club” my friend said facetiously when I finally opened up about the issues I had been experiencing with my mental health.

Not only did it feel good to share but even better to confide in someone who had faced the same difficulties I had with depression and anxiety, battled through the stigma and come out the other side even stronger.

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week in the UK, a campaign which is close to my heart.

Through the chaos of lockdown and working from home, I was still able to reflect on my journey which has allowed me to reach a place where I was finally ready to share with others.

Separately anxiety and depression can cripple you but dealing with them at the same time has left me numb.

There’s no other way for me to describe experiencing all these emotions at once while fighting a continuous sensation of lowness.

My parents have always described me as an anxious child, telling me there was no in-between with my mood.

While I might not remember everything from my childhood, this resonates with me and is something I have had to learn how to control from heavy breathing, shaking hands to full-blown panic attacks in the middle of the night.

There’s no way to determine if something that happened in my teens triggered my first episodes of depression.

Despite dealing with severe anxiety from a young age, I had a happy childhood, came from a good home, was offered a decent education and was taken on family holidays.

Perhaps having to deal with a chronic physical health condition since I was four years old or watching my dad take seriously ill twice in the space of 24 months were contributing factors but I’ve always tried to remain positive in these situations.

Glasgow Times:

I have had to accept my fate with the “black dog”. Speaking out about this is not something that has come easily.

To start with I was confused. I was embarrassed, I hadn’t had a hard life, so what would I have to constantly feel down about? What gave me the right to

feel this way when others had it so much worse than I did?

At its worst, my depression felt like someone was repeatedly punching me in the stomach and once that ended, I was left feeling paralysingly numb.

I would become agitated and it became harder to do things, everything seemed forced and I just wanted to be left alone. It was safer and easier for me to hide away rather than face my problems.

On a good day, I would still feel down but didn’t seem to be facing the same physical pain.

I pushed the people closest to me away as I felt like a burden and was too scared to face the outside world.

When I did manage to go out, I would force a smile on my face so that no-one would know what I was really going through – which I still do.

After years of denial and refusing to open up about my mental health I finally confided in my family. They were relieved to see me talk about my struggles.

Eventually I managed to confide in some of my friends, who shared their own experiences, and together we realised that our story is not over yet.

They encouraged me to tell my partner, when we first started dating, which was a scary thought for many reasons.

I was worried he might not believe me or want to be with me because of this. But instead he held my hand and told me that he would do everything he could to

make my depression easier on me.

When I’m having a bad day, he promises to hug me when I get home, or he will even come and collect me from the office if I can’t face the crowded trains.

It has become easier to tell people about the struggles I face, but I still worry people won’t understand or worse still judge me.

Mental Health Awareness Week is a wonderful way to acknowledge how others

are feeling but we must remember that these conditions don’t just last for seven days but can impact you for a lifetime.

Let’s support one another going forward, listen to each other and together we might be able to overcome the stigma that still surrounds mental health today.