Toni, 25, is a LGBT Leader and Mental Health Champion at YMCA Bolton. Below she shares her experiences with depression and anxiety to mark Mental Health Awareness Week ( 8 -14 May).
I was 19 years old when I was diagnosed with depression and later on also struggled with anxiety.
I’d just moved out of my mum’s house and somehow the whole transition to being independent must have been a trigger for me.
I didn’t realise that I have mental health difficulties, it was my partner at the time who pointed out that I was always angry and in a mood and she’s asked me to get help.
I didn’t take it serious and just pushed it aside, but she kept bothering me about it and I eventually went to my GP. When I was told that I have depression, I just wanted it to be ‘fixed’ quickly and opted for medication. I didn’t tell anyone, except my partner, because I felt ashamed and I somewhat felt betrayed by myself.
My GP put me on medication, but I really struggled with the side effects. I’d never had suicidal thoughts before, but the medication made me feel really low so I stopped taking it.
My mental health difficulties put a big strain on my relationships, especially when I was just managing my depression but then had a very serious shoulder injury, which lead me to develop severe anxiety. I was a nightmare to be around, but I just kind of pushed it to the back of my mind and then all of a sudden I started getting these anger outbursts. I’ve never been a violent or angry person but my anxiety made me lash out all the time. I went to get CBT [Cognitive behavioural therapy] for 12 weeks and that was one of the things that helped me through it.
I was lucky that I didn’t have any problems at work, YMCA was great and they did everything they can do to help me. We’re like a big family and working at a YMCA that deals a lot with mental health difficulties has been great.
Although I’m on medication at the moment, my experience with mental health difficulties is helping me a lot in my role as a youth worker and LBGT leader at YMCA Bolton. Supporting other young people has helped me manage my mental health difficulties and I’m currently doing a Level 2 counselling qualification hoping to do one on one counselling sessions in the future.
When I was first diagnosed with mental health difficulties, I didn’t want to talk about it, but I’ve learnt that talking is an important part of dealing with mental health difficulties. I went through years of not talking and just suffered, but I’m now very open about my experiences. If you’ve got a mental health problem you can’t hide away from it and expect other people to know exactly what’s going on. If my story can help one person battle through their mental health issues, then sharing my story will be worth it.
Find out more about YMCAs Mental Health Champions.