I consider myself a recovering agoraphobic. For the longest time, I didn’t really understand exactly what I had.
I didn't discuss it with anyone. The only time I'd really hear of anything similar to what I was going through was on daytime television, where you'd see someone who would be looked upon as a very poor example, and I didn't want to feel like that. That led into my feelings of shame, and so I just kept everything under wraps. I didn't tell anyone.
It is quite a typical masculine thing – you've got a problem, you just deal with it yourself. But I realised just how negative an impact that was having on my life. The more I bottled up, the less I talked about it, the bigger problem it became.
The day that things started to get better was the day I went up to my mum and said, ‘Mum, I've got a problem here, there's something going on, I've got an issue.’
So much of my life was controlled by anxiety.
When I first spoke about it, it felt like a weight off my shoulders. The moment I talked about it, I also started losing the stigma over it. And every extra person I told about it, I felt a little less shame about what I had, I felt like I was taking ownership of it.
When it comes to mental health, people aren't necessarily looking for the answers. They're often just looking to offload what's happening in their life. My mum wasn't an expert on mental health. She had no idea what it was I had, but she just said, ‘I want to help.’ So often, it's just a case of listening to what someone is saying. It's such a huge thing, being able to feel comfortable and speak to someone about what you're going through.
I feel tremendously fortunate now that we're growing up in the world with social media, because you see so many other people talk about their issues. And that's exactly why I started my Instagram account, because I tried to think about what I would like to see at the start of my agoraphobia and anxiety journey when I was 18.
I would have wanted to see someone who's talking about the issues I had, seeing someone who's having success in confronting them – that was really the approach I wanted to take. There is so much less of a stigma, because people are speaking up, and people are talking about their mental health. I think that's such a great thing.
For Time to Talk Day, I’d encourage everyone to have a conversation – even just ask a friend how they are. If you notice someone who's maybe cancelling plans a bit more, maybe you'll notice slight differences in them – quite often, there's a lot going on under the surface. I found it quite difficult to pluck up the courage to talk. So I’d really like people to take the opportunity to perhaps not just speak to others if you’re struggling, but speak to your friends if you think there's something wrong with them.”