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Thursday, 23 October 2014

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Cumbrian woman tells stress and anxiety story to help others

A woman who struggled to cope with stress and anxiety is sharing her story to encourage others to seek help.

Rebecca Watson photo
Rebecca Watson

Rebecca Watson, 27, from Aspatria, is speaking out as part of this week’s global campaign to raise awareness of mental health issues.

One in four people will be affected by some sort of mental illness at some point in their life. It could range from mild depression to severe illness and can affect anybody.

Yet opening up about these issues remains taboo.

This week, to coincide with World Mental Health Day organisations across Cumbria have been aiming to tackle that.

Rebecca, design and social media specialist at the Cumberland Pencil Factory, is open about her own problems and how she overcame them with the help of experts in the county’s First Step service.

“I was first referred to First Step last year through my doctor who felt I needed some help dealing with stress and anxiety,” she explained.

“My anxiety was affecting my daily life – I had trouble driving and would frequently feel panicked in traffic jams. Even in meetings at work with lots of people around, I felt it difficult to sit knowing that if I were to get up and leave people would notice.

“Generally, I was feeling very stressed by day to day life and would feel extremely tired and nauseous because of anxiety – I didn’t really know what was happening to me. It sounds strange to look back on how much it affected me but when it’s happening to you, you feel very alone.”

Once she was referred to the First Step service, which supports those with mild to moderate mental health problems, Rebecca was able to attend sessions at the Aspatria surgery – a relief as it prevented her having to drive.

The counsellor went through Rebecca’s symptoms and she said at each visit it got easier to discuss her feelings about her anxiety.

“The sessions were very practical and I’d be set small tasks to do in order to combat some of my anxious feelings. One of them was to build up to driving on the motorway which I’d previously been very nervous about. However, facing my fears, with my counsellor’s support, was the best way to deal with it. Anxiety is just a feeling which can’t cause any serious problems. That racing heartbeat is just an inconvenience and the tingling hands will go away if I practice some breathing techniques.”

A few months on and Rebecca is feeling a lot more confident. “I wanted to share my story as I hope to inspire others to have the courage to say they’re not feeling their best – it’s nothing to be afraid or ashamed of,” she added.

The First Step service, run by the Cumbria Partnership NHS Foundation Trust, has now helped more than 35,000 Cumbrians to overcome conditions like depression and anxiety.

To get help either talk to your GP or you can self refer by calling 0300 123 9122.

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