Meet Hannah Roper, Head of Business Development for mental health charity, Bath Mind. In this post, Hannah will share her mental health journey with you – a reminder that you are not alone. And an essential comforter that the faces behind mental health charities like Bath Mind, have had their experience of mental health struggles.
Hannah describes her mental health problems starting when she was around 17 years old, “I was doing my A-Levels, I’d been out of school for a few weeks because I’d had a terrible virus and I’d been in hospital so I was quite physically unwell for a while. Going back to school after that in my final year, I suddenly felt different. I had much less confidence in myself, just didn’t feel me as much”.
With responsibilities within the school environment, such as head of girls boarding and head of house, she felt the pressure alongside a lack of self-esteem and confidence. “I had a boyfriend that I was throwing my energy into and I think I was masking the issues that were maybe starting to surface. Then I went off to university still in this relationship and probably not in a good headspace”. She experienced “lots of anxiety and low mood” as well as a decrease in confidence.
Her first year of university proved challenging as her relationship began to break down and a lot of her feelings and emotions were put down to that. With parents living abroad, despite a close bond, she “got more and more depressed and isolated within university life… I was very conscious not to give them the full picture of how much I was struggling. I didn’t really integrate into university life, I kept myself to myself, didn’t go out and socialise, and I didn’t make many friends”.
“I spent a lot of time on my own in my room which was in halls – I was often quite scared to leave that room. Things got pretty bad, I became quite suicidal in that space because I felt very alone. My relationship eventually broke down too”.
Hannah’s mum flew back to England because she knew something was up, “She intervened because I probably wasn’t aware of how unwell and depressed I was, things had gotten really bad”.
She recalls filling out a form that had questions such as ‘how often do you feel low?’ and scoring as a high risk to herself. “I’d scored very highly on the risk factor and needed professional help there and then. I wasn’t aware of how unwell I was at this point, and I think that was one of the issues. I was in a university where now, there’s a lot of openness and support around mental wellbeing, but then there was nothing. I got referred to the GP and signed off university immediately, prescribed antidepressants and went home to Italy for a sabbatical.
That plaster was probably left on for about four years, where I carried on with university, continued into working life in London. Looking back, it was very much a plaster. I was on medication but no other support or self-care was suggested.”
Accessing help and being on medication, unsurprisingly didn’t serve as an immediate remedy. Hannah’s mental health didn’t get any better as she struggled to talk about the fact that she “still wasn’t okay”. Her parents were supportive throughout yet the talking about it, for her, was a big issue – “Maybe I was sweeping it under the carpet and not talking about it. I had phases of going through dips of lows and states of panic attacks but it wasn’t ever really dealt with and I wasn’t open about it with people around me for fear of being judged.”
Seeking professional help other than medication was a “big changing point” in Hannah’s life which “only happened four years after I’d been diagnosed with depression. It took me that long to realise I needed some extra support and that relying on medication alone for me, wasn’t dealing with the ongoing issues. Sadly at no point was this suggested or encouraged by a health care professional”.
Therapy was a huge help for her, as it helped her work though issues she’d been facing over the years. It introduced her to various “aspects of self-awareness, self-care, positive thinking, and looking to the future.”
“I remember feeling very much in a dark, like a heavy cloud was weighing on me, feeling low, feeling anxious and this therapy that I had, lifted this cloud and that’s how I see it. I still have bouts of lows and anxiety, however, now I have a much better understanding and can recognise what’s going on.
Hannah says that “various self-care techniques” and reminding herself of aspects of self-awareness, self-care and positive thinking that her therapist taught her, is a help during difficult times and remains hugely valuable to her to this day and for the future.
An important reminder to quote here is her stance on anxiety as it “it doesn’t always come from a rational place, we all can get anxious about things… We need to accept it’s okay to feel anxious even if it feels irrational because it’s so common”.
She explains that having that awareness is crucial, “There was a long period of time where I wasn’t even aware of how unwell I was and to the outside world I was functioning, this’s why I believe it’s so important to educate people in that self-awareness. How we can spot the signs in ourselves and others and how can we support each other. This can often be as simple as having an honest conversation and yet it can be so powerful.”
Thank you, Hannah for sharing your story. It’s not easy but, the more we talk to each other and show one another that we’re in this together, the more we can help tear down the stigma that still surrounds mental health.
If you’d like to get in touch with Bath Mind, please click here.
For any queries, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Ciao for now x