I’m Huma. I’m 28 years old and from Bradford.
I currently support the Mental Health Foundation as a trustee and I’m someone who has experienced mental health problems myself, in particular anxiety.
My anxiety started when I was a young child. I have a medical condition which really impacted my mental health growing up. In my daily life I was going to hospitals, having various treatments and things that my friends wouldn’t do. It was a struggle to adapt. It caused a lot of fear, stress and anxiety particularly around dying which is quite common with the condition.
It was like I wasn’t on planet earth
I was able to recognise my high anxiety levels as I was just naturally picking at my lips or my fingernails and my breathing would start changing. I would start feeling fear, this impending sort of doom. My gut would just go completely off. I would feel like I was floating, dissociating – almost like I wasn’t on planet earth. The more panic-type symptoms would be hyperventilating and really feeling like I was in immediate danger. I usually needed something firm, like a hug, to bring me back to earth and ground me.
I never told my friends
Anxiety impacts your relationships and friendships. Growing up I never told my friends. I couldn’t really express how it made me feel. In school, I would leave a classroom to go and have a panic attack away from my friends so they would never ever see the anxiety symptoms. I think it’s really hard to explain this to your friends and family – what it feels like, the pressure-like feeling, the heaviness in your gut and how it makes you physically feel.
Ragged stresses and pressures
Now, I noticed that I’m not the only one that struggles with anxiety. It’s really quite common. The more I’ve spoken to other people we can sort of build a connection. We can end up supporting each other.
I think in today’s day and age in particular, it’s important to talk about how we’re feeling. There's a lot of ragged stresses and pressures. A lot of people who might not have felt anxious before are feeling anxious now. I think it’s really important to be as open and honest as you can with others, to help each other.
To help with my anxiety
I use various techniques, one of them being blinking really rapidly when I’m really anxious. After about 15 seconds, you have to put all your energy into focusing and this helps to stop my brain going into overdrive. It just calms that high pressure and once that’s gone, I can start deep breathing.
When I can’t always express how I’m feeling verbally or I don’t want to talk to someone about it, I write notes on my phone, seeing if I can make a rhyme or a song out of it. I write lyrics - creative things to try and express how I feel.
Things are always getting better
One of the things that really helped me was finding a peer support group with other young people. I learned about my triggers, what I look like when I’m feeling good and what keeps me happy and healthy. Being able to help others is why I got involved with the Mental Health Foundation and now support them with different projects.
I always like to remember that things are always changing. Things are always getting better even if we don’t always necessarily feel it at first. Remember that if you are struggling with anxiety, it won’t last forever.