Time to Talk Day 2023

#TimeToTalkDay is a day of conversations about mental health. It’s a day to check in with others, share experiences, and most of all, to challenge stigma around mental illness. Even though the Time to Change campaign is no more, the day is still marked by Mind, Rethink Mental Illness, Co-op, and of course, those Champions from the original campaign, albeit under different banners.

I joined the campaign in 2017. I was a very different person back then, and in a very different place mentally. Still unwell, on antidepressants and in therapy, very unsure of myself, and fairly new to being open about my mental health issues, I wasn’t strong enough to campaign fully yet, so I started small. I wrote an email to my friends and colleagues at work, some of whom knew about my issues, some who didn’t. Here’s what I wrote:

Hi all,

Today is Time to Talk Day. Many of you already know this is a cause that means a lot to me. It’s a few years now since I made the decision to be open about my mental health issues, and I have never regretted it, not once. When I was first diagnosed with depression, age 21 and on the verge of failing my final year at university, I didn’t even tell my parents. Finally, thanks to campaigns like Time to Talk and Mind’s 1 in 4, the stigma is disappearing, and the isolation I used to feel is firmly in the past.

We all have some knowledge of mental health issues, it’s part of our daily job, so I won’t bore you with the details of the exhaustion, shame, and frustration my conditions cause me. Instead I want to use today to say thank you.

Thank you for not judging. Thank you for noticing when I’m having a bad day and checking I’m OK. Thank you for sharing stories of people with similar issues so I know I’m not alone. Thank you for seeing me as me, not as a mental illness. Thank you for making me laugh. Thank you for helping me feel “normal” (whatever that is). It makes a massive difference and it’s what today is all about.

Kind regards,


I agonised over that email, and was terrified to press send. But of course, my colleagues’ and friends’ response was as kind as ever. It gave me the courage to keep speaking out, having those conversations, and challenging stigma. To join my local hub, where I found more friends with inspiring stories. And then eventually, to start this blog and social media accounts dedicated to those very same things.

You see, Time to Talk Day, and conversations about mental health, can make a massive difference. They can give strength, courage, and support. They can change people’s minds and beliefs. They can create a ripple that spreads out and touches more hearts and minds than you ever thought possible.

This Time to Talk Day, I hope you find the courage to be open, speak out, or just ask a loved one how they are. And if you’re not sure what to say or do, you won’t go wrong by starting with those things I was grateful for back in 2017, because those were things that helped give me the strength to recover, and keep fighting to stay in recovery: friendship, understanding, and love.

Thank you for not judging. Thank you for noticing when I’m having a bad day and checking I’m OK. Thank you for sharing stories of people with similar issues so I know I’m not alone. Thank you for seeing me as me, not as a mental illness. Thank you for making me laugh. Thank you for helping me feel “normal” (whatever that is). It makes a massive difference and it’s what today is all about.

If you’d like know more, click here: https://timetotalkday.co.uk/

COVID, anxiety, and floating

October 10th. World Mental Health Day. I leave the house and go to a local event. Have a great time. Make plans to see friends again soon. The sun is shining and I’m feeling good about getting back to “normality”.

One day later, October 11th. I go to my first face to face external meeting since March 2020. October 14th, the COVID app pings me – I was exposed to COVID that day. October 18th, the cough starts.

One work meeting. That’s all it took to make me ill. The test results were mixed. Over the next 3 weeks, I had 1 negative PCR, and 2 negative but 3 positive lateral flow tests. But the symptoms were pretty clearly mild COVID. The cough, breathlessness, brain fog. It just didn’t feel like a cold or flu. I was so, so grateful to be vaccinated and have got off lightly when so many have not.

Finally the symptoms started to clear, and it was time to re-enter the world. And I struggled. Really struggled. Burnout and anxiety had raised their unpleasant little heads again. I’d been procrastinating a lot since lockdown 1. I’d had to take time off work in the Spring, but had been just about managing since. Now suddenly I was having anxiety attacks for the first time in years. The world hadn’t felt safe for a long time, but now it seemed I’d had personal confirmation it wasn’t. I didn’t want to go back outside.

Line illustration of turtle with head and legs retracted into its shell

It was time to take a step back before things got any worse. So I’ve revisited the techniques that helped me years ago, when my anxiety was at its worst. The counsellor I had at the time introduced me to Dr Claire Weekes’ approach: Face, Accept, Float, Let time pass, lending me her book “Self-Help for Your Nerves”. Everyone is different, and everyone’s experience is unique, but this was what worked for me at that time, freeing me from the physical symptoms of anxiety for years. Until a worldwide pandemic pushed me back to the brink…

Here’s what the four stages mean to me, and how I’ve applied them this week:

FACE the anxiety. Don’t run away from it. If you can’t face up to it, you can’t heal.

I’ve finally acknowledged that the anxiety is back, and I need to stop procrastinating and deal with it.

ACCEPT it – stop fighting it. Accept that you are the only person who can cure it, and that the only way out is through.

I’ve accepted that the uncomfortable feelings are back and I’m just going to have to live with them for a little while as I face the outside world.

FLOAT through the sensations. The idea is that swimmers relax and float when they get into trouble, because fighting and tensing up just makes you drown.

I’ve been doing the things I need to do. Leaving the house, making calls, looking at plans for the future. Not fighting the feelings, just relaxing into them and getting on with things.

LET TIME PASS. Anxiety attacks always end eventually, but they end sooner if you don’t feed them by fighting them. And anxiety itself doesn’t go away overnight, but it will gradually improve if you keep practising.

Yes, all that has caused anxiety, but thinking about doing the things and procrastinating caused more. And once I’d finished the task, the anxiety went away for a little while.
I don’t know how long I’ll be feeling this way this time, but I know it will pass. Because it did before.

And so I’m just going to keep plodding on and try to stop getting in my own way until I feel calm again. I won’t get it right and succeed every time, but I’ll keep trying, and I will get there.

Stay safe everyone. And if you’re struggling with anxiety, too, I highly recommend the book.

I binged today. Here’s what I learned.

I say I’m in recovery from BED for a reason. It might be over four months since I last binged, I may be succeeding in my intuitive eating journey, but at times of stress, I still sometimes return to those thoughts and behaviours that sustained me since childhood.

Today was one of those times. I started the day doing stomach exercises, and since then have cried and eaten to the point of pain, stretching out those sore abs.

It was time to get out the emotion wheel and figure out what’s going on. I try to use each relapse as a learning exercise. Here’s what I learned today.

I looked at the wheel and realised my emotions today were in the dislike area.

Why these feelings? I thought back and yesterday I caught sight of myself in a shop mirror and felt disgusted, repelled. How had I let myself put on so much weight? I realised I had been feeling this way about my body all week. Yes, I have been more bloated than usual (the joys of IBS), but I was wearing a dress I bought 2 years ago, so the facts didn’t add up.

Then I realised how far I had been out of my comfort zone all week. I had a hospital appointment on Monday in a department where I had experienced weight stigma. Even getting there involved driving the furthest I have in a year.

On Tuesday I met a dozen colleagues indoors for lunch. No masks, no social distancing. For the first time in 18 months. I have been extremely careful during the pandemic, only meeting others outdoors or with masks. Recently I have struggled to leave the house at times, so this was a massive step. This was followed by a face to face meeting I had been dreading. Again, indoors and without masks.

Wednesday and Thursday included more difficult meetings. Plus a glut of new referrals. And all this through a heatwave, which meant less sleep and a reduced appetite all week.

In other words, this week provided the perfect storm for a binge. Increased stress and anxiety, less sleep, lower food intake, and all the extra energy used by getting ready and actually leaving the house. No wonder I was bloated. No wonder I was extra hungry. No wonder I reverted to default mode and took it out on myself.

Thankfully there aren’t many weeks like these for me. But the reason I’m recording it is to remind myself how far I have come. This is only my second binge this year, and both times I was able to pinpoint why and get straight back on course.

If you’re reading this and you’ve binged too, please believe me when I say it’s OK. You don’t need to punish or hate yourself, or feel ashamed. Look at it with curiosity. What was the binge trying to tell you? What can you learn from it? Take that forward with you to help you next time.

Recovery isn’t linear. It’s messy sometimes. But that’s OK, because most worthwhile things are. And I’m here to tell you that recovery is so, so worthwhile.

Have decades of eating my feelings down made me emotionally illiterate?

I grew up believing feelings were bad. I was told I was too emotional, oversensitive, that I needed not to take things so personally. So I stopped talking about feelings, and did my best not to have them. Bingeing became my go-to when I needed to put a lid on those pesky, unwanted emotions.

The only problem is, when you don’t feel emotions how can you figure out what they are? If you don’t talk about them, how can you learn to label them, know what their purpose is? Over the past few months, I’ve been noticing clues that this is a skill I lack.

I recently did an online course where we were asked to name emotions we wanted to feel more. I was stumped. I really struggled to come up with the required three words.

I’ve been more anxious about leaving the house during lockdown, but my anxiety has presented itself differently to last time I had it. I found myself procrastinating and putting off going out. It took months to figure out why I was doing it.

I’ve been crying a lot at little things lately. I don’t know why. I can’t label what I’m feeling. I don’t know what’s wrong, or how to fix it. All I can do is allow myself to feel whatever it is, and not fall back into old habits.

There are some emotions I can label. The big ones. Anger, sadness, frustration, love. And joy! An emotion which has come with recovery. When I first started recovering, every emotion, including joy and happiness, came in an overpowering wave which was expressed through tears.

Finally, I’m at a point where I’m not completely overwhelmed by or scared of emotions. But I am confused by them. I know the words, the labels, for feelings. But that knowledge is abstract. I don’t truly know what they feel like in my body. And if I can’t label my emotions, how can I work out why I’m feeling them or what they are for?

I know that trusting myself and my body is my path to recovery. But it seems like I still have work to do. I need to go back to the beginning and pay attention to my moods, look at an emotion wheel and label how I’m feeling. Learn what those moods are trying to tell me. Then use that knowledge to work out what I do next, so that I continue to grow and evolve. Because what use is recovery if I don’t?

My Lowest Point

Trigger Warning: suicidal thoughts

There’s something happening at the moment which is bringing back painful memories. Triggering me, if you will. And as always when I’m struggling, I’m hoping writing it down will help. I’m aware it might not be helpful to some readers: if that might be you, please click away from this post now.

Around a decade ago, my life as I knew it ended. It started with workplace bullying, which led to a decline in my mental health. I developed debilitating anxiety, was prescribed propranolol after a particularly distressing anxiety attack which lasted for two days straight, and had counselling.

The issues continued, then my workplace was restructured and I was told I was facing redundancy. My mood declined. I would go to bed at night hoping that I wouldn’t wake up the next morning. Those thoughts gradually became more intrusive. I was barely able to function, and recognised that this was the worst depressive episode I had ever had. I went back to my GP and asked for antidepressants.

Two weeks after I started the antidepressants, my partner of ten years told me he no longer loved me and I needed to move out. I couldn’t even cry. I was still getting used to the medication, and I listened with dry eyes, not knowing what or how to feel about the fact that my world was falling apart. I was mentally ill, and in one fell swoop, I was losing my job, my partner and my home.

I went to bed that night and made a plan to end my life the next morning.

To this day, I don’t know what stopped me from carrying out that plan, but I am so grateful I didn’t. Even though I’m struggling right now.

That job I lost was so stressful it literally made me ill. My relationship wasn’t making me happy and hadn’t done for years. I wouldn’t have been able to recover with those things still in my life.

So I moved in with my parents because I had nowhere else to go, and let them take care of me while I couldn’t look after myself. I had more counselling, and did a little freelance work while I looked for a full-time job.

I built a new life somewhere new. I got treatment for my ED, weaned off the antidepressants, quit smoking, made friends. I’m even finally starting to think I might be ready for a new relationship.

The last few months have been tough, but this is a reminder to myself that I have survived worse and come back stronger. I will be just fine, I just need a little time to recover and figure out my next move.

If you are struggling, too, please speak to your GP. I have.