How I shed light on my anxiety

Updated: Apr 29, 2020

Lydia explains how she has brightened her days and raises money for Mind by starting her own candle-making business.

‘A Little Light’ candles was started from my parent’s kitchen in 2019, whilst I took some time off from work as a result of my own struggles with mental health. During this time, I realised I had to do something to remove the strong stigma attached to poor mental health, and emphasise the message to young people that it is not a weakness, nor a failure to be not okay.

Whilst suffering at home, it became known to me that I wasn’t alone in the feelings I was experiencing, and many people, including friends of mine, had struggled. Although this filled me with reassurance that I wasn’t ‘different’ to others, and that the feelings I had as a constant battle in my head was normal, it seemed crazy to me that if so many people, of all ages, were faced with challenging thoughts everyday, why was there not more being done about it and why was the stigma around mental health so strong, forcing people to feel they can’t talk openly about it.

I began making candles as a project to keep myself busy, and to provide me with a sense of self worth and purpose. Hours, days and weeks were spent brainstorming, researching, mixing fragrances, designing logos and trialling candles. Through this I saw the perfect opportunity to turn a hobby into something that could have a positive impact on others and ‘A Little Light’ was born. I had one goal in mind: to provide high quality, sophisticated and environmentally friendly candles at an affordable price, whilst raising awareness for a very personal cause that affects many others all around the world. All the candles are made from 100% soy wax and for every sale made, 10% of all profits will be donated to ‘Mind’ to help them continue with the outstanding work they do.

Anxiety has always been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember, no matter how big or small the ‘worry’ seemed to be. For a long time, this left me with a lack of self-esteem, an insecurity with any form of friendship/relationship, a feeling of dread in most given social situations, minimal capability to cope with any negative situation that presented itself, and matching everyday life with a constant negative ‘what if’. It would eat away at me, resulting in recurring tension headaches and panic attacks. I was convinced that the physical symptoms I felt must have been something serious. It’s only looking back now that I realise it was triggered by my anxiety. It took me years to seek help, as in the back of my mind I thought my worries were unusual, and that they would go away by themselves. I didn’t want to burden anyone with my problems, and I strongly felt no one could even begin to help me.

Over a long period of time, the feelings I was experiencing caused the way I behaved on a daily basis to change for the worse. I had no confidence and no trust, which had a domino effect on the majority of aspects in my life. I would drink too much in social situations, which ended in wreckless behaviour, followed by blackouts. All this culminated in pushing away all the things I cared about, and my friendships and relationships broke down. I wasn’t able to look after myself properly, which meant I was often getting sick and taking a lot of days off work as a result. My moods were unpredictable, I was either on a complete ‘high’ or a complete ‘low’. I felt like my anxiety had won and I’d had enough of feeling unwell, exhausted and unhappy.

In February 2019, I became unwell. I felt completely unable to leave the house at times, not wanting people to see me and I had no motivation to do anything. Self-harm became my way of expressing my feelings of frustration, anger, confusion, sadness, loneliness and self hatred. It was at this point that I knew I had to open up and talk, whilst not being able to make much sense of my thoughts, I knew that I was causing more harm to my body, and enough was enough. Being open about my feelings was the first step, and the biggest step of all in my road to recovery. The minute I did this, I was immediately overwhelmed with a sense of relief, and comfort in that I no longer felt I was battling this alone. It is especially hard for anyone who hasn’t experienced these feelings first hand to fully understand the extent of the struggles that people with mental health problems face. People with a mental illness don’t necessarily look like they are unwell, and therefore people hold misconceptions about you, such as ‘we all have an off day sometimes, you’ll be alright’. However, I was fortunate enough to receive unconditional love, support and understanding from my family, friends and in particular, someone who had experienced exactly how I was feeling in previous years and acted as a real tower of strength to me, for him I will be forever grateful to.

I decided to go to therapy for four hours a week, and it was the best decision I made. Although the feelings of dread flooded inside me before the first few sessions, my therapist helped me recognise my thought patterns that were keeping me trapped in the ongoing negative cycle that created all my ‘anxiety’ symptoms. Together, we worked through unpicking all the tiny details and I began to believe I was capable of choosing how I felt and how to respond to things. Despite finding the sessions demanding, both emotionally and physically, they provided me with the tools to cope with everyday life.

This year has been a total rollercoaster of emotions for me, and for the people I have been surrounded by. I remember celebrating New Years Eve last year with my best friend and thinking ‘2019 is going to be a good year, my year’. Despite being an incredibly tough year, it seems strange to say, that this has been partly true. I feel so proud of everything I have achieved, mainly through opening up and sharing with others how I felt; something so simple for us all. Without this journey, I wouldn’t have felt able to move on with my life in the way that I feel I can now, and my business ‘A Little Light’ wouldn’t have been created. I still have ‘off’ days and I still have days where I feel anxious about certain situations. However, I am more aware of what I need during these days, and feel fearless about being able to speak openly and seek that extra bit of support. Everyone will go on their own journey at some point in their lives, and each mental health one is unique, but I hope that through ‘A Little Light’ and sharing this story, we can all feel encouraged to speak out. Please do not feel ashamed to share your experiences, and be assured that it is through your strength of talking that we can all work together to beat this. Put yourself at the top of your to-do list every single day and the rest will fall into place.

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