I love that social media has helped to make mental health something that is better understood. There’s still a long way to go until mental health conversations are fully normalised, but we are making progress. We wouldn’t be as far along as we are now if it weren’t for people like Lynne.
Lynne is a mental health blogger from rural Lincolnshire with a brilliant wardrobe and a passion for travel. She lives with her husband, Gary, and 2 rescue cats named Phoebe and Arthur. After working in a high street bank for 31 years, Lynne recently left to start her own business as an Online Travel Advisor.
Lynne is one of those rare people on social media who shares both the highs and the lows. It’s one of the things that makes her such a brilliant person to follow and to interview – she won’t pretend that it’s all holidays, lipstick and smiles, but she will make sure you see that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.
In your own words, describe your mental health journey.
I was first diagnosed with depression, related to disordered eating, when I was 25. I was prescribed anti-depressants for a short time alongside counselling and regular trips to a dietician. I was living on my own then, although I was still just around the corner from my parents. Things seemed to be getting better, but a few years later my mental health took a nose dive. I had a new manager at work who intimidated me, my hair started to fall out, I was nervous all the time and found myself snapping at people. I was also having trouble with some kids on my street who would constantly kick a ball against my house (to this day I can’t stand the sound of a bouncing ball), throw mud at my door and run through my garden.
This caused me to have a mental breakdown. I just couldn’t cope. I was signed off work and moved back in with my parents, then referred to a psychiatrist and for further counselling. It took 5 – 6 months for me to recover and, 18 months later, I finally felt well enough to come off medication.
I had another episode of depression in 2010 after my Aunty passed away. She had been battling cancer for some time and I’d always been very close to her, so it was a huge loss to me. Luckily, I was with Gary then and he supported me through that very tough time.
I first recognised the signs of anxiety after having an operation on my hand. It took me longer to recover than expected and being off work and moving house was making me feel more and more anxious. At that time, my GP wouldn’t prescribe medication as he said it could be addictive. However, at the age of 43 I was diagnosed as Peri-Menopausal, which made Gary and I face the fact we may have left it too late to start a family. My GP then prescribed anti-depressants, which I have been on ever since.
My anxiety came to a head in February 2018, due to a number of things which I cover in my blog. It was a culmination of being off my meds for a week and worrying about my parents’ health. I really did reach rock bottom, thinking I was a burden to my family and friends and that they would be better off without me. There were days when I didn’t get out of bed, I didn’t wash or brush my teeth. I would just sleep and cry.
My GP increased my meds, gave me Betablockers for my heart palpitations, tablets to help me sleep and finally prescribed HRT to combat my hot flushes and night sweats. I was referred to a psychotherapist, who was a huge help and gave me tools to help with my anxiety and catastrophic thinking.
The help and tools you have been given to have made such a difference that you have recently started your own business (congratulations!). What gave you the push to start this exciting new chapter of your life?
I’d got to the point where I knew I couldn’t go back to work at the bank. It wasn’t my actual job that made me anxious, but the atmosphere that I worked in, which could be very negative and toxic at times. I didn’t want to be around that. I’d tried twice last year to go back but it just set back my recovery.
Once I’d discussed it with Gary, I decided to hand my notice in. I felt like a huge weight had been lifted and people started to notice bits of the “old me” appearing again.
It’s amazing the difference that being out of a negative environment can have on a person and I love that leaving your job has meant that you can start your own business. How did you feel about taking this big step and how did you decide what your business would be?
One of my passions in life is travelling. I have always loved holidays and sharing my experiences on social media. I have earned the nickname Judith (Google Judith Chalmers if you are under 40!) because of my love of travel! I get quite a lot of my friends and family members asking for advice about where to go etc, so when I got a text from my brother suggesting that I look at investing in a travel franchise and working from home, I did some research and had a light bulb moment. I really wanted to do this and I could be successful at it. Gary and I discussed it at length and weighed up the pros and cons. After some heated words and tears, Gary supported my decision and I haven’t looked back.
You mention Gary supporting you through your tough times – he sounds brilliant! What other things in your life helped you get to where you are now?
I found myself turning to Instagram and channelling my love for beauty and skincare, even completing an online beauty course. I found a lot of support from complete strangers on there.
I am lucky that throughout all of this I have had the support of Gary (who has struggled himself at times), my parents (who check on me daily) and a handful of amazing friends. Without them I wouldn’t have made through the darkest days.
Mental health is invisible, so a lot of people experience stigma or a lack of understanding from others when they try to talk about it. What has your experience of this been?
I have certainly heard people passing comments like “snap out of it” and “you just need to keep yourself busy” or people avoiding me completely because they don’t know what to say. I have lost some close friends because of this illness. Most of the time it is an invisible illness, but I think that depends on the person, as sometimes it does show. I remember a close friend of mine saying that she could see I was ill in my face and noted that I wasn’t wearing lipstick. I am known for my lipstick – I never go out without any on!
I think that is one of the reasons I started writing my blog. It was cathartic. I found it a way of telling people how it really feels to suffer with a mental illness and hoping it resonated with someone, maybe even helped.
You have gone through some incredibly tough times and come out of the other end. What would you say to someone who is struggling with a mental illness?
I know there are dark times, but you will get through it. There will be a light at the end of the tunnel. Don’t push people away – let them in. Accept help when it’s offered because you don’t have to do this on your own.
But more than anything it’s ok not to be ok, so look after you.
What are your hopes when you look to the future now after all you have been through?
I can now see a positive future. It’s going to be hard work, but I want to do it and I want to do it well.
Although I know both my parents couldn’t be prouder of me already, my dad has been diagnosed with Dementia and I’d love for him to see me make a success of my business before it’s too late for him to understand.
I’m hoping to start reducing my meds in the next few months, so I see my future as bright.
If you could sum up your outlook on life in one statement, what would it be?
My family are my world and their support is everything. It has given me the strength to overcome my anxiety and change my career. I now feel positive and hopeful.