It was when I was 22, I’d finished university where I studied Education and Early Childhood studies, teaching wasn’t an option due to my anxiety. We had already been trying for a baby for a year with no luck. I used this as an excuse to cover why I couldn’t get a job – the real reason being I could barely leave the house never mind on my own. We told everyone I was renovating the house and so I had no time for a job.
After a couple of years trying for a baby, it really began to sink in that without a job and without a baby I had no purpose and I was just a burden. I spiralled. What didn’t help was everyone’s comments about how the reason I couldn’t conceive was because I needed to “relax” – the guilt just piled up and I felt more and more worthless.
I’ve always had health anxiety and been a bit of a hypochondriac, the moment someone felt ill I felt ill too. I was just going to bed when I had an extreme pain in my side and I was convinced that it was a ectopic pregnancy, I felt sick, I had a temperature and I was shaking violently, I was sweating and my heart was going so fast. These were all symptoms of my anxiety attack. The worst part of health anxiety is that you end up giving yourself all the symptoms which just confirms to you that you are really unwell.
This panic attack lasted over a week and then I finally went to the doctors. I was put on an anti-depressant and every day I got a tiny bit better. I found a book on mindfulness and that is where my journey began.
By taking everything one second at a time and getting out of the cycle of worrying about the future and being obsessed with the past, everything became so much easier to cope with.
After a few months I decided I was stronger and I needed to find myself a purpose so I looked on the volunteering website and found a post for a receptionist at Samye Foundation Wales a centre for mindfulness and well being and I couldn’t really believe it, I thought: what a perfect place to try and build some confidence – I felt like they would be supportive and understanding.
It’s now 9 months later and I couldn’t have made a better choice. My friends can’t believe the change in me. I met my best friend from university on Friday and as she moved away we rarely see each other. She said, “I can’t believe you came into Cardiff on your own, you walked in to meet me and when we couldn’t find each other it didn’t faze you – before that would have been a meltdown; we’re sat in a restaurant surrounded by people and you are completely calm!”.
I wrote Mindful Millie at the start of this year. I learnt in university about the importance of early intervention and I asked myself – if id have learnt mindfulness as a child would I have been in the state I was? We really need to get in there early and help children learn skills so that they can build a positive mental health as they grow.
So, after commissioning a lovely artist – Rhiannon Thomas, we created a beautiful character called Millie, she is an elephant that uses mindfulness and teaches children how to use it too. Saying that, the book has been quite a hit with adults too!
One review I had was: “Mindful Millie is an amazing book that makes mindfulness easily accessible to people of all ages, regardless of any prior knowledge (or lack of!) about the technique.”