Mental Health vs. The World | Jess Scott
Written by Courtney Weston on 9 May 2018
My name is Courtney Weston. I’m a freelance personal trainer and health coach, studying a degree in Music Management. Throughout my life, I’ve suffered greatly with general anxiety disorder and depression, however in 2017, I found myself falling into severe depression and when thinking about suicide became a ten times a day thing, I knew that something wasn’t right. I’ve been on medication ever since, to help me live a ‘normal’ life, however whenever I try and talk about this, I find people still become uncomfortable when it’s mentioned. I’m on a personal mission to try and reduce the stigma that still stands around mental health, one person at a time. In this series, I talk to five women that I met through the fitness industry, both clients and trainers alike, and hopefully, along the way, we can help you understand that you are not alone.
Interview two – Jess Scott
Courtney: Hey Jess! Thank you for meeting with me, are you enjoying the sunshine? Can’t imagine it will last for long, but it’s the perfect brunch weather! As with most of my guests for these interviews, Jess and I met through the fitness industry. We’ve spoken briefly in the past about our struggles but not in too much detail, so let’s take this time to really get stuck in! So Jess, tell me a little bit about your experiences.
Jess: Hey babe! Definitely perfect brunch weather, but you’re right about it not lasting for long. Where do I start? Issues for me have always been in two areas – overall anxiety, which is mainly social anxiety (large groups, new people) and then bursts of depression / severe anxiety, where I can’t leave my room / house, for fear of what is outside.
Courtney: That must be really hard to deal with; everybody has different experiences with anxiety so these interviews are really opening my eyes. When did you realise something didn’t feel right?
Jess: I agree. For me it was something that happened gradually over time. As a child I was always very shy and timid, I was always leaning on my younger, much more social, and sister for support in any situation we were together. I was the girl at school that was friendly with everyone but didn’t have a solid group of friends. I always felt that I was the but of the joke and granted, I normally was, I became flustered in group situations and never liking team activities. However, one on one or in smaller groups where I felt more in control, I was fine. Fast forward to the end of school (A levels), I had a solid group of friends and appeared to the outside, I was “okay” and “normal”. Leaving school to go to university, I felt ready. I had left weak Jess behind, I was ready to become that stereotypical student with an abundance of friends and living life and each day to the max. However, I still struggled in groups, always fearing that I would say the wrong thing, get left out of plans etc. My best memories are always ones with 2-4 of my closest friends, it’s where I felt happiest, safest and most “liked”.
Courtney: I completely understand. I felt the exact same growing up and it’s really tough to get through, especially when you’re at the age when you’re trying to figure out who you are.
Jess: Totally! Moving out of uni and moving to London is where I started to loose control of things. I felt like I didn’t have a job that fitted in with my friends and I didn’t have the salary to match either. I wasn’t dating, I felt like I didn’t have a social life – and it all reminded me too much of school. I started slipping into the classic depression symptoms. I had no motivation, was going through the motions of life. I would cry for no reason, I would lie to friends and family about plans that I had to avoid seeing people. I was living at home at the time, and I would tell my parents I was going to the cinema with people but instead I was going by myself, or not even going at all, and would just take the bus somewhere. It all came to ahead when I couldn’t stop crying to and from work. I found that work was an escape for me; it was a time I could concentrate on something that wasn’t my internal feelings.
Courtney: Jess, that’s utterly heart breaking. How long did it take you to do something about it and seek help?
Jess: Timeline wise, I was 22/23 years old. I had just left uni and been living at home for around a year. When everything first came to ahead, I broke down at a coffee date with a friend. I just couldn’t hold things in anymore, I was tired, I didn’t have the motivation to continue lying to people. The internal issues that had been causing me turmoil had physically broken me. I had no choice but to seek help, as it was all over, it was out. I couldn’t hold it in anymore. The easy part was confiding in a friend who loved me and wanted to help me. The hardest part was speaking to my parents and admitting to them, that I wasn’t okay. I went to a doctor within a week and had referrals to see specialists and was on medication. I was making steps to sort things out but that was only round one. Round two and three where shorter “breaking points”, but equally as hard. Both of those times, I had been out with friends and it all got too much. I felt that I was sitting down with people around me and everyone had their backs to me, no one wanted to talk to me, I felt invisible, and so I went home and cried and cried. Once I had mentally moved myself past this and reminded myself that I am only human, and it’s normal to struggle with things, I felt that I could deal with things more efficiently. Both times, I resorted back to medication. The second time, I did this in tandem with therapy and the third time was solo medication.
Courtney: Amazing that you had a great friend you could confide in. People underestimate how helpful it is to talk out your issues and get everything off of your chest. As we know, there is still such a stigma about mental health, have you ever felt ashamed about it?
Jess: At the time, I was very ashamed. I was 22, just left university and everything was too much. On the surface, my friends were thriving with these amazing jobs, could afford to live out of home with friends, were dating, experiencing life, and I could barely get through the day without breaking down. Fast forward to now, I am not ashamed. It is who I am and the past experiences have shaped me into the person I am today. I am happy to discuss with people, raise awareness and knock down the stigma that people have attached to these things. I also find the more people I talk about it, the more comfort I have in the fact that it’s not just me, and that it is okay.
Courtney: Exactly! And that is why I’m carrying out these interviews, to try and do my bit to get rid of that stigma and help people understand they aren’t alone. What were your experiences like with medication? I know some people have different.
Jess: I have bounced of medication on and off over the last few years – and I have currently been off it for the longest period since I have been on it. I think that medication is a great tool to help you get back to the day to day and to navigate life for a period of time. However, I feel that it should be used in tandem with therapy / or CBT to help you longer term. I also feel that therapy can only work properly, if you are willing to let it. You have to be ready to go through things, to be broken and re built. Otherwise, you won’t be open to moving forward. It is also important to remember that everyone is different and that what works for one person doesn’t work for someone else. I have met people who have just had therapy or just use meds – or simply go through the support of family and friends. My advice would be – be open to all. Try everything, figure out what works for you, but most importantly, be open to all help.
Courtney: Great advice, and hopefully that will help a lot of people. Are you still receiving therapy and/or taking medication these days?
Jess: I have been on and off medication for the last 8/9 years and I did therapy twice. Medication I found to be a great tool to get me to cope day to day, to try and reignite the fire inside me, but also just to get me through the day. When I started going to the doctors etc. it was for me an instant step that I was going to be okay. And once I realised I was going to be okay – things started to be okay. I had set backs over the years and I will continue to have these setbacks. The main thing that helped was I moved out of my parent’s house and that gave me a sense of self-independence I needed. It was hard but I found something that worked for me, a small little flat with two girls close to me. I gave myself the time I needed to overcome things – I realised that I wasn’t the biggest social person. That I was happy seeing one or two friends a weekend, or seeing family etc. once I accepted that, things became easier. I wasn’t forcing myself to become someone I knew I wasn’t. I also kept the conversation open with people – I spoke to my best friends who have stood by me during my struggles, and the best things they did was to push me into things I knew I could do but I didn’t want to. Essentially, call me out on my crap. They would break down the social occasion I didn’t want to go to – but make me feel supported and be like, if you want to leave, leave. And there have been times that I have walked out on parties, drinks etc. because it was all too much. But I made sure to remind myself that I did it, I went, I spoke, I chatted and that was more than I did the other time and that is an achievement. Reminding myself of achievements is important. Even if I wake up and think today isn’t the day. Self- reflection – where was I last year, month or week. Reminding myself of how far I have come. That helps me a lot. I know that each day, I am improving, becoming stronger.
Courtney: Amazing, Jess. Really inspiring to hear how far you’ve come and I guarantee there will be people who read this and will relate. How are you doing now?
Jess: Now vs. then – I am leaps and bounds better – but I am a different person now. I know my triggers and I know how to deal with things. That being said, overall yes, I do still struggle. I read a what’s app wrong from a friend and think that they don’t like me anymore or take something too personally and I am crying all evening. I still worry about going to a social event with lots of people, especially if I don’t know many people there. I still get that sick to the stomach-feeling if I am not 100% that day. But I know how to help myself. I am someone that re-charges batteries by being alone and if that’s spending an hour in my bathroom watching The Real Housewives whilst I do two facemasks and fake tan, or going to bed super early. I make sure I make time for me and let myself enjoy that time. I still compare myself to others, as we all do, but I have learnt a lot about internal positive dialogue and remind myself that what I am looking at is a different person, with different downfalls and struggles to me, and that I am great at other things.
Courtney: Oh definitely. It’s so easy to get caught up and get overwhelmed by what’s going on around you, especially in London, so it’s certainly important to check yourself and get in touch with how you are feeling. How did you find that music or fitness etc. helped you?
Jess: I have a power song. It is the song that I need to listen to pick myself up, beast the day, give me high energy and a “don’t fuck with me” attitude. This song changes from time to time – but I always revert to the one of the moment to give me a boost. I used to listen to music to sooth any anxiety I would have. Jessie Ware and Sam Smith are great for that. However more recently, it has been podcasts. There is something so relaxing about listening to someone talk to you, or listen to someone have a conversation. Fitness has always been a battle for me – its been that thing that can help but then all of a sudden it is a trigger. When I was younger it was running, I started when I was revising for GCSE’s – I needed to clear my head. I kept that up for a few years. Dropped completely off the wagon at university – I was the typical uni girl who gained all the fresher weight from booze and then never went to the gym as I was too ashamed. When I have been at my lowest, I have found exercise difficult. It was another thing that I wasn’t very good at, I couldn’t run like I used to, I couldn’t squat like I used to. I dipped in and out of it. You name the diet of exercise programme I have probably done it. For the last year, I have been in a great relationship with exercise. It was actually 6 months after finding my feet with exercise I came off my medication. The main thing for me, was that I found something that I liked, I enjoyed and didn’t feel judged at. I now know that if I am having a bad day, or things aren’t going right I should go and be under the studio lights for 45 minutes and things will be better. Exercise is imperative for a clear mind. You can lose yourself in the song, or the exercise or even the instructor yelling over the mic. There are so many different forms of exercise these days that if you haven’t found what works for you, keep looking.
Courtney: I can definitely relate. I was never the sporty girl, and in the words of Bridget Jones “I will always be just a little bit fat”. But like you, as you know, exercise completely changed my life, and music too. Both are two factors that have had a huge impact on who I am today. Last question, if you could tell young you anything about mental health, what would it be?
Jess: It will be okay. You will struggle, you will cry, you will be lonely, but it will be okay. Reach out to those who you trust and who love you, it’s okay to not be how you feel you should be. Be you, be strong and you will get through it.
If you or somebody you know is struggling with mental health, you can find help and more information here: www.mind.org.uk