Sophie ( 20, HLHS )

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week, a cause very close to my heart- well, half of it….😉

My name is Sophie, I am twenty years old and was born with half a working heart (Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome). However, two and a half years ago, I was also diagnosed with Anxiety.

“However, two and a half years ago, I was also diagnosed with Anxiety.”

Anxiety is difficult to define, because most people (if not everyone) get anxious from time to time- whether that be because they have an exam, or other stressful event in their life. But the condition of Anxiety is a little different- it is the feeling of being constantly worried, or not being able to control worrying.

For as long as I can remember, I have always been an anxious person. Remember when there was that rumour the world was going to end in 2012? Well, I lay awake at night for months straight, worrying uncontrollably about that, even though I knew, deep down, that this was irrational. I never really spoke out about these worries, because I was afraid I would be made fun of, or laughed at.

Fast-forwarding to 2015, the Anxiety really hit, and I knew I needed to get help. It was during my final A-Level year, where it seemed everything became too much. I was feeling so on edge all the time, that sleeping was difficult, making concentration hard and consequently, studies even harder. At the same time, I started having Panic Attacks. According to the NHS, Panic Attacks are “a rush of intense anxiety and physical symptoms”. For me, the physical symptoms included a racing heartbeat, trembling, dizziness, and shortness of breath. They were very scary. These, put together with my heart condition, made every day so tiring until finally, I knew something had to change.

With the support of family and friends, I went along to my GP, who referred me onto a psychologist to have Cognitive Behavioral Therapy- a type of therapy that looks at strategies to help with said problem. It was amazing; she gave me so many easy strategies to use when I felt anxious, as well as helping look for the root cause of my Anxiety. Additionally, I spoke to my GP about medication that I could be put on to help- after talking with my heart consultant, to ensure the medication would be safe to use, I was prescribed “Sertraline”.

The September after my A-Levels, I made the decision not to go to University just yet, but to take a year out of studies, and, work. This year out was extremely beneficial, as I could concentrate on getting better, before adding more stress!

“This year out was extremely beneficial, as I could concentrate on getting better, before adding more stress!”

I am now, happy to say, at St Mary’s University, Twickenham, studying Primary Education. I would not have made it here if it wasn’t for the fabulous support of my family and friends, who stood by me and helped at the most difficult of times. Anxiety does not take over my life anymore, but that is only because friends and family gave me the confidence to speak out and get help.

So please, if you or someone else is struggling, seek help. For some reason, there is a bizarre stigma around Mental Health however, I think it is just as important as physical wellbeing. Things can get better. And remember…#ItsOkToTalk

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