Feature for Fierce Calm
For 22 of my (almost) 29 years I have had mental illness. Age 7 I developed anxiety and emetophobia (phobia of feeling/being sick and being around vomit/anyone who is ill). An unfortunate encounter with a sausage a few months later, which made me very sick, bedded the seed of the phobia.
In the years that followed, I was taken to doctors, psychologists and paediatricians. They all came to the same conclusion: I was attention seeking. There was nothing wrong with me. So I was left to suffer. But I was a little girl who wasn’t well. Looking back, my heart breaks for her.
Age 13 I had a full mental breakdown in school. That was when I first self-harmed to try to cause physical pain as a distraction from my mind and from the physical feelings of what was finally labelled anxiety. In addition I became agoraphobic (fear of being in a situation that is physically or socially awkward to escape) and suicidal depression and had two further breakdowns at 19 and 25.
I’ve tried all sorts of treatments: CBT, exposure, counselling, hypnotherapy, specialised programmes, medication. I found counselling and medication most helpful. I processed and talked out a lot of my experiences, feelings and thoughts on my blog, which is now a published book. Photography is a hobby I can take everywhere and proves a good distraction from my instinctive agoraphobic tendencies.
I came to yoga six years ago, age 22/23. I wanted to try to improve my body and mind through exercise. But most forms of exercise weren’t accessible or sustainable: I needed something easy on the joints – I was diagnosed with arthritis, lupus and fibromyalgia – and that I could do at home. I had a try at yoga on the Wii Fit. I enjoyed it and bought a couple of yoga DVDs, then started feeling confident enough to begin building my own practice. I joined Instagram in 2015 and my practice has continued to blossom since.
Yoga is beneficial in mental disorders it trains the mind as much as it does the body. It brings you into the present, you have to train your focus on what your body is feeding back to you or you’ll lose the pose! Recognising that connection was key. If I could quiet my mind for yoga, it stood to reason that I could manage my mind at other times, too.