Lewis' story: the power of offloading

May 2023

When Lewis was anxious, he felt sick, distant and detached and had to withdraw from social situations. But seeking support in the run-up to his first son's birth has helped Lewis to open up to others about his anxiety and alleviated some pressure. In his blog for Mental Health Awareness Week, he explains his journey

I’ve been struggling with my mental health since I was 14, but I didn’t realise I was experiencing anxiety until I was 16 years old (I’m now 26). I was chatting to a colleague at work about how I’d been feeling and she said she often felt the same and struggled with over-thinking and debilitating worry. She suggested it might be anxiety and that I should perhaps go and see my GP.

For me, when I’m anxious, I feel sick, I become distant and I become detached from myself. I also experience physical ticks, like twitching hands or legs. When I become detached, my mind wanders off onto other things to distract me from my anxiety and this can be difficult for my relationships. The debilitating sick feeling has meant that I’ve cancelled social events at short notice and had to have days off work – leaving people wondering what’s wrong.

I used to try to breathe through feeling sick and calm myself down that way, but it didn’t really have a significant impact and I wasn’t really dealing with my anxiety.

My first son was born a few years ago, and I think my anxiety has more or less calmed down since his birth. Having a little person to look after and think about kind of moves anxiety to the back of my mind. That said, I am still terrible in groups and social situations, and the need for me to put myself in these situations has of course increased since having Kai. But because it’s for him, I try to push myself to do it!

I first reached out for support in the time leading up to Kai’s birth. I knew I needed to get myself better before he arrived, so that I could be the best parent I could be. A support worker suggested that Families in Mind might be able to help with my anxiety and to help our family meet other parents who were struggling with similar issues.

Having someone to talk to at Families in Mind on a one-to-one basis really works for me. It’s more personal and it really boosts my well-being to be able to offload and talk things through – and just lay things bare on the table. The support is great, and I have learned some breathing techniques and exercises to help with my anxiety when it becomes too much.

I regularly use the breathing techniques I learned in my sessions, as well as a focus technique, to help calm my anxiety. I am also more open to friends, family and colleagues as a result of having talked to someone. It means that I am now able to say when I feel anxious or low.

This helps enormously, because it means I have accepted myself and can talk openly with more people about how I feel. I’m not constantly masking my anxiety, which is what I was doing before, and that was only increasing my worry about letting others down or them judging me.

Having more people know that I sometimes suffer with anxiety means others don’t just think I’m being awkward if I cancel a night out or seem distant; having more people who understand is really important.