This month I chatted to the beautiful Lauren! Lauren is the owner and creator of Yana, a clothing brand aiming to break down the barriers for those living with mental illness and to remind us all that however dark it gets, we are never alone. Here are her answers to ‘The Big Questions!’
1. Tell us a little about your journey…
Well, where do I start and how long have you got?! So, going back to when I was 13 (I’m now 28, almost 29, so bear with!) I started to experience signs of depression – I remember being bullied during the first few years of secondary school and having a love/hate relationship with my parents – this may have been the trigger, but who knows! I continued to struggle with any hard times that I came up against (they may not have appeared like ‘hard times’ to others but for me they were) and I felt as though I had nowhere to turn, no one that could understand or help me understand what was going on inside my mind. I turned to self-harm and attempted suicide on a couple of occasions.
People used to say it was attention-seeking (the self-harm) but it was a release, from all the anger and hurt I was feeling inside.
I continued to struggle on my own (with the odd counselling sessions which I never found that beneficial at the time) until I was 17, in my first year of university. I started drinking a lot (like any other uni student!) but I noticed that the high I was getting from the drink, when drunk, was becoming addictive. I started getting the urge to drink again as soon as reality came back to hit me in the face – I just wanted to be drunk and happy all the time. Don’t get me wrong, I still experienced the emotional outlet that the depressant brings but for the majority of the time I was a happy drunk with no negative thoughts or a care in the world. Something told me that this wasn’t right, and I was afraid of it becoming out of hand.
I reached out to my mum, who booked me in at the Priory to start therapy which would be covered through her medical insurance from her place of work at the time. After only one session my mum’s workplace decided to stop the medical insurance for their employees which meant I couldn’t continue my therapy due to the cost. I then went to my GP to seek alternative support through the NHS to which I was just diagnosed with depression, given anti-depressants and sent on my way.
The drinking continued, the struggles continued, the self-harm continued. I gave up on talking at the time and tried to block out everything I was feeling. If you asked most of my uni friends, they would probably have no idea this was going on. Apart from one, who I lived with, worked with and went to uni with – she saw all sides of me… and we remain good friends to this day, she’s a keeper!
My anxiety problems started that same year, which wasn’t helped by the smoking of weed, – I never smoked it a lot but now and again with friends in halls. I had one experience of a ‘whitey’ which was a BAD experience, I ended up in A&E thinking I was going to die – some may laugh, and still laugh about this but this was the start of my panic attacks and huge anxiety problem. I couldn’t work, travel, walk anywhere on my own, drink alcohol etc – anything that made me feel out of control, trapped, or in danger, I couldn’t handle.
Jumping forward slightly, since being out of university and thrown in to the ‘big wide world’, I tried to pursue my hopes of working in the fashion industry and after almost 5 years at two different high street retailers, I was worn down and forced to leave the industry for a more ‘mental health friendly’ environment. I could talk for ages about the effects the workplace has had on my mental health, but I think I have already got a little carried away!
Over the past 4 years, I have had CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy) through the NHS four times and the last two rounds I have found incredibly helpful. Learning to re-train my brain, understanding my thought process and how I can intercept and change it. CBT has definitely helped with my anxiety, still a long way to go but I can tell and people around me can tell the impact it has made. I still struggle with the ups & downs of depression, but certain aspects of my life have improved following CBT, which has, in turn, helped the depression.
2. What inspired you to talk so openly?
Learning to talk about what is going on inside my mind really has helped with my recovery. Some people think talking is so simple, but it is so so hard for someone who is struggling with a mental health illness. Once you manage to start opening up and airing all of those thoughts, it is like a weight is lifted and you can make more sense of it all, see things a little clearer. And, get support from those around you.
It has taken me 10 years to get to this point and I really want to encourage others to feel ok with their illness, feel ok to talk about it and to feel less alone with their illnesses.
3. Do you believe there is still a stigma surrounding mental health?
YES! The workplace is a big one for me. And I’ve even experienced this from friends, who have had no personal experience of mental health illnesses.
4. Do you find it easy to speak about your mental health?
I never used to find it easy to talk about at all but now, I feel more able too. I do struggle to say what I mean sometimes as I have dyslexia and dyspraxia which then triggers my anxiety but the more I continue to share my experiences and take opportunities to do so, the more I will overcome those anxieties!
5. What has helped you maintain positive mental health/wellbeing?
CBT, social media detoxes & surrounding myself with people that love me for me.
6. What are your favourite self-care activities?
Baking, cooking, walking, swimming, getting creative!
7. Have any books/films/TV shows helped you with your mental health? If so, which?
365 Days of Self-Care (Jayne Hardy)
Be the Change (Gina Martin)
Happy Place (Fearne Cotton)
Under the Skin (Russell Brand)
Mad World / If I Can Do It (Bryony Gordon)
Extraordinary People (Katie Piper)
8. What would you say to your younger self?
You are enough, just as you are.
Stop comparing yourself to others, it’s better to be an individual.
Put yourself first, look after number one – be your own best friend.
9. How do you think we can improve mental well-being for the next generation?
Continuing to talk and share our stories, show them that it is ok to not be ok and it is ok to talk about our emotions. Mental health should be a topic in schools for sure!!
10. Who are your biggest role models?
Fearne Cotton, Bryony Gordon, Hussain Manawear, Shocka Artist.
Anyone that speaks so openly, honestly about their mental health experiences in order to help others.
Myself – I have NEVER said this before, but this question got me thinking… I am proud of how far I’ve come!
12. What would you say to someone struggling with their mental health right now?
Please do not suffer in silence, reach out to a friend, family member or even me! It really does help to air your feelings. Be kind to yourself and take time for you.
13. If you could press a button, and get rid of your mental illness for good, right now, would you press it?
No. It makes me, me and I wouldn’t want to change who I am.
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You can follow Lauren on social media here:
And please check out the incredible Yana store for amazing tee’s, sweatshirts and tote bags! 10% of every purchase goes to Mind, the UK’s leading mental health charity!
You can also get an exclusive discount on ay items using code ‘LBTB10’!