Steff struggled with her mental health for years, trying to find a treatment that suited her. When she finally discovered more holistic therapies, she not only began her journey to recovery, but found the inspiration to start a business to help others as well
At the age of 14, I sank into a deep depression and, at the time, had no idea what was happening to me. I was angry at myself for feeling this way, and began to self-harm to forget the pain in my brain. It was a very confusing time, and at an age where my hormones were all over the place. I felt like there was no way out; how could I get better if I couldn’t even explain what was wrong?
I felt so lost, confused, and scared. At times, I didn’t want to be here anymore.
I began to really dislike myself, and eventually tried to seek help. Initially I went through this alone, until I opened up to my parents, who supported all the different methods I tried. I’m lucky to have the support system I do, but this led me to think about how many women are going through something similar, and are too scared to talk about it.
Over the years, I found other ways to harm myself – excessive drinking, smoking, sleep deprivation, pulling my hair out. I didn’t realise why I was doing these things, but I never felt well.
For the next 10 years, I found it hard to leave the house and would have panic attacks over things that would seem trivial to most. I felt physically ill, too. Eventually, I was diagnosed with anxiety and panic disorder – which made sense at the time, but, as I later found out, there was more to it.
I suffered in silence, putting on a brave face and, quite frankly, it was hell. The anxiety made me paranoid, and shaky. I couldn’t sleep, and my energy was constantly drained. I experienced severe brain fog and confusion, with even the smallest thing triggering an attack.
I tried cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) through the NHS, but unfortunately it did nothing for me. I tried medication, counselling, and self-help books. It was frustrating because it felt like no one could help me. I felt helpless and alone.
Then one day I picked up a crystal, and could feel the energy bounding through it. I did some research, and realised I could use them as a healing tool. This was the beginning of my recovery; putting crystals in my bra to support me made life simple, and created a stable routine.
Alongside crystal healing, I tried more holistic options, such as hypnotherapy, nutrition, meditation, and dived deeper into overcoming my past traumas. I also learned about my triggers, and how to teach myself to remain calm. I found a therapist who combined everything and really understood me. She works with me in conventional and holistic ways, combining therapy with sound healing and crystals – I still see her today.
I’m now coming up to 11 years harm-free, and earlier this year I was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as well as endometriosis. This came after more than three years of chronic pain following the bursting of ovarian cyst, and not understanding why I was still struggling with my mind and hormones.
With ADHD, I’ve learnt that it’s common for women to be diagnosed later in life; it’s often labelled as something little boys have, and isn’t explained enough for most people to even realise they have it, plus people often assume it’s just hyperactivity. My experience with anxiety and panic attacks was never actually panic disorder, but part of not having a neurotypical brain.
"I found a therapist who combined everything and really understood me. She works with me in conventional and holistic ways"
For me, ADHD is struggling to stay focused, excessive talking, fidgeting, impulsive behaviour, and not being able to properly regulate my emotions so they escalate quickly. This can look like irritability, outbursts of anger, crying, or be the complete opposite as I seem extremely happy and overjoyed. I can also go from having too much energy to not enough, things like getting ready and following through on tasks can be difficult due to sensory overload. I might forget important information, or lose things. This tends to lead me to feel guilt, shame, and self-loathing, which makes sense when I look back at my younger self. Knowing what I know now, it’s really no surprise now that she had such a hard time; she had no idea what she was dealing with.
All these symptoms can be followed by anxiety and shame, which is why it often be mistaken for anxiety, as that seems like the common issue at first – e.g. the panic that I may have said the wrong thing or interrupted someone.
I have mixed emotions about being diagnosed at 29. I’m relieved to finally understand myself, but there’s always a sadness in knowing there’s something chemically different with my brain, that others may be judgemental of, or not understand. There is sometimes a link between endometriosis and ADHD, but little evidence to prove it’s hormone-related at the moment.
Since getting my crystal healing, spiritual life coaching, and meditation certification, I have worked as an intuitive healing coach to help others to find balance in their minds and bodies. I want to help them get to the root of what triggers pain from chronic illness, as well as supporting them to work through trauma. I’ve held workshops on crystals and holistic healing, and I feel like I’ve finally found my path. I have a supportive family, friends, and fiancé who stayed with me through my health issues and in starting my business.
I want others to remember they are supported and to reach out; I wish I didn’t wait years to talk about it. It’s a long tough journey, but my mental health is now manageable. I want the same for everyone, no matter what they’re going through.
My ultimate goal is to support others and help them find what works for them. For me, combining modern medicine and holistic practices works best. I am the happiest and most stable I have ever felt, and I am so grateful I didn’t give up, because I would have missed out on so many amazing things in my life if I had.
Graeme Orr | MBACP (Accred) counsellor says:
From an early age, Steff struggled with her mental health, and ending up self-harming. Despite experimenting with a variety of treatments, nothing seemed to help. The turning point came when she connected with holistic therapy, as she felt she could finally understand what was going on in her body and mind, and could restore the balance.
Steff’s story reminds us not to be discouraged if one avenue of treatment doesn’t work for us. Finding the therapy and therapist that enables you to explore your process is often the key to improving your mental health.
Hero image: Photography | Stories by Chloe Photography
To connect with a counsellor to discuss ADHD, or poor mental wellbeing, visit counselling-directory.org.uk