Anna Williamson shares her journey from generalised anxiety disorder to best-selling author, practising counsellor, life coach and NLP practitioner
Anna is running for a train when we speak, but that doesn’t prevent her from talking amazingly eloquently about her mental health challenges, career changes and the upcoming one-night show at Wimbledon Theatre Breaking Mad with Anna Williamson: The Insider’s Guide to Conquering Anxiety.
I get the sense that Anna is someone who is accustomed to juggling a lot of different tasks. She has certainly developed a really impressive and solid CV. Anna started as a children’s TV presenter in her early twenties, subsequently trained and now practises as a counsellor, life coach and Master NLP practitioner, has written two books Breaking Mad: The Insiders Guide to Conquering Anxiety and Breaking Mum and Dad: The Insiders Guide to Parenting Anxiety. She also regularly appears and speaks on radio and television, and is an ambassador for the mental health charity Mind, among others.
However, the foundation for her career since presenting on children’s TV was the diagnosis of generalised anxiety disorder. Ten years ago, Anna started to suffer from crippling anxiety attacks and behind her sunny smile and outwards appearance of positivity, she felt she was crumbling inside. Luckily, Anna reached out and sought help and was so inspired by the change it made to her life that she chose to train and help others too.
Now, Anna is bringing that story, her professional experience and some useful and actionable tips to a one night, one woman show at the Wimbledon Theatre, London on Tuesday 26 June. I ask Anna what she hopes people will take away from the evening.
“Firstly, I hope that the evening will be a little ‘me’ time for each person that attends. They don’t have to share or speak, or do anything they don’t wish to - but they will be able to hear, in a safe and friendly environment, about my mental health journey and some of the practises I have learnt along the way that they could perhaps incorporate into their own lives to help, if they are facing similar challenges.”
Anna goes right back to the generalised anxiety disorder that started her journey, and I wonder how that is for her, and does it bring back any feelings from the past? “I do delve quite deeply into what was a difficult time, as I am sure that there will be others who are experiencing that” she says. “But I am careful about looking after myself, that’s important in my role as a counsellor and a life coach too.”
“It’s also really cathartic to talk about where I was and the tools I used, and help others to use to get past that” she continues. “You also find that when you share, it can allow other people to open up or consider how they can make some changes too - by themselves if they aren’t able to see a professional. That’s important to me. I realise that seeking professional help can be out of some people’s budget, and this show shares some of the methods and tools that can support people who are suffering.”
The show is a one-night only event, so I ask Anna what her plans are after that. “I am really looking forward to the show in Wimbledon and would love to do more of them, but we will have to see!”
Before we finish our call, Anna and I chat about the positive impact talking about mental health has had for both of us, and Anna gives some lovely and positive feedback about Happiful. Her warmth and enthusiasm for spreading the word about mental health self-care is evident, even down the telephone line, and I can imagine that those who attend the show and meet Anna are in for an absolute treat.
Breaking Mad with Anna Williamson: The Insider’s Guide to Conquering Anxiety plays at the Time & Leisure Studio, New Wimbledon Theatre on Tuesday 26th June.
For help with anxiety and to find a local counsellor, visit the Counselling Directory.