1. ITV Report

Mental health affects so many of us and I was one of them who needed help

Around a year and a half ago I fell into a dark place.

Mental health.

It’s something that affects so many of us, and about a year and a half ago I was one of them who needed help.

I started suffering quite suddenly from anxiety, and experiencing quite bad panic attacks.

From the outside, I’m sure people thought that I was quite a confident person.

But, I fell into a dark place where I felt like I didn’t want to live any more.

Usually I go about meeting people and I try to get them to share their personal experiences with me. But this time around, it’s me that’s sharing my very personal experience of living with anxiety.

I don’t know what to expect. And admittedly, I feel very nervous and quite anxious about it.

It started about a year and a half ago. I remember feeling quite sweaty, my fingers started tingling and my heart started racing. It was a panic attack. But I’d never experienced it before so I was panicking thinking what’s going on, I didn’t know what it was.

You think you’re going to die. Because your heart is beating faster and faster. They would just happen like that, out of nowhere. And there was nothing I could do to control them. And that was the thing that really got under my skin. I like to keep control of things, especially myself and my thoughts and what I do. But having anxiety, there is no control. You can’t control yourself. And then things just got worse. I felt low, I felt like I didn’t want to do anything in the day. I came to a point where I felt like I didn't want to live anymore.

While I was working on series two pictured with my producer, Bethan, and Dr Alex George. Credit: Bethan Muxworthy

I felt guilty for feeling like this, but there wasn’t anything I could do about it, that’s how I felt, and that’s what was so frustrating. Not being able to get off this wheel.

The only people that really understood how I felt were Millie, my partner, and my mother. My mum really understood it, she’d been through something similar. She could just speak with me and really understand it all. And the same was true for Millie.

The only people that really understood how I felt were Millie, my partner, and my mother. Credit: Sion Jenkins

I’m just really lucky that I’m willing to speak openly about my feelings and my emotions. My mum and dad raised me in a house where they encouraged that, but I’m like that as a person too. That’s one of the reasons I’m making this programme is because when I was presenting the second series of Ein Byd I was in a really bad place but you wouldn’t have known that by watching the programme.

My mum and me at the Bafta Cymru Awards. Credit: Sion Jenkins

It took a while for me to come to terms with the fact that I had anxiety. I didn't really want to expect it, because I was a confident person and I always thought no, mental health problems aren't something that happened to people like me.

When you go through some sort of problem with mental health, you aren’t really the same person after it. It does change you to some extent.

It took a few weeks before I realised right I need to go to the doctor now. So I went. But there’s still a lot of news around the strain on mental health services in wales.

We made Freedom of Information requests to try to see the full extent of the situation, and a lot of data came back. But to give you an idea, one FOI revealed someone had to wait to more than 3 years to receive treatment.

Through the programme I explore my experience but I also hear from other people who are suffering. And I also speak to a GP who says she feels like a legal drug dealer.

The thing is, I can see why it's frustrating for doctors, at the end of the day what can they do in 10 mins. That's what happened to me. I was put on medication. And things like medication can help, but they rarely get to the root of the issue.

It’s obvious that all health boards are under pressure. And because of that they have to rely on charities and other people to help. Waiting times vary across Wales, but in the west there's 317 of adults who have had to wait more than a year for mental health treatments.

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Another thing that was difficult was telling friends. They did understand but they couldn’t do anything. When you turn to your friends you want them to do something, to try and help or to try and get rid of these feelings. But I couldn't depend on my friends to have some magic wand. Because the only person that can do anything about it is you.

I think there is more awareness around male mental health now than ever before which gives people the confidence to speak out and share their experiences. And I know, if I started struggling again there are places I can turn to for help, but of course that help doesn’t always come quick enough for some people.

I hope by making this programme, and by talking about my experiences, that I can show people that there’s no shame about talking openly about mental health, especially amongst men. There’s no shame in asking for help. If you are feeling low or if things aren’t right ask for help and be honest with your friends, family and yourself.