YONAKA's Theresa Jarvis: "Locking Everything Up Inside Is Suffocating"

YONAKA vocalist Theresa Jarvis addresses her struggles with anxiety this Mental Health Awareness week.

YONAKA's Theresa Jarvis: "Locking Everything Up Inside Is Suffocating"
Andy Ford

Mental Health Awareness week – it’s obviously not just a week as it is always present in so many of us.

I think it’s amazing how much people are talking about mental health now, because as selfish as it sounds, it brought me comfort to know someone else other than myself was going through this. This, being a horrible thing called anxiety with spells of depression, which I couldn’t recognise for what it was at the time. I thought there was something seriously wrong with me. My hands would go numb, I couldn’t move them, I would get very jittery and have panic attacks.

At its worst, it’s like you step into this different world where nothing feels the same anymore. I had to work a new routine into my life to try to, not so much get around my problem, but live with it and keep it at bay.

I remember walking into a shop about two years ago and becoming overwhelmed with fear. I felt like I was in fast-forward mode. I was shaking internally, my hands went numb, and I was terrified to the point that I left the shop and ran home. I went to bed thinking that I would be able to sleep it off, but by the time I woke up, I didn’t feel much different.

That was the change for me.

I pretty much lost all of my independence. I couldn't be alone, the thought terrified me. I wouldn’t even go to the shop alone. It then affected my sleep as well. At this point the days were hard enough, but now the anxiety was affecting my sleep. All of this meant that I became a bit of a mess.

I started reading Reasons To Stay Alive by Matt Haig and I couldn't believe they weren’t my words on the page. It sounded like what I was going through, and I felt relieved I wasn’t the only one. I found it hard to describe how I was feeling to people who didn’t feel like I did, so I would try to get through it alone. But I couldn't. I got counselling, and it turns out speaking to someone who doesn't know you is really good. You can say anything – things that have played on your mind or pissed you off, in complete confidence. I took other measures, too. I reduced my drinking, and I started exercising, which I found to be the best medicine ever. I tried yoga and meditation, but that didn’t work for me. I needed higher intensity exercise to get rid of the huge amount of adrenaline I had running around my body all of the time, and I found doing this helped balance me more throughout the day.

I started eating better, I wouldn’t look at my phone for the first and last hour of a day (I heard this on Jim Kwik’s podcast and it makes such a difference). I was the one determining my mood, not someone on social media or a contact in my phone – it was up to me. All this stuff helped me. A lot. I also began to write… and write. When I had a long day with no sleep and all I wanted to do was to sit in a corner and cry, writing brought me some relief. This isn’t to say I didn't get anxious or sad, or have panic attacks anymore, because I did, but far less than before. I found myself again – I just had to make some changes.

I have so many people around me, family and friends, that suffer with anxiety and depression and it’s hard. It’s really hard. But time is a healer, and making small changes can make a big difference. Having someone to talk to is very important, locking everything up inside is suffocating. So, to anyone who has been through, or is going through something similar, reach out to someone for help. Please.

YONAKA's debut album Don't Wait 'Til Tomorrow is available on May 31 through Asylum. The band tour the UK this summer and play All Points East Festival.

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