Wensleydale student talks about her mental health problems to raise awareness and money

Georgia Daykin, pictured ahead of her interview at Cambridge University.

In the week that Prince Harry revealed the mental health problems he suffered following the death of his mother, Askrigg student Georgia Daykin, 18, talks about her own battle with anxiety and depression. This is her story.

There is a huge stigma surrounding mental illnesses compared to physical illnesses, yet one in four people are diagnosed with a mental illness in their lifetime, and many more suffer in silence.

I have always been very secretive about my mental health problems and to help end this stigma I would like to share my experiences, in the hope that others might share theirs too.

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From a very young age I suffered from anxiety which expressed itself in a variety of forms over the years. At the age of 11, I began therapy for OCD (Obsessive compulsive disorder) and panic attacks.

When I was 14, I was unable to attend school due to overwhelming anxiety.

Eight months after leaving school, I took up a scholarship place to attend a boarding school.

After completing my A Levels, I decided to have a gap year, desperately needing a break from the stress and pressure I was putting on myself. I took away almost everything that stressed me, hoping that I would be greeted by happiness and relaxation. However, the result was severe depression.

In November of last year, aged 17, I was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome (Autism spectrum disorder), which helped to explain where a lot of my lifelong anxiety came from. Around the same time I was in a hospital bed as a result of my depression manifesting itself in the form of an eating disorder.

On the outside I usually come across as happy, normal, motivated and successful. However, other times I may come across as weird, stressed, demotivated, depressed, uncommunicative and exhausted. This side I have tried as hard as I could to hide and conceal. My social media accounts only show my bright side and until now have not hinted at the other side- I know I am not alone in doing that.

I’ve spent years trying to be “normal”, pretending that I’m fine, pretending that the reason I’m not at school or work is because I’ve got flu or a stomach ache when actually I’m shutting myself away, where no one can see my true anxiety plagued self.

Everyone has a different personality so each individual has different challenges to face. I am a paranoid perfectionist. I consistently push myself as hard as I can to achieve academic goals, only stopping when I reach them- or I break. My achievements give me the huge ups of my life but the pressure I put myself under results in the seemingly endless lows and damages both my mental and physical health.

I am extremely fortunate in that I have an immense amount of support from my family and friends, but we have often struggled to get the professional help we desperately needed; only receiving it when the situation gets extremely serious and we are at breaking point. Only after I have physical symptoms.

I’ve spent years trying to be “normal”, pretending that I’m fine, pretending that the reason I’m not at school or work is because I’ve got flu or a stomach ache when actually I’m shutting myself away, where no one can see my true anxiety plagued self.

I was first referred to Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) aged 11.

After a relatively short time I was accepted and began Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) over the following year.

In summer 2015 I was referred again, but was rejected as I wasn’t regarded ill enough.

The following year my mental health problems were getting more serious again, but the process of being referred and rejected was repeated several times over summer 2016.

I was rapidly going down hill, so after one of the referrals, CAMHS passed me to a charity organisation, who assessed me and said that I was too ill for them and that I needed to be with CAMHS. So they referred me back to CAMHS, I was once again rejected.

Suspecting autism, we requested a NHS assessment which was first rejected and then I was finally placed on an eight-month waiting list. However, by this point we were very desperate and so we had to pay for a private autism assessment.

A few weeks later my parents rang CAMHS and begged them to help me. I was eventually taken up after I had been in A&E, had an autism diagnosis and talked about suicidal thoughts. The reason this happened is no fault of anyone at CAMHS. It is purely a reflection of the lack of funding for mental health services.

When we can start talking more freely about our mental state we will be able to begin to stop feeling so isolated and alone with this very common illness. I have an exciting future ahead, which I would not have if I had not started talking. In October, I will take up my place to study Natural Sciences at Cambridge.

I am cutting my hair short because as a child I used to play with my hair, as many children do, but as my OCD developed I began to pull it out as one of my “rituals”.

Georgia Daykin has cut her hair off as part of her campaign to raise awareness of mental health problems.

I will be walking the Yorkshire Three Peaks to represent the huge peaks and troughs of everyone’s life, and how reaching these heights can be hugely rewarding but how draining the amount of effort needed to reach them can be. And then the Dales Way to illustrate how overcoming mental health problems is a long journey.

I am supporting the charity MQ because mental illness desperately needs funding for research. Currently research in this area is drastically underfunded, it is crucial that research in this field is seen as important as it is for physical illnesses.

To find out more about MQ click here.

To sponsor Georgia, click here.

Georgia is also holding a quiz night at the Kings Arms in Askrigg on April 27 at 9pm to help raise awareness and money for MQ.