Anxiety affects almost 10million people in the UK and women are almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with anxiety disorders as men. It can begin when least expected and needs to be recognized before it can be addressed. Something Lynsey Carratt, 37, knows only too well when she realised her life was being dictated by the anxiety which had crept up upon her. But she’s taken steps to win her life back and the new perspective it’s given her has led to a new life direction she could never have imagined! Fans of ITV drama Cleaning Up will have seen Lynsey at work as TV star Sheridan Smith’s body double. A twist which would never have happened without coming through her episode of anxiety.
A new life didn’t go as planned
Lynsey had enjoyed working in Dubai in her late twenties as a journalist but wanted to relocate to the UK again in 2014 – and it was his transition which she believes triggered the anxiety which she came to experience. “I just assumed life would be the same as before I left and I could pick up where I have left off,” she says. “But it just wasn’t the same. Old friends had moved on and had partners and even children. I had to search for somewhere to live and I was freelancing with no job security and the media world in London was much tougher than Dubai and I felt I had to prove myself all over again – my self-esteem shattered I struggled to connect with new work colleagues.”
The pressure of having to create a new life and make many more adjustments than expected took their toll. Soon Lynsey found herself living a very different life from the sociable one which she’d enjoyed in her time overseas. “I would cancel plans with friends and stay in bed and watch box sets,” she explains. “I found it difficult to get out of bed, let alone leave the house. I felt like I was drowning.”
Looking back, Lynsey can see how creeping the anxiety was: “I think it happened over a period of about a year and a half and it finally came to a head about six months into my role as an editor on a magazine. My periods had stopped, and I had finally reached a breaking point and that is when I knew I had to go and see the doctor.” But while she knew she needed medical help, Lynsey kept her experience quiet when it came to friends and family. “I didn’t really confide in anyone what had happened. I was embarrassed by it and I wanted to keep it private, the only person who knew was my partner because at the time we lived together, as he saw first-hand what I had been feeling like. He was very supportive, despite not really knowing what to do.”
History made going to the GP hard
Having experienced depression in the past Lynsey knew that she needed to seek professional help to get back to herself – although that’s not to say she didn’t feel some trepidation. “I have a history of depression, which mainly happened during my later teenage years and I had previously taken anti-depression tablets in my early twenties, and I actually took an overdose on them and had to go to A&E, so I never wanted to go back on them.” Her treatment began with an anti-depressant, which didn’t work well for her. “All it did was make me very sleepy and teary. After a month the doctors changed my prescription to another anti-depressant tablet, but this time I felt no side-effects. I also had to change my diet to eat healthily, cut down on alcohol and make sure I took regular exercise.”
Although she began on the road to get back to herself, Lynsey was also aware that she had also changed through her experience. “The hardest thing for me was the feeling of not wanting to do a job I had worked so hard for. The adrenaline rush I used to get from interviewing were gone and I’d get tongue tied just talking my colleagues in the office and worry about what they thought of me. I felt weak.” But as she recovered Lynsey saw life through fresh eyes. “It changed my attitude to life as I felt I had wasted some much time not wanting to go out and socialise. Now, I am trying to challenge myself a lot more and last year I travelled to the Great Wall of China, which is something I wouldn’t have been able to do before. I also used to hate going to group classes because I thought people would laugh at me. Now, I love going to Zumba and yoga.”
A film career in the making
And that dream career which wasn’t quite cutting the mustard anymore? Well now Lynsey felt she had to the tools and headspace to make a change. “I’d always taking part in acting classes right up until I was eighteen, then I went on to University and full-time work and it got lost. After taking some time out from work to deal with my anxiety, I realised I would like to get back into to doing extra work, so I just signed up for some more agencies.” Smaller roles came flooding in and then Lynsey received a big break. “One of the agencies asked if I would like to be put forward for Sheridan’s stand-in and I said ‘yes, why not’, I was freelancing at the time. I never in a million years thought I would be asked to do it. So I was shocked – and I thought it was very funny – when I got the role.”
Filming was tougher than she had imagined with long days and night shoots throughout the winter months. And being on a large TV set was also a test for her mind as well as body. “It was nerve-racking for the first week or so because I had to work with a complete bunch of strangers in a job role I had never done before,” she confesses. “It soon got easier and I became comfortable with the camera and all the lighting. There was one incident during filming when the director and the crew were setting up a scene with me and I had to climb up the ladders on a bunk bed and kiss young Anya, the actress who played Sheridan’s daughter Lily and I fell off the ladder on to the floor. If that had happened to me before, I would have been too embarrassed to go back on set.” Times had truly changed.
“Before I could never have imagined getting up at 5am, let alone getting in my car and driving to Watford in freezing conditions and working for 12 hours and on somedays having to work with 100 crew and cast. But I actually think the routine that came with the role helped me with recovery.” As Lynsey continues with the lifestyle choices she needs to feel her best she’s proven sometimes a challenge can lead to a welcome change.
If you’re suffering from overwhelming feelings of depression and, or anxiety consult a health professional in person to talk through the options so that you can get the right help for you.