FOR Alison Bryson (née Evans), the year 2020 has seen the completion of a ‘full circle’ – from her nervous breakdown a decade ago, to publishing her first book last month.
In September of 2010, Alison didn’t know what was happening to her, but she “knew something wasn’t right”.
“I felt like I didn’t know who I was anymore,” she said.
Fifty-one-year-old Alison had been living in Sussex at the time, working as a manager in the registrar service when she had her breakdown, caused by acute anxiety and depression.
“I was avoiding doing things – I felt overwhelmed.
“One day the gas man came to the house and I couldn’t understand a word he was saying.
“My husband tried to help, but nothing made any sense.
“It was so scary – I couldn’t work out what was wrong.”
Moving back to the Borders
Alison was born in Galashiels but was brought up in Earlston, and at her lowest point she decided to come back to the Borders to spend six weeks with her parents.
After spending more than a month with her family, Alison travelled back to Sussex to begin three weeks of treatment.
“It was so hard,” she said. “My husband was at work and I had no capability to do anything.
“It was horrendous.
“My husband suggested I visit my parents again as he thought I was better being with my family.
“But in 2010 we had a really bad winter and I ended up being stuck in Earlston for two weeks.
“I already felt mentally trapped, but then I was physically trapped too.”
After returning home, Alison spoke to her doctor and was referred to a local mental health clinic.
As part of her treatment Alison took part in art classes, crafting and other activities.
“Staff had said they had hope for me,” Alison said. “I didn’t feel alone.”
One aspect of recovery led Alison to understand the physical effects of mental health conditions such as anxiety.
“I always felt I was charged with electricity,” she said.
“My legs were shaking all the time.
“I hadn’t realised they were the effects of anxiety.
“In March 2011, I took part in an anxiety course that talked about the physical effects.
“I hadn’t put it all together.
“I learned a lot.”
A new job Down Under
Nine months after she started to feel unwell (June 2011), Alison was back at work.
And in December 2012, she and her husband packed their bags and moved to Coal Point, New South Wales (NSW), Australia.
As well as working for her local council in Australia, Alison also volunteers for the Mission to Seafarers in Newcastle, NSW.
“I felt empathy to seafarers.
“In normal times they could come ashore, but now they have no idea when they’ll get home.
“From a mental health perspective I worry for the men and women stuck with the same group of people all the time.
“I can’t imagine how awful it must feel.”
‘I have hope for others now’
Now, with all her experience and knowledge, Alison has written a book documenting her breakdown, recovery and everything in between.
Knitting, Tatting and Nervous Breakdowns was officially released on September 27, and Alison hopes her book can help others who may be struggling.
“I always thought, ‘If only I could see someone who went through the same thing’, that would have helped me.
“I hope people do what I didn’t – seek help right away, say what you’re feeling.
“I hope people can learn the signs of anxiety and how to manage them.”
Her book was a decade in the making, as although she couldn’t read properly during the height of her breakdown, Alison made sure to make notes of every experience.
“I had a lot of reference material – and three years ago I put everything together.”
Inspired by the nurses and doctors who cared for her, Alison added: “I hope that the book helps people who are feeling hopeless.
“Because even though I had no hope, I have hope for others now.”
Alison’s book Knitting, Tatting and Nervous Breakdowns can be purchased through Amazon.