'I was terrified of life. I didn't leave my house for two years' - tattooist speaks out about mental health
PUBLISHED: 16:26 21 April 2019
A brave 25-year-old has spoken out about her decade long struggle with her mental health, how she overcame it and now wants to help others.
Molly Garnham, a tattoo apprentice, suffered anxiety, depression and a self-harm addiction from the age of 15.
Mrs Garnham was unable to complete school as a result and did not leave her house for two years.
She said: “I was terrified of life. I gained four stone in weight because I was stuck indoors in my safety bubble. I wouldn't even go into the garden.”
The problems started in 2008, when she was shopping in Ipswich as a teenager and experienced a panic attack for the first time.
An ambulance was called as she was hyperventilating.
From that day on the Stowmarket apprentice found anxiety took over her life and turned her into a completely different person, resulting in her losing all of her friends.
She later underwent cognitive behavioural therapy and hypnotherapy to help her recover.
One of her biggest leaps forward came when she got an urge to go outside one night at 11.30pm after two years indoors.
“Bryce, my husband, quickly grabbed his stuff and pulled the car out,” she said.
“I stepped outside and got into the car for the first time in two years.
“We literally drove five metres out of the drive and then I went back inside.
“I was in floods of tears, it was such a massive thing for me. From that moment on I saw leaving the house as a challenge and each time I wanted to go out and get that little bit further.”
Mrs Garnham still sees a doctor regularly but said that however difficult it is to talk about her problems, that is what has helped her the most.
The Rough Diamond Tattoo employee said: “I think there is so much stigma around mental health and people don't like to talk about it but that's how you fix it.
“I wouldn't tell people how I was feeling I would pretend to everyone I was fine, and wouldn't say when I was having a down day or an anxious day, but when you do start talking about it you realise people are more accepting then you think.
“No-one understands unless they've experienced it. My husband is the most supportive person in the world and even he doesn't fully understand but the more you talk about it the better.”
Ezra Hewing, head of mental health education at Suffolk Mind, said: “Stress and anxiety are nature's way of telling us that key emotional needs have not been met in our lives.
“Many people find that one-to-one support or anxiety courses really help them to meet emotional needs and banish anxiety from their lives.
“Anxiety and depression are normal responses to unmet needs, experienced by one in four of us in any given year. “People who are able to reduce excessive worrying and calm strong emotions are better able to focus on meeting emotional needs.
“Making contact with your GP, the Wellbeing Service or Suffolk Mind is the first step to recovery.”
The Chelmsford woman is currently offering a free tattoo service at her Stowmarket studio for those who have self-harm scars which they would like to cover up.
However, the talented tattooist is booked up solidly for the next six months.
She said: “I was worried about offering this because I don't want people to think I am saying the scars should be hidden as it shows how far they have come but for others it can hinder their life.
“I don't mind doing it for free as I am passionate about it, when something is holding you back it is nice to offer a silver lining to help those.
“I have done a few already and I can see how happy it makes those people.”
Ezra Hewing added: “Because self-harming behaviours, like cutting, trigger the release of endorphins, they can give people control over distressing thoughts and feelings. However, the risk is that, because endorphins are addictive, people can get stuck in a cycle of self harm. Making contact with your GP, the Wellbeing Service or Suffolk Mind is the first step to recovery”.