Things We Aren't Allowed to Talk About
Making it okay to say you’re not doing so well
By Jessica May Hayes /

In all of my memory I have been living with ADHD, which is particularly isolating for young women. Because I live with ADHD as an adult, I’ve witnessed skepticism at best, and intolerance at worst, towards mental illness and psychiatric disorders. In almost all areas of my life I see people struggle to talk about times when they are struggling with their emotional and mental wellbeing, and I know first hand how exhausting and debilitating that silence can be.

Very recently, the lovely James Routledge of Sanctus came to visit the Lost My Name office to talk about mental health in start-ups (check out hiswriting, or ask if he can come and talk to your business). That talk hit me in a lot of ways:

— Professionally, I know that mental health support is something that every company should have front of mind. A few years ago Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) found that 15.2m days of sickness absence across the UK were caused by conditions such as stress, anxiety or depression.

— Personally, I’ve been having a rough time this year. I decided to bite the bullet and attend a Sanctus session run by James and a dear ex-colleague of mine, Shayan Qadir. I have to admit I was incredibly anxious and felt exposed before (and during) the session, and almost didn’t go at all.

I am so glad that I did.

I sat down afterwards to try and collect my thoughts, but every post I wrote felt contrived and static. I don’t claim to be an artist, but below was the best way I could explain the way I felt (and still feel most days)… and the way Sanctus helped me grapple with that feeling for the first time in months.

A few months ago I realised I didn’t feel so good…
I didn’t have a cough, or sniff, or headache (much), but I started feeling really tired a LOT
But worst of all, I started feeling really, really scared and sad all the time.
In the months leading up I was very stressed and very, very busy. I felt on edge quite often.
Thankfully my boyfriend was super caring, but I was even making that ugly with stress and worry.
I started crying a lot…
I was crying at work…
In the shower (yes, even at the gym)
One night I was riding home, crying in the rain… it was very dramatic.
Some days I’d wake up and be back to “Old Jess” — I could ride bikes with my team, see my friends, and I felt energetic, happy and excited
And then the next day I wouldn’t be able to get out of my bed…
Sometimes for days at a time.
This was around the time I realised something was very wrong, but I was too stubborn to admit it to anyone…
I said, “NO JESS, you’ll be fine if you just work HARDER,” so I did…
But like a many-headed Hydra, once I chopped a head off my sadness and anxiety by doing more work… more sad and anxious heads poked out.
And I started feeling sadder… and scareder… and I stopped riding my bike, and seeing my friends, and sometimes I couldn’t answer the phone without crying.
I felt (and still feel) like I’m trying to carry 4 wedding cakes on each arm, skateboarding over a narrow path above a black canyon. And everyone on the other side is mad I won’t HURRY UP!
A lot of the time I’d prefer if I just fell down into the darkness…
And I could stay in bed (maybe forever) and drink wine, go on Reddit, and cry.
The people close to me started worrying when I got sick.
But eventually they got used to me not answering or coming out and they faded away. I felt really lonely, and really anxious, but I felt I deserved to be sad.
I never had the guts to speak up and say, “I’m really sad you guys. It makes me scared. Im scared all the time.” I was worried people would not believe me. Or tell me to calm down, or stop worrying. So I stayed silent and sad. Isolated by my anxiety.
But lately I realised a lot of us feel like this in our lives. It’s my job as someone who will get better to help others… but first, myself.
I’m not going to go back to my old self straight away. And when I do it won’t be every day. At first it might be one day every week… but that will grow…
into months of more good than bad.
and when I finally start forgetting what it feels like in the darkness… alone, isolated and scared…
I’ll be able to offer those of you who are in the darkness…
and offer you my hand.

Thank you, James.

If you’re struggling with your mental health, perhaps Sanctus is for you… or perhaps one of the below contacts can help:

EU Standard Emotional Support Number 116 123 — Free and available in much of Europe, details here

Samaritans (

  • Voice: 116 123 (24/7 Free to call, will not appear on phone bills, formerly 08457 90 90 90)
  • Text: 07725909090
  • Email:

Helplines for Men from

  • Voice: 0800 58 58 58 (5pm to midnight nationwide, also 0808 802 58 58 London and 0800 58 58 58 Merseyside)
  • Text 07537 404717 (5pm to midnight, start your text with CALM2)
  • Online Chat:

ChildLine (, for those 19 and under:

Directory of suicide-related services:

3.8 ·
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Things We Aren't Allowed to Talk About