When her boss claimed her conversations were “going around in circles” and suggested she needed to “go home”, Alison Evans knew something wasn’t quite right.
She had always been a confident, capable, strong woman but lately she’d been feeling she couldn’t deal with things anymore.
Although she missed the signs at the time, Alison now knows that this was the start of her nervous breakdown.
“I didn’t know what was happening to me,” she said.
“I had always been able to deal with things myself but now I was having really dark thoughts.
“I felt useless and like I wasn’t good enough anymore.
“When my husband and I tried to figure out what was happening to me, we couldn’t remember the last time I’d laughed, and yet I’d always had a big belly-aching laugh.
“Everything had become so serious.”
A decade later, Alison has written a book entitled Knitting, Tatting and Breakdowns to share her experiences of recovering from a nervous breakdown.
The Scottish-born local, who moved to Newcastle in 2017, is hoping her honest account of a battle with mental health will help other people who might find themselves in a similar situation.
Written under her family name of Bryson, Alison reveals the events that led to her September 2010 breakdown, her struggles for direction, time in a mental health facility, and what she has learned about anxiety and how to manage it.
“I realise now that, at the time, my body was in a constant state of acute anxiety,” she said.
“I couldn’t relax. My mind would constantly catastrophise.
“I’d tell myself that because I couldn’t work anymore, I was going to lose my house, and then my husband will leave me, and I’ll be all alone.”
Knitting, Tatting and Nervous Breakdowns was born from Alison’s healing process.
“When I was at my worst, my mum gave me some knitting to do,” she said.
“I began knitting squares for blankets and then little jumpers to wrap babies in in Africa.
“Tatting is using thread and shuttles to create intricate knot work with cotton.
“I could sit for up to two hours tatting and I’d have no thoughts slamming around in my head or my chest heaving.”
Alison said her referral to psychiatric support was the turning point.
“I needed immediate support,” she said. “I needed things to do in the day and I needed structure.
“I needed hope and, at the facility, people had lots of hope for me.”
Mission to Seafarers Newcastle is set to host the launch of Alison’s new book.
“I was very vulnerable during my breakdown and I want to support others who are vulnerable,” she said.
“Seafarers endure separation from their families, loneliness and fear and [through my volunteering] I’m pleased to be able to help them in a small way.”
*If this story raises any issues for you, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or visit the charity’s website.