TAKING up sport proved to be the turning point for a mother who was struggling with anxiety and was too scared to leave her home.

Alex Muller-Nicholson decided to tackle her problems head-on and joined her local rugby team.

Now, the 33-year-old, mother of one from Hartlepool, says the move has transformed her life and is urging anyone else suffering in silence to follow in her footsteps.

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“Not many people knew I had this issue, and it began to affect a lot of my work life. Phone calls would send me into a complete panic and I'd dodge them constantly," she said.

"I hated what was happening to me and I knew I had to try something to stop it getting worse. So, I did something that my brain told me I would never do in a million years – I tried a sport.”

She joined her local women's rugby team in May 2017, after going along to one of its Inner Warrior camps – taster sessions, organised by the RFU and clubs up and down the country, to try and encourage women to give the sport a go.

She added: “They were the best two hours I'd had all year. I completely forgot about how I was feeling because I had to concentrate on doing something else. It was nice because I got to experience feeling something other than stress and panic for the first time in a long time.

“As I kept going back each week and I began to learn new skills, I started to feel differently about what I could actually do. I could throw a ball. I could run and catch.”

Emily Hunter, Hartlepool Rover’s women’s coach, said: “I thought Alex was going to be one of the first ones to drop off to be honest, but that wasn’t the case. She just dug her nails in and each session she found something she loved and made her laugh, and the support she had from other players kept her coming back.”