Sunday, 12 October 2014

Mental Health Awareness Week - TRIGGER WARNING


My apologies in advance if my blog today seems a little jumpy! 

I have been in and out of love with blogging for many years. When I am passionate about something, I will go hell for leather to let people know about it. I've blogged about my poetry, my artistic endeavours, my photography and my passion for children to name but a few! However, the one thing that has held my attention in blogging is mental health. 

When I started this blog more than three years ago, it was more of an outlet for me. A sounding board if you will.  I wrote anonymously because I wanted to be an "everyman". I wanted people to be able to identify with me as their wife, their mother, their daughter, their sister, the girl they sat next to on the bus, the girl behind you in the checkout. My recent decision to make my blog more public was a very difficult one. Not many people in my "real life" know the full extent of my mental health issues. There are still a great many things I cannot talk about in my blog as they will send shockwaves through my life and tear it to pieces. Part of me wants to stand up and speak out to help others yet part of me knows that the trouble it may cause in my life just isn't worth it.

My life has never been particularly easy. Growing up as one of five children in a single parent household had it's challenges. For the most part, this taught me to be strong. To fend for myself. To forge my own path through life. 

I started working at the age of 13, I had a paper round. Then when I was a little older I would go with my dad to the restaurant he worked at and help with washing dishes. My first "official" job with a payslip was when I worked at a residential home and earned £2.95 per hour.  I have always loved working. When I left secondary school I went straight to work.  Even when I went to college I worked around it.  My mum had always taught me that if I wanted something I had to work hard to get it. 

At school I worked hard. I was very academic. I wouldn't say I was particularly gifted in any specific area but I did well in all of my classes. At some point when I was at secondary school, I was selected with a few other pupils to attend a maths course at the local university which I was very proud of.

Unfortunately, school became too much for me to cope with. As a youngster, before secondary school, I knew I was different to the other kids but I didn't really care. I loved school and it wasn't about to change. Owing to my love of school, I was a lonely child. Even though I had 4 siblings at home I spent most of my time alone. I didn't mind this. It was how I liked it. When I was alone I could be more creative. I could be myself. Sometimes I would be called a "teacher's pet". To me, that was almost a compliment. I adored my primary school teachers! One particular teacher sticks in my mind to this very day because of his teaching styles. I wanted to be just like him when I grew up! 

When I moved up to secondary school, I became more isolated. There were more kids, it was scarier! I had some friends (some of whom I'm still very close to) but I would still rather sit in the library by myself and read or work. By my teenage years this did nothing for my "street cred". The bullying became more and more physical. This is something I believe to be a huge contributing factor to my current mental status. 

At 13, self harm became a release for me. I had no idea how to deal with my emotions. I would feel all these things but I couldn't process them. I became incredibly angry and aggressive but owing to my inability to process my emotions, I turned these feelings inwards and I would cut. I have a blog relating specifically to my self harm. Here you will find further details in this regard. 

There was a period of time when I stopped cutting owing to an incident with my younger sister. Details of which are written in my self harm blog. Unfortunately, I needed to find another outlet for the things that I felt and so the anger and violence resurfaced. I realised it couldn't go on and returned to self harming. It didn't last long as I couldn't shake off the earlier incident with my sister. It was at this time I discovered tattoos. 

At 19 I decided to join the army. I figured this would help me channel my anger. Unfortunately, my army career was short lived as I developed shin splints. Upon leaving the army I decided to move to London. At the time I had a boyfriend. We lived together. The relationship was incredibly volatile. He was incredibly abusive towards me. I became so isolated that I had no friends and depended entirely upon him. No doubt, that's the way he wanted things. 

After about 18 months I'd reached a point where I could not cope any more. I snapped. I wanted to kill him. All of my rage exploded in his direction. I could quite easily have killed him, I had my hands around his throat, squeezing the life out of him. As quickly as the rage came, it left. Suddenly I realised what I was doing. I let go of his throat and fled the house. I returned to my home town to get away from it all. Whilst there, I binged on drugs and alcohol to blot out the pain. Upon returning to London I found myself living alone for the first time. 

That was when I first fell apart in a major way. I made an attempt on my life at this point. I didn't want to live any more. I swallowed a handful of pain killers and downed some vodka. Fortunately (or unfortunately at the time), once the lethal mix hit my stomach I vomited it straight back up. I felt like such a failure. I couldn't even successfully take my own life. After a period of bleakness I started therapy, the details of which are contained in this blog. I have still more to discuss about my suicidal ideations, however, I'm not presently strong enough emotionally. 

I started self harming yet again around 2010 and have not successfully stopped. Further information in this regard is too difficult for me to describe currently. 

Recently, I started to become more actively involved with mental health charities. I want to be able to contribute, to help make a difference. Back in August, I was involved in an event with the charity Time to Change and yesterday I took part in Walking out of Darkness organised by CLASP Counselling, Life Advice and Suicide Prevention raising money for Rethink Mental Illness. I would certainly like to do more so I've decided to sign up to be an ambassador for CLASP. I also like to think that writing this blog is doing my bit too. 

Walking 10 miles was quite strenuous on account of my hyper mobility syndrome. Totally worth it though. Thank you so much to those who sponsored me and for all of your wonderful words of encouragement. Be sure to check out Rethink Mental Illness to see where your money will be going and also take a look at CLASP Counselling, Life Advice and Suicide Prevention. 

Before the walk began, there were speeches made by individuals involved in the charity. I was moved to tears by everyone's stories and the words of one Johnny Benjamin stuck with me for the whole walk. It was quite overwhelming to see the turnout for the event and to know that each individual was walking for a cause. After the walk, I had a very lengthy discussion with a gent who shared his own story with me. 

Mental health charities are very close to my heart for obvious reasons and especially those that challenge stigma. Living with the stigma of mental health is, in my own experience, much harder than living with a mental health condition. Suicide prevention is also a cause very close to my heart after having once witnessed someone very close to me take an overdose and also after being too close to the edge myself.

The past 6 months for me has been such a huge struggle. Being unemployed was excruciating for me. I am a worker bee. I don't know anything else other than working and my mental health took a huge battering. Thankfully, I have some of the most wonderful friends a person could ask for who kept me away from the edge and helped me keep my demons in check and kept me going enough to secure an incredible job that I deserve (self congratulation is not my strong point!)

My most heartfelt thanks go out specifically to one individual who did so much for me these past 6 months. He has been a most upstanding gentleman and a life saver. J, from the bottom of my heart I thank you for being such an incredible friend. For keeping me going, for being my voice of reason and for literally saving my life. I love you and appreciate you more than words could possibly express. Also, V, your never ending words of support and encouragement. You are a most beautiful individual inside and out and I cherish you so dearly. KM, you stepped up to the plate when I was at a very low ebb when I was at home. You picked me up, dusted me off and set me back on track. Over the years I have known you, you have been a constant for me. You have been right there by my side, despite us living miles apart. Aunty J, your continued support has kept me afloat. You have shown unending patience that I'm pretty sure I tried and tested to the limit but you stayed put and never let me down a single time! K, I wouldn't even know where to begin lady. Not just over the last 6 months but the last few years. You have picked me up, you have made me laugh so hard I cried, you have taken away my darkness and helped me fight off my demons. My cousin, thank you for just being you! For taking no nonsense and for being a true friend who tells me what I need to hear not what I want to hear.

I could keep going but I'm actually in tears as I write this. I would love to give each and every one of you a special shout out for the things you have done for me but I think my heart would explode. Just know that you have all literally saved my life. Creating and maintaining relationships is one of the hardest things for me to do and so to have you guys there for me no matter what, I just cannot translate it into words how it makes me feel. 

Those of you reading my blog and giving me feedback, you too are wonderful. You keep me going by simply being. My blog has reached heights I could never have envisioned and for that I am eternally grateful. 

You can still donate to Rethink via my Just Giving page if you wish. 

Writing this blog has been hugely emotionally difficult for me so I will end it here with the words of CLASP Charity; You are not alone. 

Keep smiling :(:

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