I don’t often go through my whole ‘life story’ and I am not going to now otherwise you shall start zoning out! I am just going to take you through the key moments which have made me who I am today.
I sometimes feel I am too open with my personal struggles, but I always think if even 1 person can relate and find comfort in that they are not alone then I have made an impact on the world, even if it is only in a small way.
I was born in 1997, my parents second child. I have one sibling called ‘P’. She is 4 years older than me and when P was born, she was incredibly poorly, had many complications and spent the first year of her life in hospital. My sister is honestly one of the most incredible humans and I don’t think I have ever heard her complain about the adversity she has faced through the past 28 years. P is a complete medical mystery, one in a million you could say.
What we say within our family circle is that P has special needs. I am aware that the language around this has changed but this is the wording I have grown up with and what we as a family choose.
Growing up with a sister with special needs who was often in and out of hospital during my first 10 years was at times very difficult for me. I have felt isolated through a lot of my life as I have only met a couple of people in a similar situation to me. I am ashamed to say this now, but I was often embarrassed of P as she looked different and a simple outing to do the food shopping resulted in many stares which would have me crippled with anxiety.
When I was eight years old, I was diagnosed with separation anxiety and panic disorder. I would have multiple panic attacks a day, scream the whole way to school, have to be physically dragged in and my mother stayed to see me at break and lunch time every day. This was the only way I could get through the day. Some days proved to distressing and hard so I would be taken back home. I went to a day and boarding school over 30 minutes away.
I received psychological support and slowly over a few months I got better and was able to tackle the school day. I often don’t talk about this period of my life and parts of it are very blurred. I think this is due to the trauma surrounding it.
I went on to thrive at school and managed to overcome my separation anxiety. I went off to boarding school for sixth form and then spent a year away travelling before Uni. Two things that I never thought possible when I was younger.
Going back to P, I am forever grateful for the different outlook on life she has given me. Seeing the world through her eyes is really special and she is incredibly content with her life, even though it may seem a lot smaller to ours. I think in ways I really envy that.
There are still certain pressures that lie on my shoulders when it comes to P. When my parents are no longer here in the future, I shall have large responsibilities and really have to step up from being a younger sister. It is not a topic that I have ever been able to talk about to people who can relate. It got to the stage where I was determined to find others in a similar situation. I am incredibly happy to say I have now set up my own support group for young female adults who have a sibling with special needs. If you yourself have a sibling with special needs, then please do contact me if you would like to be apart of the support group.
Moving on to my depression.
It all began in my final year at university. I cannot exactly pinpoint where it all started going wrong, but I knew something wasn’t quite right. I went from being up for anything, loving life to living and hiding in my uni room. I felt irritable and sad for no reason, I began to hate everything about myself, I had no drive, no self esteem and just felt rubbish… every single day. I was desperately trying to act as though I was fine but I was completely broken inside. I was confused as to what was happening to me, I was convinced no one else had ever felt this way before (how very wrong I was.)
I started using self-harm to try and cope by turning my emotional pain into physical pain, by making myself feel something rather than feeling numb. This was incredibly hard for me to understand why I was purposefully hurting myself, in all truth I was terrified at what was happening to me. I couldn’t even walk across a bridge or high edge without thinking if I just jumped this pain would stop.
I decided to make the painful decision and tell my parents and boyfriend what was really happening and how I felt. Telling my parents that I had been deliberately hurting myself and have no joy for life anymore was extremely difficult. I stayed at uni for a few more weeks until one day I woke up and I thought to myself ‘I can’t carry on anymore, I can’t wake up another day and fight this internal battle, when was the last time I even felt happy’. There was no relief, the only way I thought I could escape the pain I was feeling was by dying, I planned on taking my own life that evening. I wanted to speak to my parents one last time, to hear their voices and tell them how much I loved them. A few minutes into the phone call I broke down and told them I was going to ‘end it all’ and I just cried and cried for help. A couple of hours later I was in the car with them heading back home to Northamptonshire.
I never went back to uni after that, only to graduate and attend the summer ball. The next few months at home were painful, more painful than when I was at uni, I was severely depressed, self-harming and suicidal. I was placed under a local mental health team where I would have weekly sessions with a nurse as well as groups to help me learn coping strategies. Sadly, it just wasn’t getting any better, and I was either given the option of ‘suicide watch’ at home with the crisis team or to be taken into a psychiatric hospital. I choose to be at home around my family, even now I honestly do not know how they stayed so strong. I can't imagine how painful it must have been to see your child screaming “let me die, I want to die”.
I was put on a different antidepressant which also acts as an antipsychotic whilst I was under the home crisis team and I can honestly put my hand on my heart and say this was a huge turning point for me. I could see things in colour again, there was light at the end of the dark tunnel I was in, I started to want to live and I was ready to put in the hard work to get better.
I attended recovery college for the next two months where I learnt so much. I was not yet recovered but I was miles from where I had been, I had to constantly continue the hard work and still do to this day. Sadly, there is no quick fix, but I found my own ways of keeping depression at bay and I am happy to say I have never gone back to that dark place since.
I lost one of my good friends in a car accident in April 2020 and my grief came out in what was diagnosed as trauma induced psychosis in the summer of 2020. I was taken into a psychiatric crisis house after my third episode. This really is a place I never want to re live. It was an incredibly difficult time for me and the environment I was in there was very traumatising. I self discharged after 4 days and returned back home with zero support in place.
I couldn’t understand why no support was there, I was exhausted of being let down by mental health services. I thought to myself I could do nothing and just wait, or I could do everything in my power to get better on my own. I chose the second option, and I am grateful I mustered strength to do this as it was 8 months later when I finally received support for my psychotic episodes from mental health services.
I cannot express how much I learnt by doing this. It enabled me to create my own formula of looking after mental health, the same formula I use today, and I have never been better.