At 22 years old, I look back at my life with both pride and sorrow. It seems so strange to me that I am no longer 14, that time has passed so quickly and yet I have experienced so much trauma in my short life. It can seem very heavy when it feels like the universe is against you, but recently I look back and find myself proud of still managing to achieve all I could, despite many seemingly impossible hurdles. I used to be so ashamed of myself, but not anymore.
I spent a huge portion of my teen years abusing substances and sex. I was manipulative, and lost track of who I was because I was so angry and in so much pain. I didn’t want to accept it; I was too proud to admit that I might just need to make some changes in my life.
After I lost my father to suicide at 18, I was shoved into adulthood. I was never angry or mad at my father; I was angry that I lived in a world where this had happened. I felt failed by the universe and by the people who were supposed to be giving him support. I got so ill that I ended up in hospital myself, following my own suicide attempt.
It’s been a battle ever since. I’ve become so ill that I cannot work a normal job as it makes me relapse. This isn’t to say I don’t want to work; I do, but I need to get help first. I am proud to say I will be receiving some long-overdue CBT this year, along with trauma and bereavement therapy. I’ve also been prescribed medication, but there has been a lot of trial and error. It didn’t help that I was so scared of taking medication due to the stigma that I allowed myself to almost die before I gave in and went to the GP. I now see my GP every month or so, which helps us to monitor my mental health and prevent any serious risks. I think medication is down to an individual – I would never force it on anyone. However, there shouldn’t ever be any shame in seeking help. Stigmas are so dangerous in this respect!
My mental health recovery is much like a rollercoaster; it is not linear at all, I have to work hard on myself daily, and it never stops. I have found that writing has been my biggest help. I always wanted to write like I did when I was I a kid, but I never had the time. I’ve learnt to drag out those negative emotions and put them on paper. I find this to be therapeutic, and I’ve found that sharing my experiences like this has helped others. It’s become my passion; having that determination and reason to live has made me feel like I matter. As selfish as it sounds, helping others has helped me – but that’s not why I do it.
I realised that stigma is ever-present, and that there is so little support out there, so I wanted to do everything possible to ensure that no one felt alone. To ensure that there is hope. I think the fact that my writing is so raw (despite its awkwardness at times) seems to really help people, as well as allowing me to be honest with myself. I now write short stories, poems, books and blog posts. I advocate on Twitter 24/7, using my platform to send out hope and allowing anyone in need to message me. I guess I just try to be that friend that I really needed when I was younger and alone.
I still have days where I wobble. I’ll cry or I’ll be a bit angry but I’ve learnt that that’s ok. I decided that I needed to be more selfish; I was a door mat for so long that I wasn’t living for myself or following my dreams. This sense of just being there with no goal definitely made my mental health worse. I now follow my own path; I don’t let people control me, I am honest with what I need and I respect myself so much more. A big part of this has been learning to say no.
To keep myself from getting too ill, I’ll write down my feelings as soon as I can. It seems my mind can create some really beautiful works of art, even if it’s a little different! Sometimes I’ll go on my trampoline in the living room because I can’t help but smile when I bounce; it’s the best investment I’ve ever made! I might do some cleaning – it’s productive and makes me feel satisfied. I find that productivity, checking off a list and completing goals or working towards them prevents me from harming myself. The more I’ve pushed myself over time, the easier it’s got, even though at one point it seemed impossible. I’m now a year clean from self harm, and three years clean from smoking and binge drinking.
The important thing to remember is how important your life is. Remember that you are not alone and that you do deserve help, that your feelings are valid. Remember to respect yourself. People like me will always be there to help. As I write this now, I have my dog at my legs and I’m in my own bed, in my own home, while my husband makes me a tea. I never thought I’d have any of these things but I do now. Keep fighting!
This blog was written for us by Charlotte Underwood