Don’t Give Up- Accepting Mental Illness

self hug
I had my first psychotic episode at the tender age of 17. The world seemed to come together and fall apart simultaneously. On reflection it’s difficult to pin point what had triggered this incredible reaction. Earlier that year I had been on tour in Japan promoting a peer counselling education programme that supported students being bullied. The pressure and attention was immense. This combined with finishing my GCSEs and the natural ups and downs of being a teenager/young adult, I think led to exhaustion and complete breakdown.

I was placed on an adult ward and sexually assaulted by a male nurse.

I eventually returned to my parental home and tried as best I could to ‘get back to normal’. Within a year or so, I had relapsed. This pattern continued for over 10 years. On reflection it seems clear to me that the problems relating to my original distress were never really addressed. That, the additional trauma of being hospitalised, diagnosed, medicated and stigmatised covered up the underlying issues that I faced as a young adult.

I somehow managed to get a first class degree in Graphic Design and Visual Arts, and in 2009, shortly after my last hospitalisation I sat down and attempted to unravel everything. Why was this continuing to happen? I felt like I had tried everything and saw that the only thing that I hadn’t really tried was acceptance, but acceptance of what? In a nutshell I designed a self-management tool intended for my personal use, to share with friends and family that I hoped would help me and them to navigate this difficult terrain. I showed my Social Worker…long story short the idea received funding to develop the guide/tool to support others with similar experiences.

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Tomorrow marks my seventh year since my official release from hospital. The Pocket Advocate (the name of the tool I designed) has helped me enormously, but I couldn’t have made it this far without the support of a small handful of dedicated and loving individuals who shone their light on my path at a time when I felt I had none. Therapy, sitting quietly, walking slowly has also really helped. I appreciate that what works for some may not work for all.

pocket advocateWherever you are, please don’t give up. You are so much more precious than you will ever know. You can learn more about Project Embrace and the Pocket Advocate here.

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