One woman shares her personal story about mental problems, self-harm and recovery
In that moment I was 18 again, not because of the song playing on the radio, or because I’d found something in a magazine from the 80s, but because everything around me was collapsing and there was nothing I could do to stop it. Suddenly the overwhelming feeling of needing to do myself harm was the strongest it had been in a very long time.
For over 30 years the routine had gone around and around, feeling fine, over doing it, feeling crap, crashing. I tried to be such an organised person and regularly developed new routines to try to keep everything heading in the right direction, developing ‘new starts’ that would get me back on track again.
I’d not yet worked out the early signs - staying in bed until the last minute and bypassing the shower, putting make-up over make-up and keeping my hair tied up so no one knew it hadn’t been washed for weeks. Then starting a ‘new routine’ which would last for a month or so and then we’d be back to the self-neglect.
Holding it together was a front for other people. Inside I was constantly talking myself out of self-harm. Conversations in my head were becoming normal, especially the one about having a shower or not.
One Friday on what should have been the start of my annual week off work (which I had convinced myself I was far too busy to take), I was working away when my husband (who is disabled) said that wheelchair services had his new cushion ready to collect by 1pm. In that moment everything crashed.
It wasn’t because I had to go to get a cushion. In fact, I didn’t have to get it, it was my own guilt that made me insist I had to get it. But it was that one tiny moment that was the straw that broke the camel’s back. The overdoing it had reached crisis point. I drove to Chichester to collect the cushion, worrying I wasn’t at work (even though it was my lunch break). Whilst waiting for them to bring the cushion, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror – so much make-up over make-up and I wondered what these people must think of me. I bet I smelt quite ripe too. Everything crashed around me. I self-harmed that night.
My work colleagues convinced me that I did need the week off so decided I would make use of the time and began the mission to get better – properly this time. Googling mental health support in Midhurst brought up West Sussex Mind and I found the Midhurst group. I emailed them, I don’t even remember what I said.
The manager, Toni Holloway, replied. She was so nice and I could tell immediately she totally got how I was feeling. A one-to-one was booked and that was the start of my recovery.
Over the course of the next nine months, we worked on ways to get me back on track. The Wellness Recovery Action Plan (WRAP) worked best for me, talking really helped and one book in particular that seemed to lay it all out in some kind of perspective, Depressive Illness, the Curse of the Strong, was very useful.
Over time I began to work out the pattern and recognise it before it reached the point of no return. I used the Moodscope App which helped me spot when things were on the decline. It wasn’t easy, the constant battle to stay in control often meant more new routines. I remember the feeling of not being able to stop what was happening on the first occasion and worrying it had all been a waste of time. Toni showed me how to unravel it all and the second time it happened I saw the pattern much earlier and managed to stop a full-blown crisis.
I simplified my WRAP plan and stuck it to the mirror in my bedroom, I could easily see it every day and remind myself what I needed to do to stay well and notice what I wasn’t doing if I felt myself sliding. There were times when it was clear I still wasn’t coping with conflict with others very well but my husband was amazing – I never knew he could be so understanding.
At the end of April, I saw Toni for the last time. I felt in control of life and how to recognise and deal with the dips.
Over time I started to notice that I could recognise the symptoms in other people so I began to put my energy into finding ways of helping others. I signed our business up to the Mindful Employer scheme and created a mental health policy for staff and volunteers at work.
I could not have done this without the amazing support of Coastal West Sussex Mind’s Midhurst group and I want to thank Toni for taking the time to spend with me. She allowed me the time I needed to find a way that worked for me. There was no text book routine, everything we did was adapted for me and my situation and not once did I feel rushed to ‘snap out of it’. Thank you.
– T. Midhurst
This blog post was first published on the West Sussex Mind website: https://www.westsussexmind.org/news/blogs/my-journey-through-mental-health?pageVersionId=1142