My Mental Health Story *warning Suicide reference*
My favourite game as a child was hide and seek …...a winner nine times out of ten I had nailed the ultimate hiding place. Where’s that I hear you ask? I can’t tell you! Can I? ‘Cos if I do we can’t play together! The eldest child and favorite grandchild (psssst don’t tell the other grandchildren hehehe) I was a happy go lucky little girl. I can’t tell you exactly when that changed but I know that it did. Can you remember your primary year’s? It’s often sepia tinged.
Most of my childhood memories are fond, except for the ones that are not. Especially the ones that include friends and friendships. They were never happy or easy and I often spent time alone, sat on the window sill, staring out of the window, crying. Please don’t feel sorry for me, I know it was silly. When I did start to go out, in my teens, I often left the party without saying goodbye, much to my little sis’ frustration. As she was meant to stay with me. Alcohol was a thing even then ...it made me feel braver more capable of being around people. I was shy, my sister had to ask for the tickets on the bus, right up until I was 16. Yeah I know, but I did get braver and eventually managed to get the train to college. Learning to drive was a godsend.
I guess I remember most of my youth as being a voyeur, kinda looking in on life, observing from a distance, never quite being part of it or feeling like I fitted in. I cried A LOT! I mean A LOT, like full on snot streaming sobbing. My skin was bad, eczema plague my whole life from the age of 5. I learnt to get by and just manage it. School was hell some place i endured and college no better I dropped out of art school. Bullying from a mean girl meant i just couldn’t take it anymore. I still picked myself up and went onto do my chosen career in window dressing. You see i’m quite resilient. But you have to be. Right?
I was 21 when I was first prescribed medication for depression. Fluoxetine, or Prozac as it’s also known. I remember that bubble like feeling, kinda like being cushioned from the outside world. I stopped crying, that felt like relief. I got on. Home life was broken then. I was between many houses and beds (not other people’s you understand, just sofa’s to lay my head). I had my first taste of counselling and it helped for a bit. I remember the counsellors gasp when I told her everything. I wasn't sure if they were meant to do that or if she was faking it to gain my confidence? I won’t divulge now, it’s too long a story, one for another time maybe? Let’s just say “home life, boyfriends and step families” and leave it at that.
Most of my 20’s saw many different jobs. The happy occasion of my first house purchase, and the feeling of independence. On the flip side, the medication, both prescribed and illegal. Suicidal thoughts came and went. Owning your own home and holding down a job is hard work and expensive. Dead rats, burglaries and neighbours from hell made it even more eventful.
In the spring of 2004, I met my lovely husband. I was 29. I was still on and off depression medication, unable to hold down a job or friendship for more than a few years and feeling very deflated after being made redundant. A tumultuous (read passionate) relationship ensued and we broke up after 2 years only to rekindle our romance after a brief separation and decide to throw caution to the wind, sell my apartment and move in together it was 2006.
Coming off medication was a joint decision. We wanted to start a family and we both knew the consequences. Pregnancy was easy, keeping them was not. After 2 miscarriages my mind was quite frankly fried. Losing even the tiniest of embryos can really mess with your mind and body . The procedures that followed were neither comfortable or dignified. You see when you become pregnant you immediately skip to the end point, the part where you have this gorgeous, soft smelling, bundle of joy in your arms and you smile proudly as parents and everything is rosy. You must know that smell of a newborn? It's so luscious and just can’t be bottled. Thankfully the third pregnancy stuck but it was never a joyous moment. Not only did I loathe my changing body (I guess body dysmorphia was a problem. I’d had a brief eating disorder in my early 20’s) I was cautious the whole 9 months and never allowed myself to fall in love with him (of course now I couldn’t love my darling boy more than I do, but then it was different).
Giving birth was another event. Labour long and arduous and the actual birthing bit messy and almost life taking. I bled out, losing almost 4 pints of blood, it sure does sap your energy.
Becoming a parent, as most will tell you, is both joyous and terrifying in equal measures . There’s no manual and every moment is trial and error. But hubby and I made a great go of it. What they don’t tell you much about, is the going slowly crazy part. No sleep, or at best very little, can totally screw you up . I think I read that its’s considered a torture technique in some countries? If not then it should be! Anyway, at that point I was hearing babies cry even when they weren’t. Literally everywhere that I went. It was strange and unnerving to say the least. I told no one, grinned and beared it, telling everyone I was “Fine”. I finally gave in when the lovely boy was 2. Again being told it was totally normal to go on medication and that I could continue it for the whole of my life??? I’m not even sure that’s ethical but hey ho I believed my doctor’s advice and took the first course of tablets. I think Sertraline then. They worked for a bit and then I changed to another brand or type. This one made me gain 2 stone in less than a month. Much to his horror, I told the doctor, I would rather be depressed than fat and promptly came off the medication again. Another short lived, free from drugs moment ensued only for me to relent and go back on yet another prescribed drug. I was continuing the perfect housewife and mother charade and doing a damn fine job of it. Resembling to the outside world what I can only imagine is Stepford esque. I thought I was nailing it. My body and mind was exhausted.
At this point I was referred to Mental Health Services and I was kind of diagnosed with Bi Polar Type 2. I’m not even sure if I was assessed by a psychiatrist. I was prescribed some pretty scary antipsychotic drugs, which I refused to take. And yet again tried to make it on my own. A few months passed and then I relented to prescribed medication. This time Citralopram, over a 1 year period my doses increased until I was having night sweats and heart palpitations and feeling quite awful. My husband read of instant heart attacks and panicked, telling me to flush them away and stay well clear.
I went cold turkey!
I do not advise this approach to anyone. Looking back, it is both foolish and dangerous but I just wanted out. And so the fun began! Coming off medication that you have been reliant on for such a long period of time can quite literally fuck you up! I was not a pleasant person to be around. I could not keep my mood constant and again was friendless. I cried A LOT! What then happened was both a pivotal and life changing event . One that I now look back on and see as an important part of my recovery.
Although temperamental in my behaviour and moods. I felt that I was in the best shape ever, I’d lost loads of weight and thought I looked amazing. My mind on the other hand wasn’t at it’s best. A fatless diet can do that to you. Happy healthy humans require a balanced diet rich in fats and nutrients. On this fateful day I had eaten very little. We were at a family event in London. Call it nerves or sheer pig headedness, I started to drink A LOT. Much to my husband's dismay and annoyance, which he was very vocal about. We finally left in the early evening, just as the traffic picked up. Driving south out of London, I ordered him to stop. Have you ever tried to stop in central London on a red route? Let’s say it ain’t easy. We didn’t stop in time. I didn’t open the car door. I was very sick, all over the front seat of the car.
My husband started screaming. Our son started screaming. I started screaming. I removed my puke stained leggings. And stood semi naked in a long shirt dress on the side of the road. My husband drove off without me.
I can’t remember much after this point. What I can remember is hazy at best and very patchy in the time frame. This is very painful to write. Although I have since talked openly both with a therapist and my husband to resolve all of these issues. I am still a little shamed by this day.
I remember walking away from the main high street, around the back of some shops. I slumped down to the ground and sat and cried. My head in my hands, I was alone. I had hardly any clothes on. I had no idea where I was in South London. And I had NO money and NO mobile phone. I wanted to die. I felt both hopeful and relieved that life would end soon. I sat and waited for that to happen.
I have no idea what time had passed, I had no watch. I do know that it was getting dark, it was August so not too cold but I was still on the floor. When two strangers walked by. My Good Samaritans, who I owe my life too, I have no idea who they were or how to thank them but I am eternally grateful. These two girls stopped and asked if I was Ok? I don’t think I made much sense but they did call my husband for me. He told them to call my mother. I was taken to a nearby house where apparently the owner was a doctor. Both he and his wife were concerned for my well being. At this point I was still making no sense. Still being violently sick, still sobbing uncontrollably and at this point I remember rocking on a chair trying to comfort myself. They wanted to section me.
My Mother arrived and took me. She knew only too well, having worked in a mental health department, what this may entail and decided to get me home ASAP. I was taken back to the family party. I don’t remember this journey. I refused to go back in.
My sister and elderly Grandfather were placed in the family car.We started to drive home. I tried to get out of the moving car. I did not want to go back home, I wanted to leave, I wanted to die, I didn’t care how. We started off again . This time I was restrained in the back seat of the car by my sister. A fight broke out. Yet again I tried to climb out the window while the car was moving. I didn’t care for my safety, I wanted it to end. My knee and ankle were throbbing after the scuffle in the back seat. There was a lot of screaming. The police were called by one of the residents of the street, along with an ambulance. I was checked over by the paramedic. I begged them to take me to a hotel away from everyone. I wanted nothing to do with “these people”. I tried to leave again, walking up the road on my own not knowing where I was going. Finally around midnight I was placed in a car and with the help of another family member, I was driven back to Surrey. I sat in silence in the back of the car. I remember this part in a very surreal way, almost like an out of body experience.
I got home, I went to bed, the next morning was torture, but I duly cleaned the sick from the car and paid for a full valet.
I knew I needed help. A few weeks later was my 40th birthday and my husband and I travelled to Rome. I have bitter sweet memories of this trip.
Many months followed that were less dramatic and a lot more plain sailing. I was managing of sorts. Just keeping my head down and getting on with life. I wanted to put everything in the past. Unfortunately, things were about to get ugly yet again. Another shameful event ensued. One which involved social services. I have feelings of upset, annoyance and betrayal over this incident. My poor, dear friend who only thought they were helping. This event had meant another trip to A&E.
I knew again, I seriously needed help. Getting social services off my back wasn’t easy. Getting help even more difficult.
Many counselling sessions ensued, this time by someone quite senior. She offered me a group, 8 week mindfulness course. Telling me this was rare to be offered on the NHS. I had experienced group counselling before and it had not gone well. I turned down her offer. I was hastily informed my only hope would be medication. My counselling was cut short. I walked out in tears.
Many months passed and again I continued to muddle through life. Suicidal thoughts grew and became more detailed. I had started on a course of treatment for the physical pain I was in. One day just before Christmas the suicidal thoughts came to a very clear pathway of how I would end it all. Although I have cried in the past I have never cried as much as I did that day. I finally had the answer and the way out. I knew things needed to be said and talked about. The small voice deep inside pleaded with me not to make that final choice. I plucked up the courage to finally seek help.
I googled private mindfulness courses near me. I miraculously found Jackie Coventry of the Sky Garden Retreat.
Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning. However you look at it. This was when I took back control. No more medication. I sort help from many different therapists. From Bowen Therapy to Sacral Cranial for pain management. I really do rate hypnotherapy, as a starting point in order to open your mind. Along with a much needed retreat which I attended in Morocco, on my own. There, I managed to put a lot of demons to bed. I now book myself in for a massage from time to time. As well as scheduling routine days off, where I pamper myself with pedicures and facials. In order to keep up the self care and love. I learnt to talk kindly to myself to offer love and support from me to me. I discovered the most powerful of meditations, and I continue to get better.
Of course this is not the end. I am a work in progress and I continue to use the tools of the 8 week mindfulness course along with meditation, Yoga and talking to those around me. In order to keep myself sane and on an even keel. It's not easy and from time to time I slip up! (read the blogs for that) At some point, I know, I may have to give alcohol the boot completely but for the time being, I am happy I can still enjoy the odd champagne. Life feels suddenly more hopeful and a lot brighter.
After going through all this, I really feel obliged to pass this on. Not wishing for anyone to wait as long as I have, to find a peaceful, more fulfilling life. So Roo Betty is born. My desire to help others is strong and I hope, over time, that the website and services offered will grow and grow . My wish is the support offered, will be beneficial to all. Launching Roo Betty, the cartoons and the apparel are certainly giving me focus. For the time being all is well.
My destination is unknown.
My reach for the stars, aim and goal?……...
To become the biggest mental well being brand in the world!