Mental Health Awareness Week 2017

Standard

In recognition of Mental Health Awareness Week (8 May – 14 May), I was invited by Becca from Becca’s Love for Life to write a guest post about my experience with mental health and where I am currently.  This post took me a lot of time and effort; I’ve never publicly spoken about my past.  Due to support from my friends, I’d like to share it on my personal blog.  Please be aware that this post may contain sensitive material, which could lead to heightened negative emotions. If you become upset or triggered while reading this, please stop reading and utilize the coping mechanisms that work for you.   Here we go…

I was not only gifted with a predisposition towards mental health difficulties, I was also born into and raised in a toxic environment. Indeed, I drew the short end of the stick in regards to both nurture vs. nature explanations of mental health. My mother was an alcoholic and she passed away at the age of 55 from cirrhosis of the liver. Since my father is still alive, I will not comment on his shortcomings out of respect. Let’s just say that my childhood had very little stability with a lot of domestic abuse. Memories of my upbringing are more upsetting than happy, with most of them being drunken episodes (even Christmas and birthdays) due to my parents’ issues.

I do not agree with the notion of “stay together for the kids,” because life was absolute hell when my parents were together. About once a month, my parents would get into a huge drunken argument and my father would pack most of his clothing in his Mitsubishi Eclipse and leave for a few days. Finally, in 2001, he didn’t return home and this split was the catalyst for my downward spiral. Despite my disruptive home life, I found solace in going to school; academia gave me something to strive for. However, after my father left for good, I completely gave up. I felt abandoned.  At this age, I could not grasp that my father was leaving my mother, not me. My mother fell off the deep end and I looked to the one place I had for help: the internet.

In May 2001, I ran away from home with a 19-year-old I met on the internet. I was lost. I was so desperate for love and understanding. I felt like he was the only person who cared. I was manipulated and abused, though at the time I was completely unaware of the dangers. He talked about taking me to meet his family and sitting here writing this at almost 27 years old, I am dumbfounded. What would a 19-year-old pedophile tell his parents about bringing an 11-year-old home? To this day, I have no clue what his intentions were. Thankfully, I was quickly rescued from that situation and was sent to live with my father.

I must give my father credit here: he had no clue how to handle a messed up 12-year-old girl, so he took me to numerous therapists and psychiatrists in order to give me the best help available. Looking back, I cannot fathom how I made it out; I was torn up inside about what had happened to me. I started to suffer from severe anxiety and depression and was treated with psychotropics for both conditions. I experienced overwhelming fears of abandonment and would ask my father 30 times a day if he loved me. I had no faith or security in my father, no matter what he did for me.

me 04

At 13, I began to self harm. I chose to include this picture of me at 13 years old because it demonstrates that someone can look “completely normal,” yet still be suffering with severe trauma and deep issues. I’d go to school and smile and try to be as normal as possible, yet I was dealing with intense emotions and coping poorly. I would pull my hair, slap my head, and throw/break items in fits of mania/rage. By age 15, those around me noticed an increasing, and profound, fluctuation in my moods. One minute I’d be perfectly happy and bubbly and the next I’d be in the school bathroom scratching at my arm or thigh. I alienated every single one of my friends (even the church goodie-goodies); obviously at that age, no one really understands how to handle those situations.

I somehow made it through high school even though I’d continued to self harm and suffer from depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. At 18, I left home to attend Georgia Southern University, where I graduated on-time with a bachelors degree in Psychology. In university, I found myself. I found my strength. My father pushed me away and forced me to cope with my mental health difficulties on my own, including being hospitalized from an overdose and self harm. Today, I must admit I’m grateful for the tough love. I can’t put my finger on what exactly changed me, but somewhere along the line I became a new person. I became independent and no longer reliant on my father. I developed my own ideas and opinions about the world, which I gained through stepping out of my comfort zone and experiencing new things. I learned hope to cope with and manage my mental health.

Years later, I still struggle; every single day is a struggle even with the correct medication. However, I have developed the skills which enable me to manage my irrational and negative thoughts. I acknowledge them and tell myself that they’re valid feelings, but then I rationalize them and that brings me back to reality. No, not everyone hates me. No, not everyone is out to get me. No, my friend doesn’t hate me because she can’t chat when I message her.  No, my partner isn’t going to leave me because of a fight.

Today I am working as a mental health support worker in a residential care home for vulnerable adults (aged 18-65) with acute mental health difficulties. I aspire to become a psychologist. Right now, I am focusing on developing the skills to be an effective and successful support worker so eventually I am able to work my way up and possibly apply for my doctorate in clinical psychology.

I’d like to end this post with one of my favorite quotes: “Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars,” Kahlil Gibran. If you are currently struggling with mental health difficulties, I’d like to encourage you to KEEP GOING. Even if your biggest achievement today is getting out of bed and getting a shower or making yourself a bowl of cereal, BE PROUD and JUST KEEP SWIMMING. Who knows where you’ll be in 10 years time? You could be using your experience to make a change in someone else’s life!

32 thoughts on “Mental Health Awareness Week 2017

  1. This was such a touching post to read. As someone who suffers from anxiety and depression, I can relate to finding strength in going to university. Wonderful post xx

    Like

  2. Nat, I am in tears. You are so amazing and strong to have been through all of this and still come out an absolute shining star. Thank you so much for having the bravery to share this with us all, what an intense and touching post. I’m so sure this will help so many people out there and show that there is definitely hope to keep fighting on. I’m so glad that you managed to head into university and find yourself there, it’s so lovely to hear that you managed to succeed in everything you’ve done despite the struggle going on behind the scenes. Thank you so much for writing this, despite the fact that our experiences so far haven’t been exactly the same, your drive to push on has inspired me to do the same. 💖

    Like

    • Awww Claire! All I want is for us to inspire and encourage each other to keep going! ❤ ❤ ❤ Thank you for your uplifting words! I am thankful for where I am now and hope I can help others.

      Like

  3. Wow! Off topic but you looked pretty. That must have been tough; I can’t even imagine. But you’re such and inspiration and I admire you everytime we chat. You’re beautiful inside and out; and your difficulties only made you stronger and better. You’re amazing; there are no words at the moment. IF you can do it, I can, and everyone can as well. You’re just an angel if I must say. Keep swimming like you say❤

    Like

  4. I am truly lost for words. I have read many heartfelt posts this week, yet this is the most profound and still so beautifully written. What an amazing strong woman you are. An inspiration.

    Like

  5. Hope

    You are such a strong person and beautiful on the inside and out! You have been an inspiration to Olivia and to me as well! I love you so much!

    Like

    • Awww Hope! I am so glad you read my post. Thank you for your kind words. All I want is to continue to overcome all the shite and be the best I can be! I often think of Olivia and wonder how she’s doing. I love you all very much!!

      Like

  6. You are such a strong person and thank you for sharing because this was beautiful to read and cheerful because of dory quote of “just keep swimming”. Very inspirational post ❤️.

    Much love,
    Stacey

    Like

  7. Beccy Kiernan

    Wow Natalie. This gave me tears in my eyes. Well done for carrying on through the hardest times. Always here if you need a chat.

    Xx

    Beccy | beccykiernan.co.uk

    Like

  8. Hey Natalie, here from #USBCstorm! Thank you for sharing your story – it was very intimate and personal, so I can imagine it wasn’t easy. I’m glad I got to read it & glad to have ‘met’ you through twitter today. I’m sure one day you’ll make a great psychologist :))

    Like

  9. What an amazing and personal post! I have several close friends and family members who have had terrible struggles with mental health. Glad that things like Mental Health Awareness weeks are happening, and we are finally getting rid of the stigma!

    Like

  10. Word of Rachel

    This is such a touching post; I’m in complete see if how strong you have come out of the other side of this! Keep working for those goals! You’re doing amazing 😘

    Like

  11. Wow this is a very thought provoking post and so bravely written. It can’t be easy to write and publish experiences like you’ve had. I’ve suffered with depression but not de to childhood, more of an untreated post traumatic stress issue but despite being so much better these days I can appreciate how hard it is to get through the day. This is a great blog post because I bet there’s so many people out there with similar stories who will find this helpful 💕

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s