This guest post was written and shared by Hannah, 38, London
Admitting you have a mental health illness is both the scariest and most satisfying feeling all at once.
Since as early as my teen years I’ve suffered with my mental health. Although I knew I wasn’t happy, I failed to realise anything was wrong. I was “fine”. It was everyone else that was the problem. Or so I had myself believing.
I was insecure, paranoid, sad, happy one minute and furious the next.
These lovely traits continued for over 10 years.
As a teen I was difficult. A few different things happened which I’ve come to realise probably had a large effect on my mental state, but all in all I was really lucky. I had a good family and never really went without. I just didn’t have the mental set up to deal with things that had a big impact.
I was the youngest of three girls and the constant chore of trying to live up to my big sisters was a pressure in itself. No one but I had put this pressure on me, yet I still felt it.
In my late teens I began to self-harm. Cutting my own arms and legs until they bled. I told myself I deserved it.
When my parents noticed, they took me to seek help. The doctor booked me in to see a counsellor. I vaguely remember only seeing them once or twice. I have no idea what we talked about. To be honest I very much doubt I knew what to say or why I was doing it. And of course in counselling there is no diagnosis, advice or long-term treatment plan, or at least not in my case. I’m not sure, maybe I was just seen as a hormonal teen? It was just a chat as far as I remember.
Mental health wasn’t really spoken about, so life just went on and it was like it had never happened.
A few years later I’d moved out of home, was living with friends and enjoying the life in my early 20s. However, this lifestyle didn’t suit me. My self-respect was at zero and I allowed male partners to mistreat me. I started to spend money I didn’t have, I ended up getting myself in a lot of debt and took money that didn’t belong to me to keep my head above water. Something that the ‘healthy’ me would never have done. While I owned up to it all, I knew I had hit rock bottom.
What goes up, must come down…
I was honest with those around and overnight I’d lost my job, my friends and In 2009 my sister drove from London to Bristol to get collect me. I went to stay with my family as I felt safe with them. They had my back and I think they knew something was wrong. I was frightened about what was going to happen. I felt like a total embarrassment to my family and the shame was overwhelming.
To my surprise, they were all incredibly supportive. Including my now brother-in-law who I barely knew at the time. I was surprise, because I was totally disgusted in myself.
I lived with my sister and her partner for a year. Although I knew I had outstayed my welcome, the selfish side of me took charge and I was too hostile for my family to tell me straight. Eventually I moved in with new housemates a few miles away, which, in my head, meant life was going well. I’d got myself a bar job, made new friends, had a social life and got my independence back.
In reality, I was grateful to anyone who would give me a job. My friends only saw the side I wanted them to see. I was back to spending money I didn’t have, and all of this was to block out the sheer shame and anger I felt about myself.
I was taking cocaine. Allot. It became normal on a Tuesday night. There were definitely people in my life that were toxic to me, and I welcomed them. Mostly men, not very nice ones at that. I also blamed them for most things. Yet relied on them to make me feel better.
Ulltimately I needed to realise that how I was behaving wasn’t ok. Only my family really saw the worst bits. The anger. The paranoia. The self-hatred. But instead of talking about it, I’d snap and scare them off.
They tread on eggshells around me for years. Giving the “its just how she is” excuse. It wasn’t who I was. It was the worst version of me that had completely taken over and by now no one really knew the real me anymore. My behaviour was so up and down. One day I was fine. The next I was an inappropriate mess.
And that’s when the worst happened…
In 2011, I went out for my birthday with my sisters and a couple of friends in Wimbledon. I was so exited about it. After a few hours I’d had too much to drink. I made an inappropriate comment to someone in the toilets and my sisters were mortified, and rightly so.
Instead of doing what I would do now (although not likely for me to do that at all now thankfully) I’d hold my hands up, apologise and own it. But that version of me played the victim. Instead I whaled out at how much my family hates me, how much I embarrass them and in within minutes I had put myself in a cab and was on my way to the nearest tube station. I got out the cab at Colliers Wood and sent a text to my sisters and my parents. I don’t remember exactly what it said but I know it was a goodbye text.
Read part two to find out how I came back up
This story was written and shared by Hannah, 38, London