I started to become unwell in 2009. I didn't realise I was unwell until I went to my GP and told him I wanted to go to the police as I was being followed, and that I was hearing voices telling me to hurt myself. He referred me urgently to the Early Intervention in Psychosis team, which told me I was extremely ill and would have to be put on anti-psychotic medication immediately. It was all a bit of a shock.
Before I went on the medication, I went through several months of severe paranoia. I believed my doctors were planning on harming me; I thought that somebody from my past was trying to kill me. There was also a lot of frustration (mainly that I wasn’t being listened to or understood), anger (because I felt nobody was ‘on my side’ and nobody would believe me), isolation, fear and hurt. The main problem was that I was hearing voices that everybody told me weren’t real, and that they couldn’t hear. The voices were telling me to hurt myself. I was very, very frightened.
After several months of anti-psychotic medication, I took myself off medication and met somebody new. We started dating. I felt like the ‘old me’. I made sure I did something every single day, and my boyfriend and I would go on trips to different places. I was recovering and although I occasionally saw my care coordinator, I felt like I was ‘well’ again.
Things started to deteriorate a few years later when my partner and I broke up. We remained friends but this change was too much for me to handle. Although I had good support from my family and friends, I felt like everything was out of my control. I couldn't focus on anything, couldn't concentrate, felt paranoid that the doctors were lying to me and thought I had a serious physical illness. My anxiety crept back and I found the only way to get through the day was to drink alcohol. I would spend afternoons and evenings in my local pub, getting very drunk and having to be walked back by complete strangers who were worried about me getting home alone.
Eventually, things got so bad that I took an overdose in the summer of 2013. I had been working and was undertaking a qualification but things got mixed up inside my head and I was told to take a month off. I felt everything was spinning out of control and I couldn't see a way out. I ended up in hospital for a couple of days.
I managed to finish my course (I have no idea how!) and passed the exams but by the time it got to November, the voices I was hearing were so distressing and so intense that I couldn't bear it any more. I remember coming back on the train after a night out with friends, and I stood on the platform wanting to jump. I thought, “enough is enough. I need to get help.”
I took myself to my local A&E. I was assessed under the Mental Health Act and was told I would be sectioned if I didn't agree voluntarily to go to a psychiatric ward. Reluctantly, I agreed to go.
I spent one week in hospital; it was the longest week of my life. But while I was there, I attended a couple of art classes – and rediscovered my love for sketching. I realised there were things I was still good at. I realised there was life still in me.
Since leaving hospital, I have had to spend time in Crisis House, and have had several admissions to hospital after overdoses. But, since November 2014, I have not spent a single minute in hospital. I have not self-harmed, I have not heard any voices, I have been taking my anti-psychotic medication religiously, and I have not needed to access the crisis services.
To make herself feel better and help aid her recovery Rosie did the following:
- I have worked hard to work out WHY I suffer with anxiety, WHY I hear voices, and realised that a lot of it stems from my past and from my lack of self-esteem.
- I have worked with my care co-ordinator to find the best services to suit me and have accessed them (a reading group with occupational therapist, coping skills workshops, one-to-one CBT sessions).
- I have started to lose weight, which has given me something to work towards: I now have a goal and get such a buzz each week when I see I have lost more weight!
- I have joined the gym. Wherever possible, I cycle there or go swimming. The act of doing physical activity releases endorphins and makes me feel better mentally!
- I have cut back on the amount of alcohol I drink; I try to have a few “drink-free” nights per week, and try not to 'binge' when I do drink. It’s hard, but I have realised that alcohol is a depressant, particularly the next day!
- When I am having a low day, or a 'dip' as I call it, I try to do something small to distract myself and to stop the ruminating thoughts. For example, I paint my nails, write a poem, play a game of Scrabble, or listen to music.
- When I feel that I am becoming unwell again, I tell my care co-ordinator straight away so we are well prepared and can try everything possible to avoid a full-blown relapse.
- I lean on my family and friends for support – that’s what they’re there for after all: to love, care for and support me. Just as I love, care and support them!
- I try to make plans for the future. For example, I want to work with people who are experiencing mental health problems: I feel I would be good at this, so I have done lots of research on the qualifications I would need and what skills I would need to attain to do the job. It keeps my mind active and stimulated!
- Lastly, I have realised that recovery is a gradual process – and it is not something that my care coordinator does FOR me. It is a joint thing; we work together!