I was diagnosed with anxiety and depression in my mid-twenties and my life started to revolve around a two-year cycle. I would be well for eighteen months and be ill mentally for six months. During the six month period, I would visit my GP and be offered medication or short-term therapy. Generally, no one would notice when I was ill, as I was high functioning and continued to attend work and progress in my career.
However, things changed in 2015 when I didn’t come out of my six month cycle. My mental health got worse and I started experiencing psychosis and paranoia and, for my own safety, I was admitted to a mental health unit twice in that year. Upon my release from hospital, on the second occasion, I was told that my marriage was over and I lost my home and access to my children.
Whilst in hospital, I had made a promise to myself that I would get better and do everything I could to improve my mental health. And my promise started with the aim of finding a new home to be the safe foundation to build my recovery on, which I soon did. I continued to be supported by the Crisis team and then transferred to a Community Mental Health Team, for longer-term support.
At this time, I was still managing to work, although my attendance was poor, but I felt so ashamed of my mental ill health and the perceived stigma, that I only told a few people about what I was going through. This meant that most of my family, friends and colleagues never really understood why I was struggling to attend and why I was behaving the way I was.
In August 2016, I had a breakthrough when I was diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (now known as Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder) and, although this didn’t change much with regards to the care and support I was offered, it did make the last twenty years of my life make sense. I now knew what I have to overcome! However, I was still emotionally imbalanced and continually told that I was ‘too unstable for therapy’ but all I thought was ‘how would I become stable without therapy’. I was just prescribed anti-psychotic and anti-depressant medication, in an attempt to stabilise my mood.
In April 2017, my employment was terminated on ill health grounds, resulting in me having to claim benefits, for the first time in my life. This proved to be one of the most horrendous and humiliating experiences I have ever encountered. It took months to sort out and two awful, and very judgemental, disability assessments. Add to this the stress of an ongoing Court case, so that I could have access to my children, still no long-term therapy or treatment plan and my home – my foundation for recovery – was at risk due to my finances. All this pressure, led to me taking an attempt on my life. I still have no recollection of what happened that day and I woke up in a hospital bed around twenty-four hours later. I was told that I had made a call to a friend and they had contacted the emergency services.
From here, things started to improve – my benefits got sorted, which meant I didn’t become homeless, and I started specialist mentalisation based therapy, both individual and group, that lasted for around fifteen months. I also was successful in gaining a Court Order for contact with my children.
In April 2018, my mental health was stable, so I decided to improve my physical health and joined a local running group. I’m not sure why, as I had never seen a happy jogger! However, along with my therapy, this played a major part in my recovery. I was getting out and making new friends, albeit around running, and both my mental and physical health improved.
My therapy came to an end in January 2019 and I felt like Superman – the world was mine to conquer. I started volunteering and applying for jobs and, in May 2019, I was discharged from the Community Mental Health Team, as well as receiving a job offer to start in July. Life was going to be great…
However, the job I started was at too much of a high level and very intense, for where I was in my recovery journey. My anxiety and negative thoughts spiralled and, by the end of my first week, I left the job and sent an email advising that I would not be returning. My mental health deteriorated quickly and I soon found myself in crisis again. The Community Mental Health Team refused to reopen my case and I had to accept support from Primary Care Services – my GP practice and Let’s Talk. I also stopped running and isolated myself. By leaving my employment, I had to reclaim benefits again and I found myself experiencing the same stigma and discrimination that I had faced previously.
The little money that I had saved started to dwindle and my home – my foundation for recovery – was once again at risk. There seemed to be no way out of the darkness, so I made a choice and one that still shocks me to this day. I planned my suicide. I made a decision that the following week, I would take my own life. In the week that led up to the planned day, I sorted out my paperwork and property and felt such a peace, knowing that all my pain would soon be over. The day came and I acted on my plan – goodbye world – but to my dismay, I woke around thirty-six hours later. I reached out to a trusted friend and I once again found myself in hospital and a good care plan was put in place.
I received support from the Home-based Treatment Team and by February 2020, my benefit claims had been sorted, which stabilised my mental health and I returned to my running club. However, the following month, lockdown came. I had a choice to make – I could either learn to run solo or I knew I would end up back in crisis. So, I put on my running shoes and just ran with no plan or set distance in mind. I continued to do this over the coming weeks and months and just ran to feel, which had a very positive effect on my mental health and by the end of the year, I had run 2,020 miles for 2020.
I needed a new challenge for 2021, so created ‘The 5212 Challenge’ to raise funds for those struggling financially that would like to be more active. This challenge saw me aim to run a half marathon every week and a marathon (or longer) every month. It helped keep me focused and I beat my aims, ending with 55 half marathon and 14 marathons/ultras. I also volunteered over the year and in November, was successful in gaining full-time employment with Hull and East Yorkshire Mind and I’m loving my role.
So, where am I now…well, I have a new partner and we are engaged, I have increased child contact, a new house and a new job and I continue to run. If someone had told me a few years ago, that I would be where I am now, I would have laughed. Looking back though, I never wanted to die, I just wanted the pain to end. And I’m happy that I am still alive.