We’re taking a different approach today. Rather than the standard Writer Profile, we wanted to bring you the words from a person who would like to share her mental health journey with us, and you. Writing is a small part of it. Mental health is a very large part.
Women account for 25% of people in the UK who take their lives. Amy tried to do exactly that- she tried to kill herself; but fortunately for us, it didn’t pan out. Read her story here and comment with your support.
Who are you and what do you do?
I’m Amy. I’m an International Key Account Manager for a POP (point of purchase) company. Basically, I work with a cosmetics brand and we design, develop and manufacture retail fixtures for them, that make girls want to buy their shit real bad and we ship those fixtures all over the world!
Tell us why mental health is important to you.
I’ve had mental health issues for a long time. For years they weren’t called ‘mental health issues’. They were simply attributed to my personality, my outlook, my decisions, my SELF and that meant that I was constantly battling with myself; wondering why I felt the way I did, wondering why I couldn’t function in certain situations like ‘normal’ people could, wondering what the actual hell was ‘wrong’ with me… sounds like fun right? I was raised in a very conservative household where anything ‘difficult’ (or basically not the weather) was avoided like the plague. We were (and still are at times) the family ignoring the great big fat ass elephant sitting in the room. My family are wonderful. They are just different to me. Even now, after everything we’ve been through and with me still regularly banging the drum and bringing our shit right out into the open in front of us, they would rather brush it under the carpet and have another cup of tea and pretend that everything is OK. And that’s fine. For them. I don’t think they’re wrong to be how they are. Just like I finally don’t think I’m wrong to be who I am.
You tried to take you own life, tell us about that.
Sitting comfortably? Good. In October 1998 I gave birth to my daughter. I was 20 years old. The product of a conservative upbringing where sex before marriage was frowned upon; and I fell pregnant at 19 years old when I was going through my ‘rebellious’ phase. My parents were devastated. My Mother cried almost constantly. My Father walked out of every room that I walked into. He couldn’t look at me. I disgusted him; and so… unsurprisingly, I disgusted myself. I thought my life was over. That I’d completely ruined any chance of a successful future and I felt like nobody on the earth would have me. I was damaged goods. A pregnant teenager. When my daughter was 2 years old, I met a man on a night out… He had been Deputy Head Boy at our school, captain of the football team, the apple of his parents eye and the envy of all his friends… He was smart, successful, handsome and funny. And he told me he’d have me. That if I stuck with him everything would be OK. That he could make something of me… Jesus, I clung to that man like a limpet… My saviour! My God! Thank fuck! My parents loved me again. In fact everyone loved me… no… everyone loved US. We were married in 2006.
When you put someone on a pedestal like that, when they are more valuable than you, when you try to change yourself to make them love you more, never leave you… you set yourself up for an almighty fall. And fall I did. Spectacularly.
Christmas 2007. 19 months into our ‘perfect’ marriage and my resentment of my husband was at it’s peak. I was tired of trying to be the perfect wife, the perfect mother, the perfect daughter, the perfect daughter-in-law, the perfect friend, the perfect career woman… you get the picture. When I tried to tell him how unhappy I felt, he would tell me how ungrateful I was. And I felt like the most despicable person on earth. We had a huge income, 2 brand new BMWs on the driveway of our farmhouse (soooo stereotypical I know), more Laura Ashley scatter cushions than any household needs, dinner parties every weekend where people would come into my home and talk about how lucky we were whilst drinking all my damn wine and never offering to help with the washing up… I hated my beautiful life. And so I destroyed it. I had an affair. It lasted 6 weeks. I didn’t eat. I didn’t sleep. I was manic. It was a terrible thing to do and I will always regret my actions for the harm it caused to people who I loved, but I do now accept, acknowledge and appreciate why I behaved the way I did. It doesn’t make it right. It makes it understandable. The fall out was horrific. My daughter (now 9) and I were asked to leave our home. My parents reverted back to 1998 (see ‘pregnant’). And I reassured myself that I’d been found out for the fraud that I was. That nothing would fix me. That I always was, and always would be… that screwed up disappointment whom everybody hated.
I moved 200 miles away with my daughter. Fresh start. Where nobody knew us. I felt like I had nothing to lose. The thing is though… you take yourself wherever you go and you can’t outrun your shit. You can make the same mistakes with new people in new places; and that’s exactly what I did… I met Mark in 2010. Same unhealthy relationship. Same pedestal placing. Same feelings of complete and utter unworthiness. Same wondering when I’d be found out… We lasted two years. He cheated and lied on numerous occasions; exacerbating my feeling of self-loathing. It was during one of his absences in November 2011, that I decided to die. I was so tired. Tired of myself. Tired of being me. I wanted to be anyone else. Anyone. I would walk past people in the street. If they looked at me I assumed they were doing so with utter disgust and that they would turn to their friends and whisper “I’m so glad I’m not her”, and at the same time I’d be thinking “I wish I was you. Or you. Or you. Or any of you. Just please God. Not me”. Now that is a really dark place to be. Really fucking dark. And I couldn’t see any way out of it. I hated myself so much. I remember begging my Dad, “If I was a dog, you’d put me down. Please Daddy, I just want someone to put me down”.
I was depressed for months. I didn’t work. I didn’t eat. I didn’t shower or clean my teeth. I barely left my house. My daughter pretty much had to look after herself. I couldn’t look after either of us. I remember lying on the sofa one day, staring into the kitchen looking at the kitchen tap. I must have looked at it for hours. I remember thinking, “I’m really thirsty. I can’t remember the last time I had a drink of water. Get up. Go to the tap Amy. Get a drink of water. You need a drink of water”. I didn’t move. I couldn’t. What was the point? WOW.
I knew I wasn’t going to attempt suicide at that time. If I couldn’t summon the energy to get a glass of water, there wasn’t a chance I would have the focus and energy for a suicide attempt. It was when I started to feel better that it came to me. It was a ‘better’ day when I’d managed to get up, showered and dressed and had even visited my friend Lucy and her baby… I didn’t wake up that morning with a plan. I only remember coming home from that visit and thinking, “Right. Now it’s time to die” like I was in the middle of some carpe diem shit… And so I took a bucket load of pills, calmly and quietly, and drank until I was passing out… I called Mark. In some sort of dramatic ‘Hollyoaks’ type scenario. Face palm. He obviously shit himself and immediately called an ambulance. Cue the indignity of the Police battering down the front door to give the Paramedics access… by which time I was vomiting all over my bedroom and myself.
I regretted it IMMEDIATELY. Having two over-worked and underpaid Paramedics and a couple of really bored looking Police Officers rolling their eyes at you whilst you’re mid-vomit is far from ideal; and after an ambulance ride to A&E and 24 hours of more eye-rolling and signing and puking into grey cardboard trays… I was discharged.
Time to sit still and DEAL WITH MY SHIT then.
How are you doing with your mental health now?
I think I’ll always have to keep an eye on myself. I’ve done a LOT of work. I’ve had a lot of therapy and I have talked and talked and talked. I needed to. I needed to say things and have someone with a professional qualification in this look at me with their eyes wide and their jaw on the floor and get that acknowledgment that some of the stuff that has happened in my life is not OK. And it’s totally OK that it fucked me up a little bit. It doesn’t mean it’s over. It doesn’t mean it’s too late. Or too big. Or too much to recover from. It just means I have to pick my way through it and some stuff takes hard work. But talking to a mental health professional was like slowly lifting weights off my shoulders and I will always love my Therapist for his kindness and empathy and patience and love.
I understand better myself now. I know what healthy and unhealthy looks like; I don’t always pick healthy but knowledge is power so I’m armed with the tools I need to catch myself if I start heading down unhealthy thought processes. I’ve recently completely a programme which focuses on challenging the way I THINK and looks at how I view ME. It’s not like the talking therapy I had previously; less about looking for answers and unpicking the past and more about focussing on what I can do every day to be kind to myself and keep myself well. There’s homework and journals and you really have to work at it but elements of it have definitely helped me in all areas of my life; not just relationships.
I put love and relationships down for a long time. It was such a huge brick wall. I was so afraid that I’d just do it all over again. At the time it was absolutely the right thing to do. I needed to fall in love with myself (cliché I know). I needed to take my turn on the pedestal. For a while I thought I was a love addict but I don’t actually think that’s a helpful label to give myself. Sure… I love love. Who doesn’t?! It doesn’t mean that it’s something I can’t have though; I just need to be aware of my old habits. I saw a quote about 6 months ago, when I started dating… it simply said ‘Let him go. Keep yourself.’ And I love that. It’s a simple reminder that nobody is more important than me. Nobody is worth my truth more than I am. So if I feel myself getting lost in him, I’ll put him down for a while until I find the balance again.
What do you do in your daily life for mental wellbeing?
I have positive affirmations written out and placed in my flat… When I wake every morning I see words that I’ve written that tell me that I love and accept myself… exactly as I am. Writing that just MADE ME BEAM by the way . Others say ‘Good morning! Today… you are going to be awesome’ and ‘You are NOT that voice in your head’ and ‘Say something kind about yourself… right now!’ Exercise works for me. I’ve just started running again and I cannot express how much it boosts my mood. I have to watch myself because I can be overly-competitive and beat myself up for not being better but right now I am running for the love of it, I’m not entering races or setting targets… just running, sometimes really slowly, because when I get home I stop and sit down outside my flat and breathe in the air and tell myself how flipping awesome I am for getting out there and running. I also go to the Gym 3(ish) times a week in the morning… for me, it’s a really positive way to start to the day and I always feel more energetic after an early morning gym session. I watch my language. I try not to over-dramatise things. I tell myself to tolerate things. A bad day doesn’t equal a bad life. I spend less time on my phone and more time watching the views from the train, or reading a good book or closing my eyes and breathing in and out slowly and deeply through my nose. This is called the Ujjayi or Ocean breath and is practised widely in Yoga. Try it. It’s actually awesome.
What advice, if any, would you have for people in pain?
Nothing stays the same. Things change. It’s such a cliché but the whole ‘This too will pass’ thing… it’s true. It will. You can’t ignore your sh*t. Well, you can. But it won’t help you to move from where you are now. But you should know that EVERYONE has sh*t. You can be magnificent. You might just need a little bit of help to realise it. There is help. We all need it. Some of the most successful and amazing and positive and happy and just the best humans I know actually have sought help at one time or another. Some of them are still having help now; and it makes them no less amazing; in fact it makes them more amazing. Life is a big messy mess; it’s not supposed to be lived in a certain way. It’s supposed to be lived in the way that works for you. Stop comparing yourself to others. You’ll feel sooooo much better when you do. TALK. Find a therapist or a programme or a group that works for you and soak up every bit of knowledge that you can. I know how it is to feels utterly powerless. Jesus, I’d have paid someone to shoot me a few years ago… I was begging for someone to shoot me. I’d kick the sorry ass of anybody who tried to harm me now! Time heals. Baby steps. Take each day and set a tiny target – Take a shower. Go outside and walk around the block. Cook yourself a really simple meal. Read a chapter of a book. Meet a friend for a coffee. Lose yourself in their sh*t for a while. Reach out to people. Humans are good and decent on the whole. If someone called you and told you they were struggling, you’d want to see them, to help, to talk, to offer your support and love right? People will want to do the same for you. Be brave. Call them. You are not alone and you don’t have to do this all by yourself. Talking about this stuff is a sign of strength, not weakness.
Do you write, and if so, what is your favourite style of writing and why?
I’ve recently started journaling. I don’t always remember but I try to record my day briefly. I write what my goals are for the day (and sometimes it’s enough that it’s ‘try not to be a catastrophic moody asshole’) and then I focus on what I’m going to work on to help me have a good day. I’ve enjoyed writing this though; I like sitting here, thinking about how far I’ve come and how hard it can be at times. It’s good to remind yourself but to do it in a positive way. I’ve liked that.
Many of us within this group have experienced times where writing has helped us overcome times of pain, describe the first time you realised the true of power of words.
This is definitely a work in progress. Writing my homework for the programme I completed recently helped me focus. Seeing my own words of reassurance and support every day via my own positive affirmations helps me start every day with a more positive mindset that I have in years. Writing this tonight has been cathartic and it makes me wonder how much more I can help myself just by sitting here in front of my laptop and letting my thoughts flow. It’s not poetry. It won’t win a Booker prize but it’s been a positive evening for me so that’s absolutely enough.
Many mental health sufferers love to read. What is your favourite book and why?
I don’t think I have a favourite book but there are many books that I have enjoyed reading. Anything by Khalid Hosseini. Haruki Marikami. Bella Mackie and her brutally honest account of her own struggle with a host of mental health issues. The light-hearted deliciousness of Alexander McCall-Smith.
We all have moments where we truly connect with words we read. What quote inspires you the most. Why?
‘Let him go. Keep yourself’. As explained earlier.
If you could go back and tell the version of you in your darkest time anything, what would it be?
It sounds dismissive and I don’t mean this with any disrespect and I’m not trying to make light of what was at the time, absolutely crippling pain… but play it down. It’s not the catastrophe you think it is. There will come a time when you will understand this. When you will make peace with it and accept it as part of our growth. It is not the end of you. It’s just a part.
What does the future hold for Amy now?
I don’t actually know right now. And that’s OK. I will continue to work hard every day to allow myself to be happy. To tolerate the hard days and congratulate myself for the good ones. I might fall in love and get married again and have more children. I might stay single and enjoy a life independent of someone else. I might stay here or I might move to a new place and experience a different kind of life. I don’t know. But I guess that’s all part of the process.
Finish this sentence: “Life is the epitome of…”
A thousand thank you’s to Amy for sharing her story with us. What she has done is what we all need to strive to do – talk openly and honestly about our mental health. We glad you’re with us, Amy.
If you have a story to tell, please get in touch on firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you’re struggling with your mental health, we have a safe and monitored Facebook group you can request to join, or you can refer yourself for help via our “get help” link on the site.