My name is Natasha, I volunteer for Time to Change Wales as a Champion with a view to sharing my story and stamping out of the stigma of mental health. Before joining Time to Change Wales I went on adult education courses in counselling to learn more about myself, helping others, and my own illness. I’d like to tell my story today to inspire and motivate others.
As a child I suffered with behavioural problems but it was always put down to me just being a naughty child. I suffered at the hands of bullying from primary to comprehensive. I didn't stand up to them and regretfully admit I took a lot out on my parents. I guess it is true when they say you'll hurt those closest to you. I suffered with terrible anxiety and self-harmed until I was 16 by picking etc.
At 16 years old, through another form of abuse I had a nervous breakdown that led me to being sectioned under the Mental Health Act. I was at that point diagnosed with PTSD but then at 18 was diagnosed with Bipolar.
From the age of 16-24 my life was what I would describe as a mess. I was extremely depressed with bouts of highs and lows. I didn't take my medication which then caused me to have psychotic episodes and when I did, I misused it, as I thought many at a time would have been an easy way out. Once or twice I nearly didn't make it and when I did I ended up involved with the police. I was involved with the wrong crowd that influenced a lot of the decisions I made, and took drink and drugs as a way to block out my hurt. That seriously did not work.
I remember times back then where I’d now and again think of wanting to change my life, be a better person, live a happy decent life but I had so much little self-belief and self-worth I just thought that what I had, as unhappy as I was, was all I deserved at that point in my life. My thought was ''What's the point of changing? No one will ever see me any different to the way they did before, everyone will still judge me in the same way.” I had gone to therapy from 16 where you sit in a room with a counsellor being the 'Real You' but then go back to the negative environment or influences after every session so it’s harder to break the habits. I was stuck in a rut. I even ran away from my problems and went to live away for a while. Fact - You can’t run from your problems, you have to learn to face them.
At around 20-22 I had had enough of rejection, judgement and depression and decided I wanted to prove the haters wrong. I think it took a relative’s suicide to see that when you’re gone, you’re gone, but it’s the ones you leave behind that pick up the pieces. I decided what I wanted out of my life: I guess I’d always wanted it I just never believed I’d ever have it. I wanted to change, get better, get married, have children, an education, a job, decent friends, a good life for myself and to make my loved ones proud. So at that point I slowly started to break away from the environment and influences I was taken in by and spend more time at home focusing on medication therapy and even a bit of work here and there. At 21 I enrolled on a counselling course at college and I think doing this taught me more about myself than helping others. I learnt about my condition, and left with skills to manage it better. I went to therapy, support groups, took my medication properly and although I still drank socially I steered clear of other substances.
It was aged 24 I met Matthew, who was my boss in a cleaning job and the door opened to a new positive chapter in my life. After a couple of months of dating I opened up to him about all of this and more because things were going so well and I wanted him to accept me all flaws and perfections. I guess it was my way of knowing he was the one. He was so understanding, caring and didn't judge me as I had been in the past. Our relationship came at a price though... even though I had come far on my own, Matthew was adamant that the only way I could truly have this happiness I had always wanted was to completely cut ties with my area, the environment, the influences and the past so he made me choose between him and a new life together, or the life I was leading and he would walk away. So I chose him! We moved away, I cut all ties with people and places I was well known to and although back then I thought I lost everything... I can tell you now I lost nothing and gained everything.
I am now 27, happily married with a beautiful daughter Amelia Nevaeh. I have a lovely home, a part-time job, I run a mother and toddler Group, I’ve just passed a Level 3 Counselling Course, have a great relationship with my family and have decent friends. I am taking my meds regularly and still undergo therapy, and live a happy decent life. Yes I still have bad days where through anxiety I worry about things or think of moments of my past that I wish I could change but had none of this happened I would not be here today. The difference is on those bad days I have the right positive support network around me and I'm not afraid to ask for help. My husband and daughter are my life and I thrive to be the best wife and mother I can be. I am so proud of how far I have come and if I can put all my negatives into positives and motivate the person reading this to take a step in the direction of positive change it will make me very happy. If I can do it you can!
If you would like to write a blog post about your experiences of stigma or related issues, email firstname.lastname@example.org