#MeToo: A Social Storm To Stop Suffering

In response to the #MeToo campaign, why it’s so important to take a stand and not be afraid to speak out about the suffering behind seemingly smiling eyes. I touch on my own experience and my hopes for this movement helping both the victims and perpetrators involved in such sex crimes.

A campaign that predated social media, set up in 2007 by Tarana Burke who up a non-profit organisation aiming to provide the resources and support for victims of sexual assault and harassment, and committed her time and energy to be with those who had experienced abuse.

Now, in response to the allegations made against Harvey Weinstein, the social media movement #MeToo has resurfaced. 

Retweeted earlier this month by actress, and producer, Alyssa Milano, the responses to movement highlights how common these problems are, and just how many have suffered (or are suffering…) as a result of sexual misconduct.

Screen Shot 2017-10-23 at 18.13.47

The response; devastating and heartbreaking.

12 million posts in the first 24 hours – CBS News

All stories, from minor assaults, to full on abusive disclosures, are harrowing.
Hard to read, but equally harder to experience.

#MeToo gives women everywhere an opportunity to speak up and break the social taboos that prefer to sweep such suffering under the carpet, when really the response has highlighted the phenomenal rate in which these misconducts are being experienced.

#MeToo is integral for the future protection and safeguarding of young people in society. Since statistics show that around 1 in 10 young people will experienced sexual abuse or assault by their 18th Birthday, making child sexual abuse the most prevalent health care problem with devastating consequences to later physical, emotional and social development.

Feelings of blame.
Isolation.
Self-hate.
Confusion.
Problems with body-image
Anxiety

Such experiences of sexual assault an abuse lead to many developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and disordered eating, that can turn into chronic and distressing mental health disorders. 

Whilst victims should not be made to relive their experiences, it has given many the freedom, and voice, to stand with thousands of other women, without shame or disgrace, and shout out that any form of sexually oppressive behaviour is not acceptable, and demands change. 


My #MeToo

Whilst I will not let myself relive this episode of my life, I want to take this opportunity to stand with those women who have bravely spoken out. Formally acknowledging the wrong that was done to me I hope will encourage others not to keep their grief and suffering  hidden behind smiling eyes as I once did

I can empathise with the feelings of confusion and self-doubt many have posted about, as for years I buried a series of persisting sexual assaults that desecrated 5 years of my childhood, and later robbed me of my teen years. 

38% of children never report sexual abuse or assault. Many never say anything.

So why you ask didn’t I speak up?

I was certain the whole thing was my fault.
Confused about it all.

I felt I was the burden on the family, the one with all the issues who it’d be better of without, so I just won’t say a thing… and being such a young age I did not have the capacity, or vocabulary, to fully understand or portray, the situation; not even to myself.me2_3

All I knew was that I felt unclean.
Tainted.
Unworthy of love and affection.
I hated my body.

So I remained silenced, petrified that should my family ever find out they would think I was disgusting, or that they wouldn’t believe me, and maybe they would disown me. 

 

I silenced it from everyone, and even tried to bury it forever through silencing myself through years of disordered eating, body image issues, low-self esteem, and one failed suicide attempt. 

Many years later I sat in a therapy session in a Psychiatric Hospital where I was being treated for anorexia nervosa. It was there I finally allowed myself to look back and connect with this experience.
Head in hands and uncontrollable floods of tears followed.
I  was crying for the four year old inside of me; looking back on her and finally welcoming her as part of me instead of locking her out with blame. I wanted nothing more than to hold and comfort her brokenness.

Although investigations and trials were carried out the case was closed due to old legislation, and a crafty solicitor on the defendant’s side.

I never got the closure I deserved, nor the acknowledgement from an apology I so longed for.

MeToo2But now I see just how weak he really is. 
Weak for not having the balls to when the time came to it taking responsibility for the suffering he caused, not only to myself but also my family.

It makes me strong.
Strong for breaking out of that suppressed state where I felt powerless, and deciding that his past actions will not dictate my present happiness or health!

I have now overcome my eating disorder, in fact most the time I love being in my own skin. 
Most importantly I finally look at myself with worth, respect and sheer joy for being where I am today.
Every day is a blessing, and I intend to make everything I do in life a blessing to follow this.


#MyHope

They say what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, it is #MyHope that the #MeToo enables girls and women everywhere no longer live in fear, confusion, or with the notion that this behaviour is acceptable, neither are they deserving of it.

#MyHope is that they can be proud that they are survivors, and feel supported and united – whether they choose to publicly say anything, or privately follow the campaign with newfound hope in their hearts.

We all have a responsibility to take a stand, and raise awareness about these issues. To realise that we can’t allow people to grow up believing that sexual misconduct, harassment, assaults and abuse, are to be expected norms of treatment in any relationship.

I would also like to commend the men who have responded to such posts with #IHave and #HowIWillChange, as this is an equally brave movement, for sometimes the power of remorse, acknowledgement and a desire to change, is all that’s needed to amend the mess.

 

 

Emotional Abuse…Through Her Eyes

A brave and honest account that challenges our perceptions of who is considered vulnerable. As well as exploring issues of trust and manipulation within relationships.

When first contacted by this remarkable young lady I had no idea what she had been through. What her bubbly smile, confident demeanour, and bright eyes masked. 

Whilst the title of this blog post sounds heavy, I ask you to read on.

Why?
If you’ve ever attended safeguarding training, be that for adults or children, you are taught about the signs and consequences of different types of abuse: Physical, Verbal, Sexual, Neglect, Discriminatory and Emotional (to name a few). 

You are given the policies and procedures to follow should a concern arise, as we all have a duty of care to look out for vulnerable individuals, namely children, the disabled and the elderly. 

Often in the midst of looking out for others we forget to look out for ourselves. Rarely considering that we may in fact actually be the vulnerable ones.

No matter your background abusers do not discriminate, they destroy.

This account challenges us to consider just who is vulnerable?

It explores how events may go unrecognised, and the difficulty confronting the reality of the situation when  emotionally attached, even in love with, the perpetrator.

She herself is the voice of strength, reminding us that no matter how hard it may seem, there is always an escape route waiting, and that these experiences can have detrimental consequences even after the storms have passed.

Whilst the speaker has chosen to remain anonymous,

This is Emotional Abuse…Through Her Eyes


“When someone is described as ‘vulnerable’, like ‘vulnerable young person’ or ‘vulnerable adult’, we make assumptions on who these people are. I would never have considered myself to be ‘vulnerable’ at the age of 18 because I didn’t fall into any of the stereotypical groups I associated with the word. I was still in education, I wasn’t on drugs, I was living at home and I was a pretty confident and capable person. I was surrounded by a network of friends and I had hobbies that saw me mixing with a wide range of people.

I was a reasonably mature 18 year old. The moment you discount yourself or someone else as not ‘vulnerable’, you remove a layer of protection and care, otherwise afforded to others. You make a judgement call that this person is less at risk of harm.

When I was 17, I met someone 16 years my senior. By 18 I had fallen in love with him and we had embarked on a relationship.

It was great.

He was funny, handsome, caring and charming.

He took me to nice places, he cooked for me, he encouraged and supported me with my studies and my hobbies. We went on some amazing holidays and despite me feeling guilty for not being able to contribute financially, he would always reassure me that it was fine, I was a student after all.

There were whispers and mutterings about the age difference but when people saw us together, laughing and smiling, they soon accepted that ‘sometimes age doesn’t matter’ and it made me more determined to prove that.

I went to university and worried a lot about what it meant for our relationship. Luckily for me, he wanted me to come home every weekend and sometimes during the week if I could. He’d show up when I was on nights out with my friends and say how much he missed me and that he’d come to take me home. I thought it was lovely to be missed and thought about so much.

When I moved out of halls, I moved in.

Things began to change without me really noticing, I wasn’t allowed my own key. I wasn’t allowed to have people round, I wasn’t allowed to bring more than a few items of clothing at a time, I couldn’t be there unless he was or unless I was locked in.

I was working as well as studying but earning barely enough to pay my train fare each week. This became an issue. He said university was pointless and I’d never succeed anyway. I needed to be paying half for the things we did together. Dinners out, day trips, holidays, all things I couldn’t afford and hadn’t chosen to do. I didn’t drive so would often end up waiting for hours at train stations or walking back alone late at night.

He started using my insecurities against me, he’d make passing remarks about my weight, about my body, about me being unstable or overly emotional. He’d make jokes about it in public and I’d laugh too to try and make it less painful.

He withheld affection and sex, it all became on his terms, which was hard considering I’d had a difficult history with intimacy. I’d overcompensate by spending money I didn’t have, buying him gifts or taking him out but it was always wrong and never enough. I knew he was cheating and with multiple people but I felt unable to act.

By this point, I’d become isolated at university.

I’d lost friends because I hadn’t seen them.

I’d been so determined to prove people wrong, how could I now tell them I was unhappy?

Before I knew it, I’d become entirely dependent on him. I was depressed, in debt, isolated and had no self worth.

Ending the relationship was the hardest and best thing I have ever done. It took all of my strength and all of my courage to acknowledge that it was unhealthy, even though I didn’t believe I deserved any better.

Initially he made it easy for me to leave. He was convinced I’d be back. Then he continued to try and control elements of my life.

He wouldn’t return my possessions for months.

He tarnished my reputation by fabricating reasons for our split – generally based on me being emotionally unstable and that he’d had to deal with a lot.

Classic manipulation really.

 It has taken years to regain some sense of identity, to begin to understand myself, even just figuring out what I like and don’t like.

It continues to affect my relationships now.

I am always fearful that being truly myself will leave me open to more hurt and harm so I never let my guard down and I push people away when they get too close.

It took a while for me to totally break free of him. I’ve done a lot of soul searching and have had counselling too. I still struggle now and find myself behaving in a very defensive way, like my body and mind are constantly in self preservation/flight mode. Intimacy is the hardest bit and I still struggle with the associations I have between sex and my self worth particularly – am I being used/do I feel obliged. I’m always learning and I have to really depend on and trust who I’m intimate with because I’m scared.

Learning to be loved and learning that sometimes it’s ok to rely and need other people is hard but necessary to have fulfilling relationships. Emotional abuse is abuse. It doesn’t matter how old you are, how long you’ve been together, your gender, if you’re straight or LQBTQ+, the affect can be devastating.

Understanding and recognising what constitutes a healthy relationship is essential. Encouraging a sense of self-worth is essential.

Until we start talking more openly about what happens behind closed doors and educating children and young people appropriately, everyone is ‘vulnerable’.”


If yourself, or anyone you know of, are at risk or have been affected by any issues in this post that you feel you need help with then please either reach out and use the contacts below, or drop me a message on my contact page

It doesn’t matter if you are unsure, or if the incident was long ago. If it is impacting your safety, wellbeing and health then make it a priority. 

Contacts

Victim Support: Free confidential service tailored to your needs. Online, calls or 
Samaritans: Call or drop in for help, support or advice 
MIND: Offer information about abuse, and contacts for qualified counsellors 

Other sources of help, advice and domestic abuse helplines can be found on the Crime Stoppers website. 

 

How to support your child with an eating disorder: Top Tips from one tough Mum!

Living with a child with an eating disorder is tiring, challenging and often very isolating.
I know my own parent’s compromised their social contact and lost out on experiences with friends due the emotional fatigue and time restraints the illness caused them.

It is very important to remember the wellbeing of the wider family and carers is just as crucial as supporting the sufferer.

For optimal recovery the support system around them needs to be at it’s strongest – you are their fortress – but your needs should not be discounted, and for you to be a solid rock for them you need to have your needs met as well.

I first met Janet Richards approximately seven years ago; sadly it was under unfortunate circumstances since it was her daughter, Emma, now one of my dearest friends and fellow recovery troopers, who also received inpatient treatment at the same psychiatric hospital as me.

Since supporting her daughter through anorexia, Janet Richards, Emma’s strong-minded and determined mother, now works alongside Winchester CAMHs (child and adult mental health services), setting up a parent ‘buddying’ system through the ACE programme they have already running there.

Below she shares her an insight to her story and 12 “top-tips” for parents, friends and carers, who are living with the commotion and confusion that having an eating disorder can cause.


image1Hello, this picture of my daughter and me was taken whilst away in Gran Canaria earlier this year. Six years ago, I couldn’t even dream of a holiday as Emma was receiving in-patient treatment psychiatric unit for anorexia nervosa. This was where we met the lovely Joss and that friendship between the girls has continued.

The two years were horrendous, but we got through it and now she is an amazing young woman studying for a degree in mental health nursing. During the desperate dark days early on, I attended a support group who had invited a mum and her daughter recovering from anorexia. It gave me so much hope that I hung onto their story – it was a light at the end of the very dark tunnel. Since then I have tried to give support as an ‘expert parent’ to other parents now in similar situations either through ED support groups or individually. But I am one person, and so through the ACE programme that Wnchester CAMHS is running I am developing a ‘buddying’ programme to encourage other parents and young people to become buddies to help support those in need.

So when I am asked about the advice I would give to parents with youngsters struggling with Eating Disorders, I try and make it as simple as possible. So I’ve come up with a list of things that I wish someone had told me when my daughter was going through her dreadful journey.

And don’t you just love the benefit of hindsight!!! Here goes:

  1. Don’t waste energy on blaming yourself, anyone or anything else – you’ll need all your energy to preserve your sanity!
  2. Maintain positive intent – in order words you have absolute conviction that they will recover.
  3. Realise you can’t make them better – the only one that can is them!
  4. Ensure that you have a core of resilience & strength, which means taking care of yourself by taking time out to do ‘nice’ stuff for you.
  5. The medical professionals know the theory but are very unlikely to understand the suffering – they will probably lack  any practical experience with a loved one suffering, so try and find someone who has lived the nightmare & can give you support.
  6. You will be their absolute rock whatever they throw at you (& I do mean physically!) so don’t underestimate how important you are to them.
  7. Try and keep an environment that optimises their chance of recovery –In terms of action, you can try and ensure that they have an environment in which they can recover themselves. Examples being:
    1. Staying calm (as possible)
    2. Having a life yourself, which means going out for dinner with friends/partner – yes if it is at a mealtime!
    3. Don’t add stress by going on holiday together – if you need a break take one on your own or with just your partner
    4. Establish boundaries & stick to them even though they are very ill individuals
  8. Drink red wine – it can soften the pain & get you through the next meal!
  9. Don’t walk on egg shells: Walking on eggshells (or being afraid of saying the wrong things!) isn’t going to make them better so don’t get twisted up on thinking about how to say stuff – say it with love, compassion but positive intent!
  10. Recognise the excruciating fight going on in their brains – its exhausting for them.
  11. Recognise that your son/daughter is still there, but has been hijacked by an evil spirit. You will get odd glimpses of them & hang onto those sightings.
  12. Everyone’s journey is different but you are not alone….

For more information about supporting your child and yourself please look at the following links:

http://www.b-eat.co.uk/about-eating-disorders/worried-about-someone/support-for-you

http://www.youngminds.org.uk/for_parents/parents_guide

http://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/eatingdisorders/Pages/eating-disorders-advice-parents.aspx

 

Depression Through the Eyes of…Dan Kelly

I was introduced to Dan through social media; a talented young man no doubt, whose passion for writing shines through his own WordPress site. Just like many other talented artists,  Dan too has unfortunately endured, and overcome, his own mental battles.

His account below is not only fantastically articulated, but bravely allows us all a glimpse into what was once his world, and what now is his future.


Depression through the eyes of Dan Kelly…

When were you first aware you were depressed? What triggered it?

Depression is a word that gets thrown around a little bit too much. Quite often we associate a bad day with being depressed – sometimes, we just have bad days, or weeks and months, and realising that comes with a paired requirement to recognise what’s going on in your life. What is making you trip and tumble?

Depression is a little more deep-rooted, and comes down to a question of existence; it’s debilitating, smothering and a shadow that threatens to throttle you in the bed you’re fixed to. For me, I started experiencing that feeling at college, and it came and went in the 8 years since. The more distanced from myself, my identity and who I wanted to be, the heavier and faster it came – that’s the best way I can describe it at this point in my life.

Many people say that you can’t overcome a mental health illness without dealing with the trigger, did you ever find out the trigger illness?

We’re all products of our biology, environment and how we perceive these through our psychology. There are endless things I could identify as a cause for how I felt, from relationships with family members and friends from school in my childhood to how I saw romantic partners as that ‘final part of me’, as if there was a void to fill with endless women. Some of these I have dismissed some make total sense, but what makes more sense than anything else in this world, and will make sense to both you and your readers, is sometimes we feel lost. We don’t know what to do, what’s expected, what the point of it all is, and sometimes a bad thing can happen that just makes all of that all the more prevalent. Maisie(a friend of Dan’s) passing away was a very bad thing to happen in my life which undoubtedly effected me, but what it did was bring to light that I didn’t know who I was as a person.

How did it (if at all) affect your friendships/familial relations/daily functioning?

When I was depressed, and following on from Maisie passing on, friendships were fine until I became restless. Connections with my family members were fine until I became irritable. Relationships were fine until I became curious about what was over the horizon on the greener grass.

How did you find the quality of the help provided to you by the health care services?

The service I used was ‘there’ – I’ll give it that much. I have a lot of NHS staff in my family on the more clinical side of the hospital, but the actual process of getting help with mental health support took months, and this is where they falter.

Who’s fault? Well, when there’s no money to call upon, you can only look to an inconsiderate government to blame – but that’s a discussion for elsewhere.

CBT is not a miracle cure, nor should it be prescribed to every single person. It douses fires, but doesn’t extinguish the crackling underneath. I also, however, think it’s worth noting that, ultimately, even with endless amounts of counselling, CBT and so on, it’s down to me. It’s down to us. It’s down to you. You are the only person who can take steps and be honest with yourself. Scary, right? Absolutely. But the view as you climb the summit only gets more and more stunning.

I couldn’t agree more, and it’s having this outward approach and motivation that can be so hard to keep through recovery.

Did you find, being male, prevented you seeking help or admitting that you had a mental health disorder? Or subject you to any greater discrimination or stigma?

Being male did initially stop me, yes. However, this is only down to my own misconception of what it is to be a man. My advice there is this: you’re a man, sure. I realise you’ve got something dangling down there, but you’re a human first and foremost. Focus on that – if you need help, just flipping take it. It’s there, so look for it and use it.

Stigma? None. Discrimination? None. Once you do it and talk to the right people, you’ll see that everyone that matters will kind of get it.

What were the factors that helped the most in your recovery?

It’s great to talk about mental health problems, because it’s part of a process that allows you to recognise what you need to work on – then it’s all down to you. Depending on myself more and more is an amazing feeling.

What were the things that weren’t so helpful and how did you overcome/avoid these (if any)?

The thing that didn’t help me was having conversations with people that weren’t taking me anywhere, and I had to learn that whilst speaking to people is good, not everyone is worth speaking to. Whether it’s parents, close friends or even your counsellor (and if the latter is true, ask for a new one), you need to make sure that you’re going away from conversations with something clear to work on, a positive step of some sort when you open your heart up.

How has your experience shaped who you are today? Has it changed how you view mental health issues?

Please don’t think I’ve made it. I’m not always happy, but you’ll get a far more solid base if you start to look for what you’re missing from life and focusing on that.

A solid base? Hippy shit, right? When you get it and it’s there, you’ll feel it and know it. I’ve gone straight for the cliché and started learning about Buddhism, Taoism to be precise, I started writing and designing again, and I feel great at the very least while writing this.

I started assessing my beliefs and knowledge (noticing the differences between the two) about questions such as; What happens when you die? What do I really want from a relationship? Do I really hate my job, or am I just approaching it wrong? And when I’ve answered them, being honest enough to look back and realise when my answers reflect what I think I should say rather than my true self. It takes time; it’ll come, and be kind to yourself.

And mental health? You should be training it as much as you do your squats (which should also be a lot, ladies and gents). The School of Life is a fantastic resource, and read read read – let your mind escape from time to time.


 Dan is a deep, creative and insightful thinker and writer and I have no doubt that he will continue to inspire many through his talents of design, writing and humour.

I truly believe that his last point relating to finding your ‘solid base’ is crucial to having a sound mind. Practicing self-love is a daily exercise, and requires mental and emotional effort. There are many resources you can find online, and through mental health services to help with this, and I personally think it’s integral to everyone self-esteem and confidence.

I hope you have found Dans account inspiring and insightful. Through sharing stories and reflecting on each others journeys I believe it will empower those to keep moving forward in their own recoveries.

Do get in touch if you have a journey you’d like to share!

Anorexia through her eyes…

This, very honest, account was given to me by a dear friend, who I had the pleasure of meeting (albeit through unfortunate circumstances) in 2009. Following our brief meeting a friendship blossomed.  Although our lives moved in different directions I tried to stand by the sidelines, aiming to be a constant supporter and encouragement through her ups and downs fighting her illness – and she did the same for me.

Everyone’s journey and experience of an eating disorder is different…This is her account of how her anorexia led to a very serious and shocking wake up call to the dangerous, destructive and deceiving power it was exuding in her life.

This is anorexia, through her eyes…

“I spent years living with the ‘safety’ that anorexia offered me; the rules and rituals that gave me control, the care from others and the drive I feared I would lack without it in my life. Yet at the same time I was living in danger.

On one occasion after an overly active day and too little fuel for my body to cope, I collapsed in the night causing a brain bleed and two broken bones in my arm.

Even when I was in A&E after my fall and saw numerous specialists and GPs, not once was it picked up on that my weight or diet might have been the cause of the problem. I remained oblivious to the danger I was in and consequently deteriorated over the months following my fall before receiving the help that I so desperately needed.

It is worrying that the Medical Profession in general does not seem to have a great deal of ability to detect the early warning signs of individuals who are at risk. The fact that no-one mentioned to me that my fall might have been linked to an Eating Disorder simply fed into my delusion that I didn’t have a problem, after all, the Doctors hadn’t said so. Although I may not have been in the frame of mind to accept that I was on a slippery slope towards full relapse at the time of my fall, I’d like to think that had a Doctor suggested this to me, I may have at least contemplated the idea.

Anorexia has a sly way of making you believe you are invincible, like nothing can stop you. Until something does and the reality comes crashing into your life; like a tsunami wave. Sometimes it takes a ‘crisis’ before you can allow yourself to consider that you are struggling: something to open your eyes to the trauma that your body is going through. But it shouldn’t have to. It has been shown that early detection is key to achieving full recovery, yet it seems that GPs generally are not equipped to do so. Charities, such as B-EAT, work hard to improve knowledge amongst the health service, but unfortunately there is still a long way to go. Early detection would enable costs to be cut to the health services and less admissions to lengthy inpatient and day patient services.

Admitting that you or someone you know may have an eating disorder and seeking help, particularly at the early stages is not a failure, in fact it is probably the, most courageous decision that can be made.  However, it is not easy to admit your struggles and even less so to face them head on. For me, it was a case of accepting that although it was not my fault I became unwell, it is my responsibility to fight the illness.

The fear of change was incredibly daunting, however, over time the fear of staying the same; trapped in the tight grasp of anorexia, actually became greater. Anorexia is the enemy. Over time, I started to believe that I actually had the power to overcome it. The anxiety I experienced when I chose to make a stand against my anorexic fears at first was agonising. Perseverance was key and although sitting with uncomfortable emotions is highly unpleasant, now, my anxiety levels are lower than ever. I have not had to fight alone, but I have had to fight with all my strength. It has been hard work, but it is proving to be worth it. 

Just over a year after my fall, I am pleased to report that I am now weight restored and can appreciate that the way I have been living for several years was extremely dangerous. I never want to go back to how things were and I am discovering that full recovery is not only possible, but also possibly the most empowering experience you can imagine.”

Now in full time employment and back riding her beautiful horses, she is another of my #ConquerED inspirations, and I have faith that she will keep going from strength to strength in all areas of her life.

It has been a pleasure to watch this young lady, and dear friend of mine, turn a corner and fight onwards. Step by step rebuilding, redefining and rediscovering herself as she continues on her recovery journey.

winnie-piglet
“If there ever comes a day we can’t be together, keep me in your heart, I’ll stay there forever” – Winnie the Pooh

 


If this story, or any of the content on this website, has caused you to be concerned about yourself, a friend, family  or co-worker, please follow one of the links to one of the websites below…

B-eat

Mind

Anorexia and Bulimia Care (ABC)

 

 

A Glimpse into Her World…Self-Harm and Depression

As part of a new series I want to start I am interested in hearing people’s own stories of how they’re either conquering or have overcome their personal mental health struggles. Not only do I find it fascinating to hear each individual’s journey, but also I believe that by sharing these accounts, what’s helped and what’s hindered people’s recoveries, we can work together to reduce the stigma surrounding them, raise awareness and help others who are battling similar mental health disorders.

I know from personal experience that these disorders can be incredibly isolating, but that the impact of reading someone’s story, and realising that you’re not the only one out there with these thoughts/behaviours/worries, it can reduce that sense of helplessness and hopelessness and increase ones autonomy to get back on track and make positive changes.

So, as I rocked up to the Surrey Sports Park Starbucks I was eager to meet my first interviewee. She actually approached me about whether the topic of self-harm and depression would be one I’d want to cover in my blog, and if id be interested in hearing her story, of which I replied “of course!”

For me it came as such a surprise to learn that she had this story to tell, and that in itself is a lesson best learnt early on – to never judge a book by its cover. But I felt privileged that she was allowing me to turn over and delve deeper than the front cover…

Having moved to this country in 2012, this talented young lady started her A Levels in a nearby boarding school, making lots of friends, getting top grades and being a fantastic athlete. Whilst on the surface there seemed no obvious reason to punish herself, underneath her strong persona layers of low self worth festered, bombarding her mind as soon as her bedroom door was closed.

When were you first aware you had depression?

I can’t pin point an exact time it started or when a diagnosis was given to me – it wasn’t. But I experimented with self-harm before moving to England, with periods on and off with my mood. However, when I moved over to this country to boarding school it was then that I would say it became a more persistent problem in my life. A friend found me one day, and the housemaster was alerted. Going home and breaking the news to my parents was awful, my mum had such a vacant expression on her face, and they both didn’t know what to say or do.

 How would you describe your experience of self-harm and depression?

The best way I can describe the experience of depression is an all-consuming heaviness. Everything, even small trivial things people take for granted, like getting into University, seemed tricky. I started missing lectures that worried me.

The world begins to look cloudy, and what once was vibrant was just dull.

It really felt like my body was intolerant to happiness, I could be having a fantastic day but as soon as I got back to my house and sat in my room it was as if my body had an allergic reaction to doses of happiness that were too high, and I’d be plummeted into lowness. Self-harming was my way of connecting my feelings with a visible representation; I could focalise my feelings visibly onto myself. It felt like all the thoughts in my head needed a physical tangibility.

 What impact did it have on your relationships?

I felt really ashamed for my problem; I hid a lot and wore long sleeved tops. But it always felt like I was hiding from myself. I didn’t want others to see, I couldn’t deal with the questions and judgment, so I pushed many people away. But it made the relationships with those who I did trust to tell stronger – they were part of my support network.

 When my parents first found out they wanted me to move back home and focus on getting well, but I refused, I need goals and distractions that take my eyes off the problem. Plus I am stubborn. I felt that because I was so independent, this was something I could handle on my own, but my parents always reminded me that they were there for me. It’s just that I didn’t reach out to them much. I knew that it was a personal problem, it was my problem, and so I wanted to fix it. I had moved away from home therefore I didn’t want my parents help. My relationship with my mum has never been great though.

 Do you know what triggered your depression and self-harm?

Not really, no. Shortly after disclosing the issue to my parents I started getting psychotherapy, which gave me ample time to talk about issues and explore the problem more, but I have never been able to pinpoint exactly a trigger. Even now I can wake up and know when a day will be good or bad but I still can’t say why.

 My relationship with my mum has always been a slight irritant, and I guess that didn’t help. I come from a family of lawyers and I was the one who decided to go against the grain, mainly because I resented Law so much from the dominating impact the subject had on many family gatherings and meals. I chose to study English Literature and French, which then made me feel more inclined to keep up this perfect persona because I felt I had to prove myself, and my choice not to do law, to the family.

 As well as that, I had a relationship breakdown when I went home for Christmas the second year I was in boarding school. He was a very dear friend of mine and we decided to become an item, but I got rejected shortly after we became more intimate. I think guys forget how impactful they can be to a young girls self esteem – they may not be aware of hang ups or body issues they have and this can really scar someone and any future relationships. Luckily I am in a very supportive and happy relationship now.

 Through your battle with depression and S-H what positive coping strategies have you learnt to help you?

Music has helped me hugely and always been a constant in my life. I find it humbling and often listen to playlists when I do my creative writing.

I think as well accepting the problem has helped me acknowledge and accept that there will be good and bad days, but that’s ok. I know at times the urge to self-harm will be there but I have good, trusting, housemates who I can be around (even if I’m not feeling social).

Playing Squash and keeping active does help me because I want to be able to compete and play for teams but can’t do so if I’ve self-harmed because of the kit. I missed out on the ‘Tournament of Champions’, which is a fantastic opportunity to play with some top athletes in the sport, but I didn’t want anyone seeing my arms.

 Seeing how much concern my loved ones have for me has helped me to value myself a lot more. You begin to try and see what they see, and even though positive affirmation when you’re low doesn’t seem to sink in, just having the love of others makes me value what I have more.

My boyfriend has been very understanding of it as well, and I know how much it would hurt him to see my body harmed in any way, and so pleasing him and keeping our relationship sturdy also helps.

 Are there things that haven’t helped?

Hasn’t helped…I think looking back. For me alcohol is a trigger, I will be fine before and on the night out, but as soon as I get in at whatever early hour in the morning, it’s rock bottom. I found then seeing pictures of the night hard and unhelpful.

 Asking myself “why me?” was also not helpful. It’s so easy to beat yourself down about a problem. There was no major life event or adversity I experienced, so why did I feel this way? This perception that I believed people had of me to be this perfect girl, who could take on anything, prevented me getting help. It’s knowing it’s OK to need help and coming out of the denial.

 As well, I think stigma doesn’t help. There have definitely been times I’ve been worried what people would think and having to hide your problems is difficult and can prevent wanting to reach out for help.

 You’re a fantastic squash player, and keep fit in the gym, do you find sport and exercise helps you?

It does and it doesn’t. My eating has never been affected by my depression; my weight has fluctuated, but just the same as anyone’s does. Sport definitely helps me stick to routine as it’s a release, and lifting weights is empowering. It’s a good feeling to feel like you’re empowering yourself from a state where you’ve felt so small. There are times when I’ll have a bad gym session or squash lesson and I’ll feel powerless again. It’s just about knowing that there will always be the good days and the bad days, and being okay with that.

There was one incident where my self-harm was very bad, and it nearly took me away from playing Squash, and I think that was an eye opener for me and what was really important in my life. Occasionally I have taken the odd training day off when my mood has been low and I’ve wanted time on my own.

 What advice would you give to someone experiencing the same/similar problems?

Have a triangle of support ready for you:

  1. A go-to activity: something you adore doing that you have the energy to do regardless of your mood. For me it’s my creative writing and music.
  2. Professional help: this is so important because it’s likely that your friends and family won’t be able to give you sound medical advice. Issues like this are serious and do need to be properly monitored and handled by someone who knows what they’re dealing with.
  3. Friends/Family: they are vitally important for the sentimental side of things, especially when you just need to have someone to lean on.

 It’s always good to have positives to look back on. When I feel really low I like to remind myself of what I’ve achieved, especially in my writing. I had one occasion where I sent a chapter I’d written to a friend and got such a positive response it just boosted me; it’s my dream to be a bestselling author.

 Go on then, tell us your top ‘must reads’:

  1. Perks of being a wallflower (by Stephen Chbosky)
  2. All the bright places (by Jennifer Niven)

And what’s your go-to song?

Umm that’s hard! Probably a song by Prides called “The Kitestring and the Anchor Rope”

My interview with her really allowed the rawness of her experience to surface, and as we departed I felt honored to be allowed a glimpse into the world that she has faced, and the battles that she has learnt to armor herself against. It saddened me that this beautiful young lady should be subjected to such mental torment. I have huge thanks and admiration for her bravery and honesty.  I have no doubt with the air of authority and certainty she spoke with, that she will go forward to reach fantastic feats regardless of set backs.

I hope this account has been both informative and eye opening for you.

If you have been affected by anything you have read in this interview, or need to speak to someone about an issue that has come up please view the links below:

Mind Helpline: http://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/helplines/

Samaritans Website: http://www.samaritans.org/