I had had an upbringing full of neglect, abuse, bullying, you name it. I will not delve completely into it but long story short, from being abandoned by one parent at toddler age and brought up chaotically by the other around many unfavourable characters, it took a toll on me. I handled it -what I thought- well, alcohol, abusing prescription and recreational drugs, and gravitating towards toxic people that my mind was accustomed to, only to damage myself further and further.
My late teen years full of mental health assessments, passed from service to service, nobody quite agreeing on a diagnosis for me, until September 2018, when it was finally agreed I was on the autistic spectrum and had a co-diagnosis of Bipolar disorder, as well as CPTSD. I had completed a degree (somehow) in 2017 and spent a couple of years working as a support worker, which by late 2018 I had to give up, I was having panic attacks often, and spent time either in a deep depression or manic episodes that would leave me hyperactive in sweats and having violent outbursts. I would smash up things in my house, hurt myself, and just be very toxic towards myself and others.
25th January 2019. 5:30pm. I gave up. I’d been off sick for months of work, I saw no end to the cycling bipolar episodes I was having, I’d got myself in debt, I’d ruined a lot of relationships and I saw no way out. I took all the medication I could get my hands on in my house, cut my wrists, and waited. Fast forward to the middle of the night the next day and I have woken up in a bed at the local hospital, with no recollection of what happened. A nurse told me I was lucky, and my housemate had returned and helped me to hospital. I remember the first hour after I woke up being the most confusing time of my life. I spent about an hour arguing with myself whether I was pleased or not I was ok. My arms were stinging like mad, but wrapped well in bandages, and I remember the agonising feeling in my stomach as a reminder of the damage I caused myself.
After about an hour of fleeting thoughts and laid contemplating, my friend rushed into the room I was in, her eyes puffy and red, and obviously very distressed, she grabbed my hand and I just remember her whispering to herself ‘Thank God’. This moment hit me hard, the negative thoughts that nobody cared had been dismissed. I felt grateful suddenly I was able to be present for her. My housemate had called her, and she had been outside waiting for news since I was brought in. The nurse asked if I wanted to call any family, I declined. I just wanted to go home and go to my own bed. I was able to go home a couple of days later after I had been seen by the mental health team.
I saw the mental health team, and they spoke to me about what I did, they asked me why and I just said I was sick of everything. She made some notes, told me I would need to see a nurse at my GP for a couple of weeks to check on me, and I would otherwise be ok. I then made my way home. I came home to my dogs, who were so happy to see me, I remember feeling my stomach drop. How could I leave my babies? One was only a baby herself. I loved them so much. I felt awful. I gave them lots of cuddles and thanked my housemate for taking care of them. I remembered my friends, and after turning on my phone I found messages from a few friends, I suddenly felt loved and cared for, I forgot that I was.
Skip a week, and I am in the GP office with a nurse, she is brilliant. She was covered in tattoos like me, and had funky hair, it’s February and chilly, so I’m wearing a big coat, she asks to see my arms and instead of looking at the bandages, she complements my tattoos. I felt instantly happy she saw past the damage. She took my blood pressure, and we discussed some pain management for my stomach. After she finished, she asked me, if I could do any job I wanted, what would I do. I said I’ve always wanted to be a nurse, and help people with substance abuse, I wanted to help people not experience what I did, but I said, I’d never be able to do it, I’m too unstable. She told me it was nonsense, and believe it or not she was once like me, she made a couple of notes on a bit of paper and she made an appointment for me with the mental health team, and she told me to not give up on my dream. I will never forget her.
Mid-March 2019 and I am with a psychiatrist, at this point I did not have much hope in the meetings. I was tired of them. She appointed me a therapist who I was to begin weekly sessions with, and she prescribed a selection of medication. My first thoughts were ‘Here we go again’…. I went to the chemist, moodily picked up my lucky bag of drugs as I called it and went home in a bit of a slump.
June 2019. The past few months have been intense. My therapist turned out to be amazing, and the medication given was finally right for me. My mood cycle episodes were a lot milder; I was less anxious and able to function. Myself and my therapist had made progress, and I had really clicked with her, and was able to explore a lot about my past and present. I noticed the change in myself, and it only motivated me further. I had been self-harm free since January and my ideology of suicide had changed, even though I thought about dying, I did not want to die. That was the biggest difference between past and present, I no longer WANTED to. I had made a start getting rid of my debt, and I was eating regular meals, and slowly building up a social life. I was back into video gaming and was a lot more settled.
July 2019. I am at my desk sipping tea, and I think to myself that I think I am ready to go back to work. I was taking my medication, it appeared to help me a lot, my therapist was great, and I was allowing myself to heal. I had quit alcohol, smoking, and I cut toxic people out of my life. The massive difference was that I wanted to help myself. I was scrolling through job sites and nothing really jumped out at me, I wondered about going back into support work, where I remembered the nurse I saw at the start of the year. I went on the Hull University site and they were still open for nursing. I thought, why not? And applied. Little did I know I would receive an offer later that week! I was over the moon. That was short lived, after a negative thought appeared stating I would not pass the occupational health check I saw on my offer conditions.
Later that month I was sitting in occupational health, and I was so nervous. The nurse let me take my time and I blurted out my mental health history, including the suicide attempt, and then sat in silence. She really listened to me and asked if she could make some notes. I agreed, then asked her will this hold me back? She said it would not at all, and she told me she had seen many nurses the same, and I would make a better nurse for it as I would understand people’s pain at times. I felt accepted for the first time in what felt a long time.
The next week, my offer changed to unconditional. I was in disbelief. I was going to be a nurse! The next few months were brilliant. My peers were amazing, lecturers even more so. I met friends for life, and I had a great time. I loved my first placement, and my mentor was supportive of my mental health. My medication and counsellor were helping, and my new social network and motivation from university was doing me wonders. This reflected in my home life, I was able to shop alone, walk my dogs alone, make phone calls I needed. I got into cooking more, reading, and had a lot more mental capacity and energy. The next year was an absolute journey. Having my dogs meant I was able to click with other dog owners on the course, and I built up lovely friendships.
September 2020 – I am now on a placement where I am seeing people in the same condition I was in January 2019, and it is a deeply empathic situation. I can recognise myself in them, and hope it gets better for them too. Everyone around me is aware of my health. I am supported beyond belief. I still take medication, a lot of it, but it does not matter. It allows me to be me! My therapist calls me weekly, and I continuingly celebrate my successes with her. It is not all sunshine and rainbows, sometimes I wake up and wonder what the hell am I doing, and feel like throwing in the towel, and just sit in bed. But remember, it is Ok not to be ok. I embrace the bad days and remind myself how I am feeling is temporary. I remind myself I do not want to die; I do not want a permanent solution for a temporary feeling. I remind myself how far I have come, I accept honest feelings, I accept myself. I let myself feel, most importantly, I let myself heal. It has been harder with COVID, but I have unity in my peers, we will get through it together.
Present day – I am writing this in my pyjamas, I feel like a sloth today, but that is ok. I am going to let myself be a sloth today. Sloths are awesome and so am I. I do the best for myself, I have taken my medication, and eaten. I be honest with myself about my feelings and I embrace me for me. Being neuro-diverse is a journey and a half, but my best tip, is there is nobody like you, embrace it, love it, give yourself the kindness you give others. I am in the second year of nursing now, and I cannot wait to qualify. There is hope, do not give up.
There is sunshine after the storm.