WOAH! OKay. so not only am I co-facilitating an Anti stigma mental health workshop in October but I have agreed to stand up -publicly -not behind the comfy boundary of my room and blog. I have been asked to speak about my own issues related to mental health and any discrimination I may have felt. I expected to have thousands of examples on this topic. I couldn’t stop asking myself the question throughout my day to day activities today. I actually had to lie down (so dramatic) for an hour. I decided I have felt it happen to me. When I have thoughts fired at me by myself and I can’t get anything constructive done in my day to day life, I usually exersise, do some cleaning, get out, spend time with my daughter, read or sleep. Sleep helps the thoughts to give me a break and some mindful silence.
Nap time over and time to get hold of something I can explain to others without the cello playing in the background.
Here we go. I am using this post as a sound board. I really don’t know what I am going to say.
I suppose. I could say hi and who I am. Talk about about my upbringing and make loads of awesome jokes, carry on with my story right through to the present and touch the lives of the whole room of people in the room.
Right I am going to use post (more for myself) to get some shit out of my head.
Hi everyone . First of all I don’t have a presentation to give, all organised and ready at a click of a button. That is not my style . So, on that note I’m just gonna talk and talk and see what comes out. is that cool with everybody? (Heads hopefully nod)
Brilliant! Okay so, I was born in South Africa. I had a colorful upbringing. Lots of drama. I have done a lot of talking therapy and going to psychologists to not go too deep into my past. I have dealt with a lot of my issues from my upbringing. What I would like to point out is: I was always insecure. I had a lot of tantrums as a toddler and crazy dreams. Arguments and conflict are themes that stand out. The smell of weed lingers and alcohol is always part of every experience. My Mom and Dad divorced when I was 2 years old. My mom got remarried to an ex boyfriend who had just come out of doing his conscription. My Dad got married to his current wife – my step Mom. I don’t recall seeing my dad and stepmom until I was about 8-10 years old. I’m not sure why and I don’t hold a grudge.
My Mom has struggled with her mental health for years and years. I don’t think her being in violent abusive situations helped ease the stress. When I was about 5 years old, we left him and our cat Muffet, in the middle of the night to go and live with my Aunt. My Mom was desperate to give me a secure home and we finally found a two bedroom apartment to live in .
Things and people I remember from that time
- Me always walking home on my own because my nanny was late
- Eating SMASH and loads of ketchup
- my annoying cousin/ brother who was exactly the adjective I described. He was a total pain in the arse!
- I remember Mom suntanning in the complex swimming pool.I remember coming home from school one day and not being allowed in the apartment.
- I remember a letter I had written to the caretaker of the flats. Something along the lines of ‘please don’t make us homeless’ . I’m a pretty shitty persuader haha…
We went to live in my Gran’s home and I was intolerable. I wouldn’t go to school. I was always throwing tantrums. I lived outside my own boundaries. I connected with no-ne but my Mom. My Mom’s mental health was getting worse and my Gran had her own issues to deal with. There was a phone call and a few words exchanged. A car drive. Head lights, me half asleep under a duvet. Destination: Nan’s house.
Woohoo! Nan = party time. Mom was crying the entire weekend. What on earth was going on? On the Sunday Mom came into Nan’s room. She said some words. ‘I love you’ was threaded and sewn into the sentence many times. I looked into her eyes and saw my own fear. My Nan was designated distracter of the day. I put two and two together and I ran to the window and saw my Mom’s car bonnet driving down the cobblestones.
I spoke regularly with my Mom. There are a lot of gaps in my memory of this time. Travelling and living in Miami back and forth- back and forth. I went back and forth from Mom’s home to my Nan’s home.Two people who love me making the best out of a shitty situation.
I made a close set of friends and a family who adopted me as one of their own and they provided me with all the normal childhood milestones and experiences. Skateboarding, inventing stuff to do, getting money to get soft serve ice cream with a flake, body boarding at the beach ,movies, music, lots of laughter and lots of love.I never knew how destructive I was until I took a major overdose (12 years old). after a disagreement with my Nan. I ended up overdosing on all her vitamins, so my wee was super colourful for a bit.
I ask myself over and over why did I turn to drugs and starving myself? Who wants that kind of label hanging over them? I turned to drugs and it was social and a laugh to begin with until I craved more and more. My Mom was diagnosed with Manic depression and trying to maintain a full time job. My Nan was working full time.
My Dad and my step mom and my half sister moved next door to us and worked full time. Why didn’t I move in with him? We did – once. My Dad with me and my step mom with my step sister and then my half sister. It didn’t work out. I was getting more and more out of control.
The rave scene wasn’t enough. I went through most of my life from 9 years old to 16 years old as blind as a bat. I needed heavy prescription glasses or contacts. I couldn’t see shit. I don’t know what people thought. I thought about that a lot.The fact I couldn’t see properly. I decided to make decisions from a different source and those sources were my thoughts and misplaced emotions..
I found myself driven to go down the whole rebellion route. I didn’t stop. My Mom came to live with me in Durban when I was 15 years old. I had been to 4 rehabs for my eating disorder and drug taking thus far. I had been ordered by the court to‘ the land of the forgotten and damned‘ in Magalies Oord. There is a story how that came to be but not in this post. It was in the middle of no where. I ended up running away several times. One night we waited until ‘lights out’ and we took our mattresses and threw them over the sides of the barbed wire fence and ran to freedom. We nearly boarded a plane to go to Port Saint Johns but we got caught as we were about to board the plane. I was sent back to Magalies Oord for an indefinite time. I got out in three months with a crack habit because the ‘ counsellor’ looking after me( along with three other under 18 year olds) had got sacked . She in retaliation decided to release us from hell and the fucking daily wars with the peacocks. They were like Odysseus’ sirens, except you knew from the start you did not want to listen to them because they did drive a person mad. There must be hundreds of Pea cock graves n Magalies Oord. That I am sure of.
The recreational drug taker became a 30 pill per day Mandrax addict who only left the house to go and score other drugs. I got myself into a lot of shit. It would take too long to explain. By this stage I seemed to be following a path with bright blinking arrows pointing the other way in which I was heading. My friends left. They couldn’t help me. I met a medley of characters : Dirty cops. Privileged crack users. Cocaine may be seen as the acceptable drug to take but for them and for me it wasn’t enough. I would go many weeks missing with bizarre people(the road travelled is indeed a fucken trippy one -drug addict or not). Diamond smugglers. Mercenaries . I had a few more longer stays in rehabs and hospitals. I became not only a illegal drug taker but I had been diagnosed with Anorexia -a bad heart and a un healthy mind. I experienced stigma from my friends and family members. There were 4 people who still saw some kind of hope in me. My Gran, My Mom, My Grandpa and my Nan. I moved and entered England as disgracefully as possible. I went cold turkey and had a major seizure. I carried on with the eating disorder – My entire English family had never come across someone like me. They did not and still do not understand me. No loss to me but one to my Nan. I only would make an effort for my Nan.
My grandad was diagnosed with Cancer roun about the same time- and My Mom and Gran and then me all moved to France. I was drinking at least one bottle of champagne a day. I got so drunk I stole some of my Grandads morphine tablets. I wa living gutter low morals with a mismatched luxurious lifestyle. I eventually came back to England and started full time work.
I had boyfriends and friends but I didn’t let people get too close. The more my mental health deteriorated the more reclusive I became. I ended up resigning from a career I loved because I allowed Anorexia to get into my head.
BOOM! multiple lengthy stays in Eating Disorder clinics. I tried to be ‘normal’ . In 2007 I decided to enrol in a local college and get some kind of stability and life back. I had been out (of a 11 month stint in an ED clinic in York) for less than a week and signed up to a foundation degree in Acting. I didn’t know how to communicate with any of my peers. I would tremble when I spoke because I hadn’t spoken to people – normally: for so long. I withdrew. I managed one term. I got a distinction for my classical acting and then ended back in hospital again for another 7 month stint in Cheadle.A few of us girls went for a day out as a privilege to Blackpool for good behaviour and consistant weight gain. I was still too ill but one of the nurses said to me ‘ Ignore them -they are ignorant.’ I asked her what she meant. Apparently a group of people passed us on the street and were taking the piss out of me and how I looked and being human, I guess. I didn’t let it bother me.
I left cheadle and went back to college to carry on with my studies and then CRASH BOOM BANG I got involved with ‘he who shall not be named’ -I’m not going into to it too much at this point in time. Long story short. Shitty relationship. Bruises . Overdoses. Alcohol. Concerned people at college and then indifference. I didn’t see what they saw. Hindsight’s a bitch. I suppose I felt discriminated then.I do feel that every time I have felt judged or side carted it has been for a justified reason.
Then I was put through another challenging test of giving birth to a child and having that child taken from me and then having three years of lengthy legal proceedings to get her back.
THIS WAS WHERE I FELT THE MOST STIGMA.
Professionals need to be aware of mental health . What I saw happening in the courts and in the social service meetings shocks me even to this day. I’m not perfect but I was asking people to help me and my daughter. I did everything possible to get my baby girl back. She was taken from me on the 13/12/2011 at 12 weeks old due a horrific accusation fuelled by hate and jealousy. I finally got her back 16 months later under a care order. Social services and myself shared parental responsibility. I’ve never felt more helpless and discriminated in a system that professes to help people with troubles. I cut ties in the relationship with the ex for good. My anxiety levels came down naturally form being in my own home and feeling safe and I naturally didn’t need to misuse drink anymore. I didn’t need to overdose. I did need to get my baby back. She should have come back to my care much earlier than she did. They threw Domestic violence at me, Alcohol misuse. ( I did a hair strand test that came out negative to alcoholism). Drug use. Clean. My past- my family. One psychiatrist came out with this gem ‘ the past is a great indicator for future behaviour’ .. Doctor ,Let me prove you wrong. I did. They moved the obstacle when and as many times as possible. They did not want to lose this case and take responsibility for where they had gone wrong.
We were one day away from going to a 12 day court hearing and I told my legal team to annihilate them. As it already was they were charged by the court to pay money from their penny fund for their ineptitude in our case. 5 social services and many arguments with the independent reviewing officer and having a black storm cloud over my head we went back to court and the care order was revoked on 6/05/2015. They sung my praises in court. I was adviced by my legal team to address the judge myself. I was more than capable and I didn’t need anyone to speak for me.
This is why I am throwing all my time into mental health charities and working with them on issues like stigma.This issue within the government and institutions need to change. I want to show parents and carers how they can find a voice and what they can do to gain them some leverage against social services. How to work with them as a team. I know where to signpost troubled parents. It doesn’t stop there. I have so many people I am in touch with to work on projects for people with mental health issues in the pipeline. I’m get to use my creativity and my writing. I’m excited and kind of shitting myself at the same time. I don’t know what I am going to say at this workshop.
I do know one thing, if I said no to talking I would have strengthened the stigma barrier for people with mental health issues.
I am not perfect. I still have days when I get it wrong. I do use different coping mechanisms to help me more than the older safer and not so helpful ones. I can finally truly feel what it means to be control of my destiny.
P.S. I still like a good cocktail or two.
P.P.S here are a few links for people wanting to understand mental health issues better