10 Nov Natalie Found Strength & Empowerment from Leaving An Abusive Relationship
My journey and mental health struggles began when I was around eight years old. I was suffering from bullying at school and by our neighbor’s children. Also, I was growing up around domestic abuse at home. I always felt nervous and out of control of my thoughts and emotions. At first, these intense emotions kept me from eating, I would starve myself as a way of coping and having control over something in my life. By the age of thirteen, I was suffering with overwhelming and sometimes crippling anxiety. I would self-harm using my nails to start with to scratch myself and this eventually grew into using a razor to cut my arms, wrists, and legs, sometimes I wouldn’t even be aware of what I was doing until after an episode was finished. I had a very unstable self-image and would attach myself to negative influences and unhealthy coping mechanisms. At thirteen my family and I had to move areas to rid our lives of threats, intimidation and a life that was becoming miserable. My parents split up for the last time and filed for divorce. I used self-harm and starving as coping techniques more after this transition, mostly through anxiety and panic attacks.
Around age fifteen I was binge drinking and smoking on weekends, hanging around with older people who took drugs and we would all sit in a park or do all-nighters down the seafront staying out all night and all the next day sometimes into a second all nigher. At fifteen I lost my virginity to a much older man whilst intoxicated. I was then humiliated by a ‘friend’ posting on the internet through Myspace what had happened. This lead to me having extremely unhealthy relationships with men, I would always have a new relationship because my partners would cheat on me because I didn’t want to sleep with them but they had wanted to be with me in the hopes that I would be easy. I would ruin any decent or nice relationship because I placed an expectation on them that they would be like the others who had hurt me and I always left people before I was left. People saw me as easy and like I got around when in fact I was quite the opposite after giving my virginity to someone who didn’t deserve to have it, I wouldn’t even kiss most boyfriends I had.
I had unstable friendships and I would constantly be fighting and arguing, creating or getting caught up in drama. I found it hard to maintain close relationships like having a best friend. At sixteen a friend from our group hung himself in prison whilst on trial for murder. Another friend was sentenced to 13 years in prison. We all struggled with this loss and buried him two days after Christmas. This is something that still affects me in terms of grief and healing, this was my first real experience with grief. Although I had already lost grandparents I was too young to really understand the process of death to have had a strong enough attachment to go through the steps of grief and healing. So this sudden incident took my breath away and is still very raw within my emotional memory.
At the age of nineteen I met my first longtime boyfriend. We had a ‘fairytale’ first year, which now looking back was actually doomed from the moment that he cheated two days into our relationship starting. I was infatuated and head over heels in lust and amazement with him, he was manipulative in the way he could make me feel like the most incredible person in the world but could do unspeakable and terrible things to me and I would overlook them or forgive them because whilst he was able to hurt me he could also love me. After I would say the first year of our relationship he would start to put pressure on the sexual side of our relationship. If I was on my period or too tried he would become aggressive, he would hit himself, the bed, the walls, and doors, he would mutter vile things to himself or to me thinking I was asleep. He would use my hand to ‘see to himself’, constantly trying to get me into the mood or he would penetrate me whilst I was asleep waking me up. He would never take no for an answer. There was always the pressure to be intimate I never felt comfortable to say no or I would endure hours of manipulation. The first time that he raped me I was sleeping naked after a bath. The second time I didn’t want to as I was in pain and tired. The third time he had cheated on me and he wanted to make it up to me and I didn’t want to. The forth was three days after I gave birth to our son, I had said no as the doctor had suggested withholding for six weeks after birth. He asked over and over for me to just try. I tried, it was extremely painful and I asked him to stop. He didn’t and he ended up tearing my stitches. During our four year engagement, he sexually assaulted me, raped me, intimidated and emotionally abused me, cheated on me and gaslighted me. He did this all whilst calling me his wife, his life, his soul mate. All whilst professing how much he loved me, how beautiful I was, how I was his on his social media and to others. I lost my friends who could see him for what he was when I wouldn’t leave denying to myself and them what was truly happening. I lost my self-esteem, my self-respect, I shut down and I isolated myself into this fantasy that my life was the opposite of what was really going on. I lived in the mindset that if I told myself enough that I was happy surely I would become happy, but no matter what I tried things ever got better and I never felt any happier. I was paranoid, low, aggressive, emotionally unstable, negative, suicidal. I was full of blame and shame and I saw what happened to me as my fault. I wasn’t being enough for him, I wasn’t doing what I should be doing as his girlfriend. I deserved to be hurt, abused and cheated on. If I didn’t want it to happen then I needed to be better, I needed to do more and be more thoughtful to his needs. He wouldn’t be so aggressive or hurt me as much if I was more if I was better.
One day I sat him down and told him he was killing me, that he was making me so miserable that I wanted to die. He made me want to kill myself. I saw no other escape. I ‘loved’ him and I was desperate for him to change, I knew he could be kind and good because of all the times he had showered me in affection and love. I told him to tell his parents what he was doing to me in the hopes that he would finally see that what he was doing to me was wrong. But they apparently told him “but she is your fiancé and you live together. You are sexually active, that’s what happens.” To this day they claim I have bizarre sexual allegations under the terms that I lived with him, I was his partner. Despite his admissions of rape and abuse with the statement that he did it because we had ‘different views on the importance of sex within a relationship’ they still do not see any wrong in his actions. I never reported him or told anyone for such a long time through fear of not being believed. I thought that everyone would see it this way and that I would be shamed and blamed. I didn’t want what happened to be real and I didn’t want to face the truth. The day that I had this conversation with him had taken weeks and weeks of encouraging myself, building the courage and strength to face him and confront what was happening. This was all taken away from me in the moment that they chose to victim blame and shame me rather than helping and supporting me. And I ended up staying with him for another two years. I tried desperately to paint over his mistakes and I was desperate to have what all my friends around me had, babies, houses, marriage the perfect lives. The thing I never had, the stable and perfect little family. Security, safety, and he was my ticket to proving I could make a relationship work, I could hold down a ‘happy life’. I lived in the anxiety of what people would think of the girl who gets raped and abused by the man she said yes to marrying.
At 22 I fell pregnant with my first child. At first, I was petrified but with the support of my mother and close friend I was able to come to terms with being pregnant and had decided that I was going to have this child. When I first told him that I was pregnant he was extremely unhappy, his parents were extremely unhappy. He told me that he wanted me to have an abortion. He changed his mind after a few hours and we announced our amazing news at 10 weeks. He promised he would change, he became happier, he became easier to deal with as his behavior was more positive and loving and it finally felt as if I had gotten through to him and he was changing for me, he was becoming better. Friends tried to get me to leave him during the announcement of my pregnancy, they compared him to an old Christmas jumper; I was keeping him because of the comfort and I was scared of uncertainty and change. And they were right. I was terrified of being on my own or having to watch him happy with someone else. I wasn’t happy and I didn’t want to be with him but I also didn’t want anyone else to have him. We went on holiday to Tenerife, a pre-pregnancy booked holiday, I was 29 weeks pregnant. I was tired, I was bloated, I was heavy and I was hot, oh so hot. We would get back to our hotel after long days out and I would be exhausted, he wanted to go to the bars or hotel entertainment whilst I could barely keep my eyes open. I would say no to going and he would either go alone or he would keep on and on until I agreed to go. My legs were swollen, I had lost my mucus plug and all I wanted to do was sleep. The last thing on my mind was sexual intercourse. But it appeared to be all that was on his mind, after drinking cheap alcohol all day he would pressure me, I could say I was too tired, too swollen, intercourse was becoming uncomfortable the bigger I was growing. He kept on and on and would keep touching me. I couldn’t sleep, everywhere I moved he would follow. In the end I would give into him laying in silence as he did what he needed to do. In this moment I realized that he wouldn’t ever change. This was how it was always going to be. After four years it finally dawned on me that, this is all this was going to be. The loop of forgiveness, to abuse, to manipulation, to gaslighting, to forgiveness. In this moment I closed off my emotions to the abuse and shut down completely during intercourse, during my time with him. I don’t remember a lot from the last year of my relationship with him.
At the end of my pregnancy another friend of mine had taken his own life. Id lost a friend to cancer, family members to sudden death, illness and to cancer. Grief was becoming second nature to me and it was aiding my emotional and mental shutdown. I would react badly to the news of someone passing away, it would bring up overwhelming feelings and bring forward past losses and I would fixate and get lost in all of the negative feelings, thoughts and get stuck in the idea of those I love I lose. I would get nervous when my phone rang or when someone would say that they needed to talk to me. I built up anxiety that something bad was always about to happen. I stopped making new relationships and kept the ones that I did have at a distance.
Once my son was born he became my entire life, he saved me from wanting to die. He helped me to change my mindset that things would never get better. The moment he was placed on my chest I knew I had a reason to carry on fighting for myself. When my son was born his father would show him off with pride, he would post and show off his little family professing how much he loved us and how we were his world and reason to be. Once the baby turned a couple of months old and attention started to whittle off he stopped showing interest in the baby. His behaviors started to increase and get worse again. He hated that the baby came first and his attempts and aggression became worse. By the time my son was seven months old he left me because my son was getting in the way, he didn’t love me anymore, he was unhappy and I wasn’t enough for him anymore. He left me living in a house his parents had bought us, raising a child by myself and became very difficult to deal with in regards to being a father to my child. He said that my son was an inconvenience to him and his family having a life and he would see him once a month. Karaoke, open mic nights and trying to become a musician was much more important to him. He was too selfish to be a father and my son always came last in his list of priorities. When he would collect my son he would make comments such as ‘come on, mummies off to get laid’ ‘Oh you’re going out, you’re moving on fast’. He would make belittling comments and cause me distress to the point that we would argue on the doorstep or he would leave and Id be left in tears. One day he used his key to access my home when dropping him back to me. He became so aggressive I ended up locked in my bedroom with the bed against the door clinging to the baby whilst he screamed and shouted, kicking and punching the door. Shortly after this incident, I moved back into my mother’s house to have more support and to have a witness for handovers. Two years later I would cut all contact for the protection and safety of my child. And I would be blessed with freedom from my abuser. This person went on to harm and damage more women just like me. Something that I carry guilt for. If Id reported him or told someone sooner maybe things would have been different for me and for those after me.
At 24 I had my first ‘manic’ episode. After my child’s father had left me I spiraled into this episode. For a couple of months, I was drinking heavily when I didn’t have my son, smoking more than I ate, online dating and abusing myself and my body. I was desperate to be loved, to have anybody love me. I didn’t know who I was anymore I’d lost myself and my identity was unknown. I had lost so much time trying to mold this perfect family and it was all for nothing. I was unnaturally high in mood, I felt amazing and liberated, free to be whoever and whatever I wanted to be but at moments I was full of anger and anxiety. I would burst into periods of extreme emotions of crying and feeling low at the same time as feeling untouchable. I was convinced I was a ‘new’ me, taking risks and doing things I’d never done before based on the idea that I was free now, I could do whatever made me happy without any comeback. I soon fell pregnant with my second child, I was five weeks pregnant with a new boyfriend. I didn’t know how I felt about becoming a mother again. Whilst I loved my son unconditionally and he was what kept me going I also struggled at times with my emotions and constantly felt like I was letting him down. To me, I wasn’t much use for anyone let alone another little human. These children deserved better than what I could give them. The father didn’t want to keep the baby and refused to be in a relationship until the baby was gone. He text one day saying ‘Get rid of the baby or Ill do it myself.’ When he got no response he said he would move in with me and make me happy if I got rid of the baby. I blocked his number and removed him from the picture I had basically chosen a carbon copy of my son’s father and I cut it out of my life as soon as I could.
When I went to my first scan the choice was already made for me. My baby had no heartbeat. My baby had died and I had no idea. ‘I’m so sorry there is no heartbeat.’ To this day I am sure that time stopped. My heart was in my throat and I howled in grief and shock. I looked at the frozen screen at the tiny little baby. My baby. They said they would leave it for two weeks for me to miscarry naturally. They would try to scan again in between this time and then in case I was earlier than I thought. Two weeks came still no heartbeat. Three weeks, still no heartbeat. Four weeks, still no heartbeat and still no miscarriage. They kept scanning me and sending me away for my body to do what it needed to do. I had a small bump, I was still showing positive on pregnancy tests and still full of hormones and sickness. It wasn’t just me that was having a hard time letting go, my body didn’t want to let go either. By the time I was 16 weeks pregnant I started to bleed. Whilst on a tourist boat, in the middle of the ocean, on holiday in Turkey. This holiday had been booked months before I was pregnant with my cousin and I didn’t want to let alone down and decided I needed the break. The pain was like nothing I have ever known, when the cramps would come I would be floored in agony. I lost my breath with shock and pain. I bled through my clothes and spent all my time in the boat toilet, as Gangnam style and other cheesy music was blasting and my cousin watched my child. I felt fear and panic and embarrassment. I was terrified and I wanted my mum. We finally got back to our hotel and after hours and hours on the hotel bathroom floor, I started to pass my baby. There was a large clot and the pain started to ease, I felt tender and sore and utterly exhausted. When I opened up the clot there she was. My tiny baby. I sat with her in the palm of my hand torn about what I do. Do I flush my baby down the toilet like a pet shop goldfish or do I bury her? Do I need to take this tiny delicate little thing to a hospital? It didn’t feel right to throw or flush her away as if she was nothing. I was devastated. I’d lost my baby and I’d never felt more alone. I wrapped her in tissue and I flushed her away. My heart broke into more pieces than I can count. As a parent, you never really come back from a moment like that. I write this crying, feeling that pain all over again. Four years has not healed any pain or grief that I feel.
I bled for months after the miscarriage. It turned out I hadn’t completed the miscarriage there was a piece that wasn’t coming away but surgery to remove it was too risky so I went through weeks and weeks of scans until finally my womb was clear. I started to miscarry in October 2015, it finished in March 2016. I received no aftercare, no therapy, no follow up appointments to ensure that my mental and physical well-being was improving or to monitor my mental health. I had no one to hold my hand or talk to about it, there was no one next to me sharing my pain. I named her Alana, I celebrate her due date the 22nd April 2016 and I remember her on my first scan date, the date I passed her and I miss her in everyday life. I think of what she would have looked like, what her laugh would have sounded like, the colour of her eyes and her hair. What she would have liked, what she may be doing, would she be kind and loving, would she love her older brother? So many unanswered questions that I am left wondering for the rest of my life. I will always be a mother to two children but I will only ever get to watch one grow and flourish. I will only ever be able to kiss one goodnight and tell them how much they are loved. I am forever without one of my children. A person is a person no matter how small, and she was my baby.
As I approached twenty-five I had moved back home to live with my family, I had quit my job which made me miserable and I was working 45 hour weeks on an apprenticeship wage to get into my dream career and gain the training and qualifications I needed. I had decided that I needed to jump off the train that was taking my life in the wrong direction and fetch one that I could drive myself. I cut off all male contact, took my profiles down and off of dating apps and sites, I cleared my life of negative influences and started to give myself the fresh start I was so desperate for. I cut myself off from the world a week before my birthday. I was heading to Corfu with two of my best girlfriends and my life was going to have a huge reboot. During the week away I overcame so many big and small fears, I tried things that scared me and each one encouraged me to do the next thing. I spent a lot of time with my hair undone, face make up free, I was able to spend a week laughing, feeling confident, giving myself a break. For the first time in so long, I was able to relax without anxiety and worries controlling my thoughts and feelings. That week changed so much for me. It’s where my life started to move forward from all my hang-ups and holding myself to blame for the abuse I had endured. I started to come to terms with the fact that I was punishing myself for things that were not my fault. I was holding myself accountable to be okay with and to forgive things that were unforgivable. I returned to England more confident, more settled in emotions and I had a greater sense of who I am and where I wanted to go with my life. I moved out of home in with an old housemate. I decided to stop smoking cold turkey and I stopped drinking alcohol. I joined a fitness group and started to use fitness as a healthy therapy. It helped me to continue to grow in confidence, it helped me to become more disciplined and taught me how to stick to a routine. My health both mentally and physically became my main focus. This was the first thing for a long time that I was doing something that benefited me.
When your body has been violated acceptance can take long enough, forgetting or forgiving can take even longer. It becomes second nature to crave self-protection, to feel safe, comfortable. It is so hard to feel so insecure in your own nakedness that even when showering and bathing you hide. To not feel safe to sleep naked. To go to another room from the person you love to dress. To feel so ashamed of your body that facing it can reduce you to tears. Feeling dirty, embarrassed, ashamed. To be utterly ashamed of your body. Ashamed of the people who have touched it and what they have done to it. To be ashamed of the damage that they have done to you. To be ashamed of not being able to forgive. Forget. Nothing can console you. You are forever changed. No amount of love, talking, crying, screaming, silence…no amount of anything is ever enough to erase what happened to me. The cruelest thing another human can do is to destroy how a person sees themselves, to take away their safe place, their ability to trust, their ability to be able to relax, their ability to control intrusive and compulsive thoughts. It makes you close that side of yourself off to people and makes you not want to take that protective wall that you built to protect yourself down for anyone. But over time you meet someone that will change everything. Something that just clicks. For me its true when they say when you meet the one you will know.
I met my current boyfriend when I got back from holiday. When we started talking I was so guarded and expecting him to disappear at any time. He was understanding, attentive, he was gentle and kind and he never once pressured me in anyway for anything. He listened for hours and I placed trust in him very quickly. He wanted to know me and support me. He helped me to learn how to trust in a male, I felt comfortable in his presence, he made me feel safe and secure and gave me a feeling that Id never felt before. I fell very quickly in love with him and him with me. He takes amazing care of me and my son and he has been patient, empathetic with me and he has become my safe space. He has helped to ground me in the sense of being supportive when I need it but being firm when I am being unreasonable due to my mental health and becoming needy. We have been together for over three years now and he has had such a positive influence not only on me but on my son. I waited for a year to introduce them to one another as I promised myself that the next relationship would be the one I take slowly, I wanted to be sure that it was for the long run and that I was introducing someone safe and positive to my sons life which my boyfriend is. I’ve found myself picking up little habits, sayings, mannerisms from him and I laugh to myself and it helps me to realise just how happy and secure I have allowed myself to become with another human even with my mental health conditions and trauma. I fell in love for the first time with him and I’m blessed for every day that I get to continue to build with him. Even though I have doubts at times that he is too good for me or moments where I overreact due to my conditions he copes and manages me very well. He truly deserves a medal, he has been so good for me.
At twenty-seven I still felt extreme mood swings, intense emotions and unstable relationships. I would be full of over confidence at times and in the next turn, I would feel worthless. I would doubt my boyfriend’s love for me, I would doubt my friendships and overthink every situation. I would cry over the slightest of things, I felt fragile but the strongest I’ve ever felt. I couldn’t ever level out in my emotions. I went to see a doctor and her response to how I was feeling was ‘You are a single parent who works hard full time, of course, you are exhausted and a little anxious’ she offered me antidepressants and I turned them down. I wasn’t depressed this wasn’t depression and I knew that. Even though I should have maybe been suffering because of the things I had been through, I as a person am not depressive and I’m quite a positive, happy, fun-loving person. I self-referred to a therapy service and I went for an assessment. I was diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Anxiety and Depression. I started my therapies by going on a PTSD awareness course which was five sessions, learning how trauma affects the brain and how therapy would work to help my brain to process these events. I went on to start my own one to one therapy. It was extremely hard for me to open up to someone I hadn’t built trust in yet, I still felt a lot of shame and guilt about the abuse. At times I would be too emotional within the sessions to talk, I would hyperventilate and stutter my words, I would repeat a point over and over and become fixated on negative thoughts and emotions. A couple of sessions into my therapy another friend had taken his own life and I started to feel like I wasn’t progressing in therapy by going over and over my trauma. I stopped therapy to give myself some time to process the three months of diagnosis and therapy. I decided that I would put that chapter of my life to rest, I didn’t want to open up the box that I had so tightly locked up, there are things that my mind blocked out and it did so to protect me. I am no longer in that time of my life, I am no longer under threat or in danger. I felt safe enough knowing that I wasn’t crazy, that the emotions I was feeling were natural and all part of trauma and I felt that what was happening with me was more than just PTSD. I stopped believing that therapy would help me by going through those fragile events, I still to this day fear ever having to unlock that box and process any of its contents.
I continued to better my life by studying and training hard to become what I wanted to be. I finally got on the right path within my career at the start of this year. I became more positive, more motivated and I was high on life. I was working hard, Id moved into my own house with my child and I had all of my own things, I had a house decorated and organised the way that I wanted. I was in a happy long term relationship with my amazing boyfriend, I had wonderful and supportive friends and I was in a really confident phase. I was modeling as a part-time income, I had been published in magazines and I was growing a following on social media and getting messages of how strong I was, how inspirational and motivational I was. This is when I started to notice the swings in between two moods and mindsets, I would start to notice more and more emotional and relationship-based swings too. I had zero control over changes in my mindsets and some would last a day some weeks and months before I would crash, kind of like flatline for a while before rebooting. Sometimes I understood the trigger sometimes there was no trigger at all. Some days I was so happy and having such a good day but I would cry all night and not sleep for no clear reason.
For a long period of time, I felt untouchable, like every bad thing had lead me to this point in my life where I was finally getting everything I deserved. I felt elated, empowered, powerful like I was worthy, I was deserving, I would be loud, extroverted, over excited. I would have a buzz around me. I would sleep less as my mind was constantly full of thoughts and ideas. I would be up cleaning, organizing, writing, blogging, reading, becoming obsessed with subjects or topics teaching myself and researching it. I would start a new online course and give myself knowledge and new skills. I would start writing an autobiography because I felt like I could change lives by sharing my story. Id routinely eat six meals a day, attend the gym and regularly post on social media empowering pieces that I had written to inspire others. I would spend money on credit cards and catalogs to give myself better things, to feel good on low days, stressful periods or when something negative happened and I would impulsively spend money without a thought. I could go into town and spend £200 within an hour and excitedly run home and relish in all these wonderful new things. Feeling good and posting them online and wanting people to be impressed. A few days or weeks later I would crash and realise I was now unable to pay a bill or unable to afford that week’s shopping. I would become extremely low, feeling worthless, over-emotional, I would stop bathing, I would crave more sleep, I would stop eating and start to be full of crippling self-doubt. I would start to feel like a failure and suicidal thoughts would increase, I would have intrusive thoughts and daydreams. Although I didn’t want to die and I wasn’t suicidal I would be flooded with thoughts. I would struggle in these low periods to cope with the negative thoughts and emotions I wouldn’t want to feel like this so I would try to get back into that manic state, that carefree, confident, in my eyes happy state. I liked being like that I was more motivated, productive, happier, healthier, a better girlfriend, daughter, mother, friend and colleague. I function in mania. I don’t function in depression. I’d run up thousands in debt, Id ruined friendships and I was starting to realise it was filtering into areas of my life I used to be able to stop it from affecting. I was becoming more emotional and unpredictable in mood.
In August 2019 I had a four hour episode. I spent a week in crisis unaided waiting for a doctor’s appointment. When the GP appointment arrived I spent an hour and a half offloading my entire history, mental health, trauma, loss and where I feel I am. I requested antidepressants and to be referred to the mental health team for assessment for Bipolar disorder. As the years had gone on I was more and more certain there was an underlying reason for the way that I felt, more than what I had gone through and I felt whatever it was, was starting to evolve and increase in intensity. I started to take the anti-depressants which gave me every side effect possible. I felt terrible and fell into what would be a three month depressive episode. I was referred to the mental health team and had my assessment within four weeks. I met with a lovely assessment psychologist. He was attentive and empathetic and listened to everything I said. He referred me for a psychiatrist assessment, with another four week wait for my appointment he advised that I stay on the medication until my next meeting. I stopped taking the medication after a discussion with my medical mental health team a week before I saw my psychiatrist. When the meeting arrived I took my little brother who has been my rock throughout my entire life and journey. At the end of this assessment, I was given a diagnosis of Bipolar disorder and emotionally unstable personality disorder. A mood disorder and a personality disorder. Bipolar disorder, also known as manic-depressive illness, is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks. Borderline personality disorder (BPD or EUPD) is a mental illness that makes it hard for a person to feel comfortable in themselves, causes problems controlling emotions and impulses and causes problems relating to other people. Both disorders can be born through abuse and trauma, Bipolar can be genetic and does run in my family. Both diagnoses made perfect sense to me, I felt a huge sense of relief. That it wasn’t all in my head, that I was right and that there was an explanation for all these impulses and irrational emotions and thoughts. I finally had confirmation of what I thought deep down and it helped me to accept the symptoms as not just something I do because I am dramatic or an attention seeker.
The first few days after diagnosis I was manic, I was feeling incredible, feeling overconfident that I knew all along, I had moments of power and feeling intelligent and self-aware alongside moments of peacefulness. I was diagnosed four weeks ago. Recently I’ve been struggling to process some of my recent mental health changes. I tried to continue on and push forward after being diagnosed with Bipolar & EUPD like it wasn’t a big deal. A few days after diagnosis I fell into short a low episode. I didn’t want to leave my bed, but I couldn’t sleep, I didn’t eat or feel hungry. I spent most of my day crying, I had crippling anxiety and paranoia of what people would think of me now, I lost all confidence and self-esteem and started to see myself as a failure. I stopped going to work, I stopped socializing and I just felt as if my life was over. It was overwhelming to think that I would be unwell for the rest of my life. I would have to discuss and disclose my mental health for the rest of my life, in my career, my relationships, my friendships, modeling jobs and most aspects of my life. I felt like everything would change and I felt it would be for the worst. After a week in this state I started to be gentler to myself, I gave myself a break; I’ve had a lot of trauma over the years and not once have I given myself space or a moment to process. Trauma within my life in a number of ways childhood abuse, sexual and emotional abuse as an adult, rape, grief has lead to where I am within my mental health. Whilst it just starting to settle in just how serious it is, I will have these conditions for the rest of my life my entire journey has taught me so much about myself, about other people and about life. Being open with those in my everyday life, my friends, my family, my boyfriend, my colleagues I discovered so many people like me have bipolar or eupd. I would have never known if I hadn’t shared my journey that I wasn’t alone. So many people in my life know what depression feels like, how anxiety feels, how it feels to struggle with an eating disorder and self-harm. So many people in my life once I opened up, opened up back and I received so much comfort and support, I started to be able to move out of the depressive and I have started to view my story and diagnosis in more positive lights.
My journey has taught me that things happen in life to every body, no one is exempt from bad luck or good luck. Life just happens and we have no control over what happens to us but what we do have control over is how we react to it. There are always lessons to learn, even from most terrible of events, there is always a silver lining even if it cant be seen straight away. I’ve learned that you can’t always rely on someone to always be there to comfort you, there will be times sometimes truly dark times where you are all that you have but these times don’t last forever, no matter how impossible it feels you will be strong enough to get yourself to a safe point. You are enough, you are strong enough, smart enough, good enough to make it. You are worth the fight. Whilst there are lonely times you also learn in these tough phases who are the genuine, decent and reliable support networks around you. You will learn who the family members are who love you unconditionally, who is there for you no matter what mood, state or situation you are in. You learn who the friends are who are there through love and not what you have to give, you learn who you can turn to when things are tough and even if you only have one person stood by your side you are lucky to have one genuine person there supporting you, loving and guiding you. I’ve learned not to be afraid of people, that not everyone will hurt me and I’ve learned how to trust and let my guard down, which lead to me being able to fall in love with someone very special to me who accepts me in all my forms and has helped me to change and adapt to myself. It has helped me to be open about my mental health without fear of judgment. I am in the process of accepting that I am who I am, who I chose to be. My mental health conditions do not define me as a person and they are a part of me, not my whole story. They aren’t a daunting negative thing but will actually be a positive part of who I am. My conditions make me a kinder, gentler and more empathetic person. I am more loving, sensitive and giving. Although there are moods and emotions I can’t control, I am learning to not punish myself but to love myself instead. I am starting to remove the stigma I have around my mental health and started to remove my expectations to be perfect and what everyone else needs me to be. I need to learn to put myself first in all moods and emotions and do what is healthy for me. Putting yourself first is not selfish.
I share my story because if I can impact one person with my story then that means everything to me.
Being an advocate for mental health is extremely important to me, I believe talking about your story and sharing it helps to encourage someone else to share theirs and it starts a conversation about mental health and trauma and how to get support and gets people to show understanding and empathy to others. If my journey can do that for at least one person then what I went through over my journey was worth it if it means it helps someone else just like me to get advice, support, and treatment. Getting help to get better is a strength, not weakness and mental health matters.
Natalie’s Inspiring Message:
It is a huge thing to admit you are struggling and if you have done that over the years, recently or are thinking of doing it as you read be proud of yourself. It can be one of the hardest things to do and acceptance and admittance are two different things and don’t always come hand in hand and both require some hard work. If you are speaking out and reaching out and making mental health a conversation be proud of yourself for helping to educate and remove the stigma about mental health. At one time in another, we all will suffer in one way or another with our mental health and it shouldn’t be seen as any different to physical health. Be mind always, you never know what another person is going through, has been through or is going to go through. It’s okay to not be okay and it’s okay to need love and support. Don’t live in silence, speak out and get the help you deserve.
Take care of yourself and others. Never give up on yourself, no matter how low you feel, how impossible things can seem and no matter what your mind tells you never stop fighting for yourself. You are worthy of love, help, friendship, support and you deserve to heal and find your peace. It can be hard asking for help is a tough first step but once you’ve taken that step, things slowly start to improve, it takes work but it’s worth every second. You are important and you and your story have a purpose in this world, speak up and share it you’ll be surprised how many people feel just like you. Never feel embarrassed or ashamed of who you are. You are not what happened to you but what you chose to become. Be yourself and be gentle and kind to yourself as you go along your journey.