What makes me a mental health expert? This:

813 Views 4 Comments

LogoJPGIt’s been two years since I began this literary journey and sharing it with the world and though I have written articles here and there about my story, I thought it would be helpful (if you’re as lazy as me) to have an article that collated it all.  So that when you come across my words and think ‘what the hell makes her the expert’, you can look no further than here to understand why I know what I’m talking about and why I can completely empathise with the pain you’re in.

Here’s the first thing you should know; I am an expert.  I don’t have any letters after my name.  I don’t have any vocational qualifications.  And I don’t make a living from my work on here (yet!).  But I am an expert.  Why?  Because I have spent 17 years living with mental health issues ranging from psychosis and self-harm to almost catatonic depression.  I know that shit.  I know what it’s like to cry so hard that you forget to breathe.  To feel as though you’re the only one in the world going through so much pain. To spend your days unable to get out of bed or talk to your friends.

As I write this I am 30 years old and have spent more of the last 17 years in a depressive episode than I have outside of it.  I am someone with chronic depression interspersed with severe depressive and anxious episodes.  And yet, in that time, though it is often difficult for my mind to allow me to appreciate it, I have achieved a fair few things which is why I know that you CAN have a life despite your mental illness.  I know because I’ve done it.  It’s not easy but it’s doable.

So here’s a brief history of (my) time:

  • Between the ages of 13-19 I was psychotic.  Functioning but psychotic.  I didn’t know it at the time and nobody knew how ill I really was but it tore my life and my family apart.  Simultaneously I was badly self-harming.  It’s not a part of my life that I like to remember and, thankfully, I am mostly unable to.  You can read a little about it on my Huffington Post article here.  Despite all of that, and being kicked out of college for lack of attendance (I was too depressed to attend), I managed to go back and pass my A-levels with good grades!
  • At aged 23, after being in a relationship for 4.5 years and living with him, I broke up with my boyfriend and planned my first solo backpacking adventure around Asia for 3 months.  Very sadly, six weeks before I left for my adventure, not realising I was pregnant, I had a miscarriage but I got my ass on the plane and began three months of travel from Japan to Indonesia and though I can’t say I hated it, I don’t look back on that adventure fondly.  There were tears on the beach, by pools and I wasted money but I did it.  You can read a little about it here.
  • Whilst in Asia I had been bitten by the travel bug and so, no sooner had I returned to the UK did I plan my next incredible adventure; 7 weeks backpacking through sub-Sahara Africa.  It was a trip that changed my life and there isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t wish to go back.  Very sadly, on returning, things at work hit rock-bottom and I had a nervous breakdown after whistle-blowing bullying behaviour at work.  They tried to fire me for several reasons and I was treated so badly that I needed 9 months off suffering from severe depression and anxiety.  Almost 4 years later, I still hugely feel the effects of my PTSD caused by what I went through. You can read about how I got through my breakdown here.
  • After coming through the breakdown I booked a one way ticket to Sydney, Australia to begin a new life.  Just two months before leaving I discovered that my estranged father was homeless which broke my heart but I very sadly had to accept that you can’t help someone who doesn’t want it and you can read my letter to him here.  My move to Sydney in October 2014 didn’t go as planned.  I couldn’t get a full-time job, wasn’t happy and passed out on international TV.  I returned to the UK seriously ill and received a life-changing diagnosis which you can read about here.  What I thought would be a quick 6 week stop at home turned into 4 months of working, countless blood tests and massive weight gain due to all the steroids I needed.
  • After receiving good news from my specialist (which you can read here) I was allowed to travel again and had my second year visa for Australia granted just 5 days before my first year visa expired.  It felt like this time the Universe was on my side again.  So at the beginning of October 2015 I moved back to Sydney to live the dream I had sought the year before but just days after arriving, everything I had been through the year before finally caught up with my and I tried to end my life. I wrote a very personal post about it here.
  • I worked my way through it, however, and within a month I had a full-time job, a social network of incredible friends and a room in a beautiful apartment just 100 metres from Bondi Beach.  And for the following 10 months I had my ‘happy after all’.  In November 2014 I put my running shoes on determined to try and lose the weight my steroids had me gain and though on my first attempt I couldn’t even run 0.5km, by August of the following year, not only was I running 4-6km sometimes 6 times a week, I took part in the City2Surf running 14km from the city centre to Bondi.  I lost a shit tonne of weight doing too and you can read about my body transformation here.
  • Despite trying everything, I couldn’t get sponsored and so, in October 2015 I had to leave my fairytale existence and return to the UK.  I was heartbroken and over a year later, at the time of writing this, I am still suffering the most severe depressive episode I’ve ever experienced.  In January I wrote that I lost my will to live.  It’s December now and I’m no better but I’m working full time as a legal secretary and attempting to move forward with ideas for this website and products I’d like to create.

So that’s me in a very painful nutshell.  My depression has almost claimed my life more times than I’d like to admit but I’m still going. Still travelling.  Still attempting to live and move forward when I can but it isn’t easy.  My head is full of self-doubt, fears and my anxieties get triggered a lot but I’m doing the best I can.

There are times where, despite everything, I win the battle with my mental illness and there are times where I have to hide in the toilets at work just to get through the day but however I feel, I try and write about it.  Try and use it as a tool to help those who suffer as well to feel comforted.  Try and use what I go through as lessons.  But just because I help, it doesn’t me I don’t suffer with this debilitating illness deeply.  I still have times where I give into its cruel beliefs but I’m trying.  Which is why my site is all about life advice without the bullshit because we need to speak openly and honestly about the silent epidemic of mental illness that’s claiming thousands of lives a year.

I also LOVE to swear and I’m happily addicted to desserts but that’s a whole other article for another day!

I am an expert because I have, do and will continue to live with mental illness.

If I do my job right, I can help you live with it too.

4 Comments
  • Jasmine

    Reply

    Hey Toni, I found your blog today. The way you write is so honest and yep like you say you are an expert. Your huffpost I especially relate to, 13 is a fucking awful age, like you at that age I was told by family and by doctors (even after an attempted suicide) that it was just typical teenage mood swings. many slip through that net, and I’m glad that you and I. You should be proud keep it up xx

    • Toni

      Jasmine – thank you so much for your beautiful words! xx I’m so sorry that you can relate; adolescent depression really is so very misunderstood which needs to change because that’s when you can help people the most! I just checked your blog; Bali is beautiful!! An assault on the senses but wow, it’s so very good for the soul <3 xx

  • Jason Bowers

    Reply

    I guess your expertise and knowledge regarding the issue. But good on you,this is a very sensitive one!

    • Toni

      Jason – thank you!

Leave a Comment

CommentLuv badge