Abbie – @abbiesmind www.abbiesmind.com
Ever since I was 13 I struggled with my mental health, perhaps without realising. I had traits of an eating disorder and battled with distressing thoughts and feelings. I was convinced I was a bad person because of this.
When my mum, my best friend at the time, lost her life to suicide, when I was aged 14, I had no idea that she was fighting a losing battle too. This is when the words ‘mental health’ first entered my vocabulary. When the word ‘suicide’ also became a word that was going to be ever-present in my life. Aged 14. Without understanding what ‘mental health’ meant, embodied, and how to look after my own and look out for others. I am BEYOND that. Enough. Education needs to start earlier. It would certainly have helped me to navigate my own care and bereavement better during that dark time.
I was moved from counsellor to therapist to psychologist and so on, to try and help my troubled self, without having any professional intervention ever explained to me in simplified, youth-friendly language. All these acronyms like CBT, yes I understand what they mean now, but they were thrown around here there and everywhere when my mind was already in a muddle at the time, and this didn’t help me. I am BEYOND this. I was worth more. I believe young people should be entitled to having their mental health care explained to them, properly, where they also have a level of choice in what support they access. This made my journey to recovery, a destination I’ve finally realised is a bit like a rainbow to reach, something we may chase or seek to be at, but I wonder if we’ll get there, harder. Each to their own with their interpretation of the word, whether the belief in ongoing recovery or ‘recovered’, but young people deserve more than what they are currently facing. Endless waiting lists. Lack of explanations, labels and diagnosis not clarified to them in a way that they can understand. I know this isn’t the experience for everyone, but it is for some, and some, is too many.
I remember vividly being caught between Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS) and transferring to adult. I fell between the two, aged 17, turning 18. It was a horrible lengthy wait. I didn’t feel like an adult. I needed help that wasn’t there for this rocky transition.
Fast forward to my here and now and I’m pleased to say that in my 20s I was able to access the right type of support I needed. This helped me to begin to process my mother’s passing and all the implications of being bereaved by suicide, my disordered eating, depression and anxiety. On and off throughout the decade I’ve had lapses and relapses into poor mental health episodes and bouts as I like to call them, but I have managed and I’m still here. Something I wish we could say about the many lives that don’t continue here on Earth.
At the age of 30, about to become a mother myself, I work hard each day to try to move: BEYOND any self-stigma in admitting I need support for my mental health, BEYOND shame in speaking about it and showing vulnerability and BEYOND fear of accessing help. This is a journey for me though, I slip up many a time. It can terrify me. Yet the more that join this movement, that empathises and echo that it’s okay to do this, the more as a community we can help fight the stigma and knock down the barriers. I know we can’t wave a magic wand to create better policies instantly, but we can stand together in solidarity. More voices matter. Let’s amplify those who need more of a platform. Let’s work together. Let’s move BEYOND.