At our November 2018 TAP Talk, one of the young people who came along to describe their personal experience shared a piece that the audience found so moving we asked their permission to share it with you on the website. The name has been changed but otherwise this is their vivid account of their mental health journey. We would like to thank Jane for allowing this to be shared.
Hello, my name is Jane and I am 19 years old. When being asked to talk about my mental health and the journey it took me on, I stumbled on where exactly I should start. Do I start with the little 8 year old girl and what she felt or more on what being ill has taken away from me. I decided on the latter.
When people talk about mental health, the information that is shared is often correlated with the symptoms presented and how mental health works. The understanding of this is of course very important, but this evening I would like to focus on the internal and external impacts of anorexia and the array of other labels that were thrown at me.
Starting at 8, my world was very small and complex. In my head you see, it all made sense. I won’t be able to explain the cognitive battle that was going on up there, because I am not really sure I understand it now. Never the less I could see me friends were not interested in my anxious temperament and shy ways. I didn’t like seeing them dwindle, because then they were gone.
After I moved up to the senior school, I was met with angry voices and hierarchical ways. My mental health took a dive in the deep end. This was when the world stopped spinning and came to a halt, my world at least. Gone.
Hospital became my home whilst the world stopped spinning. Hospitals that weren’t close to home. Hospitals that were dotted around the country like joining a dot-to-dot. Nottingham was were the furthest dot was placed and the Cotswolds was the closest. I had lost the comfort of my home. In physicality I wasn’t met with familiar faces and two very happy puppies in the morning. Another thing gone.
Everyone else’s world seemed to carry on spinning, I knew that because I would be told on the telephone about birthdays and Christmases. I would be told about new candles on the cakes and countries that had been travelled. I was happy they were living their lives, but I couldn’t bare what my life had come to. Sitting between the same four walls, knowing every door and window was locked. Gone.
My teenage years were spent being weighed and sedated by various concoction’s. My serotonin levels were fake. I saw my friends being happy; real happiness that is. But of course I didn’t get to see the few that were left, because 200 miles (pause) separated us. The simplicity of what I missed was almost forgotten.
A hug. A simple thing you see, but safeguarding rules and cameras understandably restricted staff to patient contact, but there were days when I couldn’t understand why. A hand to hold seemed so far away. Reassurance and comfort swiftly left.
Talks of periods and girly chats were non-existent as anorexia smiled. Gone.
A walk in the garden; gone. Going outside involved being well.
Having a bath by myself; gone. I now had two people awkwardly hoovering over me watching my every splash.
I didn’t have any choice over my care, my voice was not being heard. Gone.
Everything was going. Gone.
Although somehow everything that was going didn’t matter to me. I was okay with what my illnesses were giving me- it felt somewhat safe. I began to feel comfortable in the pain I was causing myself. It was what I knew, and it was who I was. I did not see myself as poorly. I was just myself.
So, for that exact reason I couldn’t see what I was missing. My world had paused. It became a rusty cassette that didn’t know how to play. Coming back into the real world felt near impossible. Rekindling friendships and greeting my two puppies in the morning felt strange. I didn’t have to wait for someone else to unlock three doors before I was met with a blast of fresh air. It was all so strange… I could now have clothes in my room and my blanket to sleep under. At the beginning I felt like a stranger in my own home- naturally waiting to be strip-searched before entering my room.
It did get easier. Sadly it took longer than I would have liked, but I began to like the new world I was living in. It became something I wanted to explore and cherish, the world became a warmer place. The little things in life became my very best friend.
The Jane that was poorly was shrinking. Gone.