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Donna's Story

Donna tells us her mental health story in the hope that it will help others to reach out and get the support they need.

When I was 25 I had what I thought was a happy life; two beautiful children and married to someone I thought I knew.

Like many relationships, we had our ups and downs. From the outside, it looked like everything was great and the children were thriving, on the inside, it was a very different story. I had found myself trapped in a very controlling and abusive situation. Everyone tells you that you should just leave, but sometimes that's easier said than done. 

For 7 years it felt like I was screaming at the top of my lungs but no one could hear me. I’d never felt so trapped, angry and worthless. When I was 31 something gave and I couldn't go on. My mental health was in tatters and my children needed me to fight for our future.

After leaving the broken marriage behind, things did get better but I still had to co-parent. During this time I was diagnosed with High Functioning Anxiety and PTSD and for 8 more years, I battled silently while walking over the broken glass of what was the family court system. I took parenting courses and CTB therapy to help my kids. 

I shouted as loud as possible to get support for my children's mental health but forgot about my own. I forgot who I ever was before all this.

People often don't realise there's a difference between general anxiety and anxiety associated with PSTD. I was experiencing increased heart rate, racing thoughts, intense fear and insomnia along with having Chronic Fatigue. A person with high functioning anxiety may seem to be doing fine on the outside because they can 'Power On' and get the job done. 

Some days I would be top of my game, doing great at work and keeping everything ticking over with the children in the height of anxiety and then I would fall into the ultimate lows of not being able to get out of bed. Sleeping for hours and staying awake for days. Talk about getting yourself in a mess, that was me.

I would talk myself out of getting support and didn't like the idea of medication to help me through my lowest days. I spent countless GP appointments asking for help and being offered medication to just see me through while I was dealing with courts and contact problems but I refused to talk to anyone. 

I thought I could manage, I thought I could cope, but I was so wrong. I had a breakdown. I couldn't cope. I couldn't sleep. I couldn't talk. 

I was due to give a prepared court statement in the next few days and I didn't know what I was going to do. I knew I had to do something and so I took the time to look online, I knew about Solent Mind so I had a look at their website and I came across The Lighthouse

I made myself drive past on the way home from work the next day and got the courage to pop in. They really are a very valued service and were able to listen and point me in the right direction. I was grateful for the cup of tea and chat about how I was feeling as I was so confused about where I could find support until I took the courage to reach out. 

The thing I like about The Lighthouse is even if you don't feel like talking, you can go to a safe space and just be there to sit and breathe. 

They have mindful craft activities that you can do if you just need to escape and loads of information on different services that could help and friendly, non-judgmental people.

I'm not fixed by any means and still suffer from my anxiety and PTSD, but the difference now is I feel empowered to talk about it and I am not ashamed to talk to people about why sometimes I may seem a little out of sorts. 

I still reach out for help as and when I feel I need it and am grateful we have such great mental health services in Southampton.

I am fundraising for Solent Mind alongside my role as a Co-op Member Pioneer Coordinator for Southampton and Isles of Wight and was so happy that they are our national charity. My brief visit with Solent Mind has been a very positive step in the right direction and I will be forever grateful.

I'm hoping my story will help others to reach out and get support.

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