When I was 11, my Mum and Dad reconnected and he came to live with us. At first it was great, however we quickly learned that my Dad had a serious alcohol dependency and occasionally used drugs. He would drink whiskey from the moment he woke up to when he went to sleep, meaning it was impossible for him to hold down a job or do ‘normal’ things like family outings. My parents would have loud, furious arguments; sometimes I would try to intervene, and other times I would hide in my room scared.
When I was 15, my Mum decided enough was enough and made my Dad leave, as she said I needed to focus on my end of school exams and couldn’t do so with him around. He went to live with my Grandmother (his Mum). I finished my exams and went to visit my sister for the summer holidays.
Whilst I was away, my Dad took his own life. He left me a letter expressing his sorrow and remorse, saying that he wished he could have been a good Dad like all children deserve. He also said, “things that seem terrible, in time become anecdotal.” I had no idea what that meant at the time, but as I sit here writing this, it resonates.
At the time, my Mum said she was in no fit state to take care of me, so I stayed with my sister for quite a while. She was my rock, giving me all her love and care whilst I was in a zombie-like condition. Once I was able to return home, Mum took me to the GP who prescribed me anti-depressants.
I began to spiral into a mess of low self-esteem, low confidence and ran with the idea that I was unlovable, leading to some bad decision-making. I developed an eating disorder and began to hurt myself to ‘feel something’.
Then, I met someone. We opened up to each other about our mental scars, and he started to show me that I was worthy of love. We both went to our GPs and were referred to Talking Change in Portsmouth for Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. This helped me immeasurably, I cried at every session and the wonderful therapist helped me to change my way of thinking to be more positive, to accept myself for who I am, and to grow into the person I am now.
Nowadays I work for Solent Mind, the mental health charity, and I take joy in being able to give back to the community in my own way. They encouraged me to use their services, such as the Life Skills workshop with our Wellbeing Team and classes at Solent Recovery College, which I do when I feel low or unable to cope.
These classes and my colleagues have taught me new coping skills, which along with my CBT has given me hope and self-fulfilment. There is light at the end of the tunnel, and my career means I can help others see it too.
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