August 30, 2013

NatalieI've struggled with mental health problems for over six years now and if there is one positive thing to come from this then it has to be the way that people have been there for me.

I see a lot of negative stories about health services and about the stigma people have experienced and still do experience when experiencing a mental illness but I have to say that, overall, I have been lucky. From my family to friends to professionals I have been surrounded by people who care and who have treated me with respect.

The difference that this has made in my life and in my recovery is unquantifiable and ultimately has been the basis of what has inspired me to become a mental health nurse myself.

Anyone has the ability to make a difference to someone experiencing a mental illness, even a stranger, and some of the people who have made the biggest difference to me have not always been professionals.

My A-levels were a struggle and at times

My A-levels were a struggle and at times I think it was questionable as to whether I could get through those two years to get to university. There were many people who helped me to cope during this time but one of the biggest things was my college itself. The support I received there could not have been any better and two people within my college helped me to carry on when I couldn’t cope by myself.

My college support worker provided me a place to go to let everything out. It was different to seeing a health professional and provided me with a space where I could vent about everything. The biggest things she did for me were to provide me with a place to talk about what I was going through, someone who could speak on my behalf and someone who I could talk to about things completely unrelated to my health. It provided me a break from my problems and at times even when I was struggling beyond belief I would smile or crack a laugh.

She believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself 

When I was experiencing my worst days, when I was terrified and taken into hospital her hand on my shoulder or her words letting me know she was there for me made all of the difference. She believed in me when I didn’t believe in myself and I knew that. Her belief in me kept me carrying on and she never gave up on me even when it seemed like things were getting worse and not getting any better; I’m sure she preferred to see me happy, but she stuck by me when things were not.

The other person who made such a tremendous difference was my tutor. I didn’t tell her everything and we rarely talked about what was going on but she supported me in ways I needed, in a different way to others. She respected the difficulties I had in always attending college and she grounded me when I was panicking about my exams. I constantly had doubt about what I wanted to do in the future and she always provided a place for me to explore this and never pushed her own ideas or hopes onto me. She also always made me laugh.

Tiny and seemingly insignificant things make all of the difference

She really made me laugh. I remember one of my lowest days I went to her in tears but somehow I left her room smiling and hopeful. During my darkest days my random conversations with her and the time she gave to me kept me going. She used two words with me that she repeatedly said to me; baby steps.

She helped me to take baby steps when I needed and this has enabled me to now take the bigger steps in my recovery.

Tiny and seemingly insignificant things make all of the difference: those two words, that hand on the shoulder and that silly conversation about the most random thing in the world can make someone who is struggling so much find enough hope to carry on.

Back when I was their student I think there were times when they were scared for my future but I genuinely believe now that it paid off. They were hard times but I know, and I think they’d agree, it was worth it.

We all have the power to make this difference.

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