Within the last few months, the programme ‘Stranger Things’ has created a huge following, including my husband and me. There are many different topics I could focus on but I will not add any spoilers. However, the best aspect for me was the friendship between the group of friends. Their ups and downs, differences, arguments and relentless support for one and other.
This resonated with me. Over the years, I have discovered that I do not need a big group of friends, just that small handful of friends, those people who shine and in turn help me shine as well. Friends I have known for ten years to those I have known a few years, who I can always contact, however far away they are. What makes our friendships so special is we talk to each other – we all talk about difficulties we have with trust and kindness.
Over the last year, I have discovered that some people, however much you try to explain your condition to, will just not understand. I did not see most of this as stigma, merely ignorance and outgrowing people. However, I have come across poor attitudes towards mental health problems in all walks of life: work, friendships, family, shopping and many other settings.
In 2009 I became extremely unwell, stayed in hospital and was diagnosed with Bipolar Affective Disorder and in 2014 Borderline Personality Disorder. I have vivid memories of acts of stigma over the last seven years. It took me around four years after my diagnosis to openly discuss it. I am a qualified teacher and after an unpleasant experience working in a London school I have decided to retrain and work in the mental health sector.
My dream job and life goal is to now help with the fight to end stigma and enable people to live their lives free from stigma and ignorance, enabling people to have their own voice and make changes both in their lives and others. I currently work and volunteer within the mental health sector, and this work has created a helpful supported routine (before I hadn’t worked for 3 years). I feel useful again and more confident, which has helped me on my journey to recovery.
June 2016, after 13 years of history, I finally married my first love. We met at 14, pretending to get married at the local town hall on our first day of meeting. Over the past 13 years, we have grown, changed and found each other all over again.
As I left for University in 2007, our relationship had broken down, but this was no surprise being so young. In 2012 I returned to London for a weekend and we found each other again. We began seeing each other, within the first week of our new relationship, I told him everything: my diagnosis, admissions, medications, it was all laid bare. I knew I could not face being further in, becoming ill and losing him.
Knowing everything, he didn’t care, merely telling me ‘it was always you’. Five years later, I never forget the kindness, support and curiosity my husband has. I am treated as a wife and he helps me and cares for me in every way he can. With him, I do not feel like his patient, and this in turns supports me massively.
A very interesting and intelligent man I have recently met who does a lot of work with carers (I will not quote him directly) raised the point that the amazing, kind and supportive people we have in our lives, making them worth living, also need people in turn to help and support them. It is a cycle of care.