March 23, 2015

My name is Amy and I experience CPTSD (complex post-traumatic stress disorder), anxiety and depression.Amy Rose's blog I have lived with these issues for the last seven years: it mostly began at 16 during my college years. I was severely bullied/abused and was alone in a very small-minded community. Also at this time I was really struggling with accepting and coming out as gay because of the people I was around. After a few terrible years I became severely anxious and depressed. I also experienced a trauma through coming out in which caused me severe PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). I was very suicidal for years.

Often I felt a pressure to pretend to be okay

I went to university thinking I could ignore everything and put the past behind me. It was here I first experienced mental health stigma. Course mates used to gossip about me behind my back and I was called things like 'mad Amy.' It made me feel humiliated, isolated, and alone and upset. I did, however, make other friends who were more understanding, even if they didn’t understand the mental health issues they were still supportive and tried to help as best they could. Others were not so supportive- I drifted apart from a lot of people because they couldn’t handle my issues and didn’t know how to help. Often I felt a pressure to pretend to be okay and put a front on because I felt I needed to hide the problems I was having due to the fact some people can't handle anything different. That makes you feel more alone.

Sometimes people try to help but they don’t know how

Through the years I have had a few experiences of unprofessional therapists. In 2011 I had a private therapist who bullied me badly. This made me more depressed and suicidal and put fear into me of opening up to therapists. If you can’t open up to a therapist and tell them everything you need to, you can't work on getting better. Then, after this, I was again abused badly at an anxiety group I was attending by the facilitator of the group. I was dangerously suicidal- she took me in another room away from the group and then instead of helping me she abused me badly, barking 'You need to get stronger! You're weak!' at me and trivializing my experiences and emotional state and putting me down. She was cold, cruel and disgusting towards me. This again could have easily pushed me over the edge but it didn't. At the same time I had a few friends who were treating me very disrespectfully and bullying me: they verbally attacked me and trivialized what I was going through like it was nothing. So unsympathetic.

Sometimes people try to help but they don’t know how. For instance, people tell you to 'cheer up', 'get over it' and say 'it's not that bad!' I experienced all of this and it made me feel extremely frustrated, invalidated, unheard and disrespected. Mental health is a taboo subject- but the more people avoid talking about it the more ignorance and prejudice there is.

I’m learning to manage it all - there is hope

Luckily, in 2012, I found a good therapist through an anxiety support charity. By this point my PTSD has developed into CPTSD because of the frequent re-abuse and trauma. I have come on leaps and bounds in the last few years, though, with the right help. CPTSD and anxiety and depression still affects me every day and make life difficult but I’m learning to manage it all. There is hope.

Never be ashamed of your story and who you are

This year I started volunteering for Time to Change and I have done so much in a short space of time. Everyone I’ve met through Time to Change is lovely and I have made good friends. Its benefits me greatly and I love making a difference because I know how stigma/discrimination affects people and I am passionate about creating more positive attitudes and better knowledge surrounding mental health issues and dispelling those myths and beliefs about mental illness that are wrong. Recently I went on quite a few radio stations around the north west to talk about mental health stigma/discrimination and my experiences. It has improved my confidence and I’ve really enjoyed it as I think it’s a great way to reach a lot of people and I know it will make a difference.

My main message to anyone reading this is: never be ashamed of your story and who you are. Your experiences shape the way you are. Always love yourself and be proud of who you are. Speaking openly will help break down those walls of stigma and inspire and help others.

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Comments

University

I first experienced mental health stigma at uni also and was threatened with expulsion if my work didn't seriously improve. I had been suffering from depression and anxiety. They had been made aware of my struggles numerous times and was aware I was seeking professional help from the uni councillor. Despite all the help I was receiving, my tutors and other students were mean and would daily try to upset me, moving my things when I left the room, hiding my stuff, sitting in the places I felt comfortable so I would be forced to sit where I felt uncomfortable and scared. When I asked for help from my tutors, it was rejected as me making up lies and I was eventually forced into leaving uni for good. I don't regret leaving uni, I regret going in the first place. Reading Amy's story has given me a little confidence to talk about my experiences and hope that I can help people in similar circumstances.

Reply to Jadey

Hi Jadey, Im really sorry to hear your experiences of stigma at Uni. Thats really terrible! Im so pleased that reading my story has given you confidence to talk about your experiences, thats brilliant- the more people talk the less stigma there will be. Things will change x

inspirational

thank you for sharing your story of bravery and inspirational efforts in remaining self loving and not giving up.

Reply to Barry

Thankyou Barry :) I'm hoping i can inspire others to never give up :)

Love and good vibes

Hi Amy, Your story is inspiring and you are very brave to have gone thought what you've been through and are able to share your story. I'm sorry for the pain you've endured, but happy to hear about the positive things that have happened for you recently (finding a good therapist and having shared through radio). Love and all the best to you <3

Brave!

Dear Amy, you are very inspiring. Your story inspires me to keep going. I cannot imagine what it would be like to be young and trying to cope with uni, friends, making study and career choices while dealing with PTSD, anxiety and depression. I am 42 and only recently diagnosed after a series of traumatic events spanning 15 years. I am finding many family members disbelieving and judgemental, some of whom I thought would be my greatest supporters. It has made family gatherings stressful and I find I have to avoid them. My husband is wonderfully supportive and understanding and yet he also has to deal with family and friends believing I am 'faking'. I suffer with (almost daily) non-epileptic seizures and flashbacks. I can't understand how anyone can think the seizures can be faked! The stigma around mental illness must change and I hope that one day I also might be able to help make that change happen as you are.

Reply to tanya c

Thanks Tanya and i am glad i inspire you- there is always hope :) Sorry to hear about the stigma you have faced but one day things will change....all the best to you xxxx

My world living with cptsd

I was first diagnosed with cptsd eight years ago after being attacked while I was at work on a route 57 London bus. I suddenly became very aggressive towards everyone and I was doing things during the night of which I had no memory, I even done the unthinkable, I hit my wife, I didn't know I had done it, how could I have done such a terrible thing? It was then I sought help. I saw a counsellor that was within the company and she told me to seek help via my GP. It wasn't long after this I took a massive overdose and died I was found in a local park, apparently, I died and the hospital brought me back. Sometimes, even now, I wish they hadn't. I spent a month in a mental health hospital, which, I have to say, was an eye opener. While I was there I was told that I had been suffering with this cptsd since a child, but, been hiding it until I was attacked which brought everything out and making me remembering all the things that happened to me as a child, the beatings nearly every day from my father, in his words just for the fun of it, the mental and sexual abuse. I started to have nightmares every night and flashbacks every day, sometimes two or three times day, they are so real. I went to local thing arranged by the local mental health service called the recovery college. The day I went I was there about twenty minutes and had a massive anxiety attack, running outside, somehow I got home, I can't remember how, the whole of my left side was tingling with pins and needles. The following day I went to the hospital for my first session of CBT, I had another massive anxiety attack, the same pins and needles feeling happened again. I went to bed that night and suffered a stroke while I was asleep. That was in 2012 and I am still struggling with my cptsd to this day although I am a lot better I still have the occasional flashback during the day and I still have the nightmares, but the stroke has affected my short term memory, which has some effect on things every day, but saying that without my wonderful family I reckon I wouldn't be here, they have been my rock that has pulled me a long dark tunnel, but sometimes I still slip back and yet somehow they have put up with all the nastiness and pain that has been the bane of my recent life.

Reply to Richard

Hi Richard, thankyou so much for sharing you story. I am truely sorry for all the pain and suffering and what you have been through! You have really fought you are amazing and im so pleased you are alot better and have such a supportive family :) CPTSD is extremely hard to live with it is a battle everyday but i really hope things continue to improve for you Richard and wish you all the very best! We are warriors! xxx

Thank-you

Hi Amy, thank-you so much your brave and inspirational blog. I am so sorry for all the pain that you've suffered and the daily challenges that you face. You are doing so well. I have been supporting my closest friend who suffers from PTSD and schizophrenia for the past 7 years and can understand some of the difficulties you face. Amy you are stronger than you think having gone through so much and been driven to the edge so many times but always clinging on. I wish you the very best for whatever the future brings for you and I hope that you continue to get the positive help and support that you need. The things you have shared will help so many other people realise that even though sadly stigma exists, that they are not to blame and not alone.

I try distraction

The nightmares put me in a subdued state the next day. I am house proud but sometimes when I am washing my hall floor I hear my mother say "haven't you got anything more exciting to do?" I shout "at least I know how to cook and clean bitch!" She has been dead for 18 years but I still have nightmares about her belittling me when everything I did was wrong. She once said to me "you are good in the way you do more housework than me and you pay half of everything but it's not enough. I want you to have a career so I can be proud of you". What time did I have to study? When my ex hit me I said sorry each time because I felt I deserved to be punished. He hit me BUT never threw me out of his flat and that made me feel loved. Now when I get a flashback I distract by thinking of the positives in my life. I love my job and my colleagues. That is great when all through childhood, school and work I was bullied. What can we do? People ask "is there a cure for P.T.S.D.? Like you can take a course of pills to get rid of it NOT. We must focus on the people who genuinely care and that can sometimes just be a few but there are nice people out there.

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