Angela, March 2, 2016

Everyone has a story, everyone has a journey, whether it's just starting or beginning there is a journey that had begun or is yet to begin. Once upon a time my experiences were detrimental. I was constantly attempting to hide what was beneath, beneath all the clothes and smiles and dance moves. I was constantly fighting for something, fighting against something. I was searching for happiness (everlasting happiness). The truth was that what I was expecting was not my reality. Being transparent and taking off this mask was the hardest thing I think I've ever had to do. And if I can be real, I'm not completely there. It's so hard...hard to search the innermost part of my soul to pick up the broken pieces. Why couldn't I just be whole; whole inside and outside? Everywhere I looked was broken. I was broken and my soul was broken.

If I could even count the amount of times I wanted to give up, the times I cried in my room, the amount of times I asked God to just take my life, the amount of times, the amount of times I had suicidal thoughts. Life was just life. Life was just a word. Hearing people's joy made me envy so much in life because to me joy was not natural, it wasn't something I thought about daily. Negative thoughts drowned my mind, insecurity made me feel safe and brokenness challenged me. Brokenness isn't so bad when I think about it. Without it I wouldn't be here sharing it with you...

Young carers need support too

I have faced numerous challenges as a young carer. We don't get talked about often – but we need help and support too. I had to make a decision whether or not a close family member would be sectioned under the Mental Health Act. It was the hardest decision of my life. I was in my final year of university within weeks of giving in my dissertation and facing my exams. Once I made the decision, I remember breaking down. My family member was taken to hospital and I felt so much guilt in my heart – to the point where I blamed everything that had happened before that stage on me. I carried the burden and it had a major effect on me – I had suicidal thoughts, I was depressed.

Being the eldest meant that I had to take care of my siblings even though I was at university. To be honest, my university weren't helpful at all; I had one initial counseling session and that was it. What kept me going were God and my friends. Prayer and faith pushed me to keep going and now I’m using my experiences as a young carer in my project called Mental Health: The Arts, which enables young people with a lived experience of mental health problems to express themselves through the creative arts. I used dance. Dance was an expressive way of telling people about my journey. There was definitely a lot that I couldn't physically say even though there was a lot in my mind, but in addition to my faith I have dance to set me free and give me a reason to express myself. 

Join the fight against stigma

I have faced stigma and discrimination and didn't know how to handle it. In fact I held grudges towards these people – I forgave them, which in some cases is the hardest thing to do. I now raise awareness against stigma and discrimination towards mental health problems through my project and as a Time to Change Champion. I am Angela – I am not a statistic – I am a testimony to how you can use your experiences to change your future in a positive way. This is my journey from pain to PURPOSE!  

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Share your story

Too many people are made to feel ashamed. By sharing your story, you can help spread knowledge and perspective about mental illness that could change the way people think about it.