I have experienced post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and been a victim of child domestic violence. One in three young children will have an issue with mental illness that is directly linked to the experience of seeing or experiencing domestic violence in their homes. One in four people will experience issues with mental health. I wanted to better educate others on these issues. I wanted to help others to speak out and share their story in their own words like I did through my blog, Free Your Mind, which I started to express myself and let go of the negativity of my past. I’ve always loved it write and have a degree in Communications, Culture and Media but was discouraged about my writing abilities by a boss after I was diagnosed with dyslexia. His comments and reaction to my diagnosis ruined my confidence so stopped altogether.
Blogging allowed me to begin communicating again in some form
However, my breakdown in 2012 took me back to writing as I had become mute and stopped communicating with everyone. My blog allowed me to begin communicating again in some form. A friend angrily contacted me asking why I hadn’t been in touch and called me a letdown, I was gutted. I’d had just had a panic attack that very same day that was when I decided to write out my feelings in a blog, knowing I wanted her to hear what I was going through. The next day I emailed it to all of my friends and family, hoping they would read it and finally understand.
I was completely overwhelmed by the support received, messages telling me how brave I was, how well I’d hidden so much, how my friend had cried reading it because she really had no idea that things had been that bad. The writing turned into a regular blog, which gave me a different perspective, looking at life ‘inside out’. I was never a good speaker or talker, but found that writing really helped and felt comfortable.
Writing helps you to confront your mental illness
I found that once I started to write, I felt a great sense of control and was able to look at my life and start to write it to be the way I wanted it to be. Unlike in the past where I felt everyone else had the pen. Writing helps you to confront your mental illness and who you are. It is not always an easy process, but it is very worth doing and it can bring you to a better understanding of yourself.
Like many people with mental health issues, I didn’t let on to anyone what was going on inside my head for many years. All my life I’d suffered from what I now know as post traumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety and panic attacks. It was like I had a cloud over my head all the time, which would sometimes get thicker and darker to the point where I would shut myself away from the world to cope.
There's always someone who will relate
Stories connect people. Whilst you think you may be alone, there’s always someone who will relate and make a connection to your story and there’s great comfort in finding that out. Now I have made a book out of my blog I hope that that and my continued work it will educate, inspire, empower and encourage others who are going through similar experiences and reduce the stigma against mental illness.
I wanted many others to share in the freedom and healing of sharing their story
It was really important to have other people – from a variety of backgrounds - share their story, the book would be nothing without the courageousness of people coming forward, and I wanted many others to share in the freedom and healing of sharing their story
I was so overwhelmed by the response and happy that so many people wanted to be a part of it that it was hard to keep up with sometimes. Some people were happy to share their story by name, whereas others were still worried about the stigma and being judged, especially due to their occupations so shared their stories anonymously.
My hope is that more people will feel empowered and go onto share their own stories and feel the release and healing that expression can bring. Writing helps you to confront your mental illness and who you are. It is not always easy process, but it is very worth doing and it can bring you to a better understanding of yourself.
Natasha Benjamin wrote, collated stories and poetry from other people with mental health issues, and published Free Your Mind – The Anthology, which also captures her own journey of self-discovery, PTSD, child domestic violence and mental health problems.