A Mentees Story

My mental health challenges started to emerge at the age of 7. It started with a reluctancy to attend school, low confidence and issues surrounding body image and personality.  Soon after I began to react adversely to my own feelings and emotions and couldn’t bare to feel anything at all. In response to this, I developed excoriation disorder which allowed me to completely dissociate from my thoughts, feelings and escape from the outside world for multiple hours at a time. Eventually this escalated into an uncontrollable and compulsive behaviour that included the use of chemicals, knives, needles, scissors and a range of other tools to satisfy my desperate need to silently exist. 

Over the following years, the friendships I had struggled to maintain were irreparably destroyed and I found myself isolated and completely alone. Somehow despite the physical damage that covered my face and body and the ritualistic behaviours I carried out, I was able to conceal this self destructive side of me and continued to hold down employment, caring for my younger siblings and a string of unstable relationships until the age of 21. It was at this time in late 2016 that I lost the ability to cope and I could no longer function. I was unable to work and consequently lost my job and my life was swallowed by severe anxiety and depression. I was prescribed various antidepressants and sleeping tablets but still my days were riddled with overwhelming suicidal thoughts, excessive worry and insomnia. 

In mid 2017 I met my partner who quickly became my life support and slowly with his patience and encouragement I started to reintegrate into the world around me. By late 2018 I received habit reversal CBT from Banes Talking Therapies and began to understand the causes of my excoriation disorder and implement positive changes into my behaviour and lifestyle. Unfortunately in early 2019 this progress was halted following a relationship breakdown with relatives and at the age of 24 I became homeless. 

Over the next months I was in complete crisis. Each day was plagued by intrusive thoughts, continuous suicidal ideation and desperately reckless behaviour. Despite this I was unable to access stable support and in May 2019 I attempted to take my life and was admitted to hospital for treatment. In the months that followed I received unconditional support from my partner, family and friends. In late July my partner and I moved into our own home and created a safe and healthy environment around us. 

Gradually my fractured relationships began to repair and in mid October 2019 I started on the Peer Mentor programme. I had weekly meetings with my mentor and, soon after, I was also prescribed a new medication. The combination ultimately saved me and within weeks of being involved in the mentoring programme, I started rebuilding my life. In November 2019, with my mentors support, I began attending Studio 11 Pole Fitness for one to one classes and commenced my journey to body confidence and self belief. By December 2019 my excoriation disorder was almost entirely non-existent and for the first time in 18 years my body and mind started to heal.

 

Now I am determined to help others who have also suffered from mental health difficulties and have therefore enrolled for the mentoring training in January 2020 so that I can share my experiences and support others who need it. In 2020 I plan to perform at a mental health awareness fundraiser for which I have nominated this project. Following that I will continue to raise awareness and volunteer my time for the importance of mental wellbeing and accessible support for everyone. 

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St Mungo's - Building Bridges to Wellbeing

South Vaults, Green Park Station

Green Park Road 

Bath BA1 1JB

Contact -

ralph.lillywhite@mungos.org  07825 115 775