Frankie’s story

I am 28 years old and I would like to share with you my journey to recovery from mental illness.

For the past 11 years I have suffered from serious episodes of depression and anxiety. I was a serial self-harmer and, at times, tried to take my own life. I can now safely say that I am in recovery and have hope for a better future. Don’t get me wrong, I still have difficult and challenging days, but using the skills I have been taught, I now manage those bad days and for the first time in my adult life I am excited about my future.

I was first admitted to a psychiatric hospital at the age of 17. I had become increasingly depressed after “fighting” a long-term and debilitating physical condition. I had spent long periods of my adolescent years in and out of hospital for treatment, missed long periods of time from school, and at 18 was struggling with my transition from children’s services to adult services. I was admitted to the psychiatric hospital as I had become a “danger to myself”. After a few weeks of talking therapies and medication, I was discharged and supported in my community.

I went on to finish my A-levels and then progressed onto college for two years. During this time, my mental health was very unstable. I was too scared to admit that I was struggling for fear of being admitted to hospital again.

I finished college and applied to University where I began my social work degree. University brought with it many stresses and challenges. At times I found it difficult to cope and slipped back into my old ways of self-harm and abuse of prescription medication. I didn’t know how to deal with my fears and anxieties in a positive way so used negative measures instead. My negative coping strategies always seemed so safe to me and it is only now that I realise that instead of them making me feel better, they were making me much worse and I was just in a constant vicious circle.

After a couple of years hiding how I was really feeling from professionals, family and friends, I could no longer keep up my façade of everything being “fine”. I had another severe depressive episode and had to take a year out of university.

The support I received from my CPN and psychiatrist increased, and with their help and the love and support from my friends and family I was able to return to my final year of studies.

During my final year of university, I continued to struggle with the demands of the course and my increasing fluctuating moods. I became very aggressive, couldn’t eat or sleep and once again began self-harming and abusing prescription medication. My psychiatrist and CPN thought I would benefit from attending a psychiatric day hospital and it was there that my journey to recovery really began.

At the beginning of my time at hospital I really resented everybody – from the staff who were trying to help me and my friends and family because I was convinced they just wanted rid of me for a few hours every day. At times I even resented the other patients! It took me a couple of months before I began to engage with the service properly. I attended groups to help me understand my depression and anxiety and learned skills to control and manage my condition. I also began to take better care of myself physically. I started exercising and following a healthy eating regime and to date have lost just over 6 stone in weight.

I have also gained so much confidence and know that I am capable of achieving anything I put my mind to. I want to use my personal experiences to benefit other people and am about to begin peer advocacy training. I also feel ready to look for employment. Having a mental illness does not define who I am or dictate my life anymore. My bad days are rare now but when I do have one, I no longer stay in bed hiding from the world. I get up, do some exercise, contact a friend or family member and try to do something productive with my day. I can proudly say that I no longer self-harm and will always take the positive coping strategy rather than my previous negative strategies.

I am very hopeful about what my future will bring.