Thursday, 3 October 2019

BBC Jesy Nelson: Odd One Out | Review

Jesy Nelson: 'Odd One Out' was initially aired on BBC One on the 12th September 2019 and takes the viewers on Jesy's journey of rehabilitation and recovery "as she opens up about abuse she has suffered at the hands of cyberbullies and its effects on her mental health".

It is always so inspiring to see individuals who live in the public eye speak up about their own experience with mental illness, I know that Demi Lovato has made a few documentaries throughout the years and I am always eager to watch a new one when it comes out. Having said that, I felt that Jesy's was different because she wasn't just sitting down and telling her story, we went on her journey with her, we saw her at her worst and at her best and it really opened my eyes into the online world and the effects of cyberbullying. 

Upon the programme beginning, Jesy explains why she is making the documentary and what she hopes to get out of it and amongst this she explains how her mum is terrified of her making it. Initially, I thought that her mum was ashamed of her daughter speaking up about her experiences with mental health conditions but I was so wrong, her mum didn't want her to make the documentary because she was worried it would fuel the bullies and make the bullying worse which can be a terrifying concept and probably stops a lot of people from opening up about their problems. Despite this, Jesy was determined to get her story out there to try and help other people who may be in her situation and I am sure that there has been hundreds of people who have benefited from seeing this hour long programme.

Jesy explains how her problems began when the singing group that she is part of, Little Mix, won the X Factor in 2011 and she was told that she had to have social media, something that she says completely changed her life. Every time she would post online, she would get messages upon messages of hate from trolls who would call her things like a "fat singing whale" and who would tell her to go and kill herself; words that can damage anyone's confidence and mental health. She got into the mindset of believing what would be said about her and she commented that "the whole world had an opinion of me, I was known as the fat, ugly one" and as this continued to happen she hit such a low point that she just stopped turning up to work as she couldn't bare to go out. 

One thing that I loved about this documentary was that Jesy didn't stay quiet about things that she believed in and she stated multiple times throughout the programme that "you cannot get away from social media and it is ruining a lot of peoples lives" which I couldn't agree with more; social media can be an incredible platform however, it can turn very negative, very quickly. It can be full of positivity one minute and then overflowing with negativity the next.. everyone has an opinion and nobody seems to be afraid to hide it behind a screen. 

Jesy explains how her brain started believing everything that everyone was saying about her and how somebody at work said to her that they thought she needed to go on antidepressants and she remembers thinking 'why should I go on antidepressants because of what other people are saying about me?' She adds that she doesn't think people realise the effects of what bullying and trolling can do to somebody. 

It is obvious that the bullying and trolling has had a massive impact on her life because throughout the entire documentary, she is constantly putting herself down and is always shutting people down when they try to give her a compliment which is so frustrating as a viewer because you just want to remind her that she is more important than somebody else's opinion. At one point in the programme she says how "I look like a witch" and when recording with the rest of the group she states that "I feel like I can do my bit better" despite reassurance from the rest of the girls that she did amazingly. In another part of the programme she said how she just looks shit and uncomfortable and then said how she just feels like a 'fat, ugly rat'.

The breaking point for Jesy was when Katie Hopkins called her fat and after this, Jesy got severely depressed and it spiralled out of control. It makes me so angry that somebody like Katie Hopkins, who has a following still has the audacity to constantly share her unwanted, invalid and offensive opinions which she knows is going to hurt other people. Jesy describes how she remembers thinking that she needed to make this go away and that she wanted to end her life and she attempted to take her own life, "when you're in that state of mind, all you care about is taking the pain away." She also added that she is so glad that she is still here.

Throughout the programme she also spoke about what social media platforms are doing about cyberbullying and trolling and some of them don't seem to be doing anything, at all. She said how she had tried to contact Facebook numerous times and they don't even respond to messages about hate.

"We live in a social media obsessed world now and it's scary because now kids growing up don't know any different".

Jesy also spoke about how the bullying has changed what she feels like she can put onto social media and how "I can't just post a photo where I don't look perfect". She also said how after losing weight that the thought of going back to the 'fat and ugly' one in the group scares her.

In addition to telling her story, throughout the documentary Jesy decided to try and get some closure on her issues and make changes to enable her to move past her trauma. Before the documentary, she couldn't even look at an old photo of herself from when she was on X factor and she explains how she has shut away the 'old Jesy' for such a long time because she just felt that she needed to be the new Jesy that everyone likes because everyone hated the old Jesy. She went to see a body image expert and explained to her that "I loved that Jesy and I've got to love every part of me".


Her boyfriend also appeared in the documentary and explained how he realised that Jesy had a lot of insecurities. There were times where she wouldn't physically let him see her without make up on and when he stayed over, she would get up at the crack of dawn to put on make up and then would get back into bed with the make up on. He added how she still won't wash her hair when he stays round because it naturally goes frizzy and that she is very self critical. 

"My trauma does really run deep and I may never really recovery properly", she explains how she needs to start looking at old videos and clips again to try and reconnect with her old self to truly be happy again. She hadn't looked at old clips because it was such a negative time for her, that she just wanted to get rid of it completely.

Towards the end of the programme, Jesy explained that eventually, she started to believe in herself which gave her the hope to continue and carry on, "I don't think that I will ever be the same again but what I do know is that I'm getting better".

"If I could give my younger self some advice it'd be that I promise you will feel happy again".

Overall, I loved this documentary, I felt that it really felt real and raw which is quite rare to see on TV, I loved how honest she was and how there was no holding back on anything that she had been through. I think that there needs to be more programmes like this one and I would highly recommend watching this documentary, even if you haven't struggled from mental illness yourself because it can really open your eyes to some aspects of the scary world that we seem to be living in.

"7 in young people have experienced cyberbullying and 26% of young people who have been cyberbullies reported feeling suicidal" (Ditch the label survey, 2019).

Thank-you for reading, Tay x

Wednesday, 2 October 2019

Adapting to University Life with Mental Illness

Hello and welcome back to my blog. I thought that I would start this post with a little introduction about myself because it has been a hefty while since I last mentioned much at all about myself apart from the fact that I have struggled with mental illness for the last few years. 

My name is Taylor, I am 21 years old and I live in Norwich. I am currently a First Year Mental Health Nursing Student after spending the past year studying an Access to higher education course. I decided to study an access course because I had previously withdrawn from further education due to my mental health and I felt that I wanted to do something more with my life, I didn't want to be a waitress, earning rubbish money for the rest of my life.

When deciding to go to University, I knew that I wanted to study Mental Health Nursing but as I started my Access course and heard about courses that other students were applying for, I did debate changing to Midwifery or Paramedic Science but I had had my heart set on Mental Health for the past couple of years and decided to stick with what I knew.. I am already so glad that I did. I also knew that I didn't want to move away from home, my family are in Norwich, my boyfriend is in Norwich and I am one to get massively homesick so if I could get into my local University, that was where I was going and that is where I am currently studying. 

Considering that I am not living in student accommodation, my experience isn't the same as most students because I still live at home, I still have my own bed, my cat, my family close by and my job but as far as academics go, I have experienced the whole range of emotions within my first two weeks, as I am sure the majority of first year students have. I also am not one to go out and drink much but after the first day of University, I decided to impulsively go to a freshers event and it was such a good night, but I am so bad with hangovers that I doubt I'll be going out in a rush again.

The first week was strange, it was mostly all about introductions to the course, the campus and meeting a lot of new people. On the first day, we just had a tour of campus, on the second day we spent four hours straight in lectures with five minute breaks every hours and it really made me debate if university was even for me because everything that we were 'learning' about, I am sure 90% of the people within the lecture had previously been taught, multiple times. However, on the third day we moved over to the hospital site and did practical work of basic life support which was much more interesting than the day before.

Overall, week one was a bit all over the place and I wasn't really as pleased as I had hoped I'd be with what is going to be my life for the next three years. I think what didn't help is that I am on a new course because whenever new regulations come out within subjects like nursing, the course has to be reworked to meet new standards so even the lecturers didn't really seem to know what they were doing.

However, week two came around and we dived a bit deeper into the learning side of things. I am getting used to the ideas of lectures where you're just being spoken to for hours on end and expected to make notes on what you think will be relevant  Seminars also began this week which are field specific instead of including all nursing students, no matter their field. 

The main issue that I am having is the fact that almost all the studying that you need to complete, is so independent to the point that we're not given clear instructions on what to do, we have to find out for ourselves and they definitely haven't gone easy on us for the first couple of weeks, I have been assigned over 20 NHS online training courses, training courses from the University, independent learning, directed learning, group assignments and formative assignments. My brain currently feels completely fried but I am hoping that I will be able to start checking things off before I get another bulk of work to complete. At this point, if it wasn't for 'to-do lists', I would not have a clue what needs completing because in reality, I barely know even with endless lists.

Everyone on my course is really lovely and I have to keep reminding myself that we are all in the same boat, we are all getting used to unfamiliar situations and we are all probably wondering if we have made the right decision.

Lastly.. University with mental illness is difficult. I would class my mental health as currently being stable but there have been many tears, swear words, frustration and anxiety in just the first week; the stress is real but one thing that I have learnt is that the university has so much support available should it be needed (which hopefully it won't) which is good and a bit of a safety blanket that I have to remember every time I want to drop out, which has happened about 20 times already, but I will stick it out, at least until Christmas.

As I did with my access course, I will try to keep you updated with my progress as much as I can and I will speak to you soon.


Thank-you for reading, Tay x

Friday, 13 September 2019

My last Summer before the beginning of my Future


Somehow we are in September, already? I finished college at the beginning of June, leaving me with a three and a half month summer. Most people would choose to use this gap of time to travel, to embrace the good weather and to make incredible memories but for me, this summer was all about resting and ensuring that even without a structure, I can still maintain a stable state of mind. This summer has been strange, I haven't had an educational summer break in years and I am preparing for my life to change in a few different aspects; I am starting my career and university degree, something that I have only dreamt of, some of my relatives are expecting babies which is incredibly exciting and I am making the biggest step in my life yet of moving on, past my history and own personal struggles. 

There isn't too much that I can say that I have achieved or accomplished this summer but I have still been entirely busy. Preparing for university is stressful (and I'm not even having to move house), I have spent all summer filling in form after form, attending meetings, filling out more paperwork and spending a tonne of money on university, before even starting. I never even thought that there would be much more preparing to do throughout the summer as I had already applied to university through UCAS, I had already sorted out student finance, I had attended my interviews but oh boy was I wrong, those were the 'simple' things that needed to be organised. I didn't realise how much time, energy and 'faffing around' went into getting a DBS check, applying for extra support incase I need it, organising appointments and filling in forms for a health check, applying to various national and university nursing organisations, setting up my university online portal, consenting to this, that and everything else, opening a student bank account and even filling in forms for placements. It has been hectic to say the least and just when I think that I am finished, there's something else that I have forgotten to do. Having said that, I think I am almost there (thankfully).

Alongside this, I have been working part-time, trying to sort other family issues out, trying to spend as much time as I possibly can with my family and boyfriend before my time is even more stretched and ultimately distracting myself from the reality and anxiety that I am actually going to university.. in just over a week.

I have also had some lovely times, I have had countless family BBQ's which have been lovely, I went to a wedding which was exciting and I have also gotten back into watching TV series which is something that I rarely do. I have gotten so much into watching series that I have spent the summer rewatching the first six seasons of dance moms, thirteen reasons why and a few other mini series. 

I aim to continue to update my blog throughout my degree when I can but please be patient as I have no idea how busy I will be, but this is definitely not the end of my blog and I hope that you can all come on my journey with me.

Thank-you for reading, Tay x

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

Why we should be Preventing Suicide Every Day

I am sure that many of you are aware that World Suicide Prevention Day for this year took place on Tuesday 10th September. It is no secret that mental health conditions are on the rise due to many different factors in todays society but there is more awareness surrounding mental health than ever before and although they may be underfunded and staffed, there is more mental healthcare services available. However, Suicide rates are also on the rise, especially within the UK and I think we need to be talking about this topic everyday, not just on one specific day of the year which is why I purposely haven't published this post on World Suicide Prevention Day. 

According to Samaritans, in the UK there were 6859 deaths by Suicide throughout 2018 and the number of deaths from Suicide increased by 11.8% over one year. Within the UK, men are three times more likely to die by Suicide than woman are and despite the highest number of Suicides being of men aged between 45 and 49, Suicide rates for individuals under the age of 25 has increased by 23.7%, again over the course of a year. These statistics are terrifying, there are so many people not only across the country but across the entire world that are being failed by healthcare systems, that are too afraid to speak out and ultimately that feels that there is no other way out than by taking their own lives. 

I find it frustrating that deaths by Suicide are on the increase yet nobody seems to be trying to do anything about it apart from charities. Surely the government should be able to see that this is a growing problem and that our country is in the middle of a massive mental health crisis but apparently they have better things to spend their money on. As somebody who has been suicidal and has attempted to take their own life numerous times, I can't help but empathise with these poor individuals who have lost their lives but on the other hand, I am happy that they finally found their peace and that they no longer have to suffer but I also know the impact that Suicide has on other people and I have seen how it can tear entire families apart and ruin loved ones. I think one of the key messages that needs to be promoted is that if somebody ends their life by Suicide, they were not being selfish because when you're in a suicidal frame of mind, you often feel that your loved ones would be better off without you and that you'd no longer be a burden to them.

Don't get me wrong, World Suicide Prevention Day is incredible, it gets people talking about the subject and every year I feel that the world is becoming more understanding but I hate how on that one specific day of the year, everyone is sharing advice, facts, statistics and personal stories yet the following day it is almost forgotten, as though it never happened. It is like people feel that it is ok to speak up on an international prevention day but not at any other time when in reality, nobody should ever feel ashamed to speak up. I know that it can be so difficult to speak up, but mental health conditions are so common nowadays and mental health is everywhere, although there is still some stigma surrounding the subject, it is nothing like how it used to be and there is always a chance that your own advice or personal story could help or even save the life of somebody else.

For those who suffer from mental health conditions, there is always ups and downs and sometimes we have more manageable 'downs' and other times we feel that we have hit absolute rock bottom, but whenever I feel that I am at rock bottom I remind myself that I have been here before, that I know it can't last forever and that I have survived it before so I can survive it again. Obviously, this doesn't always work because I cannot explain how crippling and destroying mental illness can be and often, taking your own life does feel like the only option but if you make that decision then how are you going to know that things could have gotten better? 

We need to continue to talk and continue to allow people to feel that it is ok to share their problems with others, they say that a problem shared is a problem halved no matter how guilty it may make you feel. Let's continue to talk about suicide prevention throughout the entire year instead of just on one day, we never know who may need to see it and who could benefit from it. 

If any of you ever feel that there is no other way out, then please speak out, it is so important and you never know what may be right around the corner. You can talk to anybody, it could be a relative, a friend, a stranger or even a healthcare professional just please don't suffer alone. My contact details are always available on my blog if anybody ever needs a chat.


Keep safe, continue to speak up and remember that bad days can't last forever.

Useful contacts for within the UK:

Samaritans: Tel: 116123 (Around the clock), Website: samaritans.org
Mind: Tel: 03001233393, Website: mind.org.uk
Papyrus: Tel: 08000684141, Website: papyrus-uk.org
CALM: Tel: 0800585858, Website: thecalmzone.net
ChildLiine: Tel: 08001111, Website: childline.org.uk
Kooth: Website: kooth.com
YoungMinds: Tel: 08088025544, Website: young minds.org.uk
The Mix: Tel: 08088084994, Website: themix.org.uk
Maytree: Tel: 02072637070, Website: maytree.org.uk


Thank-you for reading, Tay x

Wednesday, 14 August 2019

One step forward, Two steps back

There is nothing more frustrating than feeling that things may finally be looking up for you, for them to come crashing down, almost suddenly. I know why I am experiencing bad days at the present, I know what is stressing me out and what is causing me to feel bad but there is nothing I can do about it, especially when half of the stressful situations I'm experiencing are entirely out of my control. I am a worrier, I worry about everything whether the situation directly affects me or not, I care about people too much and I probably care about others wellbeing more than my own most of the time, but as frustrating as it can feel, I must remember that bad days are ok and are entirely normal.

I know that I need structure within my life in order to maintain a positive and healthy mindset, but that isn't always possible. I am currently halfway through a summer break after finishing college and before starting University. I try to work as much as I can to maintain some sort of structure, but I can't work constantly and I'm no longer used to having so much spare time, which gives me more time to think. 

Staying busy is essential because despite having a mental relapse, I don't want to let things escalate to the point of relapsing into old habits that I had. I worked so hard to stop those habits and I do not want to put myself through it again, I don't want to allow my mindset to escalate so quickly and badly that these become a part of my life again and I feel that recognising this is an essential part of preventing it from happening again. 

I know that once I have overcome the initial anxiety of starting University and have settled in, that I will start to feel better but it is filling the gap in-between which I am finding difficult. I know that I can get through this, I have done it numerous times before but it has been a while since I have sunk this deep into sadness that I am struggling to accept that this is my life again and that I am having to take difficult steps to ensure that I will be ok again. 

It does feel as though I have taken one step forward and two steps back, but that is life and not everything is a breeze, there are obstacles that need to be tackled and worries that must be overcome. I will get there eventually, I am sure I will, it'll just be a bit rocky for now. I know that I have overcome worse in the past, so I am sure that I am strong enough to do it again, I just don't want to, it's completely draining, but what other choice do I have?

Thank-you for reading, Tay x

Monday, 12 August 2019

Everything I look forward to learning as a Student Mental Health Nurse

I have just over a month to go until I start my degree in Mental Health Nursing and I am feeling all of the emotions. Part of me is looking forward to starting a new chapter in my life and I can't wait to start my career but the other part of me is nervous and I can't help but question if I am making the right choice, if this is definitely what I want to do and if I will even be able to do it. Having said that, there is so much that I can't wait to start learning about and I feel that after many years within mental health services, I may have a slight head start. 

It's no secret that Mental Health Conditions are on the rise and although I don't expect university to be easy, I think that Mental Health Nurses are in desperate need and therefore, I don't think I could have picked a more rewarding career, suitable for me. Despite going through rounds of treatment and therapies myself, I don't know the science behind them or the structure of them and I am excited to learn about the different types of therapies, why and how they work and what conditions each therapy is most suited to.

Secondly, I look forward to having the opportunity of working in different settings because although Mental Health Nursing is predominantly focussed on Mental Health Conditions, there are so many different aspects and settings that I could be placed in, whether they be an adolescent community service, an inpatient unit for dementia or a forensic unit. I won't know what setting I want to work in until I have had a feel of them whilst doing placement at them and although at the minute, I feel that I would want to work with either children or within forensics, my choices could completely change.

I also look forward to working on placement which I have already slightly touched on, I am looking forward to learning hands on, to being able to help vulnerable individuals and to having no two days the same. I think that placement will be hard, there will certainly be challenging aspects to it but I think that I am as ready as I will ever be.

Next, I am looking forward to widening my knowledge on Mental Health Conditions, side effects and treatments. I feel that I personally already have quite a good understanding and knowledge of this, but I am looking forward to learning in depth about each condition. I am probably looking forward to the classroom aspect of the degree just as much as I am placement as I know that I am interested in the subject, and I think that there will be very few times where I find myself getting bored.

On the other hand, I am equally looking forward to learning about other aspects of Mental Health that I have very little knowledge on such as drugs, alcohol and forensics. I think that these subjects will be very interesting and will really open my eyes. I think that I will find these topics just as, if not more interesting than the things I already know.

Finally, I look forward to being able to give service users advice and support which may help them to hold on to a bit of hope, no matter what they have gone through. I know that for me, some of the members of staff that I have met throughout the years within services have been the most helpful to my recovery.

Thank-you for reading, Tay x

Thursday, 4 July 2019

I have a Level 3 Qualification.. | Access to Higher Education Diploma Update

I am not sure where the past twelve months have gone, but they have certainly flown by and I am officially the proud owner of a Level 3 Education Qualification.. well, I will be once I get my certificate. My year back at college is completed, I actually finished on the 12th June, so I have spent the past three weeks working and desperately waiting to get my results back and now that I have them back, I thought that I would do a summary of my year. 

I decided in the beginning of 2018 that I would like to go to University to study either Mental Health Nursing or Psychology but I didn't have the qualifications to do so and I just didn't think it would ever happen as I had a quite negative experience with education and I couldn't even imagine going back to do my A Levels. It wasn't until somebody that I knew was doing an Access Diploma that I realised that I didn't need to do a lengthy two year course to get a place at University and after looking into the courses available near me, I decided on one; Access to Healthcare Practitioners which I applied for, got a place and have now managed to complete.

An Access course is completely different to any form of education that I have experienced before, it is intense, it is time consuming and it is stressful however, it is only for nine months and everyone on the course is above the age of 19. My specific course was mostly focussed on Science as most healthcare practitioners rely heavily on science to be able to do their jobs. I hate Science, I find Science so boring, it really has never been my subject but I told myself that this was my last chance to get a Level 3 qualification and I was determined to complete it. With Access courses, it is less about preparing you for your exams and more about preparing you for University. On the access course, if you miss a lesson, your tutors aren't going to hunt you down, if you'd rather study outside of the classroom then that is ok and it is quite a relaxed way of learning. My course was only for three days per week, two of which were fairly long days but it worked for me. 

Another thing that I struggled to adapt to was the grades as this is a diploma, so everything is marked as Pass, Merit or Distinction and to make it even more confusing was that there are 60 credits to the course; fifteen were unmarked so you couldn't get higher than a Pass and 45 were graded. Instead of all of the exams being at the end of the year, each unit was divided into eight weeks and we would have around three units that we were learning at the same time. I surprised myself when I got Distinctions in my first two exams but this also meant that in my head, I had to get distinctions and I did actually manage to get a Merit in one exam which felt like the end of the world but I only needed Merits to get into University so in reality, it was fine. Overall, I managed to get my 15 Ungraded Credits at a Pass and out of my Graded credits I got 42 at a Distinction and 3 at a Merit which looking back on, I am pleased but I still am a bit annoyed that I messed up one of my exams. For my Conditional Offer for University of East Anglia, I needed to get 36 credits at a Merit and 9 credits at a Pass plus my 15 ungraded credits so I have gotten what I need and I am now just waiting for the confirmation to come through which will probably be in August.

As far as attendance goes, we all know that I am not exactly great at keeping my attendance up and it did slip in the last full half term of the year and I did only attend for 53% of this half term. This did cause my overall attendance to drop dow0n to 80% however, I did get the grades that I needed so I don't think my attendance was a massive issue and compared to at Sixth Form, 80% for a year is a miracle.

I did find the Access course fun, I liked how it was only for three days of the week but there was still a huge workload and we were meant to at least be matching the same hours outside of college that we did within college. It was tough, but it was doable and there was options to ask for an extension if it was required, I am pretty shocked that I didn't need an extension for anything as some of my submissions were very last minute.

I think what helped me the most throughout the year was that nobody; staff or students knew my background and I therefore felt that I was quite free to get on with my work myself, I wasn't constantly being asked if I was ok and it made it a lot easier to just get on with it, I knew there was support if I needed it but I managed ok and I think that just having a structure really benefitted me. 

Other than receiving my certificate and formally being accepted into University, I have fully completed the Access course and in just over two months I will be starting a course in Mental Health Nursing at the UEA.. scary! Who'd have thought that I would be going to Uni? Certainly not me but I can't wait to start training and to eventually be able to help others who have been in similar situations than me.


Thank-you for reading, Tay x

Sunday, 9 June 2019

Norfolk & Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT)... Thank You

I got myself into a little bit of a panic today because I saw something online about suicide and I realised that it was the first time all day I had thought about dying; something that just a year ago would consume my mind throughout the majority of the day, all day, every day. I thought again and although the thought does appear in my mind every so often, it isn't anything compared to what it used to be and the urges to act on the thoughts are almost rare. I took some time to think of everything that has happened over the past year, over all of the stresses and dramas that I would never have dreamed of being able to deal with, big things that I didn't even know I was capable of thinking about, let alone living through them with absolutely no harming myself in any way whatsoever and I just panicked. 

I'm not entirely sure why I panicked but I think its because I got the realisation that my life is no longer based on my mental health whereas for the past five, six, however many years, everything that I have done has been surrounding my mental health, absolutely everything. My mental health played a role in everything I did. I'd worry about going to work, I wouldn't be able to cope with education, I couldn't go out and do things I wanted to because I felt anxious. My family were anxious to leave me alone, they were constantly worried about me, they'd sort through my medication, they'd always be by my side in A&E, waiting to be sewn back together, wondering where it all went wrong and what they could do to help. Suddenly, that isn't my life anymore, I'm ok, I'm stable, I'm not harming myself, I'm not crying, I'm not a risk and I'm managing. It's as though I went from rock bottom to stable with no climb in the middle, from one extreme straight to the other and now I'm ok, what is ok? All that I have ever known is how to be poorly me and how to cope the best that I can but now what do I do? I don't know what type of person I am 'well', I don't know who that person is and I certainly don't know how to be her. 

It's been a year since I was discharged from Mental Health Services and I am doing ok. I haven't had a single visit to the hospital or even the doctors. I've distracted myself all the way through the past year, taking it one day at a time, step by step. I just don't know how I got here. It could be that I was on the wrong medication and that they were changing my hormones or it could be that I decided that I wanted a change, and I went and got my education, or even a mix of both. It could be that I just got sick of being unwell and just did absolutely everything in my power to prevent a relapse and to move forward with my life. It could be the structure that came with college or even the good grades building my confidence within education back up. It could have been anything. 

But despite all of the good, I still sometimes miss the bad, which does come with a slight panic. I miss knowing who I was as a person and not having an identify crisis every week, I miss being able to recognise my emotions instead of pushing them aside, I miss being able to vent my heart out and have a good cry but I wouldn't go back, I couldn't do it to myself because I wouldn't be sure that I'd survive.

It's just the strangest feeling when you have that moment of realisation that despite their still being bad, your life is ok, you're somewhat content and you have a future to start living. It's ironic really, it is always the future that terrifies us the most but it is also the future that can help us, time does heal pain after all. 

I honestly think that my life and my mindset has changed so much because of being discharged from mental health services. I was so angry and so upset because I didn't know how to cope without support, and I certainly wasn't ready to be discharged but I was so angry that I wanted to prove them wrong, I wanted to prove that I didn't need them and that I could cope better without them and that is exactly what I have done. I may have not chosen the best ways of dealing with my emotions over the past year, but I certainly haven't given into urges or had to get back in contact with services. Determination is an odd thing, it has drawn me into the darkest of situations yet it has pulled me out of the toughest and although I did this by myself, I also have the Norfolk & Suffolk Foundation Trust to thank, for forcing me out of their shambled services and for allowing me to have space and time to focus on me and more importantly, to prove them all wrong so again, thank-you NSFT, thank-you for your service that is so poorly wrong, that people are better without you.

So, the reality is, I don't really understand myself what has changed over the past year, but I am ok, I really am this time and the only components that I believe to have some sort of impact on this was deciding to do something with my life, getting a structure and routine back and my absolutely angels of a family and friends, without you, I wouldn't have made it, and that's the truth. 

I don't know what the next chapter will hold, and it's no guarantee that I will still feel ok in a week, let alone for the rest of my life but for now, I am ok and that is the most important thing, I would even go as far to say that I am 'well', which I sometimes feel like I shouldn't say because as horrendous as it was, being unwell was me and I don't want people to get the impression that I am cured because that is certainly not the case, I'm not sure if you ever do fully recover from mental health conditions that have crippled you for years, but you can certainly make drastic improvements, and you can live a normal life, you just need to believe in yourself and be determined to make a difference to your own wellbeing. I also feel guilty for stating that I am doing ok, because sometimes, there can be nothing worse than seeing other people managing whilst you're struggling but if I can be ok, then so can you, we all can. Who knows what the next chapter will be, but whatever it is, good or bad, I am sure that I'll find a way to cope and I will keep you updated along the way.


Thank-you for reading, Tay x

Wednesday, 15 May 2019

ITV The Priory: Teenage Mental Health Uncovered | Review

Disclaimer: Both this post and the programme contains talk of self harm and suicide. Please don't read or watch if you think you'll be affected by this. This is a very long post, I do apologise but it's Mental Health Awareness Week so I thought I'd try something a bit different this year.

On the 18th April 2019, The Priory: Teenage Mental Health Uncovered Documentary aired on ITV. This is an hour long documentary of what life is like within the Priory Ticehurst Child and Adolescent High Dependancy Psychiatric Unit after 14-year old Amy El-Keria died whilst an inpatient there, five years prior. The Priory group have recently been fined three hundred thousand pounds for its failings over Amy's death.




According to ITV, 'exposure goes undercover to reveal evidence of serious failures of care for teenage patients at a high dependency mental health unit.'

Initially, I was slightly skeptical about watching this documentary because I felt that the aim of this programme was to only show the negatives of the running of the ward and not the positives, but upon starting to watch, I was speechless at how horrendous the care given to the patients really was, and I have a lot to say about it.

It is no secret that Britain is in the middle of a teenage mental health crisis with 1 in 8 children in the UK experiencing a mental health condition, the Mental Health Services are underfunded and available inpatient beds are getting lower and lower but this is no excuse for a privately funded inpatient unit to promote unsafe and undignified care to their patients, knowing risk factors around the ward that could easily be used for a patient to harm themselves without doing anything to improve them, and continuing to work whilst being extremely unstaffed, putting the patients at even bigger risk. I am surprised that there hasn't been more deaths on this ward and I am even more shocked that the unit was allowed to continue running, despite what was seen on this programme. 

Gráinne Morrison was an undercover reporter who applied for a job as a Healthcare Assistant at the Priory Ticehurst House for three months where she secretly filmed the daily life on the ward. She was able to secure the job on the High Dependency Unit (HDU) with no previous experience or relevant qualifications however, she was told upon initially arriving at the ward that she will need specialised Breakaway and Restraint training before she is able to be placed on the unit, being told that some of her training will be completed within a fortnight. All she was initially taught was basic CPR and First Aid and there is even a clip on the programme of one worker stating that they "had no training" and how the patients "don't get near enough therapy," just medication and restraints. 

Five years prior, Amy El-Keria managed to kill herself whilst on the HDU. Amy's mother, Tania appeared on the programme, expressing her concerns of the running of the unit, and explaining the care that Amy received on the unit. Amy's mental health was complex, she suffered with a variety of disorders including ADHD, Tourettes Syndrome, OCD and Conduct Disorder, making it difficult for her to sit still. When Amy reached her teenage years, her Mental Health got drastically worse, she attempted suicide at home and her mum went straight to the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service (CAMHS) to try and get support for her daughter but on the second suicide attempt, she decided that things weren't right and that Amy needed specialised treatment. Amy was given a place at the Priory's Ticehurst House and her mum felt a sense of relief, explaining how "she was in the right place now, she'll get the help that she needs and we'll get the right diagnosis."

Mark Beresford is a Mental Health Nurse who worked at Ticehurst House from 2004 to 2012, he explained how Amy had very complex needs and was a challenging person to work with. Before he left the Priory, Mark contacted management, expressing his concerns over the lack of staffing levels and the way the unit was running but never received any sort of response.

Amy's care was inadequate to meet her needs. When Amy's first restraint occurred, her mum wasn't even informed of the incident. Tania later found out from Amy that the incident started when she was given fifteen minutes on the phone and instead of the staff counting down her time or telling her to say goodbye, thee phone was just slammed down, with no prior warning. Amy told her mum how the staff pulled her t-shirt over her head to cover her mouth, exposing all of her top before sedating her and having to drag her along because she was strong. Amy's mum usually wasn't informed of incidents that took place, and it was very difficult to have communication with senior members of staff. Amy's mum received a phone call one day from the unit where she was told how "Amy was found with a ligature, they managed to regain a pulse." Her mum wasn't informed of the severity of Amy's incident and was just told to make the two hour journey to the hospital. Whilst driving to the hospital, Tania received another phone call from a doctor at the hospital who said that she needed to get to the hospital as quickly as possible. Amy died from strangulation and despite being categorised as 'high risk' over ten times since being on the ward, she was left alone in her room with items that she could harm herself with and ligature points.

Tony Murphy is the lawyer to the El-Keria family and he explained how the "failures were so basic", they could have removed the ligature items out of the room or even just spoken to her. In 2016, an inquest into Amy's death said how neglect contributed to her death and they found more than twenty issues including; Inadequate staffing and insufficient knowledge of care plans, Ligature risks not correctly identified and delays in contacting emergency services. The coroner warned that action should be taken to prevent further deaths. There had been hope that since this, there had been significant changes within the ward however, that simply did not seem the case within this documentary. 

Tony Murphy said how they had been told that ligature points had been removed and that there is now a better system in place for searching for items that may be used to self harm with and he had also been offered assurances that the quality of care had improved, which is yet to be seen and despite this, patients were still able to find ways to ligature.

Early on in her job, Gráinne was asked for help by a patient but had no training and was told nothing about the patients medical history. Four weeks into the job, she still hadn't received her restraint training even though she was initially told that she wouldn't be able to work on the ward without it. Gráinne expresses her own concerns, asking why it wasn't a priority and why she was suddenly allowed to work on the ward without it. She also discovered that on most of her shifts, patients were able to self harm even though the Priory group states that "treating this is one of their key areas of expertise." 

In a different clip, there was an extremely serious incident that occurred, and the senior staff members acted awfully. A patient called Amber was able to swallow a battery from a tv remote control. Amber receives 1:1 care, 24 hours a day and she still managed to not only get hold of the battery, but to swallow it. Amber wasn't taken to A&E for three days and Gráinne found evidence that a senior doctor at the local A&E department had concerns about staffing levels due to them not taking Amber to hospital immediately. The letter stated that "this should have been brought to the attention of the surgeons straight away and not delayed presentation". Within a later staff meeting, the ward manager spoke to staff about what to do when a patient swallows a battery. The ward manager also stated that "Batteries contain acid. If what is in the battery leaks into the body, they will die. Our policy for batteries is they go to A&E and they go straight away" and when asked what to say when the A&E staff question why the patient wasn't brought in immediately, she said to tell them that "the nurses and doctors on duty that day fucked up, sorry about that." Once thing that I can't get my head around is how was she left three whole days when usually the staff on shift change over every twelve hours, so there was around six different shifts before she was taken to A&E, yet nobody on shift questioned why she wasn't in hospital.

Clinical Psychiatrist, Andrew McDonald specialises in working with young people with challenging behaviour. When commenting on the battery incident, he explains how a form of negligence was involved and that no consequences were made. The incident happened again within two months, as well as with patients swallowing staples, screws and even a knitting needle.

Another patient called Ash who had been on the unit for over a month told Gráinne that she'd taken some tablets that another patient had smuggled into the unit. She explains that "I took so many pills and they still didn't kill me" to which Gráinne finds out that she took twenty sleeping tablets. Gráinne goes to the office to speak to the other staff about what had been done about the incident where she learns that Ash wasn't taken to A&E because the staff members had been told that "with the amount she had, she would be able to sleep it off. And then feel like she had a hangover." I am sorry - what? Those words came out of the mouth of a Mental Healthcare worker, if she has taken sleeping tablets, she needs to get medical attention, even if they do just tell her to sleep it off. It took over a day for Ash to be taken to A&E which just sounds ridiculous as the longer it is left, the more time there is for the tablets to dissolve into her system. Ash says how she was unconscious, they took her observations, couldn't wake her up and still did not take her to A&E.

When young people are admitted to the unit, they are often far away from their parents and home so parents have to put their trust into the staff to inform them of what it happening but in this instance, Ash's mum wasn't told until the night after that she'd taken a few tablets. She had no idea that her daughter had taken twenty tablets but she is a Mental Health Nurse herself and did question why she wasn't taken to hospital. She even explained how if they couldn't have taken her to A&E, they should have called a doctor in.

However, poor communication between staff and parents seems to have remained the same since Amy's case and her mum says how "You never found out about anything, not even the restraints" and it was only after looking through Amy's notes that were written by staff that she was able to piece together the failings in her care. The last page of Amy's notes shows how she was struggling and not getting the support. She had even threatened to hang herself earlier in the day that she died. Her mum was never informed, she never had any say and she feels that Amy may have thought that hr mum wasn't there for her when she just didn't know.

Since Amy's death, Tania has been trying to find out the truth about what happened to her daughter in the days and hours leading up to her death, "all they wanted to do was brush it under the carpet and put it down to a suicide" but her mum wasn't going to allow them to do that. It took five years for an apology and arranged settlement which makes the family concerned that the hospital isn't making changes.

After six weeks working at Ticehurst House, Gráinne still hadn't received her training, which is horrified considering that she has already had to deal with multiple incidences where she doesn't know how to react. We next meet a patient called Megan who often makes ligatures out of torn clothes. The priory says how everyone has a unique treatment plan tailored to their needs. In Megan's case, the decision was made by staff to not allow her clothing. Instead, she was left with nothing more than a safety blanket. After some time without clothing, staff decided that it was inappropriate for Megan to be in the dining room and with other patients naked so they decided that she could only be in her room where she just had to sit there. Consultant Clinical Psychologist Julia Faulconbridge explained how "it is utterly inappropriate for a teenage girl to have to spend a length of time without clothes" and later added that "she's not going to forget that." 

When Megan's parents realised what the hospital were doing to her, they decided to do what the hospital couldn't, or wouldn't do and they made her some clothes out of rip-stop material that they got from their local fabric store. According to Megan's parents, "there was no discussion of the safe suits, not about buying one in, not about we'll see what we can do" which is appalling. Surely, a HDU should have rip proof clothing stocked and how did they manage to get away with being so degrading towards one of their patients?

Megan's mum said how "at the beginning, you trust the hospital and the staff to do the right things but as time went on, more and more things became obvious that we felt weren't appropriate and communication was very difficult to have." Megan spent five months as an inpatient at the priory and is now treated at home, she explains that "when people think of psychiatric units, they don't think of how scary it can be for the patients, they think of how the staff were unsafe or how the patients are violent. Physically being naked gave me sores, made me itchy, made me red. It was very uncomfortable and emotionally, it made me very self conscious. It made me extremely unhappy and I felt so undignified."

After Megan had left Ticehurst House, Gráinne heard a senior member of staff discussing her case. In the documentary, you can hear the staff member say "Megan put in a safeguarding complaint against her saying that we didn't offer her any clothes. She was a month nursed naked in her bedroom. We didn't offer her a tear proof suit, even though we have them in stock. But they were told that they'd have to pay £70 if they were to have them. So God knows who told her that, because we haven't got any in stock. And apparently, the parents complained about us as well". Gráinne later hears the same member of staff and the ward manager having a conversation about Megan's parents which goes as follows:
"Mum and Dad are making a complaint"
"Ah mate, they all make complaints about different things"
"Because basically there's no place like home, they can't contain them but they think they can. All the parents are likely to be fucked up themselves."

I couldn't believe this conversation when I first heard it, so I watched it again and I do not understand how these people, who are a senior staff member and a ward manager, still have their jobs when they clearly have a very little understanding of mental health and little respect towards the patients. How about admitting that they messed up? That they left a vulnerable girl feeling undignified? 

On the Priory's website, it mentions how "they enable young people to get back on track and resume a for filling childhood" but this doesn't seem an accurate description of the care being provided. 

One clip shows a patient called Jessie asking for some PRN which is a medication used when an individual is in distress to help calm them down. The conversation goes as follows:
Jessie: "Can I have some PRN?"
Senior Nurse: "What for?"
Jessie: "Because I'm agitated"
Senior Nurse: "If I give you any PRN, you know you can't have it at night time... Do you know that?... I'll give it to you but you can't have it.."
Jessie: "Fuck"
Without the medication, Jessie begins to self harm by banging her head against the wall. She has a range of Mental Health Conditions as well as Autism. Gráinne has not been briefed about these conditions and therefore struggles to communicate effectively with Jessie and calm her down. She tries to protect Jessie's head by placing her hand against the wall, even resulting in getting blood on her hand. Jessie begins to bang her head harder. Gráinne decides to call fast response and radios for help to be told that nobody can respond.. for the second time within this documentary. 

It is another two minutes of head banging until a nurse arrives. This nurse tells Gráinne to stay right where she is and tries to talk to Jessie who repeatedly tells him to go away. He then stands there watching her, telling her how there are staff there for her to talk to. Jessie continues to head bang to the point where she falls to the ground to which the nurse responds with "she's breathing, she'll be fine". By the time that Jessie has been banging her head hard for thirteen minutes, Gráinne expresses her concerns to the nurse by asking "is that not dangerous or?", the nurse responds by saying that "she's using sideways of her head to bang. We've assessed it, there's no problem with that, yeah?" He didn't seem worried in the slightest and added, "head banging will not do anything to her."

This was later confirmed by Psychiatrist Andrew McDonald that this is not safe in the slightest and he wonders how it would be assessed as safe on the side of the head when if you bang slightly lower, there is a risk of blindness and we have senses of memory on both sides of the head as well as lots of other things that can cause brain injury. "We don't know about the long term effects of these things at all"

Understandably, this comment from the nurse agitates Jessie even more and she starts to bang the front of her head saying "now I'm using the front of my head hopefully that will be dangerous enough." Until seeing this clip, Jessie's parents were unaware of the extend of their daughters self harm at Ticehurst. Jessie's parents had previously told Ticehurst the risks of head banging as Jessie previously had to have a brain scan after head banging on a separate occasion at a different hospital. Jessie's mum said how "the doctors giving us the feedback of the scans said that they needed to make sure that this is not allowed to happen again under any circumstances." Her parents had to constantly remind staff when they saw evidence of head banging about the brain scan. It is very clear from the footage of Jessie that the nurses responsible either didn't know or had chosen to ignore the warning.

The nurse again says "We've assessed it, she's alright" to which Jessie replied "stop fucking saying I'm alright" and then the nurse leaves and Gráinne is left to cope as well as she can, without specific training, knowing her care plan or knowing what she'd specifically respond to. Eventually, after 40 minutes of head banging, Jessie is finally given some PRN but Gráinne doesn't witness her receiving any other medical treatment. Jessie is also no longer being treated at Ticehurst. 

After working for six week full-time, Gráinne finally receives her restraint training, during this training she is told of the importance of restraint techniques. One of the ladies giving the training explains how "hopefully you're able to de-escalate the situation before it goes into restraint because restraint is the last resort. You shouldn't be doing it, you should be trying to de-escalate." This is a complete contrast to what we've seen throughout the programme so far, and if they had given Gráinne her training sooner, she may have been able to remind other staff members that it is a last resort. 

Following this, another example of restraints not being used as they should is that Gráinne see's Ash banging her head on the wall, nobody had been out sitting with her and despite Gráinne asking for assistance, it was twenty minutes until two senior nurses arrive on the scene. They immediately tell her how they're going to move to the soft room and start to prepare for a restraint by calling for a five man response. Ash said herself how she didn't need to go to the soft room but three more male workers turn up and the situation quickly escalates with Ash getting very agitated. She screams how she doesn't want people touching her and their response was "well walk then", she also complained that her hand was being twisted and hurt to which the staff members again said "well walk then." They take Ash into a padded room where the restraint continues despite her telling them how much she hates small rooms.

Like many of the patients at Ticehurst, Ash is supposed to receive specialist treatment. When watching this clip, Andrew McDonald stated how this was a blatant over reaction and mentioned how there was nothing that suggested escalating this situation to the next level and that this will cause individuals to get frightened and scared. In this case, the restraint was not being used as a last resort, the staff members had barely even attempted to talk to her. Ash's mum said how she felt that how they behaved with her daughter was cruel and said that "if you're having to brutalise your patients by manhandling them, then you've failed." She added that it doesn't matter if it's done appropriately as an improved hold but you shouldn't have to go to a point where you need a five man response for a child head banging in distress and placing them into a small room that they don't like.

In a different clip, Gráinne is given a talk about the companies finances as part of her induction. We learn that across the country as a whole, the Priory group receives around 720 million pounds per year from both the NHS and local authorities. A senior manager brings up the subject of profit and states how they should have made £253,000 last month yet they only made £54,000 profit. He goes onto explain how "it's a real challenge. Thats not kind of your concern in that respect but it just shows the amount of effort it takes to make any profit." He later explains how their "average daily revenue per patient is about £500 per day, so we're not going to have a lot of profit out of that. Most of it is going onto making the site safe and staffing." I understand having to have conversations with members of staff about funding issues, budgets and where the money is going but to discuss with them that they're not making enough profit, that they aren't making enough money off of their vulnerable patients is disgusting. This is so wrong, psychiatric hospitals should not be used as a way to make money, it just makes you wonder if the staff members on the ward even care about the patients because it is clear that the individuals higher up don't.

Amy's mum said how she felt that all it was to the company was a bank and explained how "our vulnerable children, young adults are making money. It's all it is about, and my daughter was just the little coin in their cash pot."

Throughout her three months working at Ticehurst House, Gráinne found many occasions where it wasn't safe and there was a shortage of staff. On a shift towards the end of her time on the unit, this would be shown more seriously. Gráinne was asking to work with a high risk patient who needs close supervision. The patient seems to be asleep in the lounge but Gráinne hears Ash who is self harming by banging her head hard against a wall in the corridor outside. The ward seems short staffed and Ash is alone so Gráinne tries to help. There wasn't enough radios to go around all of the staff so Gráinne has to borrow one from a colleague. Gráinne checks on her patient who is still asleep in the lounge and calls for assistance to support Ash but there is no response. A minute later, she calls again but still, nobody answers. Her colleague goes to get help and Gráinne returns to check on Ash and although Ash is banging her head, Gráinne is conscious that she has left her 1:1 patient alone and returns to the lounge just over a minute later and by now the patient has woken up and has locked herself in the room. Gráinne again calls for assistance but there is still nobody to help. When Gráinne gets into the room she finds that the patient has found a way to make a ligature with the TV cable. Nine minutes after Gráinne's first call for help, a senior nurse arrives and removes the ligature. 

Watching this angered me as firstly, it is a HDU so why is there not enough staff members on shift? Surely there should be enough members of staff to go around all of the patients considering that this is a unit that probably has a lot of incidences. Secondly, why is there a TV cable that a patient can access? I have already heard numerous times on this documentary that they have recognised ligature points since the death of Amy. Thirdly, what is Gráinne meant to do? She's still fairly new to the job and to put her in a situation where she has no choice but to leave her 1:1 is disgusting. Short staffing should not be acceptable, we already heard earlier in the programme a ward manager saying how "we've got to work out if there's safe numbers to go on" and clearly, there wasn't safe numbers. There have been multiple occasions throughout this programme where an individuals life was in danger, but the senior staff act like they don't care. This is a thirteen bed unit, so why isn't there enough staff members to cover thirteen individuals? What is even more disgusting is that Gráinne wasn't told if the patient was taken to hospital for treatment nor was she asked formally about the incident by the manager or anybody else at the hospital. In this instance, I feel that Gráinne did the correct thing despite being on 1:1 with a patient but to not even be formally asked what went wrong baffles me completely. 

Immediately after Amy's death, the Priory said they'd assessed all known ligature points in all their hospitals. Yet Gráinne saw or heard of five different ligature incidents whilst working on the ward, on a High Dependency Unit may I add.

As well as Amy, there has been four other deaths reported of Children and young people receiving care of other Priory hospitals since 2012 but campaigners say the full extend of similar tragedies in Mental Health units isn't known. Debrah Coles, an execute director of the inquest states how it is very hard to find out how many children die in inpatient settings. The figures are shadowed in secrecy and they are not made publicly in the same way as other settings such as children's deaths in police custody. She says how this is something that parliament needs to address at the highest level.

When Gráinne filmed at Ticehurst, the unit was rated as 'good' by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) but after the Priory was told of the findings in March 2018, CQC carried out an urgent inspection. It confirmed the HDU was working in breach of regulations surrounding care and treatment of patients. But after a later inspection in November, the CQC rating of 'good' was given back to the unit. Ligature points had been address but it wasn't clear if work on these points had been completed.

Recently at Lewis Crown Court, the Priory Group pleaded guilty to a criminal charge over the death of Amy. They were fined three hundred thousand pounds by the judge. The company offered sincere and profound apologies to Amy's family. They said "we also intent to undertake a strategic review of our inpatient units and our CAMHS, to assess how best to respond to the individual needs of patients who are presenting with increasingly challenging conditions and self harm risks."

In response to the programme, the priory said how "we take patient safety extremely seriously and strongly refute any allegation that we put profit before safety. We continue to work closely with our commissioners on improvements to our Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services. We accept that there are instances shown in the programme where the care provider in 2017 has fallen below the high standards we expect and that our training and induction policies have not been followed. We sincerely apologise for this. We fully investigated these incidents as soon as they were disclosed to us and discussed them openly and candidly with our commissioners and our regulator. We took pro-active steps to address the concerns raised, including improving our risk management processes and providing additional training. Unfortunately, it has also been necessary to refer certain individuals to the Nursing and Midwifery Council. This programme is not representative of the CAMHS services provided at Ticehurst House. With the exception of the report from June 2018, all CQC reports in the last six years have found services at Ticehurst to be 'good' overall. The CQC's most recent review in November 2018 found that the standard of care being provided was 'good' in all areas.

Thank-you for reading, Tay x

Sunday, 5 May 2019

1 Year Self Harm Free | Overcoming Self Harm

I can't believe that I am writing this post, the post that seemed impossible and the post that I thought would never come. I am one year clean from Self Harm, for the first time since 2012. Six whole years of blood, tears and a poorly brain with no hope that I'd ever be able to stop and here I am, around 365 days clean. I can't believe it.

Self Harm is an addiction, once you start it feels impossible to stop and I have therefore done too much damage to my body, my only body that is with me until the day I die. I can live with this body and I can live with my scars because I wouldn't be who I am today without my journey or without my past. 

Addiction is cruel, it is intense and it can become the most important aspect of your life, turning your lovely, innocent self into what often feels like a monster. This addiction has shaped me into the person I am today. It has been there through my highs and my lows and I depended on it more than anything, I knew it'd get me through each and every day but overcoming it is allowing me to be free. It hasn't been easy, there has been many times when I could have relapsed but something changed in my mind and I didn't want self harm to be part of me anymore, I didn't want the guilt, shame and endless trips to A&E anymore, I wanted to be free, I wanted to be able to live without it, I didn't want to continue using it as my coping mechanism whenever even the smallest of things went wrong, I didn't want to have to wear short sleeves in the summer because I had open wounds, I didn't want to have to look after stitches and staples and I didn't want anymore scars.

I lost so much to self harm but at the time it felt like the only option, the only thing that would make me feel better, even if it was only for five minutes until the reality kicks in of what I had done. I had multiple rounds of therapy, years of treatment for my mental health but throughout it all, the only thing that made anything better was being able to self harm. But I also knew deep down that I didn't want that life anymore, I just couldn't escape. I didn't feel in control of it and in reality, I wasn't, at all. I never wanted to have to go to A&E after each time I'd self harmed, that wasn't my intention but it was as if I blacked out and then all of a sudden I needed treatment. If someone would have told me when I first started self harming that in just a couple of years it'd escalate to needing treatment, something so severe that I didn't even know it was possible then I would have been too scared to continue using it as a coping mechanism. There are a lot of what ifs, what if I had stopped sooner? What if I didn't let it get worse? What if I wasn't covered in all of this scars? What if I did go and seek treatment for all of the ones that needed it instead of feeling like I deserved a huge scar? But we're not here for the what ifs, we're here for the now.

Quitting self harm was a challenge, I didn't wake up one day and decide that enough was enough and that I was never going to hurt myself again because I had tried that countless times before and it never worked, I took each day as it came and every time I got the urge to self harm I just thought about how much pain I was putting the people around me in, it wasn't just about me feeling better and causing pain to myself, I was also projecting the pain onto my family and friends because even if I didn't tell them I'd self harmed, they'd soon notice a new scar appear. It hasn't been easy but as the months went by, I wanted to reach six months clean like I had a few years prior, I remembered how proud everyone around me was and I wanted this time to be the last. Six months past and from there on, I didn't think about how many months clean I was, I just knew that I'd managed six months without it so I needed to keep going and then a few weeks ago it occurred to me that I am almost one year clean. The initially first few months are the hardest, but after that it soon becomes normal and now, I can't see myself ever going back to it. I don't understand how I managed to put myself through that much pain and damage and how it possibly ever made me feel better, but it did and that's how addiction works.

I have permanent scarring covering my body, especially my arms, I sometimes lose sensation in my fingers because of nerve damage, I have dents in my skin, parts of my body are distorted and my scars burn easily in the sun. Self Harm isn't something to brush off as it has lifelong consequences and can be so dangerous but I'm learning to live with my scars and to not be ashamed of them, when I am at home I don't even notice they're there. I know that they will never disappear, but they may continue to fade but as for now, they're a reminder that I don't want to go back to being stuck in the grips of self harm because you can learn to cope in other ways, it just takes some time, commitment and desire.


The UK has the highest rate of Self Harm within Europe with an estimated 400 in 100,000 people self harming however, these rates are likely to be much higher as many people keep it a secret.

Thank-you for reading, Tay x

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