Strong in the broken places
Strong in the Broken Places is a story of hope and recovery.
To fully understand my years in the mental health system and a lifetime of battling various mental health issues from depression to anxiety you have to understand what led to these issues in the first place. This is the first time I’ve felt fully able to write down in black and white my childhood experiences of severe abuse within my family and family members and how I became strong for the first time in my life.
The innocent child
I was born in May 1970. The oldest of two children. My sister is two years younger than me. My dad was a farm worker and my mother was a nurse in the local nursing home. I can’t say I have many memories from those early years. I do remember that I was a very shy child. The sexual and physical abuse started before the age of three years. It was this abuse that continued into adulthood that has been the root of all my mental health issues in later years.
The Teenage Years – been strong
At the age of eleven years old, I already experienced years of physical and sexual abuse at the hands of my immediate family and friends.
Began secondary school unable to read and write. Painfully shy and already aware that I was very different to my peers. I struggled to make friends and was constantly bullied both physically by having my head put down the toilet for example, to the name calling and insults. To this day I struggle to walk past a group of teenagers for fear of being bullied and harassed.
My home life was no respite to what was happening in school. Indeed the older I became, the worse the abuse became. At the age of five teen I gave birth to a baby girl. Born out of the abuse I was experiencing . Unfortunately, I lost her soon after she was born. To this. day, those two weeks after she was born and died are just too painful for me to talk about.
I took my first overdose soon after whilst at school. Was found , taken to hospital and saved. I was sent to see a child and adolescent Psychiatrist. He played various games with me, and wrote down what I did. I was asked what my two wishes were in life. I can’t remember what one of them was, but I do remember saying I would like a puppy, please.
We as a family were assigned a social worker who came to our home to discuss the issues we gave birth to – mainly me! No one asked directly if I was been abused. Looking back now on my social work files for that age, the social worker was aware something was desperately wrong, but in the 1980’s they just didn’t have the powers they have today to intervene. I so hope that isn’t the case these days. However, all too often you read and hear of children failed by the very system that is supposed to protect them.
The Young Adult
I left home at the age of sixteen to attend a special school, where I stayed until I was eighteen. Earned my first job as a domestic worker in a very big private school for boys. It was whilst there that I first became aware that I was depressed. I was working long hours at a job that was also where I lived. We only had one and a half days off in the week. One day unable to cope anymore I walked out and caught the bus to the nearest city, where in the middle of winter I found myself on the streets
I was on the streets for several weeks, sleeping where I could behind tombs in church graveyards. Was eventually placed in emergency accommodation – a bed and breakfast. It was whilst there that I took two overdoses in a space of a week. Subsequently, after the second overdose, I was admitted to a psychiatric ward and treated for depression.
The Broken Years – tired of being strong
What followed from my first admission to a psychiatric hospital and to the current time is a mixture of trying to cope with the abuse that my family were still inflicting on me and dealing with mental health issues that saw me unable to hold down a job of any kind, even part-time work.
For many years I struggled to even leave the house. I feared been around people on any level. Even to this day, I will only leave my home with a very few select people.
I’ve attempted suicide many times over the years, unable to cope with the constant deep depression that left me exhausted both physically and mentally. Struggled to sleep or eat. To shower or get dressed. Everything just required too much energy, the energy that I just didn’t have to spare.
I was in and out of psychiatric wards with no real support on discharge. It wasn’t until I was in my thirties that good mental health support became available.
The Right Support – feeling strong
After one particularly long stay in hospital, I was given a Community Psychiatrist Nurse. She would visit me twice a month. She enabled me to get on the right antidepressants that helped me. That was very much trial and error. I tried many before eventually finding one that made a difference in lifting the depression to a manageable level most of the time. I felt strong for the first time in my life.
I also had a brilliant mental health support worker from a support trust. She helped with the running of a home, like budgeting and cooking. Taking me to appointments with doctors. Also doing nice things. Like going out for a coffee or even a meal. Items that I’d missed out on due to the severity of the depression.
Yes, life was still hard, very hard at times. I still had admissions to the psychiatric ward, mostly detained under the Mental Health Act. However, in between admissions with the support of a good CPN and my support worker, I managed to build up a life. I was very proud of this given the abuse I’d experienced and witnessed.
My biggest achievement
My biggest achievement in life is reserved for my two dogs – Clover (Yorkie x chihuahua) and Daisy ( Cairn Terrier) Those dogs gave me a reason to get up in the morning, to go out of the house, to interact with other dog people. They needed me. I was all they had and they deserved the best from me. They offered me what I’d never really experienced before..unconditional love . To Clover and Daisy, I owe you both so much ❤️
Living with depression
For me, the worst part of the depression was and still is, how utterly isolated it makes you feel. Not just on a physical level like making you unable to interact with others. Again on an emotional level. It leaves me feeling that I can’t reach out to anyone and people definitely can’t reach me. How depression can strip away any enjoyment in even the little things. Things. I used to enjoy going for a bath, reading a book or watching movies, suddenly became meaningless and hard work. Depression can leave you feeling broken .
Living with suicidal ideation
At its very worst the depression has left me feeling suicidal for months at a time. As I said earlier I’ve attempted suicide many times over the years, Driven by pure desperation to escape from the intensity of my own feelings. Those are the times I should reach out to others. However, my fear of rejection and judgment prevents me from doing so. How do you explain the darkness that engulfs you? Or how nothing feels worthwhile anymore? I fear putting those suicidal feelings onto my friends, people who I love and want to protect.
A way forward & feeling strong
Now in my early fifties, I still struggle with depression on a daily basis. Several days are harder or easier than others. The depression is always there. I’ve learnt to take each day at a time, to not think too far ahead. On bad days I try to give myself permission to rest both physically and emotionally. I remind myself that I have a 100% track record for getting through the bad days.
It helps that I have a very good circle of friends around me. They love and accept me as Tina – not just Tina with a mental health issue. I’m able to support them too. That’s important to me, that I’m not just someone with mental health issues .
Due to varying Physical Health Issues, I found myself unable to live independently six years ago. I now need 24/7 nursing care. That has bought its on set of challenges, as I grieve for what I’ve lost and try to accept how things are now.
I’ve been through so much in my life, things that should never have happened. The consequences have been immense. However, it has also shaped the person I am today.
I hope by sharing my story behind the depression that others battling depression and abuse issues can see there is a way forward. That people can move forward from the terrible things done to them.
The power of sharing your story
Survivors of physical and sexual abuse are silenced by the people who are responsible for the abuse. We are told to not tell anyone. However, now you can tell your story and have your voice heard. If you would like to share your personal story in a safe and non-judgmental way use the Contact Form and we will get back to you as soon as possible.