Finding light in the darkness.
*Trigger warning* This post mentions suicide, overdosing, crisis team, alcohol, drug abuse, and other scenarios people may find triggering or offensive. Please proceed with caution.
Don’t be afraid of change, it is leading you to a new beginning. The pain you feel today will be the strength you feel tomorrow. Every day is a new beginning. Take a deep breath and start again.
Sitting in my living room, empty boxes of codeine surrounding me, this is it I thought, all the pain was going to end. Finally.
I texted my ex, I messaged my friends, all saying goodbye and how sorry I was for causing so much turmoil. I felt broken and defeated, I just wanted it all to stop. My head was racing, I just wanted all these thoughts to stop going round and round my head, was a little peace too much to ask for? Suddenly my Mum entered the room her face was pale. “What have you done?!” she cried, tears streaming down her face. All I could do was look at her and apologise, I had a momentary lapse where I hadn’t considered my next steps. One of my friends had messaged my Mum in a panic; my ex was on the phone, I could hear him crying but I just felt numb.
My Dad then raced into the room “Why would you do this, Victoria?” “Not my baby, please no” Those words will haunt me for the rest of my life. I can count on one hand how many times I’ve seen my Dad cry, but this was different. At that moment I thought “had I made a mistake?” but I still felt numb. Maybe it was the 60 codeine tablets I took or the adrenaline pumping through my body but all I felt was nothing. It had been like that for weeks now. This empty feeling inside me, like a black hole, sucking out every little piece of love and emotions I had. I didn’t realise it at the time but I was suffering from Borderline Personality Disorder, but I’ll get to that later.
Suddenly I was in the back of an ambulance, ECG hooked up to my body, and I’d spend hours in the hospital, being seen by different Doctors and Mental Health Nurses. My parents were pushing to having me committed. The hospital didn’t do anything; they sent me home and in less than 24 hours I’d be back in the hospital after a second failed attempt at taking my own life. 120 codeine tablets in total over 24 hours. Thank god I’m alive writing this now. I’m not a religious person but I must have someone looking down on me, keeping me safe.
You might be wondering how I got to this point, you see I’ve always known something wasn’t quite right, I could never put my finger on it but I never felt ‘normal’. Whatever normal is anyway. My head had always been a chaotic place for as long as I can remember, I always felt things so intensely, but that was normal right? I never knew any better. I would say goodbye to my ex after a lovely weekend together (he was in the RAF so I only got to see him on weekends) and I would have been crying hysterically like he was being deployed for 6 months but in reality, I’d be seeing him again in 5 days time. Minutes later in my car with music blaring I’d be singing and dancing along to the radio, like the previous few moments never happened. Something that would annoy the average person would make me fly into a fit of rage; my family described it as like walking on eggshells when they were around me. Too scared to say certain things out of fear of how I would react.
Anyway, I’m digressing here, but the point is I always knew something wasn’t right with me. So what happened to make me feel so low? I had a week from hell. I’d been fired from my job by e-mail, basically told not to come in the following Monday. I was heartbroken, I was a photographer for a Cigar and Whiskey company, and I’d studied Photography at University. I could do that job in my sleep but that e-mail hit me like a tone of bricks. Later that week I would find out that my Nan had stage 5 terminal kidney disease and a couple of days later my boyfriend of 3 and a half years would break my heart. It was traumatic, we’d spent 4 lovely days together and on the Sunday he woke up, looked at me, and ended it. Just like that. I still remember the stabbing sensation in my stomach when I instantly knew something was wrong. An hour later I was driving 4 hours back from Buckinghamshire, crying my eyes out, reality had not yet set in and I couldn’t believe this was really happening. I still remember hearing Lizzo on the radio “If he don't love you anymore, just walk yo’ fine ass out the door”. How ironic.
The day after my stint in the hospital I find myself sat in a room at the Crisis Centre on Northgate Street, waiting to be seen by a Psychiatrist and Mental Health Nurse to discuss what needs to be done. I’m angry, exhausted, confused and want anything but help. One of the Mental Health Nurses looks at me and says, “If you’re going to kill yourself, you’re going to do it anyway”. That was it, I went super Saiyan, how dare he say that to me! These people are supposed to be here to help me, I know I didn’t want help at that point but how could someone in authority whose profession it is to support and care for those in a crisis say something so repulsive? That would be one of many unsavoury experiences I’d have with the Mental Health Services.
After finally speaking to the manager (I promise I’m not a Karen), we all agreed that at-home treatment would be best for my situation and me. Over the next few weeks, I would be seen by the Crisis team every day. Every damn day I would have to explain in intricate detail what had happened and how we got to this point. You see with the Crisis team you don’t see the same person every day, they’re all on shifts, so each visit I would meet someone new and be expected to open up to a complete stranger about how I was feeling. When in a crisis a person needs consistency, the chance to build a rapport with someone and to feel like they’re being listened to. Not judged for being in the position I found myself in.
After many visits with a Psychiatrist and members of the Crisis team they came to a conclusion, I didn’t realise just how life-changing this revelation would be. I had Borderline Personality Disorder. Suddenly everything fell into place; intense and unstable emotions? Check. Feeling empty and angry? Check. Impulsivity? Check. In total there are 9 different symptoms for BPD (I’ll cover this in a future post), and I had all 9.
If you’re wondering what Borderline Personality Disorder is exactly then let me give you a brief outline, of course, this is one of the most misunderstood and often stigmatised mental health issues a person can have. In simple terms BPD is a condition that affects how you think, feel and interact with other people. People with BPD experience a pervasive pattern of instability, both in the way they view themselves and in interpersonal relationships.
BPD isn’t a fad, it isn’t quirky, it can be soul-destroying and it almost cost me my life. Experiencing a break-up, losing a job, and finding out a loved one is ill was just too much. Just one of those things can cause someone with BPD to lose control, they say things come in threes and for me it was true. To a ‘normal’ person a breakup is hard unless you’re lucky enough to part ways as friends, for me, it felt like someone had died. That might sound dramatic but it was true, I didn’t realise but my ex was my FP (favourite person). People with BPD often have an FP, someone they rely on and put on a pedestal, and this person can do no wrong. My problem is my FP broke my heart.
Now don’t get me wrong I know it takes two to tango, I wasn’t a saint but in my defense I didn’t realise I was ill. I was moody, never wanted to spend time with his family, argued over every little thing and I wanted him all to myself. I didn’t realise it at the time but I was obsessed.
I spent the next two weeks at a friend’s house, drinking and getting high. My head was a mess, thoughts racing; I just wanted a moment of calm. I thought I was making myself feel better, trying to forget all the chaos going on in my life but I was just making everything worse. I wasn’t facing these problems head-on, I was masking them and I didn’t realise it but things were about to erupt.
During this time I was a train wreck, I was drinking at every moment I could. Taking the dog out so I could nip to the shops and down a bottle or two of Lambrini in the park (how classy, right?). My problem was during this time drinking would make me disassociate; I’d become violent and angry. At one point I found myself in the back of a police van, but I’m not ready to talk about that yet.
I had reached rock bottom, my family stood by me, and God knows why- I gave them every opportunity to disown me and kick me out of the house but they never did and for that, I am eternally grateful. I knew something had to change, I HAD to change. I couldn’t keep going on living like this, surely there’s more to life than this?
I decided I would quit drinking and get my life back on track. I knew it wouldn’t be easy, but anything worth having in life isn’t. I decided to try and raise money for NSFT (Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust), at this point I had been discharged by the Crisis team and I was now in the hands of NSFT. This is when I met Allison, my Mental Health Nurse and things finally started to change for the better.
I started cycling 30 miles every day, I reached over 500 miles but due to health reasons I had stopped. It’s my aim to re-start my little goal and hopefully add to the £250 I’ve raised so far. I started engaging with NSFT; I had weekly meetings with my MH Nurse, Allison and went to Recovery College, learning ways to cope with my diagnosis and my recovery.
During this time I started feeling better, I was given a cocktail of medications such as antipsychotics and anti-depressants and slowly the real me was starting to come out.
2 years on I feel like a completely different person. I’ve rebuilt my relationship with my family; I’m one year sober and living in a beautiful new house. Treatment, medication, and personal growth have changed me. Just yesterday my sister was saying she could finally see the real me, the one that had always been there but just needed some nurturing (and treatment) to help shine through.
I’ve made many mistakes in life, I’m sure you’ll hear more about these in future posts but I decided I wanted to give back and use my experiences to help other people. You see I’ve always felt lost like I never knew who I was as a person or what I wanted to do in life but I’ve finally found my calling. Last November I enrolled in a course and now I’m studying to become a Mental Health Nurse myself.
During my recovery, I found that talking to someone who has lived experience of mental health issues utterly valuable. They understand you in a way no one else does, you have this shared connection. So I decided I wanted to take my lived experience, mistakes I’ve made, everything I’ve learned over the past two years, and try to help someone else that’s going through a Crisis.
I started volunteering at a Mental Health Charity called Together, working with the service users to offer them some support and it gave me a real taste of how it would be to work as a Mental Health Nurse and help someone who really needed it. Unfortunately, lockdown hit and I had to stop volunteering.
I’m still working on my online course and hopefully by the end of the year I’ll be a Peer Support Worker and from there I’ll be able to join a course to specialise in Mental Health Nursing. For the first time in my life, I have a plan.
What happened to that angry girl, who was moody all the time and argued over every little thing? I can say proudly that she no longer exists. Now I’m confident, happy, and feel motivated to get as much out of life as possible. I’ve even started dating again! I’ll occasionally feel my mood flip quite quickly but I’m better at managing it now. Like any other illness, you learn to live with it, this time though I’m not letting my diagnosis define me.
My relationship with my family has never been better, of course, it’s not easy to forgive and there are some things you can’t forget but my family has never held the things I’ve done against me. The past two years have been really tough but I’ve learned a lot about myself as a person and the type of person I want to be. It hasn’t been easy writing this blog post, I wanted to give an honest and raw account of what it’s like to experience the darkest point of your life and what it’s like to rebuild from the ground up.
If you’re experiencing a hard time just know my inbox is always open, you’re not in this alone and I promise you things will get better.
Until next time.
Victoria Jane x