For as long as I can remember, I have lived with mental illness, for now it’s been put down to anxiety and depression. There was a time when I dealt with all these feelings in an unhealthy way. I was so confused and angry with no outlet. At the young age of 14 I was abusing substances and self-harming, I was in so much pain mentally but was also putting my healthy body through so much at the same time.
It’s sad when I think back to that stage in my life, how I had to drink to pass out if I wanted to sleep. Or how I had to smoke anytime I needed to leave the house. 6 years it lasted, on and off. I had many good moments but also many bad moments. I lost my father to suicide among other severely traumatic events. I mean, I was this sweet little girl one day and the next the world just seemed to be against me, no one deserves that, I didn’t deserve it. I was in so much shock that I felt like nothing was real, I suppose I didn’t want it to be.
I am now 22 and my life is a world different. I’ve been self-harm free for so long I cannot remember the last time I did that. I’ve not smoked in almost three years and I barely drink now, so much so that I’m opting for water and tea over a bottle of booze – something I would never do back then. I got married, I moved out and got myself a dog, giving me the support and love that I had lost since my father’s death, all of these things had been dreams back then.
The best part of it all is that I am in recovery, yes there are ups and downs and I do have bad days. However, I am stronger, wiser and in better control of my mental health. A mixture of self-care, like writing and trampolining, support from the GP to find the right treatment and get me access to therapy. As well as strong support system from my husband and my online family, it allows me to talk about my feelings and find comfort on the bad day, this has given me strength that I once lost. I no longer am ashamed of who I am or who I was, I do not let my past or my illness define me, I am me and that’s ok.
Today, I write about mental health and I advocate. I even recently stood up in front of an audience and spoke about my experience of losing my dad to suicide and being suicidal myself – at an event I planned and hosted myself. I have a passion and a purpose which only builds me stronger defences against attacks from the black dog. Organizing this event and writing often, keeps me busy and motivated, which provides a discretion from the darker thoughts as well as a large mental reward.
I am really living the life I want and helping people while doing it, I have embraced my mental health and my story. So, you know what? I am proud of myself, despite all the suicide attempts, the substance abuse and self-harm, because I survived to live to tell another day – literally.
Charlotte Underwood is a 22 year old from Norfolk, UK. She is a mental health advocate and writer. A majority of her work is through her twitter (@CUnderwoodUK
) and her blog (https://charlotteunderwoodauthor.com
). Charlotte’s only goal is to show people that they are not alone.
Picture by Peter Fox