In the beginning…
Hello. My name is Rosie, I am a mental health advocate and like many others, I am also a mental health warrior.
I wanted to share some of my story for my first blog entry as this will set the scene for some of my future blogs and why I am so passionate about mental health awareness, and supporting those who are struggling. I also believe in discussing the contributing factors that lead to mental health issues, and for me the most important part is knowing the professional services, options and self care practises available that will help us heal, learn and recover from our experiences. I also want to use my stories to educate others and to show people who are also struggling they are not alone, we should not have to live in shame and hide our experiences. Keeping quiet and isolating ourselves compounds our shame and feelings of inadequacy.
My story starts when I was 2 years old and my dad died of lung cancer. I have no memories of my dad, but I feel his spirit watching over me, along with my gran who was and is also in her spirit form very feisty – she may be small but she be fierce!
My mum’s mental health started to deteriorate rapidly after my dad’s death, as to be expected. She was left alone to bring up five children whilst running her own business. With hindsight I look at my mum during those years as being incredibly strong dealing with such adversities, but the impact of losing her husband has had huge negative repercussions on her mental health. Grief affects us in many ways and each of our journeys is very personal. There is no set timeline for ‘getting over it’ and no linear process for grief, despite what some people may think.
As a result of my dad passing away, it started a long journey of depression for my mum and difficult relationships with her children, we all suffered. At that time back in the 1970s there wasn’t the mental health support available as there is now, although now the NHS mental health service is in crisis due to funding cuts and people are being lost on long waiting lists trying to get access to therapy services. It’s a heartbreaking and frustrating situation. I have recently learnt that my mum’s own upbringing was full of trauma and oppression, she was also a child of toxic parenting which created the learned behaviour my mum has continued. For my siblings and I, we are determined to break this pattern. It has been a hard journey for each of us.
When I was 7 years old, my mum tried to kill herself.
My brother and I came home from school, our mum managed to open the door to let us in the house before she collapsed. Absolute fear and panic ensued and after being treated in hospital my mum was immediately sectioned to a mental health institute which I believe made her worse as they did not have any Chinese speaking therapists to communicate with her. All that happened to my mum was that she was regularly doped up to her eyeballs so she would be quiet (my mum, like her mum can also be loud and fierce). I still have visions of seeing mum shuffling around the hospital like a zombie, she didn’t even recognise us when we went to visit her. We were horrified and it was a really traumatic period in our lives which still has repercussions now. I was also aware at that age I was a beacon for the other patients, they would come up to me and speak to me, touch me and try to hug me and even at such a young age I was aware that I could feel their pain and torment. That was the start of my gift and at times, the curse of empathy.
I also felt protective towards these patients even though I didn’t know any of them. I wanted to help them in some way. Some of the patients would be dragged off and subdued by the hospital staff when they became loud and their shouts and screams frightened me. I think that started off my fascination with the human mind, why do we think and behave the way we do? What causes mental illnesses?
My mum’s mental health has rapidly declined over many years, and now we are waiting for her to be tested for dementia, along with other mental health issues. As a result of my mum’s situation, it has also impacted me over many years. I have gone through bouts of depression, I struggle with anxiety at times and through my own life I have had some traumatic experiences which I may share in later blogs… if I feel brave enough to reopen the locks I have placed on those memories.
Why am I sharing my story? I want my story to be told because I want to help break the stigma of mental health. I also hope that by sharing my experiences it will help to empower others to share theirs, and realise they are not alone. Over the years I have had made many amazing connections with people from all over the world because of our life experiences. I also want to highlight some of the cultural ideologies which stops some people from opening up, for me and my Chinese heritage we are brought up to be strong, and not talk about our fears and vulnerabilities because this would make us ‘lose face’.
This is me, this is my face. I am at times raw and vulnerable, but I know I am also strong and I have overcome many adversities, like you have. We don’t have to be ashamed, we should be proud we have overcome many challenges.
I am a mental health survivor.