Hello. I am a mental health advocate and like many others, over the years I have experienced various life events that have impacted my mental health.
I wanted to share some of my story for my first blog entry as this will set the scene for my future blogs and why I am so passionate about mental health awareness, and supporting those who are struggling. I also believe in discussing and highlighting 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 deteriorated 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. At one stage my mum was sectioned after trying to end her life. I will never forget that day, and the months following, they have left huge scars which I still try to process. I have always held a big fear for anti depressants and other Western medication because I saw what it did to my mum when she was in hospital. I don’t believe her time being sectioned helped at all, she couldn’t communicate with anyone due to language barriers and so all that happened was that she was doped up to her eyeballs, she didn’t even recognise us when we were taken to visit her. 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.
My mum’s mental health over the last few years has very noticeably declined 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 my siblings and I over many years. I have gone through bouts of depression, I struggle with anxiety attacks and through my own life I have had some traumatic experiences which has impacted my mental health with big repercussions of 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. We share a bond of recognition, that we are all vulnerable, some more than others. 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’.
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.
We are mental health warriors.