"I did not think a severe mental health illness would strike or happen to me"

WSHPP client

What stood out for me about Southdown is that I was given time to learn more about myself and understand what would make me happy in my life. They were very patient with me as I researched my personal interests and hobbies, and also tried different volunteer options.

I did not think a severe mental health illness would strike or happen to me.

At the age of 26 my life suddenly spiralled negatively out of my control. I had a mental health illness called psychosis, where I lost touch with reality and started hearing voices. My thinking was confused and jumbled. I lost control of my own mind.

Emotionally I felt like my life was a failure and I had not achieved my overly ambitious goals in life. Social anxiety is a self-fulfilling cycle you can’t get out of unless you get help. My main thoughts and worries were about people negatively judging me on my facial expressions. That made me depressed and unable to cope with holding down a full-time job. I couldn’t concentrate. I couldn’t shut off the external distractions. It was so exhausting.

I was self-medicating with mp3s of hypnosis programmes, my daily routine wasn’t good. It felt like I was sleeping all the time. That’s when I was entering my psychosis. It was very weird.

I laid on my mum’s bed and fell asleep. Then I woke up. I was seeing blue in my vision. My feet started moving up and down and I heard a voice of someone I trusted, someone I respected. The movement of the toes was in time to the voice. Initially it was friendly and I was really happy, I was on a high. I was outside moving around the block hearing this voice whilst my toes were moving up and down. Then I got home and the voice turned on me. It was like having a prank played on me by me.

I was terrified. I was saying, “Please don’t kill me.” It was like having someone watch over me from the back, telling me to do things and if I didn’t do those things it would kill me. I thought I was going to die. It felt like it came out of the blue. I tried to resist it but it was so persuasive it was unbelievable.

At the time I didn’t know I was losing touch with reality. But I was resisting this powerful thing that felt like it was taking over me.

I was crying saying, “Please don’t kill me.” The voice then said it wanted me to take my computer to the dump. I put it to the back of the car outside. It was like my own strength, my passion, my motivational idol was turning against me. It was heartbreaking.

When I came back in, I had a moment of clarity and I managed to break free. I managed to call 999 at the time. The first time, the phone call cut out. I thought it was the voice. It said, “Nice try buddy, I’m still here.” But then I tried again and got through. I said, “Help, I think I need an ambulance. I think I’ve just tried to kill myself.” That was an accurate description because at the time I didn’t know what psychosis was. Then the ambulance arrived. I remember everything at the time. I wasn’t unconscious. But I did lose touch with reality.

The pathway through services to Southdown was the NHS Early Intervention Team (EIT), then through to the Richmond Fellowship and then they told the EIT that I needed housing support and that was when I was referred to Southdown’s [WSHPP] service.

I was accepted onto the scheme and very quickly they found me a property. I have since spent the past three years living in a supported one bedroom flat which is truly lovely.

It took the pressure off my mum. It made her feel I was safe and people were taking care of me. She could go to work knowing I was safe. That’s the thing, it didn’t just affect me, it had a knock-on effect on her too.

I mainly meet my Floating Support Officer (FSO) at my flat or in a local café. They would initially cover topics they thought were important to me, like benefits, getting bills sorted etc. But as I got more confident in knowing what I needed, I would focus on what was important to me.

The FSO tailored their service to my mental health needs and stage of recovery. As my mental health improved I was given more independence and found decision-making easier on my own.

It felt like that hopelessness was fading away. The feeling of dread was also fading away. At this point, I wasn’t hearing voices that much – nothing that would hurt me or anyone else. I felt secure and I felt safe.

They’ve supported me through decisions, life decisions. They’ve supported me with my life dreams which has made me happier.

What stood out for me about Southdown is that I was given time to learn more about myself and understand what would make me happy in my life. They were very patient with me as I researched my personal interests and hobbies, and also tried different volunteer options. This increased my happiness and the depression faded away.

The support has helped overcome the worries I had about living on my own. I am more confident and I take action daily to get positive things done. I have balance in my life. I manage my happiness. I have good judgement in making decisions. That’s important.

What I’ve learnt is I have to work through my emotions. Things come up in your mind and you have to work through them.

Recovery takes time, you have to be patient with yourself.

The West Sussex Homelessness Prevention Partnership (WSHPP) is an integrated service that offers a dynamic way of working, greatly benefiting multi-disciplinary teams and their clients, by providing a combination of pre-tenancy support, supported accommodation and floating support as well as some new and innovative targeted services for people at risk of homelessness.