“The support is very much about empowering the person rather than cradling the person”
On 4 May I got married, it was the happiest day of my life. And on 4 June I was on top of that building.
It was really extreme. It was as bad as it could get.
I’d been on a downward spiral for a few months. When you have a mental health crisis it very rarely happens overnight. It builds over months and years. It’s insidious. It creeps up on you.
I was terrified. Once you’ve been in that place, you’re terrified you’ll go back there.
But now, four months on, I look at it differently. I’m volunteering in the community, thinking about going back into the workplace, doing courses, and exercising.
I feel recovery is about looking at everything. I needed to feel I mattered, that I was valuable.
Seven years ago I was married with children and a stable career. But my husband left me and I was falsely accused of something at work and that’s when the anxiety began.
I had a series of huge life changes then – divorce, moving, leaving my job, not being able to settle, and suffering from pneumonia. And it took its toll. I had money worries and was drinking. It all led to my mental ill health crisis.
I’d made a suicide attempt and had gone through the Crisis Team at hospital. I was referred to Southdown’s Homeless Prevention and Mental Health Support Service through Pavilions Drug and Alcohol Service.
I was out of crisis but I was still really vulnerable. I received an initial consultation with an Adviser from Southdown.
The first session I’d come in really upset, very down and distressed, and I left different. It was the first day I’d felt different since my crisis. It was the first point of contact that made me feel things would change.
I didn’t know what I wanted from the service. But my Adviser was very calm and explained to me what she could and couldn’t do. The support was around health, wellbeing, and social connections.
When you’re very vulnerable you don’t know what to do, so you do nothing. She helped give me the kick I needed. The support is very much about empowering the person rather than cradling the person.
Each week we’d meet up and my Adviser would talk to me about what I’d done and what I could do. She was very knowledgeable, incredibly kind and patient. Just the sort of person you want in your corner.
She was very positive about the efforts I was making, gave me good feedback, and showed me that I was going in the right direction.
I investigated my housing options and what would happen if my relationship broke down. That made me feel secure. It was all about making a plan ‘cos my life had been quite chaotic before and I hadn’t had someone help me plan before.
I joined meet-ups and enrolled on courses relating to anxiety at the Recovery College. I enrolled on an assertiveness course at Friends Centre so I could communicate better with people.
I also spoke to my Adviser about my drinking. Each week I’d check in with her about it and now I don’t binge drink – and I get more sleep. She also helped me by talking to me about my medication and how to approach my doctor to say it’s not working. Just having someone to talk to about it really helped. And so I had a meeting with my doctor, changed the medication and now it is really working. I feel better about myself, and the medication helps me feel more calm.
That’s why Southdown really helped – the support was holistic. That was the key to why it was so successful for me. It took someone who was very vulnerable and distressed and offered them things they could do or try.
She gave me information that made me feel secure. I had a plan, I had choices. It made me feel back in control. I wasn’t a passive passenger on this journey.
Because I’d been out of work for a year I had a lack of confidence in this area and she helped me organise voluntary work by myself. I made it happen on my own. I didn’t give up. I was persistent in finding it. I was resilient and am developing working relationships with positive people.
Because so many things had changed for the better – I was getting out and had purpose and structure in my life; I had stopped drinking and was eating well; and my relationship had improved, I knew I was able to do it on my own. That’s when I knew I would be okay.
I’ve benefited so much from really good practice. The support was so nicely structured. There was real dialogue about what the services provided, what I’d benefit from. There was discussion about it. There was compassion and sensitivity and I was treated like an adult.
When you’re recovering from crisis, your brain is a little bit scrambled. You feel like you’re hanging by a thread – so just to have a service where there is someone who cares about me, wants to meet me, and help me get better, was really important.
At the time I felt I had no advocate in my life. It was key having someone I could tell my worries to and receive some support and advice.
I trusted the process.
I feel so grateful. I never knew Southdown existed. And never knew it existed for people like me.
I don’t think my Adviser realises how important she was in my life.
It’s painful looking back. It felt like life and death to me. I feel really really sad and compassionate towards myself. I couldn’t deal with life at all. I could feel myself getting smaller and smaller.
When I first came to Southdown, I was literally trying to get through each hour. You’re so self-absorbed with your own pain.
But I now have hope because I have the tools to get out of that situation again. I’m thinking about different aspects of wellbeing in a way that I wasn’t before.
I’m working on really being the best I can be in the situations I put myself in. When you try your best, invariably the better it will be. Things can go wrong in life, but as long as I try my best and it’s from the heart, it stands to reason things will probably work out. It’s more about taking an attitude into the future and applying that.
It feels like a holistic overhaul. When you’ve lost your sense of self, you have to build yourself again. This is the next part of my life. I’m in a rush for my future to begin.
Southdown Homeless Prevention and Mental Health Support Service (Brighton and Hove) provides short-term, flexible and tailored support to prevent homelessness and improve people’s mental health and wellbeing. This support focuses on our clients’ immediate housing needs, and other areas that are impacting their lives such as mental health and wellbeing, employment, finances, and social networks.