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A story of recovery

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One of our customers, Vicki, has overcome a lifetime of difficulties with the right support and her own determination.

Vicki has a diagnosis of Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and an Affective Disorder. Here is her story in her words:

“For you to understand my recovery, you must first learn a little of my history.

"On 11 November 2009 I had what people would call a breakdown in my mental health. Nobody saw it coming, although I had probably been deteriorating for a number of years. To everyone around me, that day seemed perfectly normal. I cooked dinner for my partner and three children. I put my children to bed and then left for work as normal. Only nothing was normal because on that day I had made a series of decisions that changed things for all of us.

"When I woke up that morning I had decided that I could no longer wake up every day for the rest of my life feeling the way I did. I’d had enough of the pain running through my body and soul. So the only choice I seemed to have left was to end my life. On top of that, I felt I needed to deal with the person I blamed for that pain. So, I said my goodbyes and left home for the last time. I committed a serious offence against my childhood abuser and then made a very serious suicide attempt. I’m very lucky to be alive.

"After being treated for my physical injuries in a nearby general hospital, I was admitted to a medium secure unit for my own safety and for the safety of my abuser, who was now the victim.  

"Unfortunately my recovery didn’t start there. I spent two years in that hospital, continuing to mask the pain I had carried around for so long. I was made to do every therapy programme they had but never given time to build any trusting relationships. So the therapy was useless: six different therapies and six different therapists in two years. I felt hopeless.

"In October 2011, I moved to a different hospital in Warrington in the north west of the country. I was miles away from home and was sure the move was going to do more harm than good. But within a short time I realised that this hospital was different. The ward had structure and security was really tight. I felt safe for the first time in a long time. The staff were friendly and genuinely caring. I was able to build strong trusting relationships that I hadn’t had before.

"I started psychology work with a therapist consistently once a week. It was like having to take apart a jigsaw puzzle that had been put together wrong, and then piece it back together again. She taught me who I was, why I was this person and that I’d actually been this way forever. I started to feel safe in the world that I always felt I didn’t belong in. My symptoms got less and less and I became stronger as a person. Eventually after two and a half years of really hard work (and lots of ups and downs) I was well enough to be discharged back into the community. My faith was put back in people. I didn’t think that was possible! 

"So what am I doing now? Nine months after discharge I am living in my own flat. I volunteer once a week with Arts for Health, an organisation run by the NHS Trust at the Redwoods hospital in Shrewsbury and I’m studying an access course through the Open University which will lead me to start my degree in Forensic Psychology in October. And, of course, I have my family and lots of family time. They never left my side while I was ill and I will never leave theirs again!

"I want people to know that your life does not have to stop because of mental health challenges. I am proof that recovery is possible and I have seen many others with many other illnesses and challenges where recovery has also been possible. Living with mental health issues is not easy. Even though I have overcome so much, I still have to keep myself in check on a daily basis but I am at the point now where I am not just surviving anymore, I am living!”

Since writing this blog, Vicki has given a presentation to 120 people at the Service User and Carer Involvement Celebration Day in Stafford about her recovery and once a month goes back to the Warrington hospital to assist with staff training helping to ensure their recovery programmes are patient centred.