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Posted on Jun 28 2022 by Fiona Bailey

Former patient Sarah – who has previously written under the guise Welsh Star – is continuing with her recovery journey. She finds writing useful, and to mark World Wellbeing Week she has decided to draft a piece about her personal wellbeing journey.

I began struggling in my teenage years. It was a very confusing time and it was difficult to put my experiences into words. To compensate, I often sought support through actions, accidents, injuries and physical illness. People responded to me presenting physical symptoms, but their response was always short lived because they did not understand what was going on inside my head.

The way I was feeling had started to impact my wellbeing. The things that enhance our wellbeing, such as safety and security, feelings of happiness, physical and mental health, had not been present in my day-to-day life for a long time.

I started to spiral due to having a significant lack of life satisfaction, motivation or hope for my future  which all contributed to be me becoming mentally unwell.

Moving from childhood to adulthood, I tried to suppress the unhappiness and struggles inside with the pre-conceived idea of trying to just be ‘normal’. I tried to carry on by starting college, working and going out with friends. Yet my wellbeing continued to be at an all-time low.

I found it difficult to cope with stress or just day-to-day life. I continued to ignore the obvious signs, which many of us take for granted, such as good sleep, diet and a solid exercise routine. My world started to become erratic. Some days, I simply could not function and yet, I kept all those feelings to myself. No one knew about my inner despair, and I felt completely trapped between how I really felt and what other people saw.

I felt lost without any purpose in the world. My wellbeing was fundamentally broken which led to me being unable to communicate effectively, pursue my personal goals or maintain my values. Looking back now, I was experiencing a prolonged breakdown which led to me requiring inpatient mental health treatment for a number of years.  

Even being surrounded by many professionals, I could not open up. My inner shame from my invalidated childhood trauma and not being listened to had given me an inability to trust. That led to further deterioration in my mental wellbeing.

Slowly, but surely, staff began to break down my barriers and I began to trust again. I can even remember the exact session with my psychologist when everything changed. I had finally found the strength to acknowledge that I had been in a bad way for a long time, but I realised that I did want it to be different and I needed help to get there.

A life with happiness felt forever away but the care, kindness and validation I was shown by my therapist made me feel that it could be achievable.

Although the next couple of years were still unsettled, I had learnt to tell the healthcare professionals around me when I was struggling.

By the time I was admitted to St Andrew’s Healthcare, I had already started to form trusting relationships with people. I was able to challenge myself and use all the skills I had developed. I finally understood the importance of positive wellbeing and I had the support to help me maintain this.

Of course, there were setbacks, but then I would go back to basics ensuring I was participating in healthy sleep patterns, a good diet and regular exercise. I had ignored signs of this deterioration in past, and therefore knew this to be my first port of call. Once these stabilisers were more balanced I was able to function better and I could then focus on what made me happy.

Gradually, everything started to fall into place. My purpose, my goals and hopes had become present, and I had a desire to live life to the full.

I am now sat in my own home with my little dog, Buddy, and with responsibilities of work and family whilst making plans for my future.

I still check in with my community mental health team, open up more to my loved ones and campaign for more open discussions around our mental health and wellbeing when we are ‘not okay’.

 I have found a good level of contentment in my life. I know my wellbeing and recovery is a continuum and therefore, I am always conscious that I need to do the things that help keep me well. If I am struggling then I do what helps me get back on an even keel. What we all must learn is that positive wellbeing is key to  maintaining positive mental health, and we must all learn not to ignore the signs, before it’s too late.