By Sam Thomas
Anyone who knows me is aware I’ve been a mess. For the past four years I’ve been struggling and on a gradual decline.
It’s not my fault, or anyone else’s – it’s just the way it is. Life is no walk in the park and we all go through our troubles. Some people can manage and others can’t. And in that respect, is totally individual.
In early 2015, I went through a traumatic event, which I thought would be able to manage. I thought I could just pretend it never happened. The irony was it wasn’t the event itself that triggered me, it was the fact I was unable to do anything about it. It was easier to carry on, like nothing had happened but like all traumatic events, eventually it catches up with you.
Instead, I turned to self-medicating, so it was easier. It took the edge off. Wine became my best friend. It helped in the short-term to get through. However, obviously in the long-term, it resolves nothing but at the very least, it gave me that temporary escape. Yet, I was ‘functioning’ with life and work at least. Again, I was simply trying to ‘get on’ with it, feeling like the show must go on.
Eventually, one by one, everyone who knew me personally and/or professionally, clocked on that something wasn’t right. Denial was easy. I’d do it just to reassure myself that I was ‘fine.’ Ignorance is bliss and especially so if you are in denial. Yet, I wasn’t in denial about my mental state or drinking – I was in denial about the ‘trigger.’ Nothing can change the past, so you have to accept and live with it. Nothing can erase the hurt and the pain. Everything continues to build up inside you until you cannot take it anymore.
So, I overdosed on more than one occasion. I’ve been to A&E on more times than I can care to count. I have been admitted to psychiatric hospital three times last year and far from out of the woods.
One of the best decisions I made last year was to step back from it all in order that I could make various lifestyle changes. For far too long my priorities were all in the wrong order, impacting on my well-being and recovery. I’ve learned many lessons from this experience; helping others, charitable do-gooding and changing the world is all very well but ought not come at the cost of total self-sacrifice. If we can’t practice what we preach ourselves, I dare to say: is it worth it? Self-sacrificing is not courageous and inevitably leads to burn out.
Still, I’m enthusiastic and passionate and about campaigning on mental health issues. Nothing has changed in that regard but I’ve learned as of now I need to pursue it all in a different way. Your health and well-being is what matters most. Self-care is key. Otherwise, it’s all for nothing.
Ultimately, I will continue to focus on what I need to do to get better however long it takes. After-all, recovery is a process and not a destination.
Sam is a mental health campaigner with lived experience of bulimia and newly diagnosed with emotionally unstable personality disorder.