Dont be afraid to speak up

Nicole, Community Connecting Support Worker

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness month. As more people are beginning to talk openly about mental health and the struggles people sometimes face, it becomes even more important to recognise the role that everyone can play in suicide prevention. Here, Nicole talks about coping with her own situations, the times when it all became too much, and how important it is for people to be able to speak up if they are struggling to cope. 

“I had an extremely difficult childhood and suffered a great deal of abuse from those around me. I was separated from my siblings when I was eight and went to live with my Dad. Things continued to be really difficult; I often ended up staying at friends’ houses to avoid going home. I called Childline and the police and I was nearly fostered on several occasions but the authorities always sent me back home. I ended up relying on friends. Being homeless was hard because I felt like a burden to everybody I was living with.

While I was at college I was sexually abused by a man in my hostel and after that I took my first overdose. I was diagnosed with severe depression but I was paranoid and scared of judgement so I would hardly tell anybody when I was feeling down, or what thoughts were going through my head. After that I moved into another homeless unit, but made some bad decisions around relationships and ended up with a guy who cheated on me a lot of times and forced me to have an abortion when I got pregnant. I lost my confidence, self esteem and my identity.

On New Year’s Eve 2012 I took another overdose because I couldn’t take how lonely I felt and the disgust I felt inside. I had very little family to speak to or to help me. I took tablets, with alcohol hoping to end it all. But somehow I’m still here.

Months went on and I was still very distressed and emotionally I felt so drained I started self neglecting. I would lock myself in my flat and hardly come out. I would hardly shower. I would wake up, smoke a couple of roll ups and go back to sleep, wake up again eat a slice of toast, smoke, drink alcohol and go back to sleep. That was my pattern and I missed a lot of university. I’d only ever go out when I had work and that was only because I knew I would get paid so I had a reason to leave the house

I got pregnant but then suffered a miscarriage from the stress caused by my relationship as he was cheating on me with other girls. It was hard losing the baby because of how much pain I went through and how hospital staff treated me.

In 2014, everything got too much again and due to financial troubles, not much contact with family and education problems, I lost my flat and I ended up overdosing again. I overdosed in my friend’s house and went to hospital. I was finally given the help I longed for when the Community Mental Health Team in Newham contacted me to attend a day hospital for 4 weeks on a programme to help with my recovery. I was a bit apprehensive and scared at first because I was the youngest person there and I wasn’t used to getting this sort of help but I was so glad!
I had group talking therapy, art therapy, creative writing and relaxation therapy and this helped me to be able to talk about my past with people that actually understood me. I managed to get involved with a group called Florid which is a peer led organisation that involves people doing mail outs, helping with paperwork and even being on interview panels recruiting people to work for the NHS. I also managed to enroll onto a peer support training group to help patients in wards with their recovery and I used my own experience to help others cope with what they are going through.

Being in hospital the third time made me change my mind about the career I wanted to do. I always wanted to be a PE teacher, but I made the decision to develop a career in mental health. I’ve seen how some people can’t cope when they don’t have the tools or support network to help with their recovery and, being someone who has experienced this, I longed to work in mental health to help others.

When I finally managed to work for Certitude it was the best thing to ever happen to me. My colleagues are supportive of me and are never judgmental when I talk about my past history and the reason I do the job I do now. I’m so much happier than I’ve ever been and I can’t thank Certitude enough for giving me the opportunity to work for their organisation. I now am going back to university in March to study mental health nursing.

I’m only 23 years old. With 3 overdoses and a history of mental, physical and sexual abuse I finally have the courage to be so open about my past because I know that sometimes it can help people going through the same things that I went through.

My advice to anybody is don’t be afraid to speak up. There is tons of support out there and when you feel like nobody understands you or can empathise with how you feel, trust me there are people that do care and understand. I found the courage to speak up and I hope you do too. When you feel like there is no hope or no way out, trust me when I say there is always a light at the end of the tunnel. I realised suicide was not the answer to my problems and I am glad that I am here today and I am able to share this with you.”