Nothing can prepare you for the grips of the black dog. Almost overnight, it can feel like a part of you has been taken away. Hobbies become chores and happiness seems to be a thing of the past. It is a confusing and stressful time, especially, if like me, you had no idea that mental health was a thing.
I think I have always had a form of mental illness, I’ve always been different, my mind just never seemed to be wired the same as the others my age. It was not however, until I was 14 years old that I became very ill. I had become reckless and destructive, I had no intention of living past my teen years.
I was unhappy with my life to say the least, each day left me in agony and as time went on, I found it so hard to leave bed. I was ruining my physical health and drifting so far from the person I was. It was not until I was 20, that I started to make changes, I decided to fight for a chance to live.
I don’t know why my mind switched, I like to think that it was because I had met my husband and he gave me unconditional support and love, that allowed me to be who I was and not a doll. Within months of this new found support network, I gave up drinking and smoking, I just didn’t feel the need anymore – it’s amazing how much better you can feel when you are respected and loved for who you are, warts and all.
I did wobble, I still had days where I would harm myself, fall back on a bottle of cheap spirit or cry myself to sleep, but these days became less and less. I am now coming into the third year of my recovery and I am an entirely different person, true to myself.
I have to work so hard on keeping myself stable, recovery isn’t linear and it is far from easy, but all it took was just giving myself enough respect to carry on, to take a leap of faith. I was very lucky that I found writing, something I had enjoyed as a kid but had lost. Writing has become a huge tool in my recovery as it gives me an outlet and allows me to organize the jumbled mess in my mind, a bit like therapy. I also like to give my dog lots of cuddles, simple isn’t it? But it reminds me that I am loved and needed, that I have a purpose. Even simple things, like cleaning the house and studying at college has given me a reason to wake up and get out of bed, as well as being rewarding and making me feel so good about myself.
I do have to get professional help to, I tried for so long to get better on my own but it did not work, I was past that point. I had to break past my fear and the stigma and speak to the GP, it took many attempts and a change in practice before I found someone who I could trust; I now see them monthly. Getting professional help has allowed me to access therpay and the medication I need to prevent me from relapsing. It also is so good to be able to monitor my progress, because some days we forget how far we have come.
So, today I am married, I live in my own home with my beloved pets. I am following my writing dream and finally getting my college education. I am also losing the weight that came from my binge eating; it’s all starting to come together. I never thought my life would be anything like this, I thought I’d be spending what little adult years I had in an unhealthy way, yet just asking for help and trying hard each day, has given me everything I always wanted.
Bio: Charlotte Underwood is a 22 year old from Norfolk, UK. She is a growing mental health advocate on twitter (@CUnderwoodUK) and is passionate about using her words to support and inform.