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Laura talks about living with voices and her journey that lead her to help others through talking about her mental health.
As a child, you come up with all of these ideas. You create an imaginary friend and have imaginary tea parties. When you invite your family to the tea party, they know it’s a childhood phase which you’ll get over as you grow up…
So, I did grow up from that time: I no longer had an imaginary friend, fake parties or a teddy bear’s picnic… one thing that never disappeared, however, were the voices…
At first, I thought it was just a normal thing, but when I spoke to my parents, I realised that wasn’t the case. They asked me, “What voices, Laura?”
At that time the voices were good, like an imaginary friend, but I started to question myself after my parents’ comment.
It was after that day, the voices turned violent, disturbing and graphic. They would constantly tell me that bad things were going to happen, that my loved ones would be killed, or I’d be attacked.
Altough this terrified me, being only 7 or 8 years old, I was too scared of being stigmatised or discriminated against to speak out about the voices to anyone until I was 15.
I’m 20 years old now and when I look back at my life, I realise that my journey definitely wasn’t easy. As well as fighting the voices throughout my childhood, I also had to deal with depression, anxiety, stress, panic attacks, and experiencing hallucinations. Sometimes I even self-harmed.
The hallucinations were something that I especially struggled with. To me they felt real.
"They would take over my whole vision, like seeing the world through virtual reality goggles."
What I saw, though, often involved people being hurt, abused, raped, to mention a few examples. Situations in my past made dealing with these issues a lot harder. I have been faced with bullies (who I used to believe were friends), deaths (family/ friends/ pets), family problems a threatening neighbour. All of these things had a massive impact on my life.
The situation with my neighbour was when I was 11 years old. It was the first time I really understood my emotions and I was confused by it all. I myself didn’t get threatened, I heard the threat being said to someone else I really care about. At first, I was emotional, then, I was angry. Afterwards, I was emotional, angry, and all I could visualise was me picking up the dining room chair and breaking it by throwing it against the wall.
In 2008 I was 12. It was a really difficult year. I felt like my Mum was being taken away from me, when I needed her the most, I had problems with my friends , and I had to have my rabbit Mysti put to sleep I was really struggling to cope. Every opportunity I had, I would go to my room and cry, and I was having trouble sleeping.
"My voices, hallucinations, depression, anxiety and stress had increased dramatically. In the end, I had to try and talk to someone!"
When I was 15, I went to the doctor. I was referred to CAMHS (Child Adolescent Mental Health Service) and was soon enough prescribed medication to help me deal with my issues. After a few months, filled with appointments with CAMHS, I was told by my psychiatrist that I had severe depression, with psychotic symptoms, combined with anxiety, panic attacks and stress problems.,
My journey to recovery wasn’t easy. I was faced with stigma and discrimination by so many people.
"They were the hurdles I had to try and jump over…"
There were times that my mental health was badly affected by the things that people said to me. In some ways this was what I struggled with the most, but it was through my experiences with stigma and discrimination that I felt brave enough to register to be a champion for Time to Change Wales, which is one of the things that helped me with my recovery.
Although I still go through difficult time with my mental health, the encouragement and support I’ve had from people like my family, friends, and my boyfriend, has been amazing.
Their love and support has helped me keep climbing up the ladder to recovery. Music has also had a massive impact in my life. Music was my escape from my mental health conditions. It always helped me to stay calm, and distracted, whether it was listening to it, or playing it. Music saved me in a lot of ways.
"For the first time, I feel happy, in a way I never have before."
Another thing that keeps me going is remembering what I’ve accomplished. There are so many things in life that I thought I’d fail at. Things like finishing college, getting into university, and more. I was able to prove myself wrong. I finished college with high grades and received an unconditional offer from the university I really wanted to attend. I’m thankful to everyone who has helped me. If it wasn’t for this support, I wouldn’t be where I am today.
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