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Reach out and talk

Thursday, 02 May 2024 Gavin

This Mental Health Awareness Week Gavin, who lives with Borderline Personality Disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, blogs about how the Mind Infoline and working as a trustee at Derbyshire Mind have helped him turn his life around.

When I was in my early teens, I was finding things tough. I found social situations difficult to manage, and started drinking. I was hospitalised at 15 for the first time through alcohol poisoning. I was later diagnosed with borderline personality disorder (BPD) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

"At one point, I couldn’t leave the house without having a drink first. I realised that I couldn’t go on, and that’s when I started to seek help."

As I got older, I started to experiment with lots of different drugs. Meanwhile my addiction to alcohol was getting worse. At one point, I couldn’t even leave the house without having a drink first. I reached a point where I realised that I couldn’t go on, and that’s when I started to seek help.

My GP was dismissive. He was judgmental about the drinking and didn’t seem to understand that I was using it as a coping mechanism.

That experience of working up the courage to reach out and it going badly wrong, It made me not want to ask for help again. I just carried on trying to get through each day using alcohol as a crutch.

I began to self-harm and overdose, and I hit rock bottom. When I thought there was no way out I decided to try and reach out for help once more.

“On Mind’s website, I saw all the stories of people sharing their experience. It made me realise that I wasn’t alone.”

The first thing I remember seeing when looking at Mind’s website were the stories of people sharing their experience – all these people had managed to overcome the darkest of times. It made me realise that I wasn’t alone.

I phoned the Mind Infoline, and the call was so positive. They talked to me without any judgment and looked through my options. We discussed going to a different GP, which I did, and started to think about cognitive behavioural therapy and different types of medication. It made me realise that the one GP I had a negative experience with was just a bad apple. Therapists, other GPs and Mind have been so helpful, and willing to listen. It’s all been a much more person-centred approach.

The Mind Infoline, and working for Derbyshire Mind as a trustee, has been pivotal in my journey to ongoing recovery.

I felt there was a light at the end of at the end of the tunnel after talking to the Infoline. They didn’t just end the conversation with “OK, call us again if you feel bad”, they gave me practical things to do to help myself. It helped me cope and gradually, with the help of local recovery services, I didn’t drink for 3 months and felt so much better.

“If I could go back and speak to my younger self, I would advise him to reach out for support sooner.”

If Mind wasn’t there, I don’t think I’d still be here. I couldn’t have carried on like that. The way I was trying to manage was not sustainable. I wouldn't have been able to work or have anywhere to live, and would have become more and more dependent on alcohol. My body would not have been able to take it.

If I could go back – and speak to my younger self, I would advise him to reach out for support sooner. I’d tell him that he’s got a real battle ahead, that it’s not going to be easy but he can win it and will win it.

As famously said, “Life is like a boxing match....defeat is declared not when you fall, but when you refuse to stand again.”

My family have used Mind to learn about the conditions I’ve been diagnosed with. They’ve been great and wanted to know more so they could support me. Thanks to Mind, they found out all about BDP and PTSD and the challenges they present to people like me on a daily basis.

My mum also learnt about accessing support for carers of people with mental health problems, which has been really useful as she is my registered carer. I can’t imagine how terrible it must be for someone to see a loved one experiencing psychosis taking an overdose or self-harming. To support someone in this situation is so hard, and Mind have made such a difference for my mum.

My message to anyone suffering in the way I was is you can’t do this on your own – as I found out at huge personal cost. You've got to reach out to someone, whether that’s family, a friend, your doctor or a charity like Mind. Just make that first call.

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