'The most difficult moment of my life': PT's story

04 February 2020

PT lives with a number of different mental illnesses, including schizophrenia and psychosis. He had been in and out of mental health units for seven years before being placed in a Rethink Mental Illness accommodation service in 2015. Since then, he has completed a university degree and now feels confident enough to volunteer at least two days a week. Here's his story. 

In 2008, at the age of 26, I was the most unwell I had been in my life. I struggled with my illness so badly that someone else had to literally hold my hand to do almost everything I needed to do to live daily. Since then, I have fought to manage my psychosis, schizophrenia, anxiety and depression. This is my story.

My marriage had begun to break down in 2008, so I had to rely on the kindness of Church Elders from a Church I had been attending in Bradford to look after me. During one particular episode, they had to call an ambulance for me which led to me being sectioned. This was the most difficult moment of my life. l grieved for two roles that I could no longer play: being a husband and being a father to my son.

  • l grieved for two roles that I could no longer play: being a husband and being a father to my son.

My older brother, who lived in London, travelled to get me out of hospital so he could look after me with his wife. I found London scary at that point, so – once I was able - I chose to go back to West Yorkshire. I longed for things that were familiar. My main worry was finding a job in London, but I also knew that I’d miss the familiar Yorkshire landscapes and the friendly attitude of the local people. A big part of my mistrust of London came from the hallucinations I had when I was there. Whenever I put my head down to sleep, I saw serpents snaking their way through the room I was in. It was very menacing and made me feel very uncomfortable.

One of the many things I found difficult with my condition was travelling on public transport. There were periods where I was unable to travel without support. Even if I was going to a place that I had been to before, I would find it impossible to get out of bed whenever there was the prospect of travel ahead of me.

For a year I lived in hostel accommodation. I failed to gain employment and dipped in and out of hospital. The complicated nature of my mental illness diagnosis led to loss of friendships and distancing from some family members during times of homelessness. I felt overwhelmed at not seeing my son, guilty about my failed marriage and after another failed marriage I developed clinical depression. I starved myself religiously with praying for both my wife and son, which led to more mental health sectioning.

Between 2009 and 2012, I gave up West Yorkshire for Kent three times to go and live with my brother and his wife. During those times, I was in and out of mental health units.

After 2012, my self esteem was very low. I struggled for relationships. No matter how hard I looked, I couldn’t get a romantic date to be interested in me for more than a few days. Paranoia, anxiety about my appearance and challenges with my sex drive meant that people often would never consider me as more than a friend.

My last admission to hospital was in 2015 at the Canterbury Mental Health Unit (St Martin’s Hospital), where the psychiatrists eventually diagnosed me with schizophrenia and paranoia.

From 2015 l was placed in a sheltered Rethink Mental Illness (RMI) accommodation service. At this point, I was in debt and relied on support from staff to sort out my finances and general wellbeing. The staff helped me to complete an undergraduate degree in Theology and put safeguarding measures in place for me as l was vulnerable to being exploited financially and emotionally. The support from RMI continues to this day, even though I live in my own independent accommodation. I know that I can get in contact for any advice or support. 

 

  • The support from RMI continues to this day, even though I live in my own independent accommodation.

Since my diagnosis, I get given medication to help alleviate the symptoms of my illnesses. If I do not take my medication, I feel depressed, oversleep, eat more food than necessary, have nightmares, hear voices and smell odours that aren’t there. To avoid these symptoms of psychosis, I must take my medication – but there are some side effects which have a huge impact on my self-esteem. These include obesity, a racing heart, over-perspiration and gynecomastia. These symptoms can lead to humiliation and embarrassment and can make me feel anxious ahead of any social situation. I try my best to exercise regularly to alleviate these symptoms. My three favourite forms of exercise are playing basketball, cardio workouts and weightlifting.

With the support of my girlfriend and wider friends and family, I can now travel independently, cook delicious meals, live on my own with minimal support, and I have started volunteering in an NHS hospital as a chaplain. I still experience a number of illnesses, but I have found a way to live happily.

Every year our network of services helps over 16,000 people experiencing mental illness to get the help and support they need. In total, we provide over 200 expert mental health services in England. These can help you or someone you know with everything from housing to employment, legal rights to nursing care, carer support to help for young people.

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