"Please, don't be quiet. Talk." - Vinnie's story
Trigger/content warning: domestic violence, suicide
For Time to Talk Day, Vinnie tells us about his journey, from childhood up to the present day. After experiencing anxiety and depression for most of his life, creating art and volunteering with our charity gave him hope. He now works as a Mental Health Recovery Worker for Rethink Mental Illness, using his lived experience to support others in similar situations. In this blog, Vinnie emphasises the importance of speaking up about your mental health and asking for help.
Asking for help doesn’t come easy for me. I’ve struggled with mental health issues for most of my life but tried to brush it off. I was a troubled child, misbehaving and pushing boundaries for attention. I was beaten regularly, which led me into care. My first night was at a secure children’s unit. I remember a kind social worker got me out, took me for a McDonalds and to get some clothes. I was shipped around Derbyshire from several short-term foster families and children’s homes.
When I finally got my own place at 17 years old, I started off with a bed, a deck chair and a TV. My friends took advantage of my flat, using it as a place to smoke cannabis. Before I knew it, my girlfriend moved in and I experienced my friends dying left, right and centre, from harder drugs like heroin.
I moved out for an engineering apprenticeship. My girlfriend gave birth to our son and we got married. At only 20, I was struggling to be a dad and earning next to nothing. Less than two years later, my wife gave birth to our daughter. I loved my family but things were so hard. I experienced flashbacks of my past and struggled so much. I wanted to be a better person and father.
I passed my apprenticeship, won several awards and continued my education. Unfortunately, in my 1st year of doing a HNC, I suffered a head injury and things spiralled out of control.
I experienced flashbacks of my past and struggled so much.
I got frustrated and angry with myself; felt I couldn’t do simple tasks like I used to. I was anxious about everything, scared to leave the house, constantly shouted at my family because of my doubts. My GP eventually diagnosed me with severe anxiety and depression. I was offered medication and counselling, and though this was helpful, it was too little, too late. The damage had already been done. My wife and children left me and I never saw them again. I tried to end my life by taking an overdose.
However, this wasn’t meant to be the end. My best friend found me and got me help. My local CMHT gave me a choice: either I go to hospital willingly or under section. As there was really no option, I chose the first and had a four month stint in hospital.
Upon discharge, my CPN introduced me to The Croft Day Centre, a Rethink Mental Illness service. I engaged in their art group, where the tutor suggested doing something with my skills. So, I studied an AS level art course and a BTEC national diploma in art.
I remember thinking: I’ve just jumped out of the frying pan into the fire, what have I done?
I discovered I was dyslexic and things started to fall into place for me. Though you can be born with dyslexia, it can also occur after a brain injury. It made sense why I’d been struggling; it wasn’t just my anxiety and depression, but a learning difficulty, too.
I completed a Fine Art degree at university. I didn’t care about doing anything with the degree, but it symbolised my recovery; how I found a positive way to manage my mental health. I went back to Rethink as a volunteer, to help run the art group.
Before long, I fell into another depression. I wanted to escape my troubles, so I got a job working in Kuwait and India. I remember thinking: I’ve just jumped out of the frying pan into the fire, what have I done? But I stuck it out and came back to the UK to continue volunteering.
Don’t be scared to ask for help because the sooner you ask for help, the sooner you can change your life.
I was happy creating art, helping others and keeping my brain distracted. I eventually applied for a MHRW role and have been supporting people for ten years now. I still have bad days, but I pick myself up by remembering where I’ve been and where I am now.
Please, don’t be quiet. Talk, share your emotions, don’t be scared to ask for help because the sooner you ask for help, the sooner you can change your life. I’ve been to the darkest places. It’s not always about recovery, it’s about managing the situation and knowing you’re not alone.
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