I was always an anxious and timid child. Thoughts would come into my mind that bothered me greatly, although most of them were irrational. For me this was completely normal as I knew nothing else, and yet, my brother didn’t seem to have the same or as many concerns as I did.
In spite of my anxieties, I had a relatively carefree childhood, seemingly unaffected by my internal conflict. This could not be said for adulthood.
In January 1997, my life was never to be the same again. I was 22 years old and the world became a fearful place. I was sucked into my own head and would remain there for months at a time. These episodes or breakdowns continued to occur regularly over the next 20 years at a rate of 1 every 3 years and lasting anywhere from 6 months to a year in duration.
Breakdown number 7 started in June 2017. My employment had always been affected somewhat over the years but this time I quit my job. I gave up, threw in the towel. My work gave me a sense of purpose and a feeling of being “normal”, but I couldn’t do it anymore. What was left in life?
I was sent back to the Whitehouse (Assessment Centre), a place I loathed for some reason. This time it was Acute Day treatment which didn’t last long, as I was told that my problems were chronic and no longer acute. I was referred to AMH New Horizons in Derriaghy. For me it was all pointless, unless I could work and feel part of society, everything else was futile. My first course was photography, a passion of mine for many a year. This sparked an interest in something outside of my own head. I signed up for more courses in the hope that it would help continue this forward momentum. Thankfully it did and whether it was the course content, the clients I participated with, the staff, or all of the above, the fact is that going to AMH on a regular basis helped give me a sense of belonging and a structure to my week. It also gave me the knowledge I wasn’t alone and the ability to accept me for who I am and to stop being ashamed of an illness that isn’t my fault and not of my choosing.
AMH New Horizons is a life saver and an invaluable facility for anyone who struggles with their mental health. I know from personal experience that there is no “one size fits all” approach to this issue but that doesn’t mean we do nothing. If more places like AMH existed then it would go a long way in helping tackle the vast problem in our society that is mental illness.
I am not exactly where I want to be yet, but thanks to AMH, I am not where I used to be.
Thanks to Mark for sharing his story – Mark is taking part in the “Working it Out Project” at AMH New Horizons. The project is part-funded through the Northern Ireland European Social Fund Programme 2014-2020 and the Department for the Economy.