The strongest factor for success is self-esteem. Believing you can do it, believing you deserve it and believing you’ll get it.

Four years ago, at the age of 21, I had a mental breakdown and my body completely shut down. Accepting I needed mental health help was extremely daunting and emotional. Mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of but due to the stigma surrounding it I suffered in silence for years. I became completely dysfunctional, uncommunicative, miserable and argumentative. I believed I was a monster.

Mental illness is the only illness that can make you deny its own existence. The idea that the brain can deny its own illness is a frightening thought. I don’t think people understand how stressful it is to explain what’s going on in your head when you don’t even understand it yourself. I wasted my time trying to explain myself to people who were committed to misunderstanding me.

It was August 2013 when my life came crashing down. I had turned 21 in the April and had my whole life ahead of me, it was exciting times for me as I had my dream job as a Personal Trainer and I was establishing myself as a business woman. The day I qualified as a Personal Trainer was incredible, more so because I had always struggled academically, regardless of the hard work and effort I put in I never achieved the results I deserved. August 2013 my mum, sister and I took a week’s

holiday to Spain. We did nothing but relax the whole time we were there. I felt on top of the world and by the end of the week I was excited about flying home and continuing my dream career. Within 10 days of being home I knew something wasn’t quite right. I was teaching my regular Monday morning Spinning class when I realised I couldn’t feel my left leg. Out of nowhere my whole leg became numb but within a matter of minutes the feeling returned. As the days went by I continued working long hours in the fitness industry even though I knew something didn’t seem right. I had constant shooting pains, pins and needles in my hands and arms and the final straw was when I lost the feeling in both of my legs but the feeling in my left leg didn’t return for 2 years……

I drastically declined and was signed off sick from work. I lost all ability to fend for myself and more disappointingly my independence. I had trouble communicating as my speech became slurred, I could no longer write or grip objects. By December 2013 I had to walk with the help of an aid and was often being pushed around in a wheel chair. How do you go from being the happiest and healthiest you have ever been to not having any control over your life? I was immediately referred to a neurologist at Wexham Park Hospital who sent me for a full body MRI scan. When I returned to receive my results, my neurologist said he was gobsmacked as he was convinced he would be diagnosing me with MS (multiple sclerosis). No further forward and my life rapidly deteriorating I felt trapped and lost. With this, my parents paid for me to see a private neurologist at Princess Margaret Hospital. Again, the same outcome occurred……

Early into 2014 My neurologist then decided to give me a form of treatment as he could see me rapidly getting worse without any explanation. He gave me a three-day course of intravenous steroids at Charing Cross Hospital. He also ran further tests including a lumbar puncture, another full body MRI and many more. Within a month the steroids had got into my system but over a period of time I put on over 3 stone in weight. The steroids made a small improvement to me by relieving some of the pain I was experiencing but not enough to allow me to live an independent life. I was extremely lucky to be under the most incredible Doctor who did her upmost to get me all the help and support I needed. I saw Doctor Temperton on a weekly basis and she gave me the guidance I needed to take each day at a time. By this point my mental health had drastically declined and I started to shut myself away from everyone.

If I had the choice I wouldn’t have got out of bed in a morning. In fact it became my worst nightmare but knowing I had my gorgeous chocolate Labrador, Alfie, downstairs waiting to greet me every day it became more bearable. He was my rock throughout my whole journey. Every day that past led to me becoming more depressed. Behind my smile was a broken heart, behind my laugh I was falling apart and behind my eyes I had tears at night. I was fighting a war inside my head every single day.

As time went on my parents did their own research and my mum took me to Runnymede Hospital to see a thyroid specialist. I was presenting a huge number of symptoms relating to that area. I saw an incredible specialist who took time to look back on my history and run more thorough tests. During this process, he flagged up that I had tested Lupus positive six months previously and we had never been informed. Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), also known as Lupus, it is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks healthy tissue in many parts of the body. I went back to see him a week later and again, I tested Lupus positive. I was then referred to London Bridge Hospital where I was assigned to another fantastic consultant. Yet again, I had a number of tests and for the 3rd time I tested Lupus positive. I was put on a medication called Hydroxychloroquine Sulphate. As months went by I made small and gradual improvement but the diagnosis of Lupus was minor and didn’t explain all my problems. Again, I spent my time backwards and forwards to numerous hospitals including, St Thomas’s, Western Eye Hospital, King Edward, Charing Cross and the list goes on.

Months went by and I was making slow and steady progress, still unable to walk without an aid. I found myself drinking alcohol just to numb the heart ache and pain that I was feeling. Although therewere small improvements with my physical health my mental health was rapidly declining. There is nothing in this world that can trouble you as much as your own thoughts. I had a demon in my head but I soon learnt the scariest monsters are the ones that lurk within our minds.

Christmas came and went and 2015 had arrived. In April 2015 I started suffering with tachycardia. I had shortness of breathe and struggled to breathe. At this point I was referred to a cardiologist at Ashford hospital. I was given a 24 hour heart monitor to find out what was causing my shortness of breath. Yet again my test results came back normal with no explantation to show why I was suffering from tachycardia. I later discovered I was having panic attacks and it was part of my mental breakdown. My depression was getting worse and I felt completely trapped and lost. I had been on three different types of anti-depressants and eventually the 4thtype started to help. I was unhappy in my body due to my 4-stone weight gain and didn’t feel I had a purpose anymore. It took one really awful day for me to breakdown and realise something wasn’t right in my mind. I went straight to see Doctor Temperton and I broke down, telling her all these awful thoughts and demons I had battling in my head. I felt my world was over. I had no control and didn’t know what to do, but I did acknowledge I needed help. Later that month I broke down to my sister at my cousins wedding and although it was the worst time in my life from that day my life changed forever…….

My parents, sister, family and friends were incredible, even considering that throughout my illness I had shut myself away and had no communication with anyone. Between my family and Doctor Temperton I eventually got the help I most desperately needed. I was referred to the Cardinal Clinic at Oakley Green and within a few days I had an appointment. When my mum and I arrived at the Cardinal Clinic, I sat in the car and felt sick, I was physically shaking and didn’t think I would make it through the door. I received the warmest welcome. I had over an hour’s consultation with the Doctor I had been assigned and between him and my mum they decided on a treatment plan for me. I can honestly say (2 year

 

s on) It was the best decision of my life. I started as a day patient for 2 whole days a week and I also saw my therapist Anu Sayal-Bennett one day a week. The time, care and support I received then and now has been incredible. I spent a year and a half in the day care programme, I then had 6 months out of day care seeing my therapist Anu on a weekly basis followed by another 2 months in day care. Over that period of time I learnt the sessions that worked best for me. CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) with Toria and Loss And Change with Kavita. They both had a huge and powerful impact on my day to

day living. The sessions Toria and Kavita delivered have helped me immensely on my road to recovery. They both have a very kind and bubbly personality and every week I looked forward to their sessions as I knew they would have such a positive impact on me. Whilst in day care I was also lucky enough to have Natalie as my day care support. Natalie would have a 1 to 1 with me each day I was there and would ensure I had t

 

he correct support that day. Natalie would always listen and give me supportive and encouraging techniques and advice. Anu, my therapist who I have seen on a weekly basis for the last two years has been incredible. I couldn’t have wished for a more welcoming, caring and kind therapist. I was so scared about having a therapist as I worried about what others would think due to the stigma surrounding mental health. I have been lucky enough to have the best support at the Cardinal Clinic. Every week Anu listens, advises and helps me come to solutions regarding any issues I may be having. I always worried about being judged due to the nature of my illness but Anu constantly reassured me and has helped me develop and overcome so many problems. I would like to say a huge thank you to every single person at the Cardinal Clinic but especially, Anu, Toria, Kavita and Natalie who have helped me immensely along the way.

I am still receiving one to one therapy at the Cardinal Clinic but I have reduced my sessions to every other week with Anu. I still feel the need to go and see Anu as my mental health

problems don’t just stem back from four years ago. We have established my problems started a long time ago. I am now back exercising five days a week and I also walk Alfie for over an hour twice a day. I am still on a journey to recovery as I am still battling with my weight and trying to get back to where I was over four years ago but right now my mental health and

happiness is most important. I can’t thank my friend and personal trainer Joe enough for his ongoing support and loyalty towards me. He has been on this journey with me. Joe started training mewhen I was still walking with crutches, he just helped to try and keep my

mobility going and is now training me whilst I am on my journey back to full health.

This has without a doubt been the most horrific four years of my life and it will stay with me forever. I feel the luckiest person in the world to have the mostsupportive family and friends and from the bottom of my heart I couldn’t be more grateful.

Let’s remember, mental health is nothing to be ashamed of. It’s taken me nearly four years to understand but I couldn’t be more proud of how far I’ve come. The strongest people are not those who show strength in front of us, but those who win battles we know nothing about.