2 years ago to this month, I was admitted to general hospital for a suicide attempt, nearly passed away, and when I was eventually deemed physically stable, was sent to a CAMHS psychiatric unit where I was sectioned and sent to a PICU (mental health intensive care). It was the single worst thing that had ever happened to me, and it was the result of years of struggling. Years of ‘less severe’ suicide attempts, self-harm, self-hatred, anxiety, and instability. Years of inadequate treatment and being turned away by people in my life.
The reason why I went so downhill at first when I went into PICU was because I had reached the point where I had wanted to die, and I was angry that not only was I still alive, but I was being locked up in what felt like hell. It was suffocating to have staff constantly on my back, watching my every move, restraining me to stop hurting myself. Suddenly all my rights as a ‘free’ human being were taken away and I felt stuck. All hope for a bright future promised by my A level grades vanished. I had had enough, big time. I felt done.
I eventually turned a corner whilst inpatient. This was due to the right combination of medication, but also because I was given what felt like a second chance. I was given a lot of support to continue studying for my exams on a ‘casual’ level, and I received 4 university offers, 2 of which were unconditional. When I realised that I had an unconditional offer from the University of Nottingham (the only feasible option for me at that time), I felt immense relief. I felt hope that I could move forward with my life. I honestly feel like if I hadn’t had the prospect of university on the other side of my admission, I would probably still be in hospital now. My assessment changed from low-secure personality disorder treatment (12-36 months), to an acute adult ward step-down from PICU, in which I only stayed for 8 weeks.
It’s scary to look back and to realise that things could have turned out very differently. I could have died in August 2015. I could still be in hospital right now. But I’m not. And as difficult as the past two years have been, I feel so grateful to be alive. My life has changed so much for the better in the past two years, especially in the last year. I spent almost the entirety of my adolescent life feeling I was worthless, that everyone else was better for me, that I didn’t deserve happiness. Comments from people at school would send me into a meltdown. I cared immensely about what other people thought, because I was taught to believe that what other people said about me was a reflection of me, rather than a projection of themselves and their own insecurities.
I always achieved good grades at school. I worked hard and especially at A Level, I loved my subjects. English was always my favourite. I have always loved reading, and I’m not just saying that. I’ve found that often, books can be kinder than people. But, in my English lessons during sixth form, and in seminars in the autumn term of my first year at university, my lack of confidence kept me from being able to contribute. I could write, I could think, I could perceive. But I couldn’t talk. My English teacher tried so hard to convince me that it was alright, that I had no need to lack self-esteem, but it never worked because it didn’t come from me.
So, I’ve learnt to stand up for myself. Being in hospital and in intensive services taught me that. I didn’t have my parents or my friends or anyone on my side when I was arguing with staff on the ward. I had to voice my own opinions, tell them what was wrong, tell them how to help me. In assessments and meetings, I had to often fend my own corner. I couldn’t afford to be quiet anymore. In order to get anything from mental health services, usually you have to push really hard for it.
Other girls walked all over me at school. I was slut-shamed, isolated, and essentially shunned for things that hadn’t happened. I was casually sexually assaulted by boys. Constant comments about my breasts. Hands up my skirt. Told that I was a slag, that I was easy, that my body was ‘fit’, as if that’s really a compliment coming from a horny little boy. People spread rumours about me, stopped talking about me. I once went to meet one of my best friends to walk to school with her, and when I came up to her she straight up ignored me and carried on walking to meet other people. Friends would laugh in the changing rooms and joke ‘It looks like you’ve been self-harming. I heard ‘friends’ saying horrible things about people they thought were ‘crazy’, about students who had come out as LGBTQ, about ‘sluts’ in the year. And when I got really unwell, people didn’t want anything to do with it. Oh, Rosie is attention seeking. Rosie is so dramatic. Rosie is copying behaviours. Rosie probably just wants one of the guys to ask what’s wrong. Why is it always about Rosie? Why is she doing this all the time?
Not anymore. I’m done with being pushed around and belittled, and I’m so much happier for it.
I’ve learnt what I should have learnt when I was 12 years old: the only person who can make you feel shit about yourself is you. People say and do nasty things and it’s painful, but it’s up to you to block off the suffering. It’s not worth giving your time or energy to people who make you feel like a burden. People who are struggling with their own sexuality or relationship troubles so take it out on you. People who are jealous. People who don’t understand how someone their age, just like them, can become mentally unwell. I’m not bothered anymore. Only the people closest to me could ever break my heart like that again, and the reason why they are so close, is because I know that they never won’t. And if I hadn’t of gone through this horrible journey, I would never have experienced this freedom from the snare of toxic people.
So, here it is. Reasons why I, Rosie Wildman, am glad that I have spent the last two years alive, when I could have completed a suicide attempt.
- I would never have met my best friend, Victoria. I can’t even imagine what life would be like without her. With some people you just click, and she’s one of them. She has taught me more about life than most other people I know put together, she’s brave, and she’s strong. She also doesn’t put up with any of my shit. She tells me how it is. She reminds me of how far I’ve become. That I’m different from the people I compare myself to. That you can live a relatively happy life with borderline personality disorder.
- I would never have seen my family grow. My sisters are now 16 and 17 and they are intelligent and beautiful young women. I was never close to my sisters when I was a bit younger, and I’m happy to say that I now am. Over time, things patched over and I can always rely on a hug and a chat with Joni or Poppy. I have also been able to see my brother go to big school (secondary school) and continue showing everyone what a kind little soul he is, even if he gets angry at me sometimes.
- I’ve read so many books, especially over the last year. When I was feeling really depressed I couldn’t concentrate properly on the words, but thankfully I have been speeding through books at the moment and I love it. It’s such a great distraction when I’m feeling shit, and it maintains my good mood when I’m feeling happy. It makes me feel pretty sweet that there will always be another good book for me to sink my teeth into. All these stories change me slightly. They give you insight into different worlds, different literary dimensions.
- I would never have been so self-confident in myself and my appearance. I am not just a pair of boobs. I have soft shoulders. I have sparkly eyes. My whole face lights up when I smile. I have dimples in both of my cheeks. I can run pretty quickly and I dance like nobody’s watching (usually in a club, embarrassing myself) and my brain is brilliant. I’m aware of my imperfections, but they don’t define me. I’m not some heinous beast. I’m just me. I’m excited and friendly and energetic, when I’m not struggling. I can make other people happy. When I glow, it feels like all the other people around me are glowing.
- I would have never have become so independent. Although I am probably less independent than most people at my university, as my family live pretty near to the campus and my Dad actually works there, it’s been a massive step from being on 1:1 in psychiatric hospital. I’m not scared to be in an empty house anymore, I can go to sleep without worrying that I’m going to be attacked, I can make myself meals. I look after my surroundings and I look after myself.
- Finally, I would never have connected with so many people who have been through the horrible and draining ordeals of mental illness that I’ve been through. The friends I had on the inpatient ward: late night conversations sat at our doorways, sneaking into each other’s rooms, playing XBOX in the quiet room with the lights off so we could pretend we were somewhere else, group leave. And, the friends I’ve made through the recovery network. My beautiful Lauren. Rhianne. Cora. Emma. Megan. Shauna. Sophie.
Life isn’t perfect and it would be pretty futile to claim that I’m ‘recovered’ by any stretch of the imagination. But I am moving forward and I have come a long way. I am not a victim of mental illness anymore. I am a fighter and I’ll continue to fight for as long as I’m still here. This chance to live has shown me why the world is so beautiful and it has made me fall in love with it all over again. I’ve grown, and I’m still growing.