I’m Leanne Gibbs aged 18, I will be explaining my personal journey in mental health… how it started, how I received help and the recovery journey that is continuing now. There will be a trigger warning in this blog!!! This will be including my self harm, my suicide attempts and my psychotic episodes!! I have decided to put everything into one blog instead off doing separate ones. 2016-2018. Enjoy.
It was 2016 when I started realising that the things I was doing wasn’t right, besides this was my final year at school (year 11). I attended East Point Academy and I was coming home from school just locking my self away in my bedroom from everyone, not going out socialising like I use to before. Home life was as good as it can get with no problems at all. School life was pretty tough for me though I was getting kicked out of class, getting excluded… you name it I done it but school isn’t for everyone as they say.
One night I honestly couldn’t tell you what came over me, I just felt empty, just felt completely dead?? Why? I asked my self? how can I fix this?? I remember it was a Thursday night and it was my first time self harming by cutting. I cut my wrists not too deep but enough to feel the pain. I felt back alive besides at that time I didn’t know self harm was a thing and a bad coping mechanism.
I realised I was doing it 3-4 times a week for two weeks, it wasn’t a healthy way of coping and at this point I started to hear voices as well as suicidal thoughts. I told one of my closes mates (Shayna) what I had been doing to my self and just telling her how I felt. She took it seriously but she didn’t judge me which was my fearless worry. She told me my next step is that she will be there every step off my way… In her own words she said “Reassuring her was probably one of the hardest things I have done, that is when she first ever ever heard voices, telling her horrid things!! That is when I was like wtf she really don’t wanna be here I need to get this girl some help quickly!!”
I was in my last year at school, we still had to do an hour PE every week. I used every excuse in the book for me not to participate in PE sessions like, “oh I left my kit at home”…”I’m allergic to the washing powder for your spare kits”. It was excuse after an excuse, detention after detention; but they didn’t know the truth, I didn’t want to reveal the truth, I kept this going for about 3 weeks until Shayna was like “Enough is enough we are telling a suitable adult who can get the help you need “. I didn’t agree with Shayna at first but I was like “yeah your right”. We arranged a meeting with the head of year the next week, we didn’t say why we wanted a meeting until that day came.
That day came and I remember sitting there repeating to my self “Don’t tell my parents” “Don’t tell my parents“. My head of year went through the procedures on what she can keep confidential and what she couldn’t, which was understandable. I told her everything, shown her what I had been doing to my self and told her why I wasn’t doing PE. My head of year worked around PE and gave me the option to do one of my selected GCSE options instead off doing PE; she gave me that night to tell my mother other wise she would. She also referred me to the support worker on the school grounds.
This is when I started to get help. I didn’t tell my mum what I had been doing to myself so she had to hear the news from someone else. Obviously she told my father behind my back and they both tried getting me to the doctors & booked an appointment with out me knowing (which I refused to attend). I did block and protect my parents from everything that was going on, but they simply just wanted to be there for me. I didn’t just want the attention from them or anyone .
It was the beginning of May 2016, I guess this was when everything started to fall into place, I had prom to look forward to (if I kept up my good behaviour at school). I started to see the support worker every week in school, she was very understanding and supportive towards my problems. We both agreed to book an appointment with my GP and to see my doctor together. This led me to getting referred to a couple of services, these were CAMHS-Child Adolescent Mental Health Service and the short term crisis team for under 18s. I had a Mental health assessment which took about 3-6 weeks to get seen from someone professional.
I can’t remember much between those weeks of waiting for the assessment. It was in between GCSE exams with all the other problems on top, I couldn’t concentrate to revise but I managed to concentrate on the main subjects I wanted to achieve in and get good grades; these included – health and social care level 1 & 2 , English, Maths and Art.
I attended the mental health assessment and it came back that I was severely depressed with psychotic symptoms, and anxiety. I was given a couple of options on treatments this included – Medication, CBT or both . I went with medication as I wasn’t a big fan of talking to people about my problems. I was put on Sertraline an anti-depressant.
I was seeing the crisis team a few days a week during school time as well as my support worker. I had to work around supporting my self as well as getting the help I needed mentally and during my Exams. The school were very supportive, if I was having a bad day and if I had an exam on that day they would put me in a separate room away from the exam hall. I sat all my exams and went to the prom in July 2016. I left school with alright grades, I could off done better but my health is more important than my education.
In the summer holidays I didn’t hardly go out and socialise much, I stayed in most of the time and spent my days doing 500 piece jigsaw puzzles, walking along the beach with my dog. I did do the NCS (National Citizen Service) but unfortunately my time there was shorter than expected. I can’t exactly remember what happened but they said I was “too mentally unwell to complete the 4 week course”.
In September 2016 I went straight into work at Costa coffee and aside of that I was doing health and social care level 2 at college. I continued to get support from CAMHS and my support worker. In mid September I got discharged from CAMHS as they thought I was getting better but I guess I was getting better at hiding what was going on inside my head. I started to attend to this group (better together) every Thursday evening, it is a support group for those who suffer or look after someone with a mental illness. It isn’t run by any professionals, just the community getting together and supporting each other.
This is when everything started to go down hill again. I attempted my first suicide attempt & my first psychotic episode. I attended to this local youth club twice a week, I don’t remember much of that night. I memorise having such strong, distressing and demanding voices and thoughts!! All I felt was complete confusion, I didn’t understand what was happening “Take all those tablets otherwise your family is in trouble” They said repeatedly and in a demanding voice!! So in my head it was either me killing my self or my family getting killed. But why?? I used to carry my medication around with me anywhere and everywhere I use to go. Family comes first and I didn’t want nothing to happen to anyone of them. It was me or my family!! Taking and observing every time I popped a tablet out with the voices saying “Hurry up you have 10 minutes to take all of them tablets”. I popped all the tablets I had left in my box I’d say between 10-15. I think the hardest thing that night was calling for help. From there on I don’t remember anything other than sitting on a sofa with several people round me and waking up in a hospital bed.
I can’t think back on how people reacted to my actions that I made that night. My parents, close family and friends… I’d say they were confused & didn’t understand why I tried taking my own life. I don’t think I have actually mentioned to them that I heard voices demanding me to do things that could harm me or others but in my prospective I was protecting them from the voices. I don’t think my family have came around with someone having a mental health illness.
Two weeks after I tried taking my own life again… this was triggered by a different sighting in a familiar place, I didn’t click that he wasn’t real until I looked back, what happened is that I believed I saw a young Victorian boy roughly aged 7-8 with dirty blond hair (quite rough looking). He use to follow me like a lost sheep; he would never speak directly towards me but he’s facial expressions would tell me what he was trying to say. I just wanted him to stop following me and scaring the shit out of me. So I came up with a conclusion, if I did what they say they would bugger off somewhere else. So I took another overdose & this was the most terrifying experience I have ever been through.
After my psychotic episode I was admitted into Hospital and stayed there for 2 nights on the Children’s ward until I felt safe enough to go home. I was seen by the crisis team and they came up and agreed to transfer me to the ”Early intervention psychosis team”. About a couple of weeks later I met my new mental health nurse. I was seeing her regularly every week. The first few months seeing her we just got to know each other. We also done a safety plan for when I go into crisis.
I carried on working at Costa coffee and tried to keep my place at college but unfortunately I lost my place after having too many days off. My support worker didn’t want me to miss out on my free education, so she looked at a few options for me to do. She got an application form and we both filled it in together for princes trust as she thought it would benefit me. I was accepted for princes trust to start in January. During princes trust I kept to my job and put 100% effort in which took my mind off things and it kept me stable. I was also supporting others with their own mental health issues on this website called “7 cups of tea” I became a listener and done online training. I met and supported a lot people around the world mainly USA. I became close to a few and I currently speak to them today!!
It came to January 2017, I started princes trust, it was a four month programme. We done team building skills which included a week away from home. I did struggle that week away and did relapse by self harming. I knew what I had to do by looking at my safety plan. The team leader of princes trust was very supportive to me that night and thought out the programme and had regular meetings with my support workers and mental health nurse. Between those four months at princes trust I gained so much confidence in many ways. I did relapsed once during those four months (which was at residential).That was the longest I had been stable for. I was kept busy Seven days a week, five days a week at princes trust, then working weekends kept me going. I thought I was getting better having a scheduled week and not laying around everyday in bed doing nothing. It felt like I had a purpose in life. It came to an end off the princes trust programme and I completed it with level one. I was given more shifts at work which was good and kept me busy and I had a focus delivering the best coffee for the customers.
It was the beginning off May I was still seeing my support workers and mental health nurse regularly and going to my local youth club; although going to my local youth club was a big trigger for me, I didn’t want to miss out seeing everyone there. All the staff were incredibly supportive and have had to run me to the hospital a few times. I guess I learnt how to deal with certain things, voices, hallucinating while I was there. I did go through a stage having panic attacks, but I soon cut that in a bud and found my triggers and avoided those triggers. The way to notice if I was hallucinating I would adapt the environment that I was in and take my image I was seeing; and see if that would match with the environment I was in. Another way I would ask someone for that reassurance.
I’ve never really learnt how to deal with the voices apart from sticking headphones on full blast. The only way I can explain what hearing voices really feels like is when your in a car with a radio on you know it’s there in the background. The voices can be nice one day and then another day they can be horrid and very demanding!! Some days they can be mixed & sometimes argue with each other. I hear just over 3 voices I don’t recognise the voices, I see two of them, the angel & the devil. I do get confused in normal day conversations with real people and have to ask for them to repeat what they said.
It was mid May 2017, I attempted another suicide attempt with my prescribed medication, I’m not sure what led up to this overdose but I can say this was the scariest overdose I have ever done. I remember seeing an ambulance with blue lights flashing also kicking off big time and refused a blood test, I’m absolutely petrified when it comes to needles!!! I can’t remember where I was when I took this overdose but I remember being drowsy and was on a machine overnight with all sticky things on my chest. Same old routine crisis team comes and sees me and discharges me back home.
I was still covering up my feelings and not saying a word to my parents and my sister on why I was acting in this way. I guess they didn’t know what to do to support me but how can they support me when I’m not telling them anything. They would ask “what’s going on”? I would say “don’t matter” with a fake smile. My parents have been separated since 2010. They had both moved on with their lives & had new partners, my dad had another child on the way & I was delighted. They are both civil with each other for us kids. I live with mum and my younger brother and my sister lives with dad. I see my dad regularly and go round his.
I carried on working at Costa And tried to keep on track, but some days I couldn’t even get out of bed, I didn’t even want to face the day ahead of me. What ever got thrown at me and even if I felt like complete shit, I’ll still go out there and face that day. I think the biggest fear was letting my sister down as she got me that job, she would be so hard on me and made sure I kept too it. Which in a good way when I look back she was doing it for my own good. But she didn’t know how much pressure she put on me and with all my other problems it was overwhelming. My work colleagues I didn’t really speak to, I just went into work got my head down and got done what I needed to do.
I met one off my closest mates Amba at the better together group. We just started talking and we just clicked,we both had problems going on and we supported each other through them. I found someone who’d listen to me when ever I was down and never judged me. Thats what I wanted, someone who would understand.We was seeing each other nearly everyday, nice fires in the garden when the sun would go down with music blaring, with a glass off vodka and coke chatting the night away. I didn’t tell her about the voices at start but one night I went into an episode when I was with her. I just dropped everything and left the house I just wanted to walk. I can memorise from that night feeling completely overwhelmed & confused this was caused by the voices. I was walking in the middle off the road dodging cars shouting, screaming telling the voices to basically “fuck off” !! I felt like I lost control off my self and had no control what so ever. I could see Amba not panicking but concerned following me and on the phone to the ambulance service. Amba somehow reassured me and made me sit down on this grass hill. The ambulance turned up and came up with a safe and best solution for me to go up the hospital once again and speak to the crisis team.
It wasn’t long after that I got sectioned under the 136- Mental health act. I thought this suicidal attempt would be the last and I would succeed. I tried something different from all my other suicidal attempts. This night I can’t remember how I was feeling just completely exhausted from fighting a war inside off my head with voices to suicidal thoughts. Imagine that going on all at once at the point you can’t even focus on what’s actually going on around you. I was at that point where I couldn’t function in every day to day life. Completing small tasks took more effort than it’s supposed to be. It was early hours in the morning, I was at home with a couple off my friends. I was demanding them to take me to the beach so they did. They didn’t understand why I wanted to go to the beach. I can’t remember much after that except from sitting on the edge of the pier holding on to this bar that supported me from not falling into the water. I could feel someone holding me back and on the phone to the emergency services. I remember still sitting at the edge of the pier wall and looking into the distance watching the waves and looking at the stars. Flashing lights coming towards us along the cliffs. The police arrived and dragged me off the edge of the pier sat me down on a bench. They went through all the procedures and what’s going to happen next. I was brought to the main A&E hospital & they didn’t except me so I had to go to a mental health hospital for adults considering I was only 17 at the time and I wasn’t suppose to be there. I wasn’t allowed no one there to support me. It was just past 3 in the morning I got there. I was placed in this big plain room that contained a sofa, bed and bathroom. I had this lady sitting there all night staring at me which made me so uncomfortable she didn’t even make conversation with me. I was seen eventually after 7hrs from a mental health doctor and had an assessment done. They thought the best option was for them to send me to Manchester inpatient unit for under 18s to get the treatment I needed. I refused as it was too far away from home. They agreed to send me home with strong medication for the next couple of days and the crisis team would visit me everyday. I was high as a kite from the medication they gave me that day they discharged me later that day to my mates. I thought that was the end of getting moved from place to place and I could finally get some sleep. I had two police cars and an ambulance outside my mates still don’t know from this day why. Thought to my self “here we go again”. Police searched me fully & took me to A&E and I stayed there for a couple off nights on the children’s ward.
It came to August 2017 and I was missing out work and letting the team down. So I thought the best option for me was to leave Costa and to focus on getting my self better. At this point I hardly had anyone; I was pushing everyone away but one positive I still was supporting others on 7 cups off tea & carried on seeing my support workers and mental health nurse. I kept going to my youth club every Monday and Wednesday evenings and the better together group Thursday evenings. Things started to look up I was put on the right medication what I’m still currently on – Quetiapine 200mg. My little sister was born on the 31st off October, which kept me going and saw her everyday for about to weeks and occasionally seeing her. I went back to college in September doing health and social care level 2, I left again a month after starting due to not being able to concentrate in lessons. I applied to princes trust programme to do my level two in January. Christmas was a special one for me, as it was my little sisters first Christmas.
In 2018 January I started my level two on the princes trust programme and met a good bunch off people who I still regularly speak from this day on. I was stable for a good 6 months,until it was coming close to my 18th birthday (15th February ). I tried another suicide attempt on the 14th February… I didn’t want to see my 18th birthday due to all the changes And an “Adult world “seemed scary. I thought I’d lose all the support from all the professionals who I see. Most people who I have spoken too said the support goes down hill when you turn 18. I was fully focused on this attempt and planned everything out including a suicide note .I’m not ready to actually tell people what really happened that night. One day In the future I will tell what happened but not just yet. But I survived and I’m glad I saw my 18th birthday and was surrounded with my friends and family.
I haven’t relapsed since 14th February which is great !! From this day on I’m still going strong, Yes I still have my good days and bad days but who don’t ?? I think the worse thing I done was blocked & pushed my family and friends out, when they just wanted to know what the hell was going on with me and to support me through it. The support from professionals & friends,family I couldn’t thank them enough for supporting me and putting me in the direction of recovery. I thought It’s time to get my story out there & help spread the awareness of mental health and how serious it can get. I hope too inspire others who’s going through any kind off mental illness.
Now you know my story !!
it’s okay to be not okay 💫