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  • Theo Chatzakis

How quickly things can change

I was a young mum with two beautiful children I had a rocky childhood and was diagnosed with Autism and an Emotionally unstable personality disorder so like a lot of people I had my challenges.

I held down a job and had a relationship with the father of my youngest child. Throughout my life, I had always self-harmed to help me cope with some experiences, but I had grown up and was bringing up my two children who were my life.

My mental health started to take a dip, sometimes in life as with us all juggling motherhood, work, living in a tight-knit community who knew all your business, and other pressures I started to become unwell. My downfall was to keep this hidden and try to pull myself together. You should ask yourself though, wouldn’t you? As a mum of two children, we can’t be seen as weak, my local community already knew my childhood, that I had been in children’s homes, self-harmed in the past and had my struggles. I was scared my children would be taken from me, and I didn’t have much faith in services due to my own experiences of being in children’s homes. All this burden became too much, I did not know who to reach out to, who was safe and would not judge me.

I was taken into hospital, I was denied access to my children the one thing I was trying to stay strong for. Put yourself in my world now I am sectioned in a hospital, I am in a mental health ward where everyone has their own struggles to deal with. I was denied access to my children, my world, the one thing I had tried to protect throughout all this had gone. My life then became a downward spiral, my own self-harm kicked in to help me, I burnt my arms with aerosols, they were removed, I cut my arms, objects were removed, I started to ligature, and I was constant observation.

Imagine being in this place, I was hurting, I was scared, I was guilty, I missed my children and didn’t know how they were. The ward was busy, people come and go, nurses in and out I became a very high-risk patient to myself. The noises on the ward with my autism were also too much for me, I could get no space and no peace. Imagine my world, how would you be in that situation, on a section all your control is removed you are helpless, and your decisions are controlled by others.

I was in the hospital for over two years, and a company called ubu was approached to support me with a new flats model that had opened, and they were willing to take that chance on me and help me back on my journey to myself.

From the beginning they listened to me, they did not shy away from what I had done to myself and what everyone said I could do if I wasn’t watched 24 hours a day. They overcame barriers with me along with my Care Coordinator who also believed in me. They explained restrictions to me, how do you feel about a locked cupboard for your aerosols? Why I would ask, they explained: "to help you with those urges, it will help you to start to manage yourself, we are not saying you can’t have them but you will have to ask and that will let us know you need to talk about something, let’s build some new ways to cope like you used to."

I was gaining control of what was happening to me. Well, they released me on 24 hours a week, 2 to 1, 1 to 1, waking nights but you know what I didn’t mind, I feel I needed that at the beginning I was institutionalized. I needed to take things slowly. All my team knew me before I went to live there as we did three months of transition, the hospital staff were great on transition and really worked with ubu staff to help them with me and my support and risk plans, my signs, and my triggers. Ubu ensured my staff was trained in low-level holds to keep me safe and how to use mindfulness techniques to aid me with me staying in the here and now and not ruminating on what has gone and what is in the future (not seeing my children).

Ubu helped me by using listening, understanding, reassuring, and allowing me to make decisions to get myself better. I slowly started to find new ways of managing my thoughts and feelings as I trusted my staff. My home was quiet, and I was able to control my life. I made friends with another lady in the flats, and we became natural support for each other, staff encouraged me to do things on my own, first an hour or two slowly building things up. I had the confidence and trust in my staff to say to them, I need help, I am feeling anxious, and they would listen.

They would help me focus on the positive, and help me take action to move forward. So, you may ask where I am now after 4 years? My journey has been at my pace, and I have made friends who have become a natural support.

What I cannot thank my staff enough for is helping me not to give up on seeing my children, they helped me speak to Social Workers, understand the concerns they were raising, except what was on offer for now and why and stay in this moment. I see my son regularly from leaving the hospital through going to meet up with him and his dad with my staff. I have over the last 6 months gained some contact with my daughter, she has struggled the most and gone through some issues herself but we WhatsApp, and I get sent photos and updates. This is enough for me for now. I have reduced my hours to 35 hours of support; I still need to offload and be reassured and keep motivated.

I have recently joined borrow my doggy as I really wanted a dog. My family has always had dogs and I love them, but I live on the second floor again creative minds from my staff we don’t say we can’t do something we find ways around or over things, if can’t have a dog myself what can I have. I look after a lady's dog, I love her and this helps me, I help her while she is at work, and we have become friends.

..My home is beautiful, I have no locked cupboard it is still there but if I am struggling, I will ask for things to be put in there, I am in control of my life. I need to start thinking about living my own life without support but as my staff say this will happen naturally as we continue my journey. A young girl with a chequered and difficult past, diagnosed with autism & unstable personality disorder… in the blink of an eye now a young lady with a difficult and chequered past, diagnosed with autism and unstable personality disorder, and now 2 young children of my own. I now found myself growing up with responsibilities, other people were now reliant upon me for everything, and I had to forget my past, the only way forward, not back. I cannot show any signs of weakness, my children need me. Unfortunately, mental health, just like life, is not as simple as that & despite my best attempts at hiding the inner torment, my mental health began to decline…


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