Hope's story: 'It's well worth hanging in there'
When I was 13 I started struggling with food, and this got so out of control that when I was 17 my heart nearly stopped and I was admitted to a mental health hospital where I lived for a year.
It’s funny when I tell people about this. When looking on I look like a healthy 26-year-old, living and working in London. Yes, I like running and eating healthily but no one would in a million of years have guessed I had spent a year in hospital at the age of 17 being taught the importance of eating to survive.
The hard thing about mental health is you can’t see it. Each day millions of people pretend they feel fine. People leave their houses in the mornings, put on their masks and head off to work or out with their friends.
I remember when someone that I work with found out about my history and he said: "I never would have guessed it, you are so bubbly and always so chatty." But the reality is, yes I feel good, I have so many good days now, but there is still so much fear that one day out of nowhere my mental health problems, my anorexia will creep up on me. They will suck me back in and I will slip out of control.
And yes, at first it’s easy to ignore, easy to shut her up and easy to forget. But as it beats you, further and further down, the mask gets harder to cover it. There are days when you can’t laugh, days when you don’t feel like getting up and then days when you just want to give up fighting and let it win.
In 2016, I had a mini relapse. My Grandma had passed away and I felt so much guilt. The last time I had seen her had been awful. She was lying there in a care home, her Alzheimer’s worsening. She barley recognised me. Kept hallucinating. I didn’t want to be there in that horrible, small room. I just wanted to leave.
I left that day after an hour or so. Headed back to her house with my Mum and I promised myself, my Mum and my Grandma that I would be better next time. I would know what to say. But there wasn’t a next time: the guilt from that last visit ate me up. And I began to shut down again. Shut off all my emotion. I hid it well, and I pushed on. I couldn’t let people know as they would think I was a complete failure.
But why should I be ashamed of struggling? Having a mental health problem does not make you weak and it definitely does NOT make you a failure.
I pushed on, realised what was happening. Pulled all my strength and fought her off. Fought off the feelings of failure. I did it. I had beaten her again. It was hard but definitely worth it.
Mental health problems are invisible to the world. It's not like breaking a leg and wearing a cast. No one can see the pain, the worries, the battle going on in your head and at times you can feel so alone. I wanted to write the book, Stand Tall Little Girl about my battle with anorexia to help those having problems with their mental health.
It hasn’t been easy opening up and, at times, I have worried about it. Worried about the impact it could have on my career and worried about what people would think. It was only once I started to open up that I realised how silly it was to be embarrassed. The silence around mental health kills people and we need to change this. I hope my book inspires others to open up, share their jouney and get the support they need.
My book isn’t a story of false promises. Promises that you will be 100% fine, promises that one day you will wake up and it will all be okay. Everyone’s journey of mental health is different. But I just hope that my story can inspire you. It can make you realise that it is well worth hanging there. Life is so much better when you are living in the moment and not letting your mental health beat you down.
For those who read my story who haven’t got a mental health problem. Please remember that just because someone looks okay it doesn’t mean they are.
No one should be ashamed of having a mental health problem. Sharing your story can be hard, scary and worrying but find those you trust and share with them. And they will hold your hand and fight with you when you feel unable to keep going.
Hope's book, Stand Tall Little Girl, is available now
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