The healing process is such an interesting topic to explore. Every story is unique but often the same as well. We’re all working towards something in regards to a better future and improved health, among other things. It isn’t an easy journey to navigate nor is it ever one that seems particularly black and white. In this series, we will hear from different individuals within the mental health community about their healing process, how it began, what the journey has been like and where they are today.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am Faye; A twenty-one-year-old pole dancing, freelance illustrating, hobbit-sized-baking-cat-mum who also doubles as a cheese string because I’ve got a thing for being flexible in 10 inch killer heels. I like to have my hands in as many pies as possible, saying yes to as many things as possible and trying all things. Even trying Satay peanut pie. You should see my CV, it has an extensive range of jobs from Web designer, Photo booth manager, Café assistant to Mental health group support worker.
I do all of this with a little gang of mental health villains following me around; Depression, Anorexia, Anxiety, PTSD and Suicidal Tendencies.
When did you begin to first notice signs or symptoms of a mental health issue?
I was around thirteen when it began, that never ending sinking feeling of desperation and darkness along with the development of anorexia, PTSD and anxiety. I had been physically unwell since the age of seven, unable to attend school and lead any form of normal life so as it’s imaginable, this would obviously take an effect on my mental health. As my mental health declined, my physical health improved but unfortunately my brain was too far gone for the improvement of my physical health to salvage anything enough to stop me from self-destructing.
At the time of the decline in my mental health, there wasn’t the awareness there is today surrounding it. People didn’t recognize Mental Health Illness as a serious issue, nor did they really understand it. It was a time where mental health was all a bit glamorized, it was desirable to have anorexia, to be depressed, and to self-harm. Little did the world realize, these are serious and life changing issues.
Given how young you were when all of this first started, combined with the attitude towards mental health/illness at the time, how did you make sense of what you were going through internally?
I had no clue what was going on honestly. I had this mild awareness that the thoughts, feelings and actions I was taking towards myself were wrong and “bad”. I thought that I felt that way and harmed myself was because I was bad and that I deserved it. Due to this, I kept them to myself which became a very heavy secret on my shoulders to carry.
At what point did you realize this was something you had to take care of, and what was that beginning process like?
I knew from the start of it that it was something I need to take care of. Something was wrong and I needed to fix it. However, the simple fact was, at the age of thirteen I simply did not know how. After years of being misled, many stints in mental health hospitals and failed care from health professionals who promised they could help yet only did more damage, the age of eighteen was when I took hold of the reigns and learnt to take control. I realized they didn’t know what I need, sitting in a therapy office once a week for an hour wasn’t going to help. I needed to find a way to start living.
I started an Instagram account where I documented my journey like a diary, I started pole dancing, I started talking openly without fear about how I felt, I started baking, I started drawing, I started socializing, I started an education, I started thinking about the future, I started dreaming.
I started forcing myself to live. I decided that if I had to live a life, I might as well live a bloody good one.
What has your experience been like with trying to find what works for your treatment-wise? And do you have a routine that you’ve settled on?
My experience treatment wise has been questionable. From psych wards, general wards, weekly therapists, medications and outpatient treatment. I never came across one that worked for me. I was given a ton of bad advice from therapists, my favorites include:
- It’s okay to be bulimic once a day
- I like to go for six hour runs, you should try it.
- You will never be much of anything, don’t bother with art college.
- Them telling me about their divorce.
- Hearing “That’s so awful” and then the therapist starts crying at my life.
I figured pretty quickly when the response was always an attempt to immediately section me rather than help me and figure out the cause of my distress that therapy and healthcare professionals probably weren’t for me. So I set about building my own therapy.
My own therapy is a broad range of things. Sometimes sitting in a room telling someone mechanically all the things that have happened to you simply isn’t going to work – And that’s more than okay.
I realized I had a lot of things, thoughts and feelings that needed to be let out. So I created various forms and ways of letting it all out. From going to art college, drawing, dancing, walking in the pissing down rain, emotional facetime calls to my mum, creating countless celebration of every day cakes, laughing at my gang of ginger fools – I slowly find my way. Forwards, not backwards.
How long after those failed attempts at getting professionals to help did you come to that conclusion of having to spearhead your own recovery? And at what point did you begin to notice a change after you started doing your own thing?
After four years of repeated service failure in all forms took me to the age of eighteen. I had a huge anorexia relapse and knew I needed some help and support to get back on my feet so I started seeking help through my GP. A week after seeking help and support from the GP, I had an eating disorder team threatening to section me and send me to an inpatient unit in Edenborough (this is hours away from where I live and would have stripped me entirely of my life) if I didn’t gain 3 kilos in the span of three days whilst I was already complying in a general hospital ward.
This was the moment where I realized professionals had only put me in more harmful situations for my mental health and I needed to be the one to change it. I didn’t need to be locked up like a criminal, I needed to learn how to live. Fortunately, I managed to get out of being sent away that time by fighting like hell with my mum at my side. After that, I vowed to find a way. Any positive way. My way.
The change came pretty quickly, my understanding of it was gradual. Finding your own way is just another one of life’s learning curbs. Some things will work. Some won’t. Sometimes the things that used to work won’t work anymore. It’s just about finding the will to at least try every day.
Do you have any words for other people who might also feel let down by these systems or institutions that are supposed to help our mental health?
It’s not your fault. It’s not your fault that we don’t currently have enough understanding of mental health and mental health illness in order to offer the most successful and effective treatments for them. This doesn’t mean you’re too broken, that there’s no hope for you and that things will never change. It just means there’s going to be a hell of a rough patch but you’re going to have to learn how to ride the wave. You’ll find your way.
Feelings change, don’t make a decision on your life that can’t.
Where are you at today with your journey?
Where I am with my journey? I’m in it. I will always be in my journey in some form until the day I die. The day I die is the day where I’ll know where the beginning, middle, and end was but until then, I’m simply just in a journey.
This part of my journey has been one of the best parts in a long time. I’m living a very simple yet fast paced life whilst I study, work, pole dance and run a household as a cat mum. This phase of my journey has been the calmest and most stable of my journey so far. I intend to keep it this way. I still live with the gang of mental health villains, however I’m too busy for their drama so I create countless creative way to keep them in order.
Something we try to do our best to promote is the idea that it’s possible to use creativity as a way to transform ones pain. Is there anything you’ve created as a way to cope with pain or a painful experience?Creativity is the reason my soul still wanders this earth. If it wasn’t for creative outlets, I wouldn’t be here. I discovered my passion for art and creativity when I was eleven, ten years on and it’s still going strong. I live and breathe all things creative. Making and doing, it’s my thing.
I was never good at talking about how I felt, the things that had happened to me or what I was thinking in that moment. I didn’t know how to verbalize things. However, my left hand knew how to all the talking. Illustrating the things trapped in my mind, yearning for their freedom. I still talk a lot through my art to this day, my imprisoned thoughts are some of my most successful illustrations. Often I am the only one to know their true meaning. I suppose that’s often because no one ever asks me, what does it mean?
Looking back, how do you feel you have changed as a person since the beginning?
I started off a thirteen-year-old ghost with a heartbeat. I remained that way for many years. I was unconfident, unsure of the world, filled with fear and determined to destruct. I didn’t want anyone to notice me, I just wanted to fade into oblivion. I was ashamed of who I was and the things that interested me.
Today I sit here, a confident, empowered, determined and loud woman who won’t shut up until she sees the positive change she wants to see in the world start to happen. I couldn’t sit back anymore and do nothing about all the injustice and sadness I see in the world. I am proud of who I am, I embrace the things that interest me and I share them along with myself with the world.
Where can people follow you on social media?