15th – 21st May marked Mental Health Awareness Week, which had anxiety as its theme. As most of you will know, I have battled my own challenges with mental health, it is something that plagued my childhood and my young adult life and still rears its head today. My problems unfortunately got the better of me in the end. The trauma I was dealing with included the loss of my mum just before my tenth birthday, and challenging, abusive experiences of living in care afterwards. As soon as I could, when I was sixteen, I left the care system. Unfortunately, like many young people who have experienced childhood trauma and abuse, the problem was not solved quickly. In order to manage the pain of what had happened, I began to self-medicate using alcohol and prescription drugs – mostly tranquilisers.
Whilst living in Manchester, I became a regular on the vibrant social scene, I had loads of friends and acquaintances, partying and drinking as most young adults do. However, the demons of the past were not far behind and things caught up with me. On the 28th of December 1998, I attempted to take my own life by jumping off a motorway bridge. Prior to jumping, I was sitting there for three hours, 60ft high. I didn’t want to jump, but thought if I didn’t, people would think I was attention-seeking, and that I’d be put in prison, or institutionalised again. I broke more-or-less every bone in my body, spent months in hospital and had to learn to walk again.
This was my rock-bottom moment. I vowed to myself whilst lying in hospital that when I left I would not only turn my life around, but that of other children and young adults who had also had their lives affected by traumas and circumstances outside of their control. Since then, my life has got better and better, and of course I have thrown myself into charity work, raising millions for the charities I support.
The only reason I have been able to do this is by looking after myself and checking in on my own mental health. Back in the day, no one spoke about things like that and you just brushed things under the carpet. I still have some bad days, we all do, because of this – every day needs to be a Mental Health Awareness Day. With everything that’s going on it’s understandable that some will feel overwhelmed by things.