Mental health services gave me hope

Jessica, a member of our STAR Communications Team, talks about lived experience of psychosis. Jessica was working in marketing and commuting around 100 miles each way when her mental health took a turn for the worse and she started experiencing psychotic symptoms.

Life degraded so quickly. I got my dream job working at a social media agency in Shoreditch and it was a huge opportunity so I embraced it but I was under a huge amount of stress because of work and the commute and I started to just buckle under the pressure. I owned my own house – a little cottage in Wiltshire – and I had to sell that in the end. I lost basically everything in just a few months: my job, my house and even my mind.

I lost my grip on reality slowly. At first it was just things like feeling really paranoid and not quite being sure what was real and what wasn’t. Then it was this odd feeling that I was on television or that people were actors in some sort of conspiracy against me. I know it sounds mad, but that’s how it felt to me at the time.”

I knew something was wrong and so I went into A&E but they diagnosed me with depression and anxiety when in reality, it was the beginnings of psychosis.

Psychosis is a severe mental health condition where you interpret reality differently and often experience delusions and/or hallucinations.

My life started to fall apart. I lost my job and my mental health continued to deteriorate. I didn’t have a very strong grip on reality and was really struggling. I was having trouble reading text and time would pass very quickly and I didn’t seem to be able to even do basic tasks. I was really suffering and getting through each day was difficult. I really seriously considered suicide.

This was all compounded by the fact I ended up homeless. I rented out my house because I planned to move to London but by the time came I was meant to move, I’d already lost my job so I ended up sofa surfing for around six months. This meant I had trouble accessing healthcare. Even though you’re entitled to NHS healthcare when you’re homeless, the surgery refused to see me because I couldn’t give them an address. I had slipped through the cracks. Although I didn’t think of myself as homeless at the time, I didn’t have anywhere to go and I felt completely hopeless. When my mental health took a nosedive, my dad realised how bad things were and finally encouraged me to come home. Before this, I think everyone just thought I was being dramatic and I just needed to ‘pull my socks up’.

Eventually everything spiralled out of control and I was sectioned under the Mental Health Act, which I am thankful for because it helped me to access the mental health services I so desperately needed.

Jessica has been hospitalised with psychosis twice. The first time she spent around two months in hospital in July 2018.

I had to sell my house while I was in hospital. It was a really difficult time and I never realised how complex the reasons are that people end up homeless and how quickly everything comes tumbling down – it can literally happen to anyone at any time. Even though I was very privileged to have bought my house it meant it was incredibly stressful when I was sectioned and unable to make my mortgage payments. I felt like I was losing everything I had worked for.

The second time she was hospitalised, Jessica spent 28 days in hospital in August 2019.

Unfortunately I had a second psychotic episode. I had just started to put my life back together and got a part-time job which was a bit more manageable stress wise (or so I thought), when things started to deteriorate again. I started to see ‘signs’ in the world around me again. This is called a delusion of reference and is where you believe things such as that the TV and radio contain messages just for you. This quickly became overwhelming and I was hospitalised again because I was acting so erratically.

This was a really bleak time in my life and I didn’t think I could come back from it. But medication really helps me. The Early Intervention for Psychosis services were essential to my recovery. It means I see someone every two weeks to talk about psychosis and my recovery. This has been so helpful, and has meant I really feel like I have a support network to fall back on when life gets overwhelming. Things aren’t easy but mental health services have helped give me hope for the future and for recovery.

Hope is so important when it comes to facing a psychotic illness. You need hope for recovery and hope for quality of life to be able to keep on going. And the mental health teams are really genuinely optimistic for your outcome.

Jessica has been volunteering with Second Step as part of its STAR Involvement groups, working within the communications department to help shape Second Step’s social media, content and PR activity.

I wanted to help use my social media skills again as well as using the experiences I’d had with my mental health. It made perfect sense to volunteer and it’s been great so far knowing that something good has come out of these difficult experiences.

If you have lived experience of mental health issues and want to volunteer as part of the STAR coproduction groups, get in touch.

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