A life of false starts

In March 1991 I became very stressed. I was at college doing a
foundation course. Two weeks after I started I was told I could
have done the family and community care course I originally wanted
to do. This made me feel angry and hurt. Instead I carried on doing
the foundation course.

I had had a brief relationship in December 1990 and this
contributed to my first nervous breakdown. I felt anxious and
worried about the relationship. I was sectioned under the Mental
Health Act in March 1991. I was in hospital for three months. While
I was there I felt trapped. My mum pretended I was on holiday to
make me feel better. I was on strong medication, did not know what
day it was and felt disoriented.

During my hospital stay there were times when I felt despair. Once
the hospital staff had to lock me in a room as I was creating a
disturbance. After three months I was discharged and went to live
with my parents. A lot of the time I felt like sleeping and did not
go out much.

When I turned 18 in November 1991 my mum and dad asked the social
worker to find me a place to live as they found it hard to cope
with me. I moved into a hostel, which I did not like as everyone
smoked. I lasted a month and moved back home. I went to
occupational therapy three times a week. I did exercise classes,
flower arranging and sewing. In September 1992 my situation was
better and I was able to come off medication. I met my
husband-to-be in April 1993 and had no other symptoms until May

I had gone to Spain in January 1999 on work experience through a
project called New Directions. I was working in a centre for
disabled people. I felt upset seeing severely disabled people.
Instead of staying for three months I came home after 10 days. My
symptoms returned as I felt guilty about leaving so early.

I got married in November 1999 but thinking back I was not well. We
were happy initially but my husband found my illness difficult to
cope with. I’d had a second breakdown in May 1999. My husband would
ignore my illness. This time my mum looked after me at her house.
My husband and I split up in April 2000. I felt frustrated when my
husband visited me at my parents’ house. I used to want to go back
home with him but he and my mum would not let me. This made me feel
very angry, I even threatened my mum that I would call the police.

I am now at college again. I am doing a full-time business
administration course. I’ve also gained a GCSE in Spanish. After my
course ends I plan to do an NVQ in customer care while on a
full-time work placement through the YMCA.

Now I feel my life is working out because I keep active. I exercise
three times a week. It makes me feel less stressed and able to
manage my life much better.

Traceyann Napier is a full-time student and has mental
health problems.

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