I’m Louna, a freelance blogger & influencer at Bursts Of Autumn. I’m a mental health advocate, newly appointed mentor with the diana award and expert by experience.
I’m going to share with you my journey if that’s ok.
As a child I struggled with behaviours that didn’t add up to my parents. I was in a situation where my parents split when I was 18 months old. My relationship with my father confused me and often caused disappointment. My mum had to made the decision to remove him from the home due to alcohol consumption and causing me stress like tearing at my hair and covering my ears. My relationship got better with my dad but it’s never been as it should be sadly. As I have gotten older I value my time with my father and feel closer to him.
As I grew up I was severely bullied throughout education including primary school. I began to lose my hair bit by bit and after many hospital visits, blood tests and consultations we realised it was linked to stress from being bullied. I was subconsciously ripping my own hair out. I was diagnosed with a stress disorder called trichotilomania. It took a long time to regain my hair and in the meantime I was bullied even more for not having much hair. ridiculous isn’t it? 7 years old and not being able to do anything right in. With hair I was picked on and without I was. It was an endless cycle and carried on into secondary school. Luckily my hair grew back and I only suffered slightly with it from there on. Looking back it was a form of self harm. 7 years old and self harming? It has to stop.
My first real loss
My step father died in a tragic accident when I was 10 years old which at the time I didn’t feel impacted me a lot, but as I’ve grown I realised it has been festering within me from not coping and not being able to understand my emotions. I believe this may be where the decline in my mental health started.
Skip to secondary school. I loved education and learning and reading and just being in a classroom taking in new information ready to write about it. It was an exciting time for the high functioning Autistic that is me. But guess what? It was soon dampened by bullies and that’s where my mental health journey fully came to light and began. I was under mental health services, psychiatrists, psychologists, eating disorder specialists and nurses.
I developed severe anxiety and struggled to get to school, making up excuses to my mum as reasons to not go to school but there’s only so much you can say before it gets obvious right? I tried it all.
I was verbally, mentally, emotionally and physically abused in school by other students, and teachers weren’t taking it very seriously and I felt I had no one to turn to. I let it carry on until it started affecting my grades. My teachers became disappointed in me for letting my grades slip. But how could I achieve if I was being bullied so badly, I was even scared of my classroom. I was anxious of people, of where I had to sit. I worried about group work but also individual work. I doubted myself in everything. How could I achieve if whilst this was happening, these very teachers weren’t listening? Again it was broken record.
Being followed home, having cans of pop and bottles thrown at me. Having apples lunged at my head and my hair ripped out. Apparently it wasn’t enough for the school to care, because let’s face it, I was one child out of over two thousand others at my school. Why would I matter?
One day after school I was chased, had grass thrown at me and my friends and whilst trying to help my friend who had been thrown to the ground and my other friends ran away, I was pushed, headlocked and my only way of getting out of near being choked was to dig my nails into the persons arm. After sprinting home crying, I was taken to the emergency doctor. I’d gotten whiplash from this attack and emotional trauma. Do you know the punishment those kids got? One day exclusion. I had two weeks off school because of this and the school refused us getting the police involved. I was terrified and my anxiety starting getting worse. I began self harming severely with anything I could find, broken rulers, sharp hair grips, my own finger nails, pencils and all else really. I felt lost, trapped and hopeless. I wanted to insert myself into walls, I wanted to jump out of windows in my classroom. I wanted to scream out loud randomly and these overwhelming feelings just made me feel sick. It was in the core of my stomach and I couldn’t figure out what it was. I thought people were trying to poison me. I thought one day my mum was going to disown me and tell me all along I’d been adopted. I just lost touch of reality. I began to lose my identity and it was the scariest place I’ve ever been.
Mental health services
Whilst my mental health services were there, I didn’t feel I was being helped as much as I could’ve but part of that was me not feeling ok with being 100% honest due to the fear of judgement and not being accepted, since my teachers often dismissed me and I just didn’t feel I could cope with any more people looking down at me. I drowned my sorrows in work, books, writing and singing. It wasn’t all bad, I still somehow enjoyed school despite all that was happening. I felt safe in my music department. I’d eat there, relax there, work there, talk to teachers there and hang out. I had bass, guitar and singing lessons and music was my main GCSE subject so it was my pride and joy and my solace.
2012: The big year it all happened
Skip to 2012, I’d just started year 11. My last and most important year of school.
The bullying was still happening, my only outlet was music and I’d become numb. I’d become used to it and learnt to just simply, cope.
Then something happened. My best friend died. We were both 15 and I just broke completely. I went into a deep hole of depression, extreme anxiety and the self harm got worse. I wanted to die. If I couldn’t be here with my best friend, why should I be here? That’s when my mum knew she had to do something. We were rushed into the doctors and he got onto my mental health team and made the decision to take me out of school. Not to move schools, just take me out. If It wasn’t for him, I don’t know what would’ve happened to me. After pushing for diagnosis, I finally began understanding who I was and why I was feeling so different. I was diagnosed with high functioning ASD, mild tic disorder, reactive depression, mild OCD, mild social phobia and extreme anxiety. All of the worry, behaviours as a child, routines, funny movements with my body and nervousness made sense finally. I wasn’t going mad, that’s all I thought. I finally felt like I understood myself and it was just amazing.
My GP was working closely with my beautiful mother and my mental health team and was fighting for me to become homeschooled. After months of waiting, having no education and just feeling hopeless and useless, I got a call. I was accepted by James brindley specialist school and they were going to begin home schooling me. Bare in mind, I’d been threatened by my school to be taken to court. I’d been told my fiends, family, teachers and many others that a school drop out will never amount to anything. I believed it. How could any college take on me. How could someone with no grades get a job. Well I’ll tell you how. I managed to pull myself up and finished all my GCSE’s at home. I then got into college and passed the course with triple D* – The highest grade to achieve. I made that happen. I put the work in and when I say I’m going to do something I do it and I do it with all of my heart.
Next chapter: My first relationship. Make or break me.
Move on to the next chapter.
I was in a band and I met someone and it became a toxic relationship. It involved abuse in every way. I was 17 and I’d never had a boyfriend. I didn’t want to be intimate or anything like that but I didn’t seem to have a choice and became used. He controlled me, threatened me with his life and quite literally put his life in my hands, telling me if I didn’t do things, he’d kill himself. He made me self harm and I also developed an eating disorder. He changed me and made me very unwell. I became further and further from myself. He turned my family against me and I couldn’t talk to them about what was really happening behind closed doors. I was the one who looked like an emotional wreck. Short and sweet but here’s the important part. When he left me I rebuilt my life. I couldn’t work in a Regular job because he turned my colleagues against me and broke down so many of my walls including all of my self belief. I even developed agoraphobia but Spoiler alert, I didn’t let him win.
The start of my journey finding myself
Being out of work made me feel useless, hopeless end embarrassed of myself. I felt like I wasn’t good enough and that I never would be. I wasn’t earning money, I could rarely leave the house or get on a bus. I felt so inferior and unworthy of life. My friends were all doing so well and I admired them deeply. I was forever wishing I could be as good as them. I wished I could go to work, earn my money and live my life, but that’s not what I was destined to do, and I realise that now more than anything!
After teaching children dance, singing, acting and elocution whilst also helping with babies stay and play stimulation for a while I began blogging and creating content whilst seeing my mental health team. I did a princes trust enterprise course and began my journey in recovery and finding who I was meant to be. I found my partner in crime, my soul mate and the person who built up my walls instead of tearing them down. He helped me step by step find who I was again and the chapters with him continue. My Mum and I rebuilt our relationship and became best friends. She was and is my saviour and without her, I don’t know what I’d have done. She is my biggest supporter. My friends stuck by me and taught me my worth and bit by bit I started like I was moving forward.
I was picked up by a journalist a few years ago and featured in the sun newspaper on an article about social anxiety. Through that my mental health nurse showed a member of her team within Forward Thinking Birmingham. He wanted to meet me to see if I could work alongside his youth participation team. I ended up joining Think4Brum and through that group I have found recovery, my passions, my voice and a new family in them. I have now had all of these opportunities; I was on BBCwm radio and Television and am becoming who I was meant to be. I am sitting on interview panels for professionals within the industry. I am taking part in PLACE assessments in inpatient clinics. I am a member of Rethink mental illness’s comms panel responding to campaigns and giving feedback. I am a body confidence enthusiast and freelance model. I run a successful freelance blog and am slowly building up my empire. I am a mentor with the Diana award and a speaker at Birmingham City university during lectures on the social work course. And I am finding who I am meant to be within the world. All because an amazing man called Bob maxfield of Forward thinking found me and then helped me find myself. Think4Brum has shown me what real friends are. I have now got a family of passionate people who want to change the world. I love them all. They are all so unique, so passionate and each teach me new things. Please please if you haven’t heard of or seen any of the work we do, I’d love to introduce you to the group.
A quick update of my current situation and ways to show you that when you think life is going to break you, it will actually help make you stronger.
I’ve faced some life changing battles the last few years that could’ve broken me and made me stop doing all of the work I’m doing. Last year my uncle died from a long battle of dementia, my other uncle and aunt has also been diagnosed with it.
I’m fighting for custody of my nieces and nephews who are all in care and have been for almost a year. I’m being assessed to become a connected foster carer which will change my life. And last year both of my brothers attempted suicide. I have felt like I was going to decline again, but throughout it all I have actually become stronger. I’ve been forced to become the rock within my family and I refuse to sink no matter how strong these waves of loss, grief and anger become. I will not sink. I will use the anchor that threatens to pull me down, make me a better, stronger and more resilient human being. And here I am now, talking to all of you wonderful people.
Had I never experienced ill mental health, self harm, bullying, loss and being broken, I’d never have become the person I am today doing these amazing things to change the face of youth voice within the world. I believe in the power of youth voice and I believe together we are stronger.
Thank you for listening.