Hey Guys, I said I would do a post on my mental health journey. I had some previous stories published on my own website but it isn’t active anymore. For those who have only been following me for a short time; I hope this brings insight.
My first experience with a mental health crisis came after a bullying incident when I was eleven years old. As a child I was highly anxious, I never stopped worrying and my lens on life had a constant blue hue of sadness. A message was written on my social media by one of the girls in my class. It said that I should kill myself. Because of this and my already very low self-esteem, I believed I owed it to her and the world to remove myself from it. It’s crazy now when I think that younger Katie believed she was doing the world a favor by committing suicide. My attempt was intervened and I was brought to see a counselor weekly for professional help. Over the next 3 years, I struggled with disordered eating, anxiety, and depression but I was managing.
Getting admitted to psychiatric care.
In 2011 I experienced some very difficult times and I came to the conclusion that I couldn’t go on anymore. I was 14 years old and 9 months when I attempted suicide again. I didn’t expect to wake up the following morning but I did and I spent the next few days hooked up to monitors in the accident and emergency department. My family gathered around me, all frankly in shock that I had made such a serious attempt. I had been placed in a hospital gown by the nurses so they could attach the monitors to my body. While semi-conscious in bed, my self-harm was on display. This was also the first time my family found out I was self-harming. It was traumatic for all involved. I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. After 4 or 5 days I was medically cleared and now it was time to sit and be assessed by a psychiatrist.
I had survived and I had no intention of living. I tried to tell the psychiatrist that I did it on impulse. I didn’t know what I was doing, I wouldn’t do it again, etc. I said whatever I thought would get me discharged and she saw right through that.
From there I was admitted to a child and adolescent psychiatric inpatient unit. I wasn’t even aware places like that existed. They did, and it really wasn’t that bad. No straight jackets and no white uniforms. A lot of young people went into the ward and got discharged to a much healthier and happier place. That was nice to see. I saw young people admitted in the most hopeless of places. I watched them leave with a bright future in front of them. I don’t really know what happened to me. I kind of just got worse as the days went on. No matter what anyone said, it didn’t change me or my opinion. I didn’t like life, I didn’t like the people in life and I was adamant to leave it. I had a large collection of traumatic bullying incidents in my past and I relived them over and over again in the present.
St. Andrews Healthcare
They tried Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, Dialectical Behavioural Therapy, Group Therapy, and Psychotherapy. Any therapy you can think of they tried. They tried antidepressants, antipsychotics, and mood stabilizers. And then they ran out of options. In November 2013 at 16 years of age, I was transferred from the CAMHS inpatient unit in Galway to a Medium Secure psychiatric facility in the UK. It was the most secure psychiatric facility for under 18s in the U.K. That place was something else entirely and I don’t think I will ever be able to erase the wounds from that time. The Facility came under serious fire in recent years after an undercover documentary was broadcast on National TV highlighting the inadequate care among other things. Several people have since sued. It was bad. I spent 22 months there and I will never forget it. I never thought I would leave. I thought I would die on the wards of that place. When I came home I fought publicly to make sure no other young person was sent over. The word I would use to describe it is horrific. If I told you some of the things that happened, you wouldn’t believe me. I won my fight to return to Ireland on the 8th of July 2015.
I had included some of the articles written at the time of my return to Ireland along with some others. The first five articles were about my own case.
As you can see from the headlines of the articles it’s all pretty shocking. While I advocated to stop adolescents being sent over, I didn’t succeed and more have been transferred to the unit since my return. I was allowed to return to Ireland on the conditions that I went into Residential Care. I spent the years between 18 and 21 in Residential Care and I can’t complain about it. I lived in a house, I had my own bedroom, and I attended college. Saw my family, Saw my friends. In ways, I was like everyone else my age. As long as I didn’t divulge my living arrangements.
Returning to Ireland
I went on to create my first website. I advocated for Youth Mental Health. I attended Mental Health Demonstrations, I reached out to politicians. I did everything in my power to create a better mental health system for adolescents while still battling my own demons. I had a fantastic psychiatrist. When I came home I believed the girl I used to be was gone forever. I cried to my mother that my friends wouldn’t like the person I had become. I no longer laughed, I no longer enjoyed music, books, fashion. Everything that I once loved now meant so little to me. I may as well have been a physical body with no personality or soul. I couldn’t believe it. After two months of starting the medication the new psychiatrist had prescribed that those parts of me were back. Katie was back. Everything that made me shine was still there. It had just been hidden below the surface. My mental health started to improve but my physical health started to deteriorate. On returning to Ireland I got physically ill and I was hospitalized many times in 2015, 2016 and 2017. At times I felt like I was at death’s door. When I wasn’t fighting my mind it seemed like my body was trying to kill me. In 2017 after over 20 admissions to Accident and Emergency I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease.
The years between July 2015 and July 2018 were a complete rollercoaster. I still hit the lowest of lows and made many suicide attempts. I also had some of the happiest days of my life during that time and living seemed possible. I saw a psychotherapist and I was working through my shit to the best of my ability anyway. In October 2018 I was discharged from Residential Care and we won’t get into that.
The crap thing about mental illness is that it doesn’t exactly go away. I had months of stability and growth but I also had months of relapse and self-harm. My mental health took a turn for the worst after my discharge. In January 2019 I admitted myself to a psychiatric ward with urges to jump in front of a train. I stayed there for 3 weeks and then I was discharged. I think they believed I was exaggerating when I said I had urges to jump in front of a train. On the 9th of March 2019, I made another suicide attempt and I was hit by a train in County Offaly. I believed this was a sure thing. There was no way you could get hit by a train and survive.
Obviously, I was wrong. I was airlifted to the hospital and placed on life support that evening. My injuries were catastrophic. My foot had been severed off on the tracks. A bone in my spine had shattered along with many other breaks. I had broken all my ribs, my lungs collapsed and I needed a chest drain. I had bleeding on the brain and I was put in an induced coma. My family gathered around me in Intensive Care. They didn’t know if I would survive and then I developed sepsis. The doctors said it was one thing to fight sepsis when conscious but completely different when already breathing with a ventilator. Things looked bleak but somehow I woke up. 5 weeks later in the spinal injury unit. I believed I was in hell. I couldn’t comprehend that I was alive. I knew things were bad. I was attached to every machine possible. I couldn’t speak. I couldn’t even move. All I could do was watch and listen as my family told me they loved me. Recovery was hard. Scratch that. Recovery was hell. I had become an amputee. I had survived with life-changing injuries. Nothing would ever be the same again. I genuinely could not understand how I was alive and I certainly wasn’t happy about it. I was stuck in Intensive Care with a nurse 24/7 on a machine and there wasn’t much I could do other than accept this was the way things are now.
It probably was a blessing in disguise that I wasn’t able to move any part of my body for the first few weeks awake because I wanted to die and If I could have tried, I probably would have tried. I had to learn everything all over again. How to breathe. How to swallow. How to drink and eat. How to move my fingers. How to get out of bed. How to stand. How to walk with a prosthetic leg. The doctors said if I ever recovered I was looking at 12- 18 months in hospital. I was discharged and back modeling in a fashion show with my new prosthetic leg 4 months later. That’s one thing I had to stand for. I am determined and I was stubborn enough to work my ass off to not be confined to a wheelchair at 22 years of age.
Today I am writing this in my home, while Spotify plays on the TV. I have been with my partner since he found out about the attempt. I had a cat and I went to a course during the week. I haven’t had a psychiatric admission since 2019 and I am happier than I ever knew possible. I have learned to drive, I am hoping to apply for University and I live every day to the best of my ability. For someone that spent 8 years in institutions, it is remarkable that I was able to adapt to life outside institutions and I have. I do what every other young person my age does, I complain about all my money being spent on rent, I spend time with my friends and sometimes me, and my partner have dinner parties. That’s proper adulting. And Yes I am surprised too. I have somehow made a life for myself, and I live every day more at peace than I ever was prior to the train. Now I go to therapy. I have done so since November 2019. That was one thing I knew I needed to do. I wasn’t going to make it if I continued to hide from the hurt buried inside me. I do therapy every week, and for me, it is a combination of that and my medication that keeps me well and I am incredibly grateful to have found something that works.
I write my story because I know it’d be bleak. I know my past history is severe but damn if I can survive all that; you can survive what you’re going through.
If I can come back stronger, after going head-to-head with a train, you can too. Not go head to head with the train obviously. That hurt like a bitch and I don’t recommend it but what I am saying is, No matter how bleak things seem. There is always Hope… There is always the potential for change, the potential for a brighter future. I am going to leave you with one of my favorite quotes.
“Suicide doesn’t end the chance of life getting worse, it eliminates the possibility of it getting better.”Unknown
Love Katie xx
You can get in touch with me here. https://keepingupwithkatie.com/contact/
Ps. If you could take a look at my petition and sign your name if you support it and share it on your social media pages I would appreciate it so much. We have the power to bring about positive changes, Let’s do it. Thanks Guys
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