A self-confessed “problem child” who suffered mental ill health after becoming a victim of physical and emotional abuse has described how has she turned her life around to begin working as a volunteer helping others on the road to recovery.
Tracey Jackson, who lives in Norwich, described herself as a “mad, bad and violent” person who made numerous attempts on her own life. But just 18 months after she started receiving support from Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust (NSFT), the 37-year-old has turned her life around and started working as a volunteer to help others on the road to recovery.
Her full story features in the spring/ summer edition of NSFT’s Insight magazine, which is now available on the Trust’s website.
“I was a problematic child who people couldn’t handle,” said Tracey. “I was very impulsive and started self-harming, drinking and smoking cannabis to act as some kind of release.
“I would cut myself and take overdoses and use ligatures. It’s difficult to explain why, but I wanted to make other people stop abusing me while also carrying on the abuse myself. I ended up trying to kill myself and was taken to St Clements Hospital but wasn’t ready for the help. I was still mad, bad and violent and not a nice person to know.”
Tracey’s downward spiral continued until 2014, when she was sent to prison following an arson attack. Her self-harming got worse once she was behind bars, while other inmates would single her out and she became the victim of bullies.
Her mental health deteriorated further when she set fire to her cell and was put into segregation and spent all day, every day alone. She was eventually referred to NSFT’s medium secure Norvic Clinic in October 2014 after swallowing bleach.
“Going to the Norvic was the best thing that ever happened to me. I decided to show people that I was strong enough to turn my life around and be a better person,” said Tracey. “The staff supported me and helped me to move on and feel like a person again. I was also finally given a diagnosis – emotionally unstable personality disorder, depression and self-harm.
“The staff at the clinic gave me the independence that I needed. If I thought I was going to self-harm, I would tell them and they would intervene. I started doing occupational therapy and spending time off the unit. I also enrolled in some Recovery College courses which gave me the chance to meet other service users, staff and carers and learn lots of new skills. They also helped me understand more about my recovery and the improvements I was making to my mental health.
“The staff were really great and did a lot of work with me to give me coping skills which I will continue to use throughout my whole life.”
By May 2016, Tracey had made such good progress that she was able to gradually move into supported accommodation. She has now started working with NSFT’s Recovery College providing office support and working as a peer tutor, which gives her the chance to use her lived experience to help others.
She is also preparing to face her fear of heights when she tackles a bungee jump on Sunday 11 June to raise money for the Big C in memory of her sister Lyn, who died of cancer.
Tracey said: “My life has changed completely. I’m sharing my story to help others and looking forward to the future and giving something back.
“I still receive support from NSFT but not as often as I’m feeling so much better. I’m really enjoy my voluntary work as it means I can use my first-hand experiences to help others.
“I have always supported cancer charities by baking cakes but thought the bungee jump would be something different and a way of facing my fear of heights. It will be a challenge and a way of remembering Lyn at the same time.
“I’m not the person I used to be – I am a much better person. I hope that other people who are struggling can see from my story that there is light at the end of the tunnel and they can get through it too, just like I have.
“A journey is never a straight line – there are always ups and downs – what is important is learning how to deal with them.”
To read Insight magazine, visit www.nsft.uk/Insight
A video about Tracey’s recovery is available at www.youtube.com/watch?v=eFtWBEA5ZBc
To sponsor Tracey for her bungee jump, which takes place outside the Forum in Norwich at 1.30pm, visit https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/tracey-jackson8
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