My story began at age eight, when I was subjected to many years of sexual abuse by a so called friend of the family. This abuse was to become one of the many triggers which lead to my clinical diagnosis of Bipolar Affective Disorder type 1. It was this experience which also led me to my first introduction of psychological distress.
I recall my first episodes of psychosis aged nine and my journey continued when at age 16 I made an attempt to end my own life. I believe these experiences earlier in life were the originators of many triggers which eventually ignited my per-disposition of a biochemical imbalance.
My turning point came some years ago when I found the courage to speak out, and finally my voice was heard with no judgement cast by those around me. My family's unrivaled support has enabled me to live a life of fulfillment and recovery. Through their listening and reassurance it has given me the strength to move forward, and even though they didn't have all the answers they were there to offer support. It is those simple gestures and thoughts which help many of us through a very dark, lonely, terrifying journey.
Fortunately, I've now had the ability to be able to talk openly about my condition and in my opinion everybody should be able to do that. From a recent survey by Time to Change (run by the charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness) 75% of people with a mental health problem say they have lost friendships as a result of their illness. This sadly shows that many people without experience of mental health problems still feel awkward talking about the subject, however when going through a mental illness, seeing or speaking to friends can be really beneficial for a lot of people.
Now, as a peer recovery specialist I know only too well how important friends, partners and families are in someone's wellbeing. I'm one of the fortunate few, but maybe the next person who talks to you will need your support and understanding.
With one in four people going through a mental health problem in any given year, it's more than likely that you already know someone with a mental health problem. If you know someone experiencing one why not take the time to talk, listen or even ask them how they're feeling?
Eighteen months ago Rob came into my life and expressed unconditional love and support, a love reflective of my parents, only he was not bound by blood. He is someone who loves and respects me as an individual, a human being, a person, not a diagnosis or someone to fear. Rob is a marvel to many and I urge anyone to lead by his example.
To hear more of my story and learn of the projects I'm working on please follow me on twitter: @paulscates
Time to Change is Time to Change is England's most ambitious programme to end the stigma and discrimination faced by people with mental health problems. The programme is run by the charities Mind and Rethink Mental Illness, and funded by the Department of Health and Comic Relief. Find out how to start your conversation today at time-to-change.org.uk/talk-about-mental-health or tweet #timetotalk