Please be aware this piece contains references to abuse, suicide attempts and addiction, which some people may find distressing.
As a child I always felt a bit different. I was sexually abused by family members and I was raped by a stranger as a child. Through my teenage years I had an issue with my weight and became bulimic.
I’d used drugs from 12, starting on gas and then it just worked its way up to whizz and party drugs. I got pregnant when I was 17 but I ended up giving my son up because of my drug problem.
I never did smack or crack but I was on Es, G, ketamine and especially whizz (amphetamines). I found that helped with my physical side, worrying about my weight. But I was a functioning addict, I held a job down part-time and I had a good front.
Then I got with a man who was nine years older than me, then I just started hammering it even more. I went from using at weekends to every day. I started selling drugs, then I couldn’t sell drugs anymore, so I started doing top shelf modelling and did porn videos for money to pay for my drugs.
At one point about 10 years ago, I went to the doctor. I’d had enough of using, I was sick of being in my kitchen crying on the floor trying not to use. It was massive for me to go to my doctor, because of my job working with children, and no-one knew that I used like that. To sit there and confess to my GP, it was like, ‘I’m crying for help here’. She referred me to an eating disorder team and a couple of months later I got an appointment.
I thought I was going to get help. But when I went there and got assessed, they said they had these two forms of therapy available and asked me which form of therapy did I want. I went, ‘how would I know that – I don’t even know why I do what I do’. Then they said there was another waiting list and I could just get this book off the internet to read. And I literally said to them: ‘I might as well just go and use whizz again’. And that’s what I did. So I literally walked out of there and started using very heavily again for another seven years. In the end, I didn’t just have a whizz problem, I ended up with a drink problem on top of that.
It took me to a very dark, bad place. I lost my daughter, I lost my job, I had to give my home up. I went from a three bedroom house to basically living in one room. I was letting people in there and I was getting raped and all sorts while I was off my head. I’d caught a sexually transmitted disease. I’d wake up with broken ribs, I was black and blue. It was because I was so vulnerable and I was so lonely, I just wanted someone to help me.
In the end I tried taking my own life. I’d been out all weekend, took a massive load of drugs, came home, took more paracetamol. I remember waking up on my rug, in and out of consciousness, my alarm was going off and I’d pissed all over the rug and there was vomit everywhere.
I ended up going to the doctors and they sent me to hospital. While I was in there a young doctor asked me if I wanted help and she was going to refer me to the mental health team. And I was like, ‘no, I am not interested’. But then a mental health worker from the crisis team called me up anyway and said I had been referred and would I like to go in and see them. I was like ‘d’you know what? I’ve got a lot going on at the moment’. And she went, ‘Well is it alright if we phone you back some time?’. And I said yes. I don’t know why I said yeah, but I did.
She was that one person that turned it around for me. If you hear anybody’s story it’s usually one person that goes that extra mile. She went that extra mile for me.
I got started off with six weeks and she extended it because I was vulnerable and I was at risk. I lived for going for that session with her, she kept me going. And anything she did, or talked about or tried to help me, she did it in front of me. But once my 10 weeks had finished, she had to say goodbye.
During my meetings with her, I had admitted I had a drug problem, and she told me I could self-refer to this drug service. I didn’t know that you could do that. I thought it was only people on heroin that could access drug services. I’d walked past this place for 18 years and didn’t even know I could walk in.
So I self-referred and then I was referred for more assessments. It took 18 months of different referrals and assessments until finally I got into a psychotherapy centre, where I had to be assessed again. I thought, ‘how many times can I get assessed, I want help, I need help’. I have been having dynamic psychotherapy for 12 months now, which is coming to an end. But it took 18 months to get that. Anyway, I’ve kept going and stuck with it for the 12 months. I am ready to finish, I feel like I’ve talked myself through it now.
I’ve been clean for two and a half years. It’s a shame that I am 44 and have had to go through all that. I had to be in a crisis to get any help, I had to nearly kill myself. It is like you’ve got be in a crime scene. Hopefully you come out of it but some people don’t.
That is why I think we need to have pop-up shops in communities. The only place a woman is safe is in a doctor’s surgery, nobody knows what goes on there. Once a month you could have it that there’s this pop-up shop there that can signpost them for absolutely everything: mental health, probation, personal wellbeing, any help that a female needs. Because you’ll find it’s not just one thing. Once you start pulling layers back, there’s more, and sometimes they don’t even realise themselves and they just carry on.
We’re all individuals, and we’ve all got individual stories. If I could say anything to someone who was in a similar situation, I would say speak to someone, make them listen.
Thea (not her real name) worked at Inspiring Change Manchester.