My Journey from Passenger to Pilot – My Mental Well-being Journey

mental well-beingFor as long as I can remember I’ve been a passenger in my own life. Now for some people reading this, they might think, great, what a wonderful way to live. Sit back and enjoy the ride, let others manage your mental well-being health and happiness!

Well, in truth, it has been far from great and certainly not healthy or happy. My journey was never to a destination I wanted to go to, plus the various pilots were never really bothered if I had a seatbelt on ( if they injured my mental well-being, they knew I would never make a fuss as I was often too meek and lacked the confidence to say stop.)

I never had a choice in the music they played either (usually their ‘chimping’ song) and as for sitting back and enjoying the scenery, I would sit there and most of the time be wishing and waiting for a crash…

Now you might be thinking, why not get out and get in your own driving seat? The trouble was, these people were the very people I trusted and loved (my parents, my siblings, my friends and my children.)

I was born in Dublin, Ireland, the youngest of four children. The age gap between my sister and myself was five years, my brothers were much older than me. I always felt alone even as a young child. I was sexually abused by a friend of the family for over five years. This started when I was five years old. I remember trying to tell my mother in a roundabout way that I didn’t want to be near him but it fell on deaf ears. At that age, I didn’t understand what was happening but my gut feeling told me it wasn’t good.

As I grew up my behaviour was odd, apparently! My mother told me I had a split personality. I believed her. I could put on happy masks at the drop of a hat but inside I was sad, lonely, confused and had no confidence in myself. But most of all I felt ashamed and guilty of my secret.

I think that’s when I became the passenger. At first, it was easy to let others take the controls (be in control of me and my life)

In my eyes, by the time I’d reached puberty, I had already made a massive mistake (the abuse by the so-called family friend distorted my self-belief) so why trust myself? I unwillingly or maybe I willingly let other people take the driving seat. After all, they couldn’t be as bad at decision making as I was.

So my journey began as the passenger. And it continued until I was 61 years old. What do they say? It’s never too late to change! Pretty much everyone was a pilot in my life and I sat and panicked with every new journey and as time went by it never got easier, in fact, it got worse and it took over my entire life. Every morning would start with panic attacks and every night ended in panic attacks.

I have been on medication for most of my life.  Hooked on sleeping tablets and spent a fortune on Private Psychiatrist and other alternative methods of so called therapy. I even went as far as thinking that I was cursed, so popped along to visit my local witch doctor…

I lived abroad for over 18 years and returned back to the UK in 2016. Once again I jumped into another passenger seat – predictable and habitual. By now I was drained, empty and totally disillusioned. I couldn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel.

So, I just handed in the towel on life.

In April 2017 I heard of the Impact You programme by someone I had met at the local WorkCircle. The leaflet sang a simple message, hope. So, I signed up.

The rest is a journey, a journey I have travelled with my peers, likeminded people. In such a short time my life has totally turned around in such a way that I have now broken the sleeping tablet habit and I am learning to pilot my own destination using the tools and techniques from the You Programme.

I also attended the Impact Pathways to Recovery, nine-weeks of empowering, strengths-based recovery learning. As tough as it was to face some daemons, the programme taught me how to laugh again and how to manage my thoughts, behaviours and put detailed plans in place to ensure that from now on I am the only person piloting in my life!

Déanne (CEO of Impact) and her colleague Jackie, are my “Ginny’s in a bottle.”  I learned to understand myself and appreciate that I was not alone. I’ve accepted I’m worthy of taking control and it’s never, never too late.

One of the most important skills I’ve gained from both programmes is that I cannot control my past. But I can control my future I really do have the skills that for so long I didn’t think existed within me. I now know how to use them.

And most of all I’m not scared to use them.

Impact Learner for Mental Well-being, 2017

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