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Okay, so maybe things can change...

(TW/CW- suicide, self-harm, inpatient)

Dragged from the small white walled room I had been kept in, in just a hospital gown, no underwear, no shoes, wounds covering my body, a bruise from the ‘punch’ a nurse had given me. 6 burly men manhandling me into a vehicle, no explanation just the laughter and ridicule of the staff ringing in my ears. No idea where I was or where I was being taken. The trauma of the week I had spent on that acute ward, filling me with a fear that ran so deep I became fully detached from reality.

As I drove up to what I didn’t realise would be my new home for the next 5 months, a secure hospital, an adult psychiatric intensive care unit, I could have never even imagined any sort of future. I wholeheartedly believe there was no future. Another January, another admission, another year started with trying to end it. Suicide had made up every January for the past 9 years in some way or another. Why would this January be any different, why would my life ever be any different.


This story was 5 years ago. 2019. Fast forward to January 2024, I did it. A whole January, no attempt, no harm, no admission. First for 14 years. I made it through my nemesis month. Not just made it but actually lived it. I wish I could go back and give that terrified girl a hug. I wish I could tell her to just hold on, that in the end she would be released from the chains which imprison her. That she does not actually want to disappear but in reality she wants to be found. That it does get better, that no one is coming to save ‘us’, but that we do get saved, we save ourselves. An achievement far greater than any award could ever proclaim. I would tell her, we didn’t deserve what happened, what is happening and what will sadly continue to happen. That what happened to us was wrong, it robbed us of our childhood, of our teenage years and our transition to adulthood. It took away our hopes and dreams, we deserved better. We didn’t need to be ‘made stronger’ but needed to be safe, protected and happy. That we will never forget what happened to us, that the memories will never leave our bones, they are part of us like the salt is part of the sea. It didn’t form us but that we survived not because of the trauma but the strength we have within ourselves, the strength we have to face life every day, to put two fingers up at it and say it won’t defeat me and the strength it takes to carry on.


I am not where I thought I would be in January 2024. If you’d have asked me where I would have been, you would have got a different answer throughout the years. A different answer  also if you asked where I thought I would be or where I thought I should be. But for more years than I can count I would have said I would be 6 feet under, long gone. On the odd positive day, I would tell you what I believed society would deem as successful for a 23-and-a-half-year-old quickly followed by telling you how I would never achieve that because I was a failure, broken and an awful person, or any other self-deprecating comments along those lines. I have never been happy with where I am in life, I have forever been my harshest critic. Constantly looking at how far I had to go, comparing my own position against my peers as if life was some race to the finish line. But what is that finish line, there is only one certain finish line and that isn’t something the happy and contented majority are rushing toward. Even though on the whole for the past three years I have not been in the depths of the dark places I was before (all things are relative!), I was never content with what I was doing, what I was achieving or where I was. Deep down, sometimes consciously sometime not I fundamentally believed I was so broken, that I was unlikeable, unlovable, I had no skills, no talents, everyone hated me, I was a problem, I was a failure, I was stupid and ultimately a waste of a human. Dramatic admittedly, however that’s where I was, the thought processes I had and if I am honest what all the evidence in my life pointed towards. Sadly, not only did I think these things but I have had these confirmed by others. I couldn’t form relationships and I never lasted in any group for very long. For so long I wondered why I couldn’t just get ‘better’. Looking back compassionately on myself I was fighting to survive, the traumatised brain forms no logic and with the exception of a few I had basically no evidence of my worth from others either. In some ways I guess it’s a miracle I did anything at all.


 But today I sit here after college on Friday 2nd February, and for the first time in my whole life I feel a tiny weeny bit proud. Nothing major but even admitting that feeling especially to others is like the first steps on the moon. I am taking a moment of gratitude for every step I have taken towards getting to this moment. I have felt no positive emotions, I cannot recognise what happiness, excitement, pride or even love feels like. The only emotions I have felt have been those of sadness, despair, fear, anger- this has gone on for so long,  like many trauma survivors especially those with C-PTSD, I have found safety in negativity and chaos. My body signals danger at even the whiff of enjoyment, positivity or hope. Peace feels dangerous to me, the need to be constantly doing, to ward off the opportunity for things to resurface. I am trained for constant hypervigilance, as soon as things start to go well, my brain will automatically go into self-destruct. Because if I hurt myself, ruin things, create problems then no one can do it to me. The fundamental reason I am a closed book, I have multiple versions of Hannah’s to bamboozle the world, to prevent anyone finding the real Hannah. To protect her, to shield her from being hurt again. The belief that in the end it will all go wrong, nothing good lasts forever, in the end everyone and everything will turn, and then the fall will be even greater and the pain incomprehensibly greater than anything I could ever endure. My fear of enjoyment is knowing it will end. What’s the point of making relationships, of letting people in, liking someone when in the end they leave you (best case) or worst case they hurt you, adding further confirmation you are too much, an abhorrent complication, incompatible with the real world.


‘One step can start a journey of a thousand miles.’ Life is not a problem to be solved but a journey to experience. That today 7.8 billion people will experience this day in a different way,  shows there is no one right way to experience a day, a week or a lifetime. That yes I will fall, I may break and fail. But despite it all I am still here. It isn’t too late to change the trajectory of my existence. Looking back this January I took the first and hardest steps towards the person I really am. Not something I even really did consciously. December was a month of anguish and torment, of pain felt deeper than anything I had felt in the past- once you to start to feel again the fall is even more painful. It was a month of harsh truths and honesty, of deep self-reflection, of rest and recuperation. It was month of questioning. It was a mixture of confusion, breakthrough moments and overall despair. But that laid the foundations for January. My goal was not to attempt on my life in January. A challenge I was unsure of achieving but that I was determined to do. But not only did I achieve it, the rewards came in ways unfathomable at the beginning of this journey. A switch in my mind. A switch which has slowly turned, one that has allowed me to cope with life in a way I could never have thought possible. The change wasn’t in the ‘what’ that was thrown at me but in the way I responded to it. For the first time in my life, I have felt deep connections to other human beings. I have allowed myself to trust, I had begun to do this with my friends before but this has gone even further. But the biggest break through was allowing myself to trust someone in a position of power. To allow myself to lower my drawbridge, open myself up to the idea that they could potentially cause me pain, that they are someone who will not be in my life forever but that it’s okay to still form a relationship even if it’s not going to permanent and that ultimately you will ‘lose’ them.


I also have found enjoyment - I have enjoyed what I am doing. Not everything of course, but I have done things and not just got through them but actually dare I say it had fun. The first term of my course was an exercise in getting through. People spoke about enjoyment, how much they loved it but I couldn’t understand what that meant or felt like. I see now. Not every moment of everyday (I mean no one does do they) but there have been true moments of actual happiness. In the past this would have immediately resulted in pressing the self-destruct button. This course finishes in two months. I have only just begun to learn about enjoyment, to feel safe enough to show the real Hannah, I have lowered the walls slightly, let people in, trusted and built relationships. Yet in two months it will all be gone. Yet it won’t all be gone. Because what I will have is all the lessons learnt, the new skills, the happy memories and the evidence that counteracts the experiences from the past. Because this feeling isn’t a place or even a person, the ability to recognise the positives for me comes from my mindset. From my understanding of myself, the acceptance of who I am- flaws and all. It comes from being truly honest about who I am and what I need. It comes from throwing comparisons into the bin- how can we compare when we all start from such different positions, with different tools and head in different directions. It has come from embracing my own weird and wonderfully imperfect self. It has come from realising I am not here to fit into the world but to create my own place - that those who matter will embrace and join you and those who don’t really don’t matter. That even if it scares me it’s ok, I have to do it, that even with tears in my eyes I know I have got this and ultimately I did this on my own. I had to. No one else could do it. I am not the Hannah I was before but the Hannah I have created. My own artist holding tightly to my paintbrush, learning to stop rushing things which take time to bloom and accepting I cannot make people like, love, validate, accept, understand or be pleasant to me. That the reality is people have opinions, people judge, people will talk about you, people will not understand you but that true freedom comes from letting them. For getting to that dangerously awesome level where you truly don’t care, when it clicks with you about what is important and what isn’t. That you know you are being the best version of yourself, you are working hard, you are kind, you realise how far you have come, you know your story. That in truth what other people think is a reflection on them not you. My current favourite quote is “You know my name, not my story. You’ve heard what I’ve done not what I’ve been through”, we hold stories within our skin that are never spoken, that others can only understand from their own levels of perception and as cliché as it sounds those who matter don’t mind and those that mind don’t matter.


As scary as life and the future is despite the lack of any real control over what will happen, there is beauty to be found within the individual moments. That in truth we have to live in the moment because tomorrow isn’t guaranteed in any respect. Reflecting on the past month I am able for the first time to identify moments of pure joy. In the moments that my overthinking brain allowed me to be present I have had fun and maybe I’d even go as far as saying been a little bit happy. For me today this was standing up in ATS (or ATF as I called it) and performing my flute - sharing my creativity in a space of other like-minded people. It was also in Jazz where for the first time, I allowed myself to just give it a go, even though I didn’t know the combination, and probably looked like an idiot. These moments look like a quick evening maccies with a friend while we wait for our trains, losing track of time as I become hyper focused on my bullet journal to the point I quite literally forget to eat, drink and go to the toilet! These moments look like my early morning walk through the city, the fresh air whipping at my cheeks, burning my nose while I listen to my tunes- the feeling of freedom, a feeling I didn’t have for so long. These moments come in speaking about my worries and concerns, being listened to and being able to talk things through. They come in the form of my words being used to help others, my work being published and from small moments of achievement. They come from snapchat videos and random conversations. They come in the shared TikTok's and instagram memes. They come in allowing myself to just say  “f**K it”, just go for it, have fun, be silly, be brave, be wrong. They come from the self-acceptance that I need to ask millions of questions, need constant reassurance and have an inability to think before I speak. They come in me accepting I am who I am and the cherry on the top is when others do too and even like me for it. These moments come in me allowing myself to feel them. To feel scared but to do it anyway. I know I still have far to go, but I can look back and see that the progress I have made is colossal, and with that the only person who needs to understand and recognise that is me. It is great when others do too, but at the end of the day we are the ones who truly need to believe it. We ourselves have to believe we are worth it. I am learning so much about myself, I am learning that this is a journey. That there will be moments when I don’t think I can survive it, moments when traumas are triggered, moments when people are unkind, ignorant or hurtful. I will lose people, I will be misunderstood, people will create their own narratives about me, however I know the truth. I know who I am, we only get one life but if we live it properly one is enough. Fear is natural but instead of it being what tethers me to the spot, it will be the fire which drives me forward, to experience and to live.


I did it!! My first January without an attempt. Taking a deep breath, I close that chapter of my life and the version of me I created to survive. She kept me going, she is the reason I am still here today, she was what we needed to be. But survival mode isn’t meant forever. I forgive myself for what I did in the moments I had no choice, for my past behaviours, for not knowing better at the time, for the survival patterns and traits picked up while enduring trauma and the battle to exist. Past me did what I could with limited experience and feelings I had at the time, I did my best with what I knew. But now it’s time for me to take over, to continue our story, to use the past two months as the foundations for the rest of my life. I am opening the next book, I look into this chapter with trepidation but with excitement of what might come. To prove to myself who I really am, to not force others to appreciate me but to appreciate myself. To stick to my values, beliefs and to be my true authentic self and with that my journey will continue. To remind myself that acknowledging success, progress and enjoyment does not take away from the difficulties and struggles both past and present. It doesn’t mean I won’t still have meltdowns, flashbacks and burnout. It doesn’t mean I don’t need support, help and accommodations, it doesn’t mean everything going forward is all great. But I am allowed to reflect on the hard work I’ve put in, the journey I have been on and ultimately, I deserve to find enjoyment in moments without the fear of consequences, without panicking about the future or overthinking and catastrophising the possible next steps. I did this to protect myself, that was okay but now it’s time to take a leap, I no longer need to just survive. Nothing will ever change by staying the same, it time to have a little go at the living and even thriving :/!!  So I guess maybe things can change, the mind is a powerful is beast, but just the smallest switch can be the catalyst for a shift.

Lots of Love

Hannah <3 xx

P.S. in this moment I also want to thank the people who have helped me to this point. The peoples who's unconditional love and support has been the safety net for which I can jump. And then to the people who have recently fell into my life but have been the catalyst for this new stage. The people who have given me the evidence to trust, to love and to enjoy. I am forever grateful to you all 🫶

A face can tell a thousand stories:


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