Stigma Fighters: Sara Sumner

Looking back over my nearly 30 years, I’ve struggled with low self esteem and low mood for most of my life. I was bullied as a child, and I think that shaped my future. It made me feel terrible about myself, and I don’t think that deep down, I’ve ever really recovered from it. I was physically bullied at the age of 6, by boys almost twice my age; this made me very wary of men long term. Considering them to be a threat to me, and I had severe trust issues. Then again at the age of 9 or 10, my last year of primary education, I was bullied again, this time just emotionally rather than physically, by two girls who had previously been my best friends. This didn’t help at all with my trust issues, and I began to feel I could trust no one for fear of ending up being hurt by them. Between then and the age of 16, I was always the quiet and shy one, not wanting to be noticed. I was always worried that people wouldn’t like me, and didn’t have a great deal of friends. I often wonder if it’s led to post traumatic stress disorder, but have never really brought it up with any of my medical professionals, perhaps I should.

I can remember my first breakdown; it was at the age of 16. Exam stress was considered to be the trigger, but I know the real cause. I was in a relationship with a guy, who was constantly pressuring me to have sex with him. With my trust issues I felt very insecure, and he played on that. Constantly threatening to split up with me if I didn’t prove I loved him. It wasn’t exactly a loving relationship, and he had violent tendencies too. It ended really badly, with him forcing himself upon me. Since that time, I have suffered from frequent episodes of severe depression, and always had a deep down idea that it was actually more than just simply depression. Over the years, I’ve never been able to find a happy middle ground in my mood; just either excessively happy or severely low.

I have written very openly about my struggles, since I started a blog in December 2013; and also offered hope through my victories. The past couple of years have probably been the worst for me in regards to my mental health. I suffered a really bad breakdown in August 2013, my most severe episode of depression to date. I felt everything was hopeless and that life just wasn’t worth living anymore. I closed off from the world, barely spoke for weeks on end, and self harmed a lot. For some reason I felt that I needed to be punished for something; and self harm was my way of dealing with that thought. There was no rational reasoning for it, and I think over time I’ve realised that, but at the time, it was my coping method of choice.

I also suffer from anxiety, OCD and body dysmorphic disorder. The anxiety has been quite severe, to the point where even something simple like going to the local shop was impossible. I thought that everyone was staring at me, judging me and it would cause me to have a panic attack. Other things I struggled with were going on the bus, another irrational fear came with that. I was terrified of getting sick. I would work myself up into such a state about taking the bus, that I would again have a panic attack. I used to get through so much anti-bacterial hand gel, I should have taken shares out in the company that makes it!

I started seeing a Psychiatrist, something I never imagined I would ever do, and it took me a long time to open up to her about how I really felt. I was so scared that she would deem me as totally mental and have me locked away in a psychiatric hospital. Still to this day that thought is always at the back of my mind. Luckily I never got bad enough to be sectioned, but I did consider voluntarily admitting myself on a few occasions. I felt unsafe a lot of the time, knowing that at any moment I could snap and do something stupid. I also was put on a 12 week course of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy; where again, I found it incredibly hard work and wouldn’t open up to the therapists.

On April 1st 2014, I was diagnosed with Bipolar Affective Disorder, at the age of 29. Finally, after 13 years of struggling, I had a diagnosis that actually made so much sense. But for some reason, it was hard for me to accept at first; I knew that it was a lifelong condition, that wasn’t going to go away. The thought of living with it forever was very daunting and I was scared about how people would react when I told them. I half considered not tell people. I guess I was just worried that they’d think less of me or that I was weak.

As time has gone on, I’ve had a bumpy road to recovery. It’s definitely been hard, and still to this day I worry about breaking down again. It’s taken me a long time to get this far, and I take each day as it comes. I’ve overcome a lot of things, such as the self harm, anxiety and am learning to control the Bipolar, OCD and body dysmorphic disorder. I’m unable to work because of my illness, which is frustrating, but it’s just something I’ve had to accept. I know that my life will have it’s ups and downs, and I’m prepared for that. I’m proud of where I’m at now, and how I’ve taken back the control, well to a certain extent anyway. I’m still here to tell my story, fighting every day and trying to help others, which is what matters.

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I’m Sara Sumner, aged 29, from the UK. I’m a mental health blogger and suffer from Bipolar Affective Disorder, amongst other things. I’m a member of Rock Choir and love to sing! I also have an unhealthy obsession with Batman. My blog can be found at http://saraphoenix2014.wordpress.com and my Facebook page is http://www.facebook.com/saraphoenixblog

  • Helen White

    Good work with the blog. I’m so glad you got a diagnosis in the end, it’s an important piece of the puzzle, and even though it’s an ongoing thing knowing what is up and that treatment can help can be a relief. Love this piece.

    • Sara Sumner

      Thank you Helen 🙂

  • Rudy Caseres

    Thank you for sharing your story. I just shared mine this morning and the support I’ve recieved from my friends and community is very wonderful. I wish you well.

    • Sara Sumner

      Thank you 🙂

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