Florence Sharman is a mental health campaigner, website content creator and MQ Ambassador. Flo experienced a mental breakdown at eight years old and still lives with four mental illnesses. She believes her mental health journey has shaped her to be who she is today. She is sharing her story, and why she is taking part in MQ’s new challenge: Uphill Struggle.
World Mental Health Day has been and gone, so once again the talk about mental illness has lessened, as it always does; but as an MQ Ambassador and mental health sufferer, for me, every day is World Mental Health Day.
Mental health research is more vital now than ever. I know from my own personal experiences that with more research, my own mental health story could have been different. I can’t erase that chapter of my life, but what I can do is write a new chapter about the importance of research, and to raise awareness.
I was an eight-year-old little girl who had a very privileged upbringing. I loved life and didn’t have a care in the world. One night my life changed forever. I woke up in the middle of the night blind, confused, paralysed, nauseous and with a severe headache. I was rushed into hospital with what they thought was a bleed on the brain or brain infection. However, after many tests, this wasn’t the case, and I was discharged from the hospital the next day as if nothing had happened. My mental breakdown came in a physical form.
My childhood was taken from me in a matter of moments. I didn’t want to live anymore, thinking everyone was better off without me and was housebound for two years. At the age of just eight and a half, I was diagnosed with PTSD, OCD, depression and panic attacks. I was upset, ashamed and embarrassed, and in all honesty, didn’t understand these labels. Not surprising at such a young age, but mental illness just wasn’t talked about. I was so ashamed about being a mental health sufferer; it took me ten years for me to be proud of who I was, and not ashamed of having mental illnesses.
The last 14 years have not been a walk in the park. In fact, it’s been one big old rollercoaster to get to where I am today. I have had to climb mountains I never thought I would have to, I’ve had to overcome more hurdles than you could think. Let me tell you it sure has been one big uphill struggle, to say the least. But now, I’m a 22-year-old living a life I love: I overcame a mental breakdown, have a job I enjoy in marketing, I’m a fitness fanatic, public speaker and a very proud MQ Ambassador. I still have those four mental illnesses, but they don’t define me. They are just one tiny part of who I am.
So you have probably guessed why I’m taking on MQ’s Uphill Struggle challenge! There a many reasons, but here’s the top six:
- To raise awareness and vital funds for the incredible work MQ are doing.
- If there’s a fitness challenge, of course, I’m taking part. After all, fitness is my saviour.
- To show people that no matter what uphill struggle is thrown your way, you are stronger and braver than you think.
- To show how key it is we get mental illness treated the same as physical illness.
- To let people know it’s OK not to be OK.
- To inspire as many people as possible to get involved in their own Uphill Struggle challenge, however big or small.
I’m taking on the Three Peaks Challenge on a treadmill. Now, this challenge is going to be tough but: 1) I love a challenge and 2) it’s to show that no matter how hard things are, you really do have the strength within you to fight past the uphill struggle.
This challenge means more to me than any other challenge event I have done. Five months ago, I had a serious riding accident that left me nearly paralysed from the waist down and with a head injury which I’m still recovering from. The last five months have been tough, to say the least. To have the accident happen in the height of pandemic made it even more difficult. The toughest thing for me was not to be able to exercise - my saviour throughout my mental health journey. Not being able to walk, run, hike or do any form of workouts for six weeks was beyond difficult. There were times I wanted to give up and didn’t think I could fight through it and climb the mountain. But guess what? I did, and this challenge is a celebration of that.
I really hope this blog has inspired you to take on your own Uphill Struggle Challenge, however big or small. Let’s raise as much awareness and money as we can for mental health research and show ourselves and others that you really can get through so much more than you think you can.
Uphill struggles, uphill battles we will all face, some many more than others but one thing to remember is never to judge, always be kind, share your emotions and feel every one of them.
Last updated: 16 October 2020