I am a 22-year-old Mental Health Advocate from Norfolk, UK.
I'm passionate about raising awareness of mental health and doing what I can to prevent suicide.
I try to be a friend to all so no-one feels alone. I do this through Twitter (@CUnderwoodUK), and through my blog:
What is it like to live a life so blissful? Where life is so much greener because the universe has been kind to you; when you got the winning straw.
I ask myself all of this a lot, I would say that I envy the people who are not like me. Those who’s sadness will go after eating ice cream, who can go for a run or manage a healthy diet. You know the life I mean, just something so much less, complicated.
This Is just not the reality for so many thousands of people around the world, billions even, and I am one of them.
I get called abnormal often, because to many people, my mental illness and numerous other lifechanging events, has rendered me against the norm. For me though, mental illness has been my norm from day one, all the things I have learned, that have created the person I am today, that is all that I know – so really, I am normal. Isn’t normal just an opinion otherwise?
My life has been so dramatic and unlucky that it is almost comical. In a way that I sometimes feel like I am on some version of the Trueman show. I spent a lot of my teen years using my pent-up angst to fight myself really, to find ways to numb that pain and fight to fit it – to be like everyone else, as that is what I was told would make me happy.
As a child, I swore that when I was an adult, I would have no reason to be unhappy, since all the adults I knew seemingly had it all together.
I thought my feelings would fade with age, as I was told my, now diagnosed as anxiety and depression, was just a phase. I however recently came to the realization that adults don’t have it together, they are struggling just the same as they did those many years before; they are just better at hiding it.
I write all of this because it’s important to gauge just how human and ill-functioning I am. I want to put myself on the show, just so you can see how much your life can change, for better and worse. But at the end of the day, all that matters are you, your mental health and the memories which will allow you to greet death as an old friend; life doesn’t have to be one big game of life, it can just be an experience – a chance.
I’ve gone from a young girl with very little understanding of myself to a grown woman who has found more than just survival, I’ve found purpose, passion, and life. I can remember days where I would self-harm because I knew no other way to let the pain out. I remember a whole year where I drank daily, I was an alcoholic at 14 years old because I was so ashamed of the thoughts in my head. I remember suicide attempts, crying into my pillow or locking myself in toilets because I was so alone; I just needed someone to be there for me, to listen.
My life has been tragic in some ways but that has all passed, what matters now is the moments I am living in currently and the future I will soon find; my goal is to help others get to this point of thinking too.
I don’t envy those who are living a seemingly ‘healthier’ or ‘better’ life than me because really, every second that has existed in my own life, has crafted me into this person I am now. The person who has many scars that have healed beautifully, both physically and mentally. The person who has more strength, empathy, and understanding. The person who has found self-respect for herself but has also given time to help others. You see, happiness is not a state, it’s a feeling and therefore we cannot be permanently happy; we need to do more of what makes us happy and what rewards our own mind; for me, that’s helping others.
In 2014, my father passed away by suicide. It was for certain, the most traumatic event of my life, which led to three years where I was living in this state of complete shock. I stopped feeling, I stopped living and really, I felt like I had died with my father. All I wanted was to see him again, hear his voice and give him a hug like I had done pretty much every day for the last 18 years. It was all so sudden and like many suicide, survivors may understand, left me not knowing what to do with myself, or my life.
But after four years of my new life without my father. I came to this realization that I did not need to move on, why would I want to ‘move on’ from every memory, or even the existence that my father had blessed me with. Instead, I embraced the days where I would cry and miss him, I accepted that he was not coming back but instead of moving on from his death, I learned to adjust.
I was told that same year, after a conversation about the huge lack of support for people left behind after a suicide, that rather than sit and hope something changes, I could do something about it. I think many of us do complain about things in the world but very few of us actually stand up and make a difference, though, we have no guarantee that someone else will fix the problem for us. The simple phrase of “You may not change the world on your own, but you can make a change in the world” really made me think.
From there, I made the choice to write a book about the events around my father’s suicide and my journey of grief.
I named the book ‘After Suicide’ (available, FREE, here, from Smashwords) with the hope that I could provide a sense of friendship for people going through what I did, that people could feel less alone in such a difficult time; as I had felt this myself.
This book is not of literary commendation but it’s real, it’s raw and it’s relatable. There was a day that I received a message about my book in which I was told that because of me, they were still alive to be a husband and father; it was not what I expected the book to do but it made every word written worth it – one life saved is more reward than I could ever have imagined.
I did find though that I had fallen into mental health advocacy, mainly on my twitter @CUnderwoodUK, I never intended to be a voice for people with mental illness, like myself but it just happened and now I dedicate every moment of every day to trying to be there for others and fight back against the stigma.
I actually found that writing was a great way to help me manage my past and my own mental health. There is something so therapeutic in being able to extract some of those thoughts from your mind and see them face to face, looking at them on paper or on a screen, they just don’t seem so scary; they even make sense. I now write blog posts weekly on my blog charlotteunderwoodauthor.com.
Each blog is a battle of mine, part of the puzzle of my own brain and just the stories that have created the person that I am. I like to talk about the things that are taboo, that people don’t like to hear because more than often, these are the things that most need to be spoken about as many are suffering alone with very similar battles.
I managed to take the unfortunate events of my life and even my own fathers suicide and try to find some sort of positive from it. Although it does not take from the pain of the events, it makes it easier when there is a lesson, when it can do good and help people. In a way, learning to cope in this way has helped me accept my past. I’d like to think the best tribute to my father is through saving lives, as he saved many in his own lifetime and I hope that when I reach my own end, that my efforts would have made even a tiny change in the world; even if it was for just one person.