The blog below is written by Pippa @thewellbeingplatform on Instagram
For as long as I can remember I have experienced mental health problems. Throughout my teenage years particularly I experienced periods of manic happiness, including excessive socialising and spending, followed by periods of intense depression, including staying in bed all day and cancelling plans with friends. As a teenager my dramatic mood swings manifested in hysterical tears, aggression and violence.
I started drinking alcohol at 13 years old. Imagine suburban house parties with no parental supervision and too much alcohol. Girls in very little clothing, stumbling around the ground floor of a complete stranger’s five-bedroom Surrey mansion. I repeated this pattern every weekend until I left for university. I used alcohol to help with confidence and self-esteem.
During the latter part of my teenage years I had suicidal thoughts, where I just didn’t want to be here anymore. I have self-harmed in the past to deal with emotions when I’ve been unable to articulate them to friends and family.
When I left for university I was a wreck. My mental health was at an all-time low, and I was struggling. I had thought of deferring my place at university in order to “sort myself out”. However, in my mind, I thought running away to university and a fresh start, would be the answer to my heavy drinking, self-harm, depression and anxiety. I was wrong. I was painfully homesick at university. I continued drinking to excess, becoming the butt of everyone’s jokes. I didn’t stay in touch with friends or family. I shut myself off, placing myself in an emotionally vulnerable position. I felt so isolated.
I was painfully homesick at university. I continued drinking to excess, becoming the butt of everyone’s jokes
In my early 20s I experienced a series of life-changing events. My parents divorced unexpectedly which shook me to my core. That year I started my career as a teacher. During this time I was extremely depressed. The relationship I had with my parents was strained, at a time when I really needed them both. The following year my best friend died suddenly from a brain aneurism. I drank alcohol excessively to cope with my pain.
My teaching career went from strength to strength. I love my job! However, it is not a walk in the park. There is a big social culture in schools. After a long week of teaching, we all used to flock to the “library”, to enjoy a glass of wine, or in my case a few bottles. Soon Friday drinks turned into every-night-of-the-week drinks. I felt anxious and stressed all the time.
I just wanted to give up on life. But instead, I gave up on booze.
By the end of 2019 my mental health was at rock bottom. I was depressed and felt overwhelmed with anxiety and crippling stress. These feelings were particularly pronounced after drinking, but they were becoming routine. I was drinking three bottles of wine a night to deal with my feelings of isolation, depression, stress and anxiety.
I felt completely broken, and I couldn’t see a way out. I told myself I wasn’t good enough or that I was failing in my professional life, and that I’d never move out of my family home. I felt like my life had zero direction, and I just wanted to give up on life.
But instead, I gave up on booze.
The first six months were challenging. I was very lonely at times. I was frustrated by how much people’s lives seemed to revolve around alcohol. People didn’t necessarily understand why I had given up drinking saying things like “Just have one” or “Why can’t you just moderate?” People often describe alcoholism as a lonely disease, but, sobriety made me feel more alone than ever. No one could relate to what I was going through.
I persevered and after about nine months could see the benefits clearly. My boss and colleagues have told me I am like a “different girl”. I’ve paid off all debts, and have finally bought my first property. My mental health has vastly improved.
Since giving up drinking I have dealt with death, cancer and like everyone, the global pandemic. I didn’t turn to wine, as I would do usually. I have had a clear mind to tackle all these challenges head on.
Sobriety isn’t a magic wand designed to solve all your mental health problems, and I appreciate lots of people can drink moderately. However, sobriety has allowed me to tackle a lot of deep-rooted issues, I was burying with alcohol. Sobriety, in conjunction with weekly counselling, has restored my faith in myself. I trust myself now, which I never thought I would be able to say.
As part of its centenary year, NPA is partnering with Mind to help raise funds to support their vital efforts in helping people experiencing mental health problems. Go to www.npa.co.uk/representing-you/100-years/npa-fundraising-for-mental-health-charities/ to see how you can get involved.