My story: Olivia


I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1973 when I was a baby, which means I have lived with my condition for 45 years. My diabetes is an auto-immune disease, which means I used to need to inject insulin six times a day, every day. Now I use a pump and a continuous glucose monitor (CGM). This means I have around-the-clock insulin via a tiny pump - like the ones in hospital - and blood sugar readings via a sensor in my skin. Because of this, I have not needed an ambulance or used A&E. 

People can die from diabetes so things need to be kept in balance, which is heavy on mental health.

Then, five years ago I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). This is another auto-immune, life-long condition that affects the central nervous system with different people experiencing different symptoms. My MS causes me to get tired if I have a busy day. For example, yesterday I met with a friend and we shared tea and chatted for hours, then I travelled home. Later, I fell asleep on the couch mid-afternoon. 

When I get ill like a cold or flu, my symptoms can increase so I can get more unbalanced. I don’t have night vision any more so need to switch the light on for activities like using the toilet in the middle of the night. My symptoms can also increase when I'm really stressed.

Both of these conditions have various medical effects on my body, which has resulted in me working part-time, so I can have a good work/life balance. They can also affect each other - if my blood sugar is too low or too high, I get more unbalanced. 

From a mental health perspective, it's been hard. As a young child, I was told my organs would start failing at 20 years old and that I would die by the age of 30. These were some of the views from the 1970s. I was also told I couldn't have children, get married or study at university. That is very frightening to grow up with. I've also had complications with my health - I have had 45 laser surgeries, I have nerve damage so I have to take pain medication, I have stage three kidney disease, and I've had a mini-stroke. 

There is also the aforementioned MS. These complications include fatigue, unbalance and memory loss when I'm tired. I have early stage relapsing-remitting MS so I also take medication three-days-a-week for life. The medicine feels like a bee-sting for about 30 minutes. I am also more prone to infections; I have had two bouts of septic shock and once had a cold that ended up as pneumonia. 

All of this can be tough to deal with.  I developed Dysthymia or persistent depressive disorder (PDD), which causes long-term low-level depression when I was a teenager. I had two bouts of diabulimia - an eating disorder that type one diabetics are prone to - that was also in my teens and late 20s. 

I have recovered now from that. My diabetes is in much better control and I eat normally. I decided to create a bucket list, which included traveling, studying at university, getting married and having two children. Right now, I work as an online psychotherapist - travelling distances means I can get fatigued - and to keep me at my best for work, I have adjusted how I work so my clients get me at my best. 

My support network has been amazing - my husband and children, my dad, NHS staff including diabetic doctors and DSN nurses... the list could go on. And all I things I was told I couldn't do, I can. I'm glad that diabetics are not told scary things like I was - they're just untrue.

Royalty of all kinds join together in minute-long Mental Health Awareness radio moment

Judi Dench.jpg

Their Royal Highnesses The Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry along with stars from music, sport, stage, and screen have joined together for a minute-long message which was broadcast simultaneously by hundreds of UK radio stations at 10.59am today.

The message was voiced by Lady Gaga, Dame Judi Dench, David Harewood and Dame Jessica Ennis-Hill as well as special guests The Duke of Cambridge and Prince Harry, who are all lending their voice to raise awareness of mental health. The princes have already been vocal about their own mental health and are active in raising awareness.

In a historic first and reaching one of radio’s biggest ever collective audiences, the minute of simultaneous programming united stations all over the UK from national networks such as those run by Global, Bauer or Wireless, to smaller local stations and community stations, together with BBC Radio 1, Radio 2 and 5Live. 

The broadcast, which is designed to encourage more people to talk openly about their mental health, includes The Duke of Cambridge saying: "Just starting a conversation on mental health can make all the difference, when you talk about something you have less reason to fear it."

Prince Harry adds: "If you do have the courage to speak about it, you really can make things better."

Spearheaded by Radiocentre and Radio Academy and executed by content agency Somethin’ Else, the Mental Health Awareness minute, which has fallen in Mental Health Awareness Week, is supported by the Royal Foundation’s Heads Together which was launched to change the national conversation on mental health and tackle the stigma that prevents people from getting the help they need. The Royal Foundation is the principle philanthropic and charitable vehicle for The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and Prince Harry. Ms. Meghan Markle will join the Foundation as the fourth Patron following in Royal Wedding on 19 May 2018.

My story: Tesni

Tesni on her wedding day

Tesni on her wedding day

As part of Mental Health Awareness Week, we're helping share the stories of people with mental health conditions and also people who have invisible disabilities who have seen an impact on their mental health. Today, we speak to Tesni, 33, from Wales about her story: 

"It all started when I was nine years' old; when I developed Fibromyalgia.

I wasn't able to keep up with the other children at school, I struggled walking home and I would fall asleep on my lunch box during my lunch break. Understandably, my mum was worried; I had gone from being a hyperactive child who spent all her time running around with animals on our smallholding to constantly being tired and in pain. She took me to our primary care doctor (GP) who would spend the next four years putting me through a barrage of tests trying to find out what was wrong with me.

It was at 13, I was sent to see a specialist for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (also known as M.E). I was in the hospital for a week, on a 500-calorie-a-day diet. At the end of the week, he told me there was nothing wrong with me; I was fat and lazy. From then on, I was on a 1,000-calorie-a-day diet and pushed myself harder.

In my mind, everything was my fault - the tiredness and the pain - and I needed to pull myself together. Everyone else could do it, so why couldn't I? To this day, I still struggle with this mindset.

My GP, still convinced that I did have M.E, put me on anti-depressants. By this time, I was also struggling with anxiety and depression, but neither of those things had been discussed with me and I didn't know how to talk about them. After five months, my mum got a panicked phone call from our GP telling her to take me off the anti-depressants right away as they had been linked to suicide.

At 16, I was finally diagnosed with Fibromyalgia, but by this point, I wasn't listening to my GP. I didn't hear him carefully explaining to me what I had was not M.E, it would never go away and that I had to learn to manage it or it would slowly take more and more away from me. I was convinced that I could live my life like everyone else; I just needed to push harder. I still thought one day it would go away if I could just sort my head out. Around this time, I started to self-harm. At first, I did it for the release. Then I did it because I was angry and frustrated, and it was the only way I knew how to express myself.

At 18, I left home and got my first job, working in a mental health care home. I was so out of my depth and got horribly bullied there because I wasn't able to cope with the physical demands. A senior member of staff even took my then boyfriend, now husband, to one side and told him I was making it all up.

He said he had worked with people with M.E before and there was no way I had it and I was just saying it so I could get away with being lazy.

At 20, I became pregnant with my son and I couldn't cope. I didn't manage to quit smoking until I was four months pregnant. I got awful pre- and post-natal depression (PND) and couldn't bond with my son when he was born. I struggled on for two years like that until I had a conversation with a friend about her PND, which got me to finally go to my GP and I reluctantly tried anti-depressants again. Luckily this time they worked for me.

Slowly over the years, I've addressed the fact that I don't have M.E and that I have Fibromyalgia (despite being told by my GP that I should "just pick whichever title I want" as they were just "terms we use when we don't know whats wrong". I've finally accepted that it will never go away, and I've learned about my condition and how to cope with the pain.

Of course, I still struggle. There have been moments that have broken my heart. Like not being able to hold my son's hand because the pain in my hands was too much to bear. Having to accept that I couldn't have another child - my health had become so bad that I felt I couldn't give my son the attention he needed so it'd be unfair to have another. There have been times I've felt stripped of all dignity; having to apply for Disability Living Allowance and Personal Independence Payment; having to lay bare all the things I struggle to do and how dependent I am on others, so that someone can come and judge me to see if I score enough 'sick person points' to be given the benefit need to have any quality of life.

Being called lazy will always rip me apart inside. I'll always hide how much I hurt and how tired I am. But slowly I'm getting my head around the fact that it's not my fault and it's not because I'm weak."

If you've been affected by Tesni's story, please drop us a line using the contact us page.