Stories of Hope: Sarah Padmore

“I’d be in A&E during the evening and back in the Boardroom at 9am”

Everyone on the Chasing the Stigma team has lived experience of mental health. We tell our stories to provide hope to others. This week’s ‘Story of Hope’ comes from our brilliant Business Development Manager (BDM) and Relationship Manager, Sarah Padmore, whose anxiety of ‘not being good and helpful’ in her high-profile career and busy family life led to self-harm. Now living with a diagnosis of Bi-Polar, Sarah explains how she manages her mental health while being a super mum and super hero to our team!

Can you tell us a little bit about what you do and your journey to this point?

I am the Business Development and Relationship Manager for Chasing the Stigma – which I love! My previous career has mainly been within the NHS working in Project Management and then Commissioning. The role I attained within the NHS was Director of Commissioning for a large geographical area. During my career journey I was juggling many things, like any parent with young children. I studied and completed my Masters whilst working full-time, flying on school runs and playing with LEGO as a fun mum….as well as training for a planned year of half marathons!

And this took a toll on your mental health?

I broke. I am a calm individual and was always a ‘go to person’ in every aspect of my life. I began to notice that people were stopping to ask ‘if I was ok’. I started to feel panicky on the inside and continued to smile on the outside, my anxiety of ‘not being a good and helpful’ person grew. Over time I began to self-harm, something that I kept hidden from my family. I used self-harm to manage my anxiety and growing depression – this became unmanageable. I’d be in A&E during the evening and back in the Boardroom at 9am. This escalated until one day my child asked me if we had a cat, because it must be a bad cat as it was always scratching her Mummy.

What help was available to you at this stage and what impact did it have?

My family took me to the GP who made a referral to the crisis team. I had a home visit with a ‘plan’ in place, which included a follow up call a week later. This seemed such a cold approach for me as being a ‘people person’ I knew I needed to talk but I didn’t know where I could find that conversation. My self-harm increased significantly over time and my family were worried. My sister looked for a peer support group to help provide support. We found ‘No Secrets’ which was a local peer support group for vulnerable people who suffer with self-harm as a way of coping with life. This group is now on the Hub of Hope. My mental health deteriorated rapidly and I was admitted to hospital suffering from Psychosis. I spent almost five months as an in-patient in the hospital and then this was followed up with a further two months of out-patient therapy care at a private hospital. This treatment was not available beyond a six month waiting list. Over this 12-month period I also underwent  a course of ECT therapy via my local hospital, as well as continued CBT and art therapy.

Following this period of my life I experienced lots of changes. I went through a divorce, resigned from my executive role, was diagnosed with Bi-polar, became a volunteer at the peer support self-harm support group and started to rebuild my confidence. I also started my own business consultancy and started loving being a good mum.

What is your relationship with your mental health like now?

I now have a diagnosis of Bi-Polar which is managed through life-long medication. I am now settled on my ‘maintenance’ routine and have worked hard with myself, friends and family to understand and recognise my triggers. I am mindful of my stress limits and have to be mindful of my commitments.

How do you manage your mental health and what support did you find most useful?

I listen to feedback from friends and family who may see changes in my behaviour or mood that I do not recognise. I also ensure that I have chilled time each week and try to work on a part-time basis. I found family therapy and education about diagnosis to help support the development of a good long term management plan the most useful part of my recovery.

What were the moments of hope for you, in your own mental health journey? 

Being admitted to hospital, as this meant I couldn’t hide away from my deteriorating mental health state. Also, finding a peer support group that understood self-harm was a real moment of hope for me.

How are you addressing mental health in your own work now?

I choose to work within the charitable sector so that my skills and experience have an impact on vulnerable people. 

How easy do you think it is to access relevant mental health support? 

Access to therapy in a timely manner is definitely a barrier to getting support. I personally feel it is extremely helpful for loved ones to be able to access support for their friends/family when they either cannot recognise they need help and support, or they are unable to do so. The Hub of Hope provides choice at the point needed

What advice would you give to someone struggling with their mental health? 

Communicate with someone! This can be with a friend or family by talking or even writing a letter. Communicate in a way that is comfortable for you, a way in which you can express your inner pain.

If you, today, could speak to yourself at your lowest point, what would you tell yourself? 

I promise, this will not last. You can do this, you will find yourself again and you will shine again.

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