Stories of Hope: An Interview with Belinda Bennetts
This is part of a series featuring individuals who share their life experiences with mental health issues. Recently, author and coach Belinda Bennetts graciously offered to share about her personal mental health challenges and her current activities. Here’s our interview:
DS: Tell us about your first awareness of concerns related to your mental health. How did these issues continue to affect you before you sought treatment?
BB: From the age of about five I became aware that I was ‘different’ to others. I was a very serious child, and I struggled with social interaction. I was at boarding school and felt incredibly lost and sad, but of course I was too young to understand what mental health was.
When I was twelve I was diagnosed with anorexia, and that was when I became aware there was something not right. I felt depressed a lot of the time. I was also dealing with the fact that my father was dying of cancer. He passed away when I was thirteen, and I spiralled from there. I remember sinking into a very lonely world, a world in which I felt isolated and misunderstood. I knew my family were worried about me, and yet I felt helpless.
That was the point I turned to alcohol, drinking in secret. The effects on my own life were devastating, and almost cost me life itself. I hated who I was, I felt I was living in a black hole that there was no way out of. My mother and sister didn’t know what to do – they hardly knew who I was anymore. It carried on after I got married at twenty one, and when I immigrated to New Zealand. It was very sad because I left my family in that state, and many years passed before I saw them again.
DS: What was the turning point that led you to decide to seek help?
BB: My mother took me to a counsellor when I was 16 because she was so worried. I was also prescribed Prozac for a short time, but it had little effect on me. That was just the start of it really. The real turning point was when I was living in New Zealand. I was twenty two, and had sunk into deep depression, plus I was drinking heavily.
I started having suicidal thoughts, and I had no one to talk to. So I booked an appointment with a local doctor and was prescribed medication. I stayed on the medication for a while, but the combination of alcohol and depression was too much to bear.
Not long after turning twenty three I tried to end my life. I overdosed, and cut my wrists. Waking up in hospital with a psychiatric team around me was a huge wake up call, and it was at that point that I knew something had to change. I knew I could not live the way I had been any more.
DS: What types of treatment have you undergone, and what have you found that has worked well for you?
BB: After coming out of hospital I continued with antidepressants and saw a counsellor for nearly a year. Then, under my doctor’s supervision I was weaned off the antidepressants and started taking herbal supplements which helped a lot. I worked with a life coach too and she taught me Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) which allowed me to see that I had a choice.
It was a real up and down few years. I reached the point where I could ‘cope’ but there was always an underlying depression, and I suffered from anxiety. It was a more a case of getting through one day at a time. This continued until I had my daughter at thirty three. Becoming a mother was one of the most incredible experiences for me, and it pulled me out of myself.
Sadly though it was not to last, as my marriage ended a couple of years after her birth, and I was once again flung into chaos. I was prescribed diazepam short term, and this helped me to get through the worst of the panic attacks and anxiety. Plus I had my daughter to look after. It is amazing how one can find inner strength when one has to.
DS: How are things going for you now? What have you learned that has helped you stay positive and healthy?
BB: Now I have reached a place within myself where I am happier than I have ever been. I have a normal life and great relationships with my family and friends. I never actually thought I would reach this place – it’s truly incredible to come out the other side of a lifetime of mental illness. I still have moments when I feel depressed and anxious, but now I understand myself and my thinking so much more I don’t take it so seriously and it passes quickly.
The biggest thing I learnt was that there was a part of me that was not broken, and that my depression was actually the result of my thinking in the moment rather than the effects of my external world. I had always thought I was victim to my circumstances, and to my depression and mental illness.
In 2015 I was introduced to an understanding called the three principles. It is an understanding that points to the inside out nature of life, and how our reality is created through our thinking. This had the biggest impact on me – learning that I was not my thoughts and feelings, but that I was so much more underneath it all.
DS: Tell us about your book and your social media activities.
BB: Well after my marriage ended I moved from New Zealand to Northern Ireland with my daughter. I was suffering panic attacks, severe depression and didn’t know where to turn. I knew I had to keep strong for my daughter, so I did something that I have done for many years, and that was put pen to paper. Except this time it turned out to be much more than journaling – it turned into the greatest inner journey of my life.
Through writing I was able to release emotional wounds and negative belief systems that I had been living with for over thirty years. It was absolutely incredible. At the same time as I wrote I was also introduced to the three principles that I mentioned above.
So it was a double whammy – I was releasing a lifetime of trauma, and also learning a new way of living. I didn’t start the process with the intention of publishing, but once I had finished the book I knew I wanted to share my journey with others.
DS: What would you like to say to encourage others who are still working on their journey of recovery?
BB: Don’t ever give up on yourself. I think, well certainly for me, one of the hardest things was actually loving myself and standing by myself though the process. So much of the time I loathed myself. I felt I didn’t deserve happiness and that I was a burden on my family and friends. The truth is that every one of us is a precious, unique and incredible being.
I think there is a huge stigma around mental illness, and so many people who are struggling can feel they are somehow not worthy. Nothing could be further from the truth.
I would also like to say, be open to the fact that underneath it all there is a part of you that is whole, complete and unbroken. I know only too well how difficult it can be to see a reality other than the one we are in when struggling with mental illness. But if I could do one thing, it would be to allow others to see the ray of light within themselves and know that recovery is possible.
Belinda Bennetts is an author, coach, mother, friend and lover of life. Her life changed when she discovered that the only person holding her back from realizing her dreams was herself. Through life-changing meetings, empowering books and a desire to remove the blockages of the past, Belinda emerged as a passionate author and inspirational coach whose mission is to help others overcome their self-constructed limitations. She empowers people to transform self limiting beliefs and blocks into fresh, powerful and focussed mindsets that enable them to live with confidence, inspiration and authenticity. Belinda lives in the UK with her daughter. She loves to travel, ride horses, and surround herself with people on the same page as her. You can find out more about Belinda through her web page, Facebook or Twitter.
Thanks so much to Belinda for sharing her inspiring story of hope!
Here’s a question: Would you like to share your story of hope? I plan to feature more personal accounts like this from time to time on my blog. If you are interested in sharing your story, please notify me via my contact page. Also, please subscribe to my blog and feel free to follow me on Twitter, “like” my Facebook page, or connect on LinkedIn. Thanks!