‘I was mad, bad and violent and not a nice person to know’ - Norwich woman turns her life around to help others in similar situations
- Credit: Dave Guttridge The Photographic
'I was mad, bad and violent and not a nice person to know' - those were the words of a Norwich woman who after years of suffering with mental health issues and a stint in prison has turned her life around to help others on the road to recovery.
Tracey Jackson, 37, admits she was a 'problem child'.
She was taken into care when she was just two years old, but unlike her sisters who were both adopted into the same family, Ms Jackson regularly moved between foster carers and children's homes.
'I was a problematic child who people couldn't handle,' said Ms Jackson. 'I was very impulsive and started self-harming, drinking and smoking cannabis to act as some kind of release.'
She started to experience mental health difficulties after becoming the victim of physical and emotional abuse, and by the age of seven Ms Jackson had suffered sexual abuse at the hands of a carer she ought to have been able to trust. At 14, she was taken into a secure unit - St Clements Hospital, in London.
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'I wanted a relationship with my real parents,' Ms Jackson said. 'But when I did find them in my late teens, my self-harming got so much worse.
'I would cut myself and take overdoses and use ligatures. It's difficult to explain why, but I wanted to make other people stop abusing me while also carrying on the abuse myself. I ended up trying to kill myself and was taken to St Clements Hospital but wasn't ready for the help. I was still mad, bad and violent and not a nice person to know.'
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Ms Jackson's downward spiral continued until 2014, when she was sent to prison following an arson attack. Her self-harming got worse once she was behind bars, while other inmates would single her out and she became the victim of bullies.
Her mental health deteriorated further when she set fire to her cell and was put into segregation and spent all day, every day alone.
Eventually she was referred to the Norvic Clinic - a medium secure unit run by the Norfolk and Suffolk Foundation Trust (NSFT) in Thorpe St Andrew - after she swallowed bleach.
By May 2016, she had made such good progress that she was able to gradually move into supported accommodation. She has now started working with NSFT's Recovery College providing office support and working as a peer tutor.
She is also preparing to face her fear of heights when she tackles a bungee jump on June 11 to raise money for the Big C in memory of her sister Lyn, who died of cancer.
Ms Jackson said: 'My life has changed completely. I'm sharing my story to help others and looking forward to the future and giving something back.
'I still receive support from NSFT but not as often as I'm feeling so much better. I'm really enjoy my voluntary work as it means I can use my first-hand experiences to help others. I'm not the person I used to be – I am a much better person. I hope that other people who are struggling can see from my story that there is light at the end of the tunnel and they can get through it too, just like I have.
'A journey is never a straight line – there are always ups and downs – what is important is learning how to deal with them.'
Praise for Norvic Clinic staff
'Going to the Norvic was the best thing that ever happened to me,' Ms Jackson said. 'I decided to show people that I was strong enough to turn my life around and be a better person. The staff supported me and helped me to move on and feel like a person again. I was also finally given a diagnosis – emotionally unstable personality disorder, depression and self-harm.
'If I thought I was going to self-harm, I would tell them and they would intervene. I started doing occupational therapy and spending time off the unit. I also enrolled in some Recovery College courses which gave me the chance to meet other service users, staff and carers and learn lots of new skills. They also helped me understand more about my recovery and the improvements I was making to my mental health. The staff did a lot of work with me to give me coping skills which I will continue to use throughout my whole life.'
• To donate to Ms Jackson's bungee jump challenge, click here.