Suffolk mental health blogger changes her life to help others

Rachel Edwards writing her blog

Rachel Edwards writing her blog - Credit: Archant

A young woman who jumped from a 50ft balcony because she believed she could fly hopes that her story will help bring further understanding about mental health.

Rachel Edwards in hospital after her fall

Rachel Edwards in hospital after her fall - Credit: Archant

Rachel Edwards was diagnosed with bipolar disorder at the age of 19 after the horrific episode that left her in a wheelchair.

Miss Edwards, from Stradbroke, near Diss, is now 24 and decided to start blogging about her experiences of living with mental health problems.

She said: 'My blog has not only helped me enormously but has been seen across the world by more than 6,000 people. I am amazed about how well it has been received. You can see my physical injuries – my wheelchair, my leg braces – but you can't see my mental health. There is still a big stigma that is attached to this and I want to help change this.'

In 1997, at the age of six, Miss Edwards and her family moved from London to Suffolk and she had fond memories of her childhood.

Rachel Edwards at a friends wedding

Rachel Edwards at a friends wedding - Credit: Archant

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It was not until she was 19 that her family noticed a change in her behaviour.

The former lifeguard said: 'It was November 2009 and my mood changed. We did not know that I had bipolar then. I had manic psychotic episodes and spent all my money – a common sign of the disorder. I believed I could fly and felt invincible. I then became severely depressed.'

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Her parents became deeply concerned and did not want to leave her behind when they had to take a trip back to London.

And while her mother slept, Miss Edwards jumped from the balcony of a fourth floor Stratford flat.

'I do not remember much about my fall,' she said. 'This was not a suicide attempt. I truly believed I could fly. I was manic and felt extremely happy.

'The next thing I remember was waking up in hospital thinking I was dead.'

The fall caused Miss Edwards to break her back and doctors said she would never walk again.

After several operations on her spine she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and will now be on medication for the rest of her life.

The next two years were very dark for the former Stradbroke High School student. Now, five years on, Miss Edwards has made some positive changes to her life. She joined a gym, which she now goes to most days and has built up her strength, allowing her to walk short distances.

She is also waiting to have a spinal cord stimulation operation which should help with the chronic neuropathic pain caused by her injuries.

In February, after watching a segment on mental health on ITV's This Morning programme, Miss Edwards decided to start her blog, thinking it would help her move on from what happened and help others around her to understand it.

She said: 'Writing about my accident and bipolar has been very beneficial to me. The response has been really positive from people at home and as far as America and Israel.

'I am helping others as well as myself. People now come up to me in the street and say how brave I am.'

Miss Edwards now hopes to become a mental health support worker and has gone back into education. 'I have been through so much over the past five years, but I have picked myself up. I am stronger, positive and have a great support network.

'If I were to have another episode then I have taken control and told my health workers that I wish to be placed immediately back in hospital as I am a risk to myself. My advice to anyone living with mental health problems is to talk. Talking will help.'

To read Miss Edwards's blog visit

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