Aimee began receiving support from Richmond Fellowship’s Northumbria floating support service after she was discharged from a psychiatric hospital where she spent two and a half years as an inpatient.

In addition to weekly support sessions with her Recovery Worker, Aimee is actively involved in a number of projects across the organisation. Below Aimee shares her story with us and explains how Richmond Fellowship has played a key part in her journey to recovery.

Aimee’s story

When I woke up in intensive care after being on life support for a suicide attempt and was told I was being sent to a long-term, specialist, inpatient hospital, I didn’t for one minute imagine that I’d be sat here today – in recovery.

It took a lot of hard work to grow into the person that I am today, but I couldn’t have done it without the support from Richmond Fellowship – or should I say I couldn’t have maintained it? Being discharged from hospital after two and a half years as an inpatient with staff support and 24/7 supervision was incredibly hard. Something that mental health professionals often fail to tell you is that ‘recovery’ is just the beginning of yet another hard fight.

When I was set to move into my own home in the community I was adamant that I wouldn’t need support any more – I believed that this was it, I was better. However, thanks to the persistence of the team at Richmond Fellowship’s Northumbria floating support service, their support (although it has significantly decreased over the years) has made all the difference towards my recovery when the going got tough.

I have now come to realise that recovery is hard; there are ups and downs. When I first went into recovery I thought that it was going to be all positive from then on. So when I had some down moments and started struggling, I really lost a lot of hope because I thought ‘This isn’t recovery, I’m meant to be better all the time’ and I was worried that I had relapsed. After I self-harmed in the community, I would’ve lost all hope if it hadn’t been for the reassuring support of Richmond Fellowship and my Recovery Worker who explained to me that you can’t go from three years of suicide attempts and self-harm to be ‘fixed,’ and in recovery straight from hospital.

Recovery is up and down, it’s not smooth-sailing. There are rough seas and there are calm seas and there are hard times, and there are really amazing times where you love life and you’re really passionate about what you do."

The biggest milestone in my recovery has been reaching half a million readers on my blog I'm NOT Disordered, which I started while I was in hospital. The name is a play on words from my diagnosis of borderline personality disorder because I wanted to get across that I’m not just my diagnosis and there’s a lot more to me and to my life than that. I also wanted it to be a place where I could share and reflect on my experiences of being in recovery, to reassure others who may be going through similar situations and have the same worries.

Over the years, I’m NOT Disordered has really taken off and I have had some amazing opportunities from it, including filming with different TV channels and radios and doing a lot of events with Richmond Fellowship and the services that have cared for me. It’s great to feel like I’m giving something back and that I’m helping services that have helped me.

I’m NOT Disordered is the greatest achievement in my entire life and so to have Richmond Fellowship support its growth and development over the years means a great deal to me and makes the hard work seem less daunting.

Supporting Aimee
Alice Tierney, Team Manager

Aimee was referred to our service when leaving inpatient care and moving into her very first own home. This was a huge step for her, a step which was fairly uncharted territory and there was uncertainty about whether it would succeed.

Aimee wanted to break down the preconceived idea of a person using mental health services through writing about her own experiences on her blog and promoting awareness and understanding of mental health and what it means to be in recovery. While this is such a positive way to use her voice, it often meant (and sometimes still does) that professionals would view Aimee as confident and happy, so how could she possibly be ‘unwell’?

We saw another side of Aimee – the side that found it difficult to go out in public without support, that couldn’t pay for goods in shops as this meant having to interact with counter staff, where she would struggle to make phone calls without feeling anxious, and the side where she could only cope with her symptoms by self harming. 

But through supporting Aimee through these difficulties, we watched her grow and began to witness some clear changes in her. In our weekly sessions with Aimee, we have supported her to develop the confidence and independence to carry out daily tasks that she found difficult and helped reassure her that things would be ok. We encouraged Aimee to focus on alternative ways of coping other than self harming and have helped her identify positive factors that ground her in times of crisis. It is important to recognise that Aimee’s journey is more than just us and her, so we work closely with Aimee’s family and other professionals to ensure she is fully supported in all aspects of her life.

When we first began supporting Aimee, she was receiving a large number of hours per week and had access to an on call facility 24 hours a day for the first few weeks. Fast forward four years and she now receives the lowest amount of hours that she has ever had, which reflects how much things have changed for her. We still support Aimee to go out in the community and to keep herself safe, but she is very open with us about any struggles and relapses she is facing and has a great insight into what works for her in her recovery.

Aimee is a truly inspirational young woman – she has taught us a thing or two over the years. Her blog and her work in the community has helped us all see that anything is possible if you set your mind to it, and that people who have been in the system for several years can come out the other side and enable change, both in their own lives and in society.

Looking to the future

Going forward, Aimee has lots to be excited about. She has recently started attending our Working Together Committee, a sub-committee of the Group Board, to provide feedback on our Working Together approach and to suggest ways that we can continue to work with the people using our services. She is also involved in planning our upcoming National Working Together Forum. Alongside her work with Recovery Focus, Aimee is busy organising a fundraising event in November to raise money for Mind and to celebrate reaching half a million readers on her blog.

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