How my mum's recovery story inspired my own journey

We all know mums are superheroes, but mine is such a special woman. She saves lives, just like my favourite DC superhero Wonder Woman does.

She’s a recovery practitioner peer for the DBI Covid Response Team and works for an organisation called Penumbra, based in Glasgow. She’s the most resilient, brave, patient, kind and selfless woman I know. Her talent, though, regards words and the way she uses them to prevent people who struggle with bad mental health from killing themselves.

I’ve seen her in action many times and her ability with words still amazes me nowadays like the first time. She stays calm in stressful situations and can handle any kind of problem. To be honest, there’s no one I admire more than her and I feel grateful to be her daughter and hopefully follow her example.

I know she’s good at her job not just thanks to all the people she helped and saved through the years working for Penumbra, but also because she saved me as well. Being a teenager can be extremely difficult for people who struggle with their mental health. Well, with the hormonal tempest we go through, being a teenager is difficult in general, but having all those emotions amplified and confused can make things worse, and having someone by our side during those years can make the difference between life and death, or that was at least my case.

For years I struggled with severe depression, but I was clueless on mental health issues and had no one to talk to about it. Living in Italy for 18 years, I was used to taking that topic not as seriously as I should have, as we don’t worry about mental health there as much as we do in the UK. Where I was raised, struggling with mental health brings you shame and needs to be hidden and taken care of in secret, often in the worst way possible. This deteriorates even more as bad mental health and many people who could have been helped and saved end their life after years of miserable and excruciating pain.

The worst part is that not many know about mental health at all. That leads young and fragile people to find comfort in self-harm, drugs, alcohol and suicide. I’ve been in that position for years, confused and scared, not knowing what to do with myself to end the pain and finding comfort in self-harm and even attempting suicide a couple of times.

I was sure my life would have ended before my 18th birthday, I didn’t have dreams and hope for the future and even waking up every day brought me too much pain to fight for my life. I thought nothing was worth staying alive, I thought I was alone in my misery and nothing or no one could ever change that, but I was wrong.

When I met my stepmother for the first time, she read me like a book. She listened to me and told me everything she knew about my mental health, she helped me every day until I started opening up more and more and became my rock. She wiped away all my tears and helped me stand up anytime I fell, giving me strength and hope for a future. I’m now supported through meds, my mum is my best friend, and I have a dream.

My life has changed completely, so much that if someone told me years ago I would have felt like this, I wouldn’t have believed it at all. I now wake up everyday feeling happy to be alive and excited for my future. My dream is to become a journalist and write as much as I can. Feeling better helped me realise I have a passion for writing, I can be as productive as anyone else and I can have a normal life just like everyone I know.

The reality is, no matter what we’re struggling with, we’re all capable of beautiful things.

The reality is, no matter what we’re struggling with, we’re all capable of beautiful things.

We all have talents and being helped can make us yearn and give the best of us. I’m very much aware of my luck, I have a personal superhero to help me every day! Not everyone has it, at least not as special as my mum, but Penumbra recovery peer practitioners are the closest people to superheroes and I admire them so much for their job.

You don’t have to be “perfect” or have a perfect life to work for Penumbra, you can be broken and covered by scars, as long as your heart goes for who suffers and you’re ready to help who struggles, then you’re already a superhero. I wouldn’t be here writing this article if my mum didn’t help me, she saved me and I’ll never be grateful enough for this.

Mental health is important, nothing to be ashamed of. If you struggle with yours or know someone who does, don’t be scared to ask for help. It’s the first step to save a life.

Thank you for sharing your story with us, Francesca. We think your mum is a bit of a superhero too.

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