A personal experience of healing ill mental health.

Mary Sanford, Somerset, UK

It is not unusual to find that many of those who suffer ill mental health have a troubled past with often abusive families or experiences that sets them up for a lifetime of mental turmoil. There are studies that affirm this.1-5  I was no exception. However, my state of obvious well-being today sits in contrast to where I have come from with a history of ill mental health traced back to a lifetime of unresolved deep hurts. I found a way to move beyond what might have been a crippling past to a life lived fully, untroubled by my past ill mental health.

As a child, I felt my childhood consisted of: I cannot, I must not, I should not or I would not get or have. I found this to be extremely negative and scornful and it had a crushing effect on how I saw life. I was either rebelling in my mind towards my father or trying to placate him; looking back neither worked – we just did not get on at all. I was seething inside at his ability to bully and manipulate the family. He would brook no opposition, his word was final and what I detested the most was the inequality within our family. As children we had to do as we were told irrespective of the fact that my father was a bully and disrespectful to his children; he could be this way towards us, but we had to respect and obey him. I wasn’t able to do this and it showed and was the bone of contention between us. I was constantly told I was a very insolent child and would be punished for being so. I felt the injustice of this singling out within the family.

I had been waiting for years for my father to die as he had been ill for at least ten years, suffering from many heart attacks but always managing to recover. There were occasions that I had wished him dead and had expressed this to my mother, especially during those really difficult times when I had been singled out for punishment that I felt was unjustified, and I would then think of ways to get my own back. Then I would feel incredibly guilty for having such thoughts and would try to placate my father, so that he wouldn’t know how much I wanted him not to be there. I just wanted him gone, it was that simple to me as a child. What I really craved was for my father to see me without all the anger or resentment he seemed to carry towards me. There were so many times I had no idea what I was doing or had done that singled me out for such abusive behaviour. What I also didn’t know as a child was that all these perceived hurts that I carried within my body unexpressed were actually harming me and having an adverse effect on the way I saw and behaved in life. Having negative thoughts does not make us bad people but if we allow the thoughts to infiltrate our conscious awareness they do have a negative effect on our bodies and influence the way we see and react to life. I realise now there was more going on than just my perception of events as a child, more on that later, but at the time I couldn’t deny that it simply left me feeling rejected and hurt.

I became pregnant when I was twenty and it became apparent that there was something wrong with the pregnancy and that I would eventually miscarry. When I did miscarry it was quite a harrowing experience and I didn’t feel able to talk to anyone about it because no one seemed interested. So, I again bottled up all my feelings because in those days you didn’t say anything, you just carried on with your life. There was no pause or reflection; it was a case of ‘dust yourself down and get on with it;’ the British stiff upper lip syndrome. As an example my local doctor said,

“Well at least you know you can have children.”


You can’t bottle up feelings for ever

But I couldn’t carry on bottling up all these hurts and emotions; something was broiling inside me and one night I just lost all control while drying up the dishes and I attacked my partner with a kitchen knife. I don’t even remember what happened; I just remember coming round when he and I were standing under a cold shower, we were both fully dressed and he was holding my arms down by my side. We stayed there for some time until I was back in control of myself again and then he called my doctor who came straight out to see me. I was given some medication and that was the start of the slippery road into a very dark place of ill mental health. I was given drugs to keep me calm, put me to sleep, wake me up and some of the side effects were not pleasant, so I didn’t know what was worse: the broiling from all the unresolved hurts, all those times I had not been allowed to express how I felt as a child and now as an adult; or the side effects of the tablets. I felt a total mess, not yet realising that the unresolved hurts around my father which I had bottled up inside me for years and had not been able to express contributed to my then choice to withdraw from life.

I now have a far greater understanding that my choice to withdraw from people and life, because I felt hurt and could not express what was truly going on for me, left a void in my body. And that emptiness has to be filled with something, which has an energetic quality. There are only two energies to choose from and the energy I chose and allowed in was a very negative and harming energy towards myself and others. My self-worth had hit rock bottom, I was rudderless, and life didn’t seem to be worth living.

After a few months it was quite clear I couldn’t look after myself anymore; I was just sitting all day in a chair unable to cope with life because the drugs kept me so heavily sedated. But I didn’t want to come off the drugs and face the mess I knew I was in. My relationship with my partner was a total mess; I had so much time off work sick that the company asked me to leave. So somewhere inside me I made a choice to just give in and give up, be a victim and indulge in the abandonment of myself to the drugs; it was so easy to make that choice to check out from myself and from life.


My time in a mental hospital

The doctor decided to send me to a mental hospital so that I could be taken care of. None of my family knew I was there; I had been living in a little village which had a public telephone box by the pub; this was my only communication with the outside world.  And as we did not at that time keep in much contact with each other, they were clueless to my circumstances. All the time I was hospitalised I was so drugged I had no idea what was going on with me, all I knew was at 6.00 pm every evening I would walk down to the public telephone box in the grounds of the hospital and phone my partner and just cry. I didn’t want to be there but I didn’t know where I wanted to be, and I knew I was not getting any better, but I had lost the will to get better. I felt as though I was slowly drowning; I would see the team of specialists who would ask me how I was that day but I didn’t know because I couldn’t feel anything, I had completely shut down. I do remember being asked about my family but I didn’t say anything because it was literally too much effort to talk to them. What can you say when the lights are on but no one is at home in the body; I had retreated somewhere inside myself and felt like a zombie.

Luckily for me one of my sisters came over to the UK from Europe and went to the house where I had been living and my partner told her that I had been sent to a mental hospital. The very next day she came and found me and had me discharged along with a huge supply of pills that I religiously took. As I was still incapable of looking after myself, my sister took me back to Europe with her and I lived with her for quite some time. She told me I had to come off all the drugs and the only way she could think of to do this was to go ‘cold turkey’ so she threw all my drugs down the loo and flushed them away. I don’t remember much about this time but she put me to work mucking out at her racing stables. This was ghastly as I disliked horses intensely.

Again, nothing was said about my miscarriage or why I was in such a mental disorder. I just got on through the day slowly making some sort of recovery, enough to make it look as though I was okay. But of course I was not okay and I was just finding ways to bury my angst deeper into my body. My body showed me the angst I was carrying as I started sleep walking, I would have a feeling that I was in a totally black space and couldn’t get out or breathe and I would make my way to the light of a window and then wake up. Sometimes I would wake up actually hanging out of a window with the wind on my face waking me up.


Learning how to function in life

I learnt how to function in life to make it seem as though I was living a normal life. Instead of pharmaceutical drugs, I used food and alcohol as the go-to distractions of life; they kept me going and this wasn’t out of place as everyone else was doing the same, so I fitted in. But all the time I was withdrawing from life, not wanting to participate. I felt too hurt and was unable to trust myself that I wouldn’t have another nervous breakdown as it was like a cloud hanging over me.

I felt it coming back so strongly in my late 20’s that I went to my local GP as my behaviour was becoming so erratic that even I couldn’t ignore it any more. My doctor advised me to see a psychiatrist privately which I did and this lasted for over 25 years at great personal expense. In all that time to be honest nothing really changed, I never got better; it was as though I was flat lining through life. My psychiatrist had become my prop or main stay in life; as long as they were there, I could just about manage. The most difficult time was when she went on her summer holidays and I had to cope on my own, that was tough and I counted off the weeks until she was back. Then I would spend the next few weeks unable to talk to her because I was so furious she had gone away and left me. I felt totally abandoned while she was away. I feel that I was encouraged to believe I was a victim; it wasn’t my fault that I had mental health issues and was behaving like this and my father was the culprit.


Learning that life is about much more than function: meeting Serge Benhayon

The reason I am telling everyone of my mental ill health is because my life completely changed when I met a man called Serge Benhayon. This was 11 years ago, and for the first time I met someone who actually saw me for me. He saw straight through all my defences I thought I had so carefully built up around me to protect myself from the world, to the very core of me and there was no judgment, no condemnation of me as a person, just me in my rawness.  Since meeting Serge Benhayon and attending the many workshops on offer and having sessions with Universal Medicine practitioners, I have come to understand that my depression and nervous breakdown was already manifesting in my body at a young age from my unresolved childhood hurts that I dragged around with me. This made sense to me and I also got to feel and understand that I was not a victim, that I had made choices.

I had made the choice to withdraw from life, I had made the choice to give up and indulge in pharmaceutical drugs so that I didn’t have to take responsibility for my life or what was happening to me. And again this made sense because I do remember knowing exactly what I was allowing but I had withdrawn too much to fully claim my body and take command of it. That is what happens when we check out, it allows another energy to check in, and it can then take control of the body. That is totally my responsibility and no one else’s as it is my body. The other thing I’m learning about life is that we save ourselves; no one can do this for us. At times it has been an up-hill battle but that’s because I allowed myself to fall a long way down and so getting back up again does take time and dedication to oneself to rebuild the self-worth and self-respect.


What I know now

I now know that all those times as a child I had not been able to express what I was really feeling for fear of the punishment, the times I was totally ignored or put down because I was ‘just a child’, followed by the miscarriage, feeling I had to once again bury all my feelings and not express how I felt losing a baby; the effect of bottling up all these feelings led to my outburst and attack on my partner. If someone had sat me down and got me to talk about everything, I might not have spun so totally out of control, but by my own choice to give up on myself I allowed myself to be given drugs to suppress, dampen and bury all the feelings I had, to the point where I was so numb I was completely checked out on life. I now understand this doesn’t work because the feelings are still there festering away and impacting my everyday life, nothing gets resolved unless we go to the root cause and heal that; in my case I feel it was because I wasn’t allowed, or able to, express to my family the devastation and sadness I felt that they could not see me for the delightful child I was. And I was the most delightful cutest child with curly blond hair, so full of joy it was bubbling over. I allowed myself to be completely crushed by the energy that my father chose to live by which was predominantly anger and frustration, who because of his own upbringing felt that children should be seen and not heard and that girls were of no importance what so ever. Whilst my father’s behaviour was abhorrent and unacceptable by any reasonable standards, I no longer blame my father as I now understand he was a product of his own upbringing and life and had his own unresolved hurts to cope with.

What I do understand from all I have learnt from Serge Benhayon and the Universal Medicine teachings and presentations is that we are born open and loving to the world but as we grow, this way of being is denied to us by the very way that society is set up. Any hurt that is left in the body undealt with is an energy festering and poisonous to the body, so creating illness and disease. And so I now know that my mental illness didn’t just ‘happen’. I did not deal with my childhood hurts around my father, and to be honest it has taken me 50 years to have closure on my childhood. But thank goodness I have worked on healing those hurts, because I feel so free in my body now, spacious and open where before I was closed and shut down and I am fully engaged with life and living it to the full. No drugs, psychiatrist, alcohol, comfort food needed, just me being all that I am, naturally so.


1) Hughes K, Lowey H, Quigg Z, Bellis MA. Relationships between adverse childhood experiences and adult mental wellbeing: results from an English national household survey. BMC public health. 2016; 16:222


2) Read J, Bentall RP. Negative childhood experiences and mental health: theoretical, clinical and primary prevention implications. BJ Psych. 2012, 200: 89-91 http://bjp.rcpsych.org/content/bjprcpsych/200/2/89.full.pdf

3) Anda RF, Felitti VJ, Bremner JD, Walker JD, Whitfield C, Perry BD, Dube SR, Giles WH

The enduring effects of abuse and related adverse experiences in childhood. A convergence of evidence from neurobiology and epidemiology. Eur Arch Psychiatry Clin Neurosci. 2006 Apr; 256(3):174-86.

4) Chapman DP, Whitfield CL, Felitti VJ, Dube SR, Edwards VJ, Anda RF

Adverse childhood experiences and the risk of depressive disorders in adulthood.

J Affect Disord. 2004 Oct 15; 82(2):217-25.

 5) Mersky JP, Topitzes J, Reynolds AJ. Impacts of adverse childhood experiences on health, mental health, and substance use in early childhood: A cohort study of an urban, minority sample in the U.S. Child Abuse Negl. 2013 Nov. 37 (11): 917-925



Read More:

  1. Choosing our way out of depression 
  2. Depression ( a reframe)

559 thoughts on “A personal experience of healing ill mental health.

  1. A deeply inspiring blog Mary. Thank you for sharing your life experience and how you have so powerfully come back to yourself.

  2. As a society we don’t often hear first hand of someone else’s experience with mental health, and it is a shame but then again, they don’t all end with a transformation at the end of the story like yours, Mary. I get the feeling mental health is a slippery downward spiral and there’s not a clear way out of it, so accounts like this are like a lifeline and a great inspiration to many.

    1. Not only they are on the rise, but they are being used as an excuse for sensitivity and discontent with the state of society.

  3. Suppressing our feelings often leads to resentment and further withdrawal from engaging with life and others, leading to a vicious cycle of negative feelings and ill health.

  4. Meeting Serge Benhayon has been a ‘life stopper’ moment for countless people. With his support, many have transformed their lives in remarkable ways, I can add myself to that list too. For one person to affect so many in such a positive way has to bring testimony to the fact of The Way of The Livingness. Your testimony here, Mary is so very powerful considering the amazing turn around you have experienced.

  5. I could relate to a lot of what you have shared Mary and also know that the practise of giving drugs as an antidote for depression, although often admitted to being a band aid by those in the mental health field, are so not the answer. We all know that if we wear a band aid too long it has a negative rather than positive effect. The skin needs to breathe and be exposed to the elements and treated with care as it forms a proper scab. When we have mental health issues we need more than anything to be totally accepted and held in love, compassion and understanding. We need to find our way back to our essential selves.

  6. It does not make sense that we stop treating people with value when they become ill with mental health concerns – it is the very opposite which truly supports anyone receiving care or support of any kind.

  7. Medication shouldn’t be the starting point of a ‘slippery slope’; if it’s true that pills and prescriptions are leading us down dark paths, then we need to completely reconsider a) what we are giving out, b) when they are being given out and c) how patients and professionals could change their relationship to medication. It was never meant to be the ‘solution’.

  8. It is a sad indictment of our society that we are seeing explosions in the rates of ill mental health, especially in our youth. As the ever-increasing extremes of behaviour continue and the boundaries of what we find acceptable keep widening, we need to be reminded that all we are craving is simple connection and love, nothing more.

  9. You are a prime example of a body of evidence, Mary, so why do we need more examples and who is drawing that line in the sand at low tide that changes twice a day that decides how many it takes to make it true?

  10. ‘I feel that I was encouraged to believe I was a victim; it wasn’t my fault that I had mental health issues and was behaving like this and my father was the culprit.’ Isn’t it interesting that as long as we seek to blame someone else or the world around us for our predicaments we do not heal one bit, in fact it keeps us stuck in it.

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s