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)

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

  1. Inspiring Mary to come around to the awareness. To reclaim my feelings and my body is what I find fully inspiring and engaging every day having been depressed and non-communicative while I was younger. It is truly glorious to take back responsibility and to express as what I know within me to be true.

  2. Rather than allowing the build-up of disharmony within our body through bottling up our issues, it would be far wiser to seek support from someone who will lovingly allow us the space to uncover the root causes of our maladies, thereby allowing them to fully heal.

  3. It’s horrible what we drag around from childhood – as in unresolved issues. We have this perception that we move on because we get older but we don’t, they just fester and change us into miserable people who see life and the world as a bad place. So, we then find ways to numb ourselves so as to not feel.

  4. Thank you Mary, incredible sharing and inspiring return to who you are and always were. The power of being met in our essence and having the grace of true reflection is a godsend.

  5. This is a gift of an article, not only because it goes a long way to de-stigmatise mental health illness but also re-writes the ‘rules’ about healing ourselves from them… which as evidenced here, we can.

  6. Mary, you are one of the few people I know who have recovered and are not just in remission from illnesses of such severity.

  7. When we are deep within our own beautiful connection that is available to us in our bodies we are less likely to jump out of ourselves into thoughts that create a sense of instability. Our deep connection is super stable. If we focus on living in a way that helps us to access that, our thoughts cannot take over and rule the show.

  8. Taking responsibility to stay present and connected is hugely important, because if we’re checked out all of the time then we’re handing our body over to be run by another energy, and are pretty numb to feeling the effects of that. What is also inspiring about this blog is that not only are you now taking responsibility for the quality that you live your life by and in, but also for your own health and wellbeing: understanding that no one can do the healing for us, except us. No one can fix us, cure us or heal us, all they can do is provide support, inspire and help us along the way, but ultimately it is our choice.

    1. Yes, it is so easy to hand our power away and want someone else to do it for us. But this puts us straight into the role of victim with a belief that we are not capable to do it on our own. This is purely irresponsible, and creates all kinds of health problems as well as mental illness. We lose our vitality and our joy, and it is a slippery slope to misery. Claiming our power back through taking responsibility reverses this, and improves our physical and mental health as well as our mood, our attitude, and our ability to connect with others. It really is the key to overall health.

  9. “Any hurt that is left in the body undealt with is an energy festering and poisonous to the body, so creating illness and disease” – so true, and life is not about finding a way to manage those poisons, but to express with and in the fullness of our true essence, free from the effect of our past experiences.

  10. Feeling isolated and singled out within your immediate family is a very difficult experience to have when you are so young, and the way that your life played out following this is understandable, given all the challenges that you had to face. But you did face them, and you did rise out from the grip of your past to live in a bright and beautiful way, that is inspiring and has joy. This is the wonder and the awe that is possible when we connect with our souls. Universal Medicine and Serge Benhayon can offer us the teachings and be points of inspiration for us, but ultimately it is us, each person who independently must make the choice to return to their own bright lightness of being, which you have done and it is beautiful.

  11. As you share so openly Mary we can’t bottle things up because at one point or another be it as drastic as yours or not so it has to come out. The effect of this is the body cops it, it deteriorates and starts to shutdown. Its important that we feel and can express anything and sometimes in situations where it can feel awkward but once we start we get to realise that it wasn’t as bad as what we thought it was going to be and you feel so much better when you do express it.

  12. I love to revisit this because you really blow all typical expectations out of the water, it is extraordinary for anyone to turn their life around in this way, and there are countless sad stories to the contrary. And you are not the only one for whom Universal Medicine has brought a huge transformation unlike any other and together such examples represent a cry for this to be worth examining in more detail so that one day it can help so many more.

  13. A very real account, and one that personifies the possibilities of what healing can offer when one is open to it.

  14. This is quite incredible Mary, this is a huge turnaround. What I could feel while reading this was how so many of us in the world have had similar experiences as you had, including myself, and how currently as society it may seem easier to write a person off or not particularly bother with them, especially if there has been a lot of turmoil/trouble in their life, than truly meet them and give them the full support that is needed in order for true healing to begin so that a life can be completely turned around to the true potential of that person.
    All I can say is thank goodness for Universal Medicine, through them I have learnt and continue to learn so much, including being able to lovingly take responsibility for my life and the choices I have made, to being able to meet another with a far deeper understanding and level of awareness.

  15. This is a fascinating recount of your life- to bring understanding to what happens with people, the withdrawal and then the entrapment into a life that is not them. It is an important sharing so that people know that there is a way back.

  16. If we do not have a strong and deep connection with ourselves we are left at the mercy of our mind which can play tricks on us. We can find ourselves confused and erratic. Coming back to the body can help us to to feel more solid and real. The truth resides within us, and if we are connected to that there is no room for the confusion of the mind.

  17. Mental Health problems have such a stigma attached to them it is no wonder that people are ashamed of it and try to hide it. The more we talk about ill mental health the more we can bring it out into the open and see it as something that we can work with and heal, rather than something that we can’t change and needs to be kept in the closet. It’s great that you have shared your story.

  18. What came to me reading today is the extreme tension we live in when we are separated from our natural essence, the true person we are. When we add to that not being able to express how we feel it’s like a pressure cooker within, and at some time it’s going to burst. There is such enormous understanding offered here in your article, thank you.

    1. I agree Melinda, we often normalise this pressure, finding ways and behaviours to take the edge off but often it builds to a breaking point in some form or other.

    2. Melinda i agree, before meeting Serge I was struggling to find a way to deal with those tensions, nothing truly worked. Whereas deepening my connection with myself has transformed the way I am in life.

  19. An amazing sharing on true healing and not bottling up our hurts and letting things go for our health and well being that is never too late to do and a real support and understanding of mental health conditions that is very inspiring.

    1. I agree, the power of letting go of the hurts changes our entire life. I know living with hurts took me down paths to avoid the hurts instead of a path of truth. As I embrace dealing with things that come up, the way I am looking at life changes.

      1. Yes, once we have an idea who we are and realise how grand that it, it then becomes possible to deal with what we absorbed or expressed and isn’t who we are so we can discard it.

  20. “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’.” Mary, your story is unique and remarkable, and paves the way for others to be inspired, and to understand that there can be a different and positive approach to healing mental illness thanks to Serge Benhayon and the wider and deeper understanding of this often debilitating condition. Thankyou so much for putting this in writing.

  21. The success rates for healing mental health issues in the world is notoriously low because there are usually deep rooted imbalances and disharmonies like you describe Mary. But the offering from Serge Benhayon that life is so much more than function has liberated you from the past, by dealing with the hurts. Absolutely fabulous.

  22. The more we can open up and share honestly from our experiance, the more we can learn from each other and support each other to make different more loving choices.

  23. Dealing with our hurts is vitally important otherwise they can cause illnesses within our body and mind and colour all our life experiences.

    1. Elizabeth indeed in-fact its one of the things that stops us moving forward in so many ways, thank goodness for Serge and the opportunity to now have to heal.

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