Editor’s note: Today is the first anniversary of the creation of a very special group founded by a special woman. I first became aware of Suffer in Silence No More via a friend on Facebook who knew about my guest posts and it quickly became obvious why the group has been such a success, supporting hundreds of people who feel isolated; living as they do with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues.
In March the group celebrated the launch of a dedicated website at www. sisnm.co.uk. It is well worth a visit for all sorts of useful and supportive information. Anyway, it is not for me to tell the story – step forward Nic Elgey, Founder.
My Name is Nic Elgey and I am a part-time retail sales assistant. But I am also manager and founder of S.I.S.N.M (Suffer In Silence No More) a peer support online group for Mental Health sufferers. It was always a dream of mine to help others and create something that would make a difference and I am going to tell you the story of how all of this unfolded.
Born on March 18th 1981 I live at home with my wonderful mum and dad in Nottinghamshire. I have lived here for the whole 31 years of my life. Some may say still living at home at my age is strange, but they don’t understand my illness makes it this way. To keep me safe if I feel down, feel like I want to cut (because sometimes I really do) there is always someone there to stop it from happening, to talk me round. I also have a sister I am very close to and a best friend Kristine Long, who is my absolute rock.
My life was quite a normal one. I had a lovely childhood, the best my mum and dad could give me. My big issue was school – I hated it from beginning to end. I was never a popular girl, did not have many friends and was quiet. I suppose that was the start of me becoming a bit of a recluse, because I wasn’t interested. I was quite happy on my own doing my own thing. I was, however, confident around the people I trusted – my friends and family. I was happy and I did go out occasionally, but this all changed and my life got turned upside down in 1996. I lost a friend – he died in a road traffic accident. I remember it well. Just before Christmas on a foggy night, as he crossed the main road he didn’t see the car coming towards him and the car did not see him. It happened so close to my house too, so when I went out I was reminded everywhere. I had also never had a big loss before and it overwhelmed me.
I actually got to a point I thought I was going insane. I couldn’t understand what was happening. The things I used to be able to do I couldn’t any more. Going out was a huge chore. I’d be panicky, feel dizzy, faint, shaky – the usual symptoms of anxiety, but I had no idea what it was, so I found myself crying in public and unable to face the world. At my worst I locked myself in the bathroom and refused to come out until mum agreed I did not have to go to school the next day. For 3 months I never went anywhere. Instead of crying in public, I did it at home instead or just stayed in bed. With the help of a good doctor, medication and a nurse who came round to take me out, I gradually got my life back. At the start it was just a walk up the drive, then the end of the road until I made it into town. It was hard, there were days I wanted to give up and at my worst I used to be physically sick before going out (so much so I hardly ate anything as it made me feel sick), because of the total fear of it. Some mornings I fought and fought not to be sick, because the ritual of throwing up every morning was not healthy. I did see three different therapists and got rid of all three – not because they were incapable, I just found therapy was useless to me. I sat there while they tried to tell me what was going on and I thought how do they know? I didn’t trust them. (I trust few in life – that way I don’t get hurt) Surely these people read it and study from books? I actually am going through it. I felt patronised, so I just didn’t bother to go.
I felt trapped and alone like I needed somewhere to turn where people understood me, but there was nowhere. That was when I thought – if this kind of network does not exist then why don’t I do something about it? This would be the thing that would make a difference to a cause very close to my heart. I knew what it was like to feel alone, desperate and unhappy. How many more out there were feeling the same? This was my turning point to get better, so I somehow got the strength to be brave and become strong.
S.I.S.N.M was born on 4th April 2011. I created a page on Facebook in the hope I would get 50 members if I was lucky. No way could I ever have predicted what happened next! It seems my hunch was right; by October 2011 I had 500+ people coming to use my page, saying that I had saved their life, people felt like they belonged and how some had been alone for a long, long time. This made me feel both touched and happy that I had achieved what I had set out to do.
Since then the group has been going from strength to strength. I even have a celebrity patron, Julie Etchingham who reads ITV news at 10 in the UK. I asked her, because it is a cause also close to her heart, and was delighted when she said yes. She has given us nothing but 100% support and we are so very lucky.
More than that though I see people making friends with each other, opening up and supporting and that is down to me. From one idea, it just grew in to something massive.
I am very proud of what I have done and now have high hopes that we will continue to be a success. I have my own team of staff who are brilliant. On March 18th the group will reach a new milestone. I will be launching the group’s official website for people to come, read about us, and find useful links, blogs and information on different things. Hopefully people will come and join us. There are so many people still to reach out to and I will do my best to reach them all. I also hope to become a registered charity and do drop in centres. I would also go round schools etc. and give talks on Mental Health, so it is better understood. Maybe then people won’t judge or pick fun about something we just can’t help. There needs to be a new look on Mental Health to rid it of the stigma and let people know we are just the same as them; no matter what we suffer we all have baggage, right?
I am so thankful for all of this. Creating this has helped me feel better and I really feel genuinely happy and content for the first time in years. My message to everyone is DON’T give up you CAN DO IT! I am proof that dreams really can come true.