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A Snapshot of my life. By Shawn Collins – Founder.

Before we begin I must make clear that there are gaps in this story as I would need to write a book to get every little bit in! This is, as the title suggests a snapshot. It’s intentional allowing me to tell individual stories on Radio, TV etc. Thanks for visiting.

My story begins back in the 1980’s. I don’t remember much about my early years apart from lots of people always being around the house. The first Christmas I remember was 1985 were I got a BMX, the bike was too big for me and within a couple of days it was given to my then step father. That is pretty much all I can remember. 1986 in the summer it is as clear to me now as it was then. I woke up to a really hot summers day, came down to get some breakfast and I remember seeing some bags beside the front door. I asked my mum what they were doing there, were we going on holiday I thought. My mum said that there is a man that is picking you up to take you away. I thought this meant holiday and was excited. The car pulled up I even remember it being a Ford Escort, dark blue. The man I later learned to be known as Mike, my social worker! We took a drive which seemed like forever and arrived at a house in a place I didn’t recognise and was presented to a couple with two other children which were their own. I was told that this is my new family and that I would be staying with them, starting a new school and that I would not be going home.

In the years that preceded I went on to spend 2 years in a children’s home with several children coming or going in to adoption. I was told that the social services were waiting for a family for me and that I had to wait for my turn. This was around age 8-10. In the autumn of 1990 I was introduced to the Douglas family, an older couple with no children. I went from a children’s home to a large family home in the country, 2 donkeys’ many birds, dogs. I had a massive room all to myself even a tv which was a big deal for a 10 yr old who previously had never had his own anything never mind a tv. I had music, a stereo, hundreds of books, basically I was in heaven as a 10 yr old. My problems with trusting people had already begun to develop and anxiety crept in in the form of am I going to be taken again. I think this became a problem as my behavior changed, I became an angry child from one that was mild mannered and quiet so it must have been hard for the Douglas’s. After just 12 months of having a fairy tale life I was yet again moved back into care, the year before the social services made me attend a “Goodbye” meeting with my mum so I knew that I was going either to a new foster home or back to the children’s home. It turned out I was off to yet another family, the Cooks who I got on with at times but had to contend with their 4 children who bullied me and made me feel like an outsider. A year past and yet again I’m on the move and this went on until age 16. At this point I was an absolute mess emotionally I left high school which was a struggle but managed somehow to come out with 9 GCSE’s.

I began to hang around with bad kids, I began stealing little things from shops, smoking and generally being a complete pain in the backside all of which I see now was caused by repressed feelings, I went out purposely to look for fights with people generally talk to people with contempt as I had no time for people. It was a lonely existence at that time and all the problems I had manifested by anger and fear had almost taken my life. I tried to take my own life by drinking vodka and any tablets I could find and just cracked on and swallowed not caring anymore. I passed out at some point and woke up to being violently sick, the alcohol had somehow helped the tablets out to some extend so I spent 3 days locked away feeling awful and wishing it had worked. To me these feelings were very real I felt there was no way out and it was just the beginning of another 10 years of pain.

I moved to an NCH hostel near my college so I was able to learn life skills, cooking for myself in a shared type hostel, basically a 3 bed terrace with an adult on site. This is where I began my relationship with drugs and alcohol, it seemed I’d found a way to block everything, go out and have fun, get in trouble and not care for the outcome. I filled my body for 5 years without many breaks all the time repressing all the anxiety and depression and whilst I was in a high it was great but as the years went on the lows became so bad again at aged 18 I tried to take my life, again with alcohol and tablets only this time I had access to a full cupboard of prescription drugs and proceeded to swallow as many as I could. The next thing I remember is my own mother standing there shouting at me to wake up, I was staying with one of mums old friends so this is how she came to be there. I was lying face down in a pool of vomit and blood and again as if it was not meant to happen I found myself alive, and wishing I wasn’t. a few yrs go on in between many other battles I find myself in a relationship with a girl almost a decade older than me, it was great for the first few months we quickly moved in together.

After some time had passed and the honeymoon period over my problems began to take hold, my temper was at times uncontrollable and was not a pleasant person to be around, we had fights all the time throwing things at each other and was just in general a relationship doomed to fail, we discovered that a decade of age difference meant we wanted different things, I wanted to party and enjoy myself but she wanted to start settling down. For some reason I thought at age 21 it would be a good idea to have a baby, in my mind was, that will solve it and bring us closer. How wrong could I have been, I was most definitely not ready for a baby, mentally I was on the rocks and flipped at silly things, I was not good to be around and my mental health was so battered I had no idea how to manage any of it. We split up then got back together again a few months later but things soon went wrong. I was still unable to hide my frustrations so she left with my 1 yr old daughter. We had fights over our daughter and my having access which was abruptly ended as I was told that I was not able to see her anymore.

My life again had another massive blow and it seemed my history had only served to destroy my future. I carried on working and trying to manage my feelings but was difficult. I met my now partner at work and we after a while got together and she also had a young child only 18 months, his father had left him as a baby so I was very conscious about being around another man’s child. It became clear that his father was not interested and to this day he is my son and we have that relationship. In the last 11 years Clare my partner has had to endure my journey to recovery and to be frank has put up with more than any person should so I’m lucky to have found her. Today I still suffer anxiety but control things better by looking forward not back and understanding the issues. I’ve addressed my feelings by sharing them and yes at times it has caused massive arguments mainly due to Clare not having the same experiences as me so was and is still to some extent difficult for her to understand my way of thinking. I have several techniques to stop the arguments and to deal with my own feelings, I share what I’m feeling more so that it doesn’t build up causing a bigger argument I’m able to address things as they happen.

So here we are in 2015 and here I am still surviving but with a new lease of life. I decided enough is enough, people need to change, the stigma that surrounds mental health needs to be eradicated and therefore I must stop complaining and do something. This foundation has been 35 years in the making and I feel well placed to become an advocate for change. I have been willing and able to share my story in brief and will elaborate through this site, on radio and in the papers to encourage men to speak out while working in the background to build a foundation men will be pleased to be associated with. Please do follow my journey to success and successful I will be changing perceptions and joining the fight to end Stigma. Shawn..