‘I was paralysed by fear’ – How one man overcame mental illness to live again

Welcomed in to the York Mind family – Carl Senior. Photograph: York Mind
11 May 2015 @ 8.36 am
| Health & fitness

Robert Beaumont continues his series on mental health as he talks to Carl Senior, whose life has been transformed by York Mind

York Mind is an independent provider of high quality mental health services in York and its surrounding area

York Mind website

York Mind Facebook page

@TheYorkMind on Twitter

Carl Senior’s cheery, happy-go-lucky exterior lights up a room. He is friendly, intelligent and witty and talks candidly about his life.

It’s only when this life unfolds, and 37-year-old Carl recounts his experiences from childhood onwards, that it becomes clear these experiences would have broken and destroyed a weaker man.

Born in Tang Hall, moving to Acomb at 16, where he still lives, Carl’s childhood wasn’t the happiest. The eldest of three children, he felt the pain acutely when his parents divorced when he was nine.

His dyslexia and dyspraxia weren’t correctly diagnosed, so he was sent – inappropriately – to a school for children with special needs. There he was mercilessly bullied.

It gets worse. A series of serious relationships ended badly. His mother died, far too young, of cancer.

His beloved six-month-old baby passed away. He began gambling heavily – and drinking far too much.

Eventually, he couldn’t face leaving the house, as anxiety and stress slipped inexorably into full-blown depression.

This vicious cycle of pain, grief feeding grief, took its inevitable toll. A succession of suicide attempts, a couple of which were much more than a plea for help, led him first to Bootham Park psychiatric hospital, where he was sectioned, and brought him ultimately to York Mind.

As a result he is rebuilding his life, helping others and achieving a peace of mind which was a million miles away as he struggled to cope with his fractured existence.

‘Confronting problems head on’

Carl takes up the story:

Basically, York Mind saved my life.

The support and friendship I have found here has given me a purpose. In the past my problems piled up and I probably took the wrong decisions, like drinking and gambling, in trying to cope with them.

With help from a number of services at York Mind, I am now confronting these problems head on.

I’m looking ahead, rather than dwelling on my past.

Carl, who now works as a community carer in and round the York area, close to where he was born, has thrown himself fully life at York Mind, attending a series of courses including

  • Healthy eating
  • Ways into work
  • Start living
  • My money, my life

Carl outside York Mind's HQ
Carl outside York Mind’s HQ
He also attends regular befriending and mentoring sessions, which tackle those deep-seated mental problems which made his life a misery. He was also an interviewer on the York Mind panel which was recruiting an assessment and mentoring coordinator.

“These courses have helped me enormously,” he said. “They all tackle problematic areas of my life and provide thoughtful, sensible and personal advice. I was also very proud to be asked to be an interviewer on the recruitment panel.

“That gave me a sense of worth and of belonging.

“The support I have been given at York Mind has been amazing. I have been made to feel so welcome and part of a wonderful, supportive family.

“I just wish more people knew about the help they provide. I had to go through various channels like my doctor, Bootham Park and the Citizens’ Advice Bureau, before I finally came to York Mind.

“One of my future aims is to try to help spread the word about York Mind and ensuring their leaflets are available, in the right places, across the city.”

‘Unbelievable change’

Mental Health Awareness Week

Runs from Monday, May 11 to Sunday May 17 2015

What York Mind is doing

More details on the Mental Health Awareness website

Spreading York Mind’s message, of course, needs money and Carl is actively helping in a fundraising drive by taking part in a charity abseil at Brimham Rocks this summer.

Please contact York Mind Holly Pollard on [email protected] if you would like to support him in this brave venture.

Carl said:

I owe York Mind so much. Three years ago I was frightened to go out of the house by myself. I had to ring up my dad or a friend if I wanted to go shopping.

If I walked down the street by myself, I would feel paralysed by fear, imaging people looking at me in a threatening way.

Now all that’s changed. I have just recently come back from a brilliant holiday in Majorca, which I organised, and went on, by myself. I can go to the cinema or to the pub with fear. I have a steady girlfriend.

That’s the change in me. It’s unbelievable.

If this can happen to me, then it can happen to others in my situation. That’s why I want to help York Mind so much, because they have helped me.

Mental ill-health is a fiendishly difficult problem to tackle. But Carl Senior’s inspiring story, from a troubled adolescence and young adulthood, scarred by tragedy, to the depths of depression, shows that there can be light at the end of a very long tunnel.

That light has shone on Carl – thanks to his own courage and resilience and, crucially, to York Mind.