How a nervous breakdown helped to turn my life around

Post date: 
Monday, 2 October 2017
Jill Barkley

Many people with sight loss experience issues around mental health and wellbeing. RNIB Connect Radio presenter Jill Barkley talks about how she was affected by a mental breakdown

“When I was 19 years old, I developed diabetic retinopathy. In the very beginning, I thrived on the fact that everybody around me kept telling me I was coping so well. 

“I’d never met anybody who was blind, or had any experience of blindness, so I didn’t know how to deal with it. But the fact I kept getting told I was great and I was coping made me terrified of letting them down.

“I ended up brushing my feelings aside and I just got on with things. However, it was a number of years later when something completely unrelated happened that left me in a very vulnerable state. I then had a complete nervous breakdown. Honestly, it just happened – something snapped and I just didn’t know how to cope anymore.
“Oddly, I think it was the best thing that could have happened. It took me a while to get back on my feet, but through speaking to other people who had also suffered breakdowns, their experiences taught me that I was no different to anybody else.
“By reaching out to others who had had breakdowns for various reasons, I ended up speaking to lots of different kinds of people. For example, I spoke to a fireman who had a breakdown because he had witnessed lots of fatalities.
“It helped me to deal with my sight loss and start to build my life back up again. I just wanted to get on with what I wanted to achieve and try to do my best by sharing my knowledge and experience with others.
“If I can help somebody even a little bit with some information that makes a difference to their life, then my journey hasn’t been
in vain.”
“If I look back at the various different negative things that have happened during my life, whether it be bullying or when I lost my sight, I could feel down in the dumps. But I always think to myself, only a fool falls over what’s behind them.
“I try to have the attitude that if I want to go on with my life, I just need to grab everything by the horns. No matter what happens, nobody’s going to drag me along or do things for me.
This article originally appeared in Connect magazine - Autumn 2017 edition.

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