Bethany Clague

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I was a nervous, highly-strung, not confident, teenager who had little self-esteem and worried a lot.  I was bullied a lot at school – Primary and Grammar – as I was very intelligent, quiet and shy.  I grew up thinking the only way to be accepted was by being the best academically, which led to school prizes, but took its toll when I did not achieve ‘perfection’.  I was a good runner at school in my form.  I would come in the top 3 in my class.  Therefore I was part of the cross-country team for many years, which I hated, but was not good enough to make the running athletics team.  Competing against girls my age from other schools would leave me near the back!  My best result was 6th place out of 80 girls in the inter-form cross-country race in 1986.  However I spent my lunchtimes at school running.  I even used to run with my sister and father on Sundays, my father having been one of the best athletes in his teenage years on the Isle of Man. 


I studied pharmacy at Nottingham University from 1990-1993.  My running career ended and bellringing and walking became my forms of exercise.  I was introduced to cider and met my future husband.  During third year the beginnings of stress were showing.  My best friend suffered from severe exam nerves and this affected me and I lost weight.  This was to become a symptom of stress in a few years time.


I left university, got married and took a hospital pharmacist post in Manchester.  My husband and I bought a lovely, small house and everything looked perfect.  A career, money, holidays and the possibility of children – life looked great!


However work was a long car journey away through rush hour traffic.  Being on-call for a whole week was terrifying.  Married life was hard.  In the pharmacy there were never enough staff or medicines.  Queues for the outpatients were very long, tempers fraught and I never finished my day’s work on time.  I found the solution or at least I had found a temporary anaesthetic – alcohol.


At first it was not a problem – a few drinks a night at home.  Then I became more reliant on it.  I started lying about how much I had to drink, began to plan when to buy it, felt panic if there was no cider in the house.  My husband and I went to the pub more.  It started to become a problem.


In 1995 the physical symptoms started.  I had three terrifying bouts of angioedema; a mystery illness like anaphylaxis that can kill you.  The only conclusion – I was ‘allergic’ to stress.  Panic attacks started.  Then I had my first grand mal seizure.  This led to being off-sick from work, as I could not drive, so could not get to the hospital.  Trying to cope, I drank more alcohol in order to forget the loneliness of being at home, homesick for my parents on the IOM, bored, fed up, scared…..


1996 got worse.  I could not cope any longer.  Alcohol became my life.  I had regular seizures, panic attacks and severe anorexia.  A & E became my second home.  Then at Easter I was told that these symptoms were in my head.  I needed a psychiatric ward.  The hardest thing about being admitted to a ‘mental’ ward was seeing my husband cry as his wife was labelled ‘mad’.  By now the ‘pseudoseizures’ were happening about 7 times a day with or without alcohol.  When I was discharged I would go back to a non-existent life, only to overdose or cut myself to get back to the security of the hospital.  The psychiatric ward became my second home.  My husband tried to help, but I was lost.  I no longer knew who I was or how to cope.


After a huge Paracetamol overdose in February 1997, whilst on a hospital ward, I was discharged to my Mum’s care in the IOM.  She looked after me wonderfully, despite every attempt by me to harm myself at every opportunity, but in September I was sectioned and put in seclusion.  That was to be the lowest point in my life.  I was in a living Hell.  I did not know how to get better.  I thought I would die.


In 1998 I separated from my husband.  I was receiving lots of counselling and taking ‘antabuse tablets’.  In 1999 I was given the opportunity to go through the rehabilitation houses on the IOM.  It was to prove the start of my recovery.  It was not easy, but with the support of my mother and my key worker, who is now my community mental health nurse, I became stronger and able to tackle cognitive behavioural therapy.  My psychiatrist stabilized me on an antipsychotic tablet to control the mood swings and I was discharged into my own flat.


Since then I divorced my husband in 2000.  Fortunately he has found love and happiness with a new lady.  The past seven years have been full of setbacks and progressing forwards.  I have not been in hospital since 2004.  I have not cut myself or taken an overdose for three years.  I have experienced numerous different jobs, including community pharmacy, which is too stressful, and found the job I love – the gym.  I have lived in different places but found a flat I like and have been here for four years.  The alcohol is under control.  My weight is normal.  I don’t see a psychiatrist anymore, although I have my community psychiatric nurse.  I take a tiny amount of medication.  I am positive, optimistic, confident, active, and energetic and love the life I have now.


Running has proved a great de-stressor.  I have always been active, although when I was very ill I did very little.  My Mum had to force me to go outside!  When I started running 3 years ago, I had no idea of the benefits it would lead to.  It has changed my life.  Races give me something to focus on and goals to achieve.  I have met like-minded dedicated runners I can socialise and run with. 


I enjoy running first thing in the morning.  I watch sunrises, look at rabbits and pheasants, am awake before most people stir or get into their cars.  It is my escape, my freedom.  It is ‘my time’ to make decisions, think about problems, or look forward to the future.  Regular exercise clears my head and thoughts, relieves stress and pressure, and makes me happy.  It keeps me toned, young and athletic.  I am not fast but I can run long distances.  It makes my life positive, focussed and challenging.  It has replaced alcohol and medication.  I am stronger physically and mentally. 



This site was last updated 23-Oct-2007

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