Charlotte is a blogger, self-published author and freelance writer who also finds time to raise awareness of Suicide and Mental Health. We set up an interview for our blog as a way of introducing Charlotte to our readers as she will be contributing posts on Mental Health and her journey to this blog. Alison went to Kings Lynn to interview her.
There are a lot of people out there living extraordinary lives without others knowing. How do you feel when I say you also fit into that category?
I’ve lived an extraordinary life in the sense that I’ve maybe experienced more than children my age should and as a result I’ve grown up quicker at a younger age. However, I don’t feel there is anything special about me as I’m just like anyone else really.
How would you describe yourself to people? Personally and professionally?
Personally, I try not to judge people when I meet them. I listen to them and try to understand them as best I can. I treat everyone as the human beings they are which in today’s society is important as we forget that there is more to people than just what we see at face value. Professionally, I say I’m a writer and an advocate. I write short stories, poems, newspaper and magazine articles and I share my story on other websites as well as blogging. I use the word advocate as I try my best to fight for a cause I believe in.
What’s a typical day for you?
It varies so much as I’m in a situation where my health isn’t in the best place for me to work right now. I’ve taken 2 years to rest and work on the last 20 years of my life which left me in a lot of pain. Some days, I don’t leave my bed and other times I could be out with friends or writing blog posts. I try to match my activities to how I’m feeling in order to avoid a relapse which takes a lot of self-care, balancing out recovery and trying to take it one day at a time which helps me a lot.
You mentioned self care, what does that mean to you?
I talk about self-care a lot in different senses. The way I try to simplify it for myself is it’s about self-respect, learning to value yourself and remembering that you are important. It’s about looking after your own needs rather than everyone else’s so for me that’s not working for now, focussing on writing and what I need to get through the day.
What are you most proud of?
That I’m still here. My last suicide attempt was 4 years ago just after my dad’s suicide and I’ve had many other attempts which were more an abuse of my system. I was hoping that if I made lots of more small attempts then my liver would give out and people wouldn’t blame me as my body had simply given up. Being able to keep going even when I’m experiencing a low point is an achievement for me as there have been many points when I’ve not wanted to continue. Now I can also recognise my crisis points which I couldn’t always do before but now I can and know there is a risk if I carry on. So I guess I’ve learnt to save my own life.
What are you currently involved in?
I’m mainly focussing on my blog right now which has changed a lot over the last few months. I’m concentrating on working freelance as that’s healthier for me than a typical job because I’m not very good around people. I’m also trying to get into university as I want to pursue a career in Mental Health.
Which areas are important to you?
I’m interested in Mental Health with a keen interest in middle-aged men like my dad. My dad didn’t express his needs at all and I’ve realised that parents want to protect their children so don’t always express their needs and suffer alone. My generation has a lot more understanding around mental health and know to ask for a day off but those in their 40s and 50s and older don’t necessarily have that understanding or knowledge. Therefore they need to be encouraged to talk about it all. I want to work with communities in general such as schools, hospitals and prisons to encourage others to talk.
Who/ what inspires you to do so much?
It’s all about my dad as what happened to dad was a shock. It was also a huge learning curve as I believed my dad would be around for years for all the major events in my life. We love our loved ones so much that we forget that they could take their own lives. If I can lower the pain for others then I’m inspired to continue. I don’t think I would be doing this if dad hadn’t died and I try to find something positive out of a huge negative and it all helps. My dad helped so many people and was so empathic in wanting to listen to everyone that I want to carry on his legacy in listening to others as he was so inspiring to me. I want everyone to have a chance to express their feelings.
Can you imagine a time when you don’t get involved?
This year has been very intense since I’ve tried to raise awareness of mental health. I started November last year and now it’s all growing in terms of what I do. I do a lot but I still have self-doubt and am scared of rejection. If I got too sick or my life was at risk then I would stop but I’m hoping to continue until mental health isn’t a taboo for the majority of people.
What advice would you offer those struggling with mental health?
It’s important to remember that you deserve all the things you’re giving to others. You deserve support as well as giving it to others. You matter as much as everyone else.
What is next for you?
Hopefully I can at some point write another book about my mental health story which has been easy to talk about but to put it into writing with structure has been harder. I’d like to star a support group for suicide survivors both those who have attempted suicide themselves and also for those who have been bereaved by suicide. I’ve learnt not to push myself too hard, work on the things I enjoy doing and follow my dreams but not overwhelm myself.
If you had your life over what would you change?
To be honest, I wouldn’t change anything as I’m doing what I’m doing due to the life I’ve lived. It’s become my passion and my purpose. I also feel lucky to have found something at a young age that I want to do for the rest of my life.
Where can people find you?
I can be found on twitter at Charlotte Underwood (Author) @CunderwoodUK and my blog is Charlotteunderwoodauthor.com.
We hope you have enjoyed getting to know Charlotte as much as we have. We will be featuring some of her articles on our blog in the future.