Real Stories: Melissa Hunt
At West End Impact we love to hear people's stories of where they have come from and where they are now. Today we hear from Melissa Hunt our Mental Health Support Worker.
"Personal progress... when I look back it does blow my mind. Before I got completely crushed, I had childhood dreams. As was written on my primary school report every year;
"Melissa spends far too much time day dreaming during lessons." "If Melissa spent as much time learning the method as she does staring out of the window during my lessons, she wouldn't be failing maths." "Melissa is far too quiet in class and needs to participate more."
I struggled through the first two years of my education with 'selective' mutism. Now, I'm not really keen on that term as it suggests an element of choice. But I didn't really feel I had a choice. I was far too anxious to speak. My mouth would go dry, my legs would shake, my palms would sweat. I couldn't do it. Even after a couple of years as I gradually became more verbal, I still loved to daydream. I've always enjoyed a rich inner thought-life, full of colourful visuals and a variety of descriptive words. None of them complained about my English, but even when tasked with creative writing, they would still refer back to the "daydreamer" element of my identity as though it were a negative thing!
I was dreaming about becoming a world changer. I didn't know quite what that might look like, but I was well acquainted with sadness, depression, internal struggle, and I knew I hated the thought of anyone else suffering in the same way. I knew if I could sit with others in their pain, that I would be changing their world, even just a little bit. I didn't know how I would get there. My GCSE's weren't great. I levelled out just below average and emerged by the skin of my teeth into the sixth form, where I managed to stay for a total of six months before the final straw. The teacher who was frustrated that I hadn't managed to turn an assignment in on time told me, "I don't even know why they've allowed you into my class - you function at a far more basic level than everyone else in here." And I folded. Realising he was right, I never returned.
I spent years haunted by things spoken over me, "Stupid girl", "You can't do that!" "Wow, you're ugly." My world got smaller and smaller. I was afraid to try. I was afraid to speak up. You know, none of them ever knew what I was daydreaming about. They never asked. None of them knew why I struggled to study and hand in work punctually. No one enquired. Criticism and judgement became a weight I carried through life. I couldn't seem to stay in a job for long. I would leave before people discovered how rubbish I was. If I suspected they were onto me, the applications would fly out and I'd just move on.
So now, looking at this ID card makes me flipping proud! And I guess my point today really is this; if you haven't had the benefit of tons of encouragement, nurture and mentorship...if you've ever been written off or unvalued, and your confidence is on the floor or non-existent...if you've ever believed you can't achieve full stop, please read this again. Because you absolutely can. I might not have the benefit of years of quality education, I might not have been surrounded by cheerleaders, but at 37, this is my starting point for achieving a whole world of dreams. I'm making a difference. I'm part of something that impacts the community and where I feel a sense of belonging. I'm being encouraged and built up. I'm meeting amazing people full of a kind of grit and determination which is contagious. And that's actually beyond my wildest dreams!"
If this story has inspired you, or you have been affected by anything that has been said, please visit our Mental Health section of our website to see how we can help. https://www.westendimpact.org.uk/well-being-wednesdays