A young woman from Mansfield who suffers with severe bipolar disorder has decided to take pen to paper to write about her experiences after spending two months in a mental health institution.
Abigail Rathbone O’Brien, 20, of Drayton Avenue, was inspired to write ‘A Life in the Day of a Banana’ after her life-long battle with mental illness reached breaking point earlier this year.
Abigail, also known as Abi Hinton, said she has been fighting her entire life to hide her mental health problems so nobody could view her as ‘weak or ‘damaged’. and until February this year, had managed to never seek medical help.
Her first experience with pychosis was at the age of 16, when she was homeless, as she had been secretly suffering with an eating disorder for five years.
Abi said: “I isolated myself from a very young age as I felt that no-one could possibly understand my situation... I have been fighting my own battle for as long as I can remember.
“I felt myself slipping away from my hobbies and interests and simply lost the ability to laugh and smile. It was like I was slipping into some sort of darkness.”
For the next few years, she decided to put all her energy into a career in sales, whilst trying to shut out anxiety problems.
But by the time she turned 19, Abi said she ‘could no longer cope’ and reached ‘breaking point’ when she found herself working in Chelmsford, completely isolated and away from her friends and family.
She said: “I felt so ill, I stopped sleeping and became so anxious I couldn’t leave the house.
“I began hallucinating, became delusional and was suffering with constant panic attacks.
“It was so bad that I started to lose track of what was reality and what was an illusion.
“And it got to the point where nobody could help me.
“Eventually I was overwhelmed with how alone I felt. I ran to hospital and fully lost my mind.”
Shortly after, Abi was sectioned in an intensive care psychiatric unit, as she was deemed a risk to herself and society in the state she was in.
She described how she thought her ward was ‘full of zombies’ and at one point, was convinced she had been captured by terrorists.
“I lost touch with reality,” she added. “I became very violent and spent almost two weeks in isolation.
“I was in the grips of severe psychosis, lost in hell. I had simply given up and wanted to die.”
Abi said the only things that saved her were positive thinking, exercise and meditation.
After weeks of trying to calm herself, she started to focus on the future and came back into reality.
She would focus on helping the other patients by doing their hair and make-up and eventually started to see the bright side.
She said: “I then began to see the experience as a comedy sketch and tried my best to make people laugh.”
Now, six months after being released from the institution, and having recently been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, Abi is writing a book based on her experiences in coping with mental health.
She said she is aiming to use the book to help others and to try to ‘fight the war against mental illness’.
Abi said: “Mental health is a really big issue and is under estimated.
“Life will be an emotional rollercoaster but we have to take a lesson from everything we have experienced.
“People need to know they are not alone in their experiences - there are local crisis teams and mental health organisations that are out there waiting to help.
“People can still keep their pride and get help - they shouldn’t be scared.”
As well as writing about her own story, ‘Life in the Day of a Banana’ will also tell the stories of other people who have suffered with mental illness.
From eating disorders to post-traumatic stress, people from all walks of life have contacted Abi to tell their stories.
And despite her struggles, her story has been kept light-hearted in some places.
And her obsession with bananas, which began when she realised she had ‘gone bananas’, is what inspired the title of her book.
The manuscript for ‘A Life in the Day of a Banana’ is due to be ready in the next few months.