Courage: stories of darkness to light

Continuing our series of blog posts for Mental Health Awareness Week, we’d like to introduce Natalie Roberts, who graduated from the pioneer course delivered in the CMS Oxford Centre a few years ago. She has recently become a contributor to a book project called Courage: Stories of Darkness to Light.

Author, Samantha Houghton came up with the idea having shared her own story in the book The Invisible Girl.

Sam found the process of writing incredibly healing and therapeutic. She also had such positive feedback from people who’d been touched and inspired by her personal account that she decided to make a general invitation to others who’d be willing to embark on a similar journey.

The authors of Courage: stories of darkness to light, with Sam Houghton pictured next to Natalie in the middle row, second from left.

As a result, she’s worked with 11 participants, Natalie being one. Each of them has a story of overcoming serious difficulties or adverse life circumstances such as abuse, neglect, abandonment, rejection, violence and drug addiction, the impact of childhood bullying in adulthood and thriving with chronic illness. Sam believes that by sharing these experiences with a wider audience, it will help others find strength and hope in their own mental health challenges.

Sam has mentored the fledgling authors and in just eight weeks they’ve each produced a 5,000 word chapter. All the proceeds from the book are going to The Samaritans, who offer support to those at their point of greatest need, and it’s hoped sales will raise awareness about some of the situations that can lead to mental ill health.

The chapter Natalie has written concerns how she overcame a reactive disorder known as Cassandra Syndrome and dealt with the consequences of her husband being diagnosed with Asperger’s.

She says of the project: “All the contributors have been in a very dark place and are now out the other side, having learnt a lot. The stories are a combination of inspiration and what helped us get through. We would like those reading to feel validated by recognising their struggles in the experience of others.” You can follow the book’s progress to publication at their Facebook page.

Participating in this project has been really important for Natalie: “Writing the chapter for the book has been a final healing process, a full-stop at the end of a chapter, a chapter that Pete and I have both recovered from and benefited from. The project has brought further closure and it’s something in my past that I’m not carrying into the new chapter of my life that’s unfolding.”

Looking forward, Natalie has set up a coaching business to assist others who may be facing mental health challenges related to having family members on the autism spectrum. Natalie’s website describes her as “The Asperger’s Relationship Coach”.

In addition to her pioneer mission training, she is also an accredited Master Coach and qualified Mental Health First Aider. Other former students in the Starfish Network are currently being helped by Natalie through this enterprise and if you would like more information then please visit her website www.natalieroberts.com.

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