Michelle's story: “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken”
Michelle Maddison is a Public Governor and Chair of the Service User Council at HPFT and sits on numerous other panels and groups at the Trust, representing the LGBT community within Hertfordshire. She is also Chair of the Hertfordshire Transgender Steerage Group and works tirelessly to help raise awareness and to support the transgender community.
World Mental Health Day was on 10 October 2019 and the theme was suicide prevention. Michelle agreed to share some of her experiences about the struggles of being transgender which led to her attempting to end her own life, as well as her thoughts on how the new Stay Alive app can support people in times of crisis or offer information and advice for people who are worried about others.
Michelle knew from the tender age of seven that she wanted to be a girl, but she tried to ignore it for the next 34 years in order to protect both herself and her family. She grew up as a boy and lived her life as a man, throwing herself into every type of dangerous sport in order to avoid giving out any signs of femininity and to keep up an “Alpha Male” facade. She knew that the negativity surrounding the LGBT community at that time meant that society wouldn’t accept what she was feeling, or be willing to support her.
After an unplanned attempt to end her life, Michelle came into the services of HPFT and was diagnosed with Gender Dysphoria, which began her transition to becoming a woman. She finally transitioned in 2014 and is really proud of her journey. Michelle said: “80% of people with Gender Dysphoria will also access mental health services in the course of their lifetime.
“If there had been more awareness, understanding and options for support when I was younger, it would have really helped me to be braver and seek help earlier. I see people going through the same struggles as I have and it makes me want to do something to help them.”
Michelle is now an activist, advocate, educator and spokesperson for all things transgender and gender diverse, including the mental health challenges our community faces.
As well as her various roles at HPFT, she founded Transfusion CIC to help support the Transgender community and she runs Transfusion 2019, a weekly radio show on North Herts FM. In addition to this she is part of the Hertfordshire LGBT partnership panel.
Michelle attended the launch of HPFT’s Spot the Signs Campaign’s free new suicide prevention app earlier this year. Michelle said: “As a suicide survivor, I know the struggles and how tough things can be, so the Stay Alive app will be a life saver for certain. When things get bad, having a resource with wellbeing guides, a store for things that matter to you, like photographs of family etc. and information without needing to talk with anyone, gives you a chance to struggle on, knowing you’re not alone and that help is there if needed.
“My experiences have made me who I am today and helping others who are going through similar experiences is also a form of therapy for me. There is still a long way to go and I will keep working to educate society, helping people to understand that transgender people are not freaks and have the right to be themselves.
“I often quote Oscar Wilde who said: “Be yourself; everyone else is already taken” - great advice for everyone I think!”
Huge thanks to Michelle for sharing her story with us.