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Healing a broken mind

By Emily Norman

[email protected]

A Masterton woman battling schizophrenia has penned her journey with mental illness and sexual abuse.

Sarah Vallance was 21 when she was diagnosed with schizophrenia, and grew up with it, going through school without anyone knowing about the voices in her head.

Her newly released novella, Still Standing, is about her journey of healing her “broken mind”.

It is authored under her soon-to-be married name of Sarah Ford.

“It was a real struggle growing up because I didn’t know what was wrong with me,” she said.

“I had this sickness that I could never do anything about.”

Ford said she began to hear voices from a very young age and found talking with people difficult because the voices would distract her.

“I became scared of people. I couldn’t talk to people. I would shake.”

“And all through this I had to cope with doing all my schoolwork.”

In Ford’s book, she describes schizophrenia as “voices in your head, some loud, some soft”.

“Voices outside your head and inside, and they are all distracting.”

She said people had a gene which opened them up to the onset of a mental illness, “and if the factors are there, like the sexual abuse, you can have the onset of voices”.

Ford was sexually abused throughout her childhood right up until she was about 11 years old “by a man who claimed to love me but used me and groomed me”.

“That could have been one of the components that led to my illness,” she said.

“As I grew older he broke my confidence in ways that nearly destroyed me and I nearly ended my own life, but I managed to rebuild the blocks.”

Her illness was treated with medication and counselling, and her doctor told her it would take about 10 years to “get well”.

“Slowly I got there and eventually I started to turn my life around.

“Things started to change in my life and it became quite exciting.

“Ever since then I’ve been on a journey with excitement in my life, even though I’m still living with the illness.

“My motivation, concentration and overall desire to live life has increased.”

Ford, now 35, has even “met the man of her dreams”, a Masterton man named Jon Ford.

They are getting married at the end of February.

“We’re happy and in love,” she said.

Ford’s book is available to purchase at Hedley’s Bookstore.

She said it would be a good read for teenagers and people who struggled with issues out of their control.

The book is also illustrated by her, with each chapter beginning with her floral drawings.

Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland
Emily Ireland is Wairarapa’s Local Democracy Reporter, a Public Interest Journalism role funded through NZ On Air. Emily has worked at the Wairarapa Times-Age for seven years and has a keen interest in council decision-making and transparency.

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