Roxy’s story, ‘My return journey’

When she was very young, Roxy loved dressing up as a nurse. “My mother says that at three I told her I wanted to grow up to be a nurse,” remembers Roxy.

Roxy started her nurse training and developed an interest in Cardiology dealing with disorders of the heart and circulatory system.

Over her years of studying and training, Roxy and her then partner became parents to two daughters and it was after the birth of her second that Roxy was aware that she was struggling.

“I felt a dark cloud had come over me,” she remembers “I was looking at this perfect baby and feeling really, really sad. Looking back, I see now that this was my first experience of post-natal depression.  But I pretended everything was ok and didn’t reach out for help and returned to my nursing studies.”

Roxy qualified as a nurse in 2008 and started a new role as a cardiac nurse. She gave birth to her third child, a boy, and with three young children to look after whilst juggling jobs, Roxy and her partner had their hands full.

Their youngest developed extensive eczema which required intensive daily treatment and dressings. The baby’s condition did not improve and he wasn’t sleeping which had a huge effect on the rest of the family, with Roxy and her partner’s relationship under huge strain.

“One day I remember coming off a shift,” remembers Roxy “and thinking, I need to have a drink. This is when I started a relationship with alcohol instead of reaching out for help with my depression.”

Roxy’s friends and family tried to stop her drinking but she pushed them away. Her drinking impacted on all areas of her life and lead to her being temporarily suspended from working as a cardiac nurse by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), until they felt she was able to return to her profession. Her relationship with her partner broke down and the children moved to live with him.

Her behaviour eventually lead to court appearances and by now she’d managed to stop drinking as she was pregnant with her fourth child with a new partner. Even so, a court conviction meant that she had to spend 28 days in jail.

“It was the biggest shock of my life,” remembers Roxy “Being seven months pregnant and alone in a cell made me think about my relationship with alcohol and all of those people who loved me who I was excluding from my life. My nursing career seemed like a distant memory. I’d hit rock bottom.”

Roxy gave birth to her fourth child, a girl, and her post-natal depression returned. She resumed drinking to try and cope once again but by this time she was seeing a prenatal psychiatric team and felt that it was time that she reached out for help.

“One day I remember confessing to my health visitor that I was struggling to cope and I found myself turning to alcohol,” says Roxy “and suddenly, it felt as though the elephant had been shifted out of the room! I started to welcome help from the mental health team and they started to give my so much support and hope.”

Roxy’s life gradually started to improve over the next year or so seeking help for her alcohol addiction and working with the mental health team. Eventually, she felt confident enough to visit the NMC in London to try and get her nursing career back. After a lot of hearings her suspension order was lifted and the NMC gave back her PIN number, wishing her all the best with her nursing. Her career opened up again.

After help from the addiction charity Change, Grow, Live and a couple of new nursing roles, Roxy managed to secure an NHS role at the Sandwell and West Birmingham Hospitals NHS Trust as an Alcohol Nurse, using her personal experience to help others.

Despite being overjoyed, Roxy needed to move quickly with her young daughter to accommodation nearer the new job and money was very tight,

“Before starting my Alcohol Nurse role, there were a few weeks where I couldn’t earn any money but bills were still going out of my account. I also had to fund moving costs to my new accommodation so I was in a very difficult financial situation.”

Family and friends had been helping her financially but she still had a deficit. She contacted Cavell Nurses’ Trust for help and we were quickly able to provide financial support to help her move.

Roxy was keen to find a way to give something back to Cavell Nurses’ Trust for the support she’d received. The charity had a place for someone to run in the 2020 London Marathon, raising money to support nursing colleagues in need. Roxy was chosen as the charity’s runner,

“It was absolutely amazing, I couldn’t believe it!” remembers Roxy, “I felt really proud to be running for Cavell Nurses’ Trust.”

Roxy started her training regime and after a few months had completed a 20 mile run in Gloucester. Things were looking good and Roxy was excited to be joining the thousands of runners at the start of the London Marathon the following month.

But, the Covid-19 pandemic hit the UK and the 2020 event was postponed to later in the year as the country entered lockdown. Roxy had been just weeks away from running her first marathon.

“Personally it was a huge knock to me, what was I going to do now? With all the training gearing up to the marathon at the end of the April, I was a bit lost” remembers Roxy.

With gyms shut indefinitely, Roxy continued her training by running the streets and parks near to where she lived.

“But I knew that I couldn’t just run and run as I would sustain an injury with prolonged road running. So I got quite frustrated.”

With work and family commitments changing drastically during the escalating pandemic, Roxy decided to defer her London Marathon place to 2021’s event and concentrate on staying safe and caring for her patients.

In her role as an Alcohol Nurse, supporting people struggling with alcohol misuse, Roxy and her team saw a big rise in people seeking help during the pandemic, which was echoed nationally with a large rise in alcohol consumption.

“We thought that this was the time to show up and be there for the public” says Roxy “That’s why we are nurses to help people struggling in the worst situations. I feel privileged to be able to be there for people struggling to cope.”

After the huge increase in Covid-19 cases in early 2021, the decision was made to postpone the 2021 London Marathon to 3rd October and this is the date that Roxy is currently working towards.

“I’ve got a lot of work to do between now and the London Marathon in October but I’m feeling confident” says Roxy.

“My training has developed during the pandemic delay and I’m much more mindful when I run now. My mind set has changed and I’m listening to my body much more. I’ve added meditation and swimming to my routine and it feels a much more holistic way of training.

“When I’m running, there seems to be more time for me to listen to the birds and notice things in nature and ask myself how I’m feeling on this run. It feels much more a way of life rather than just a marathon training regime, I love it.”

Roxy’s training is having a positive effect on her family too. Freddie, her 11 year old son has dyspraxia, a developmental co-ordination disorder, and has struggled until recently to ride a bicycle.

“He comes out and cycles next to me now as I run,” say Roxy “and I find that really special. I never thought I’d see him being able to ride his bike that well. He says ‘mummy, I feel free!’ It’s really benefitting his co-ordination.”

With her sights firmly fixed on the London Marathon in October, Roxy is determined that this will be her year and she will complete her first marathon, raising vital funds to support nursing colleagues who are facing a personal or financial crisis.

“I want nurses to know that there is somewhere like Cavell Nurses’ Trust for them to turn, so giving back to this charity makes so much sense to me. There’s always going to be another nurse out there struggling with the black cloud, especially after the huge upheaval that we’ve all been living through recently.

“There is hope out there and people who care and that’s what I felt when coming to Cavell Nurses’ Trust.”

It is often difficult for people to reach out for help but Roxy wants those facing a crisis to follow her lead,

“You’ve got to get rid of your pride, get rid of your ego and think about the fact that there are people who care about you and your nursing career,” says Roxy “They want to keep nurses and midwives well and doing their jobs. So reach out, you will be listened to.”

Roxy has a message for people thinking of fundraising or donating to Cavell Nurses’ Trust,

“Don’t think about it, just do it! That money that will directly help somebody’s life for the better. Be charitable because what we give away comes back to us!”

Support Roxy’s London Marathon challenge, visit her fundraising page