28th January 2022
A Voices blog by Abigail Reynolds as she writes a lovely, heart-felt thank you letter to her health visitor, Fiona Black.
“I was diagnosed with severe Anorexia Nervosa in early 2019, when I was seven months pregnant with my second child.
“The past three years have been unimaginably challenging, but Fiona’s support throughout my illness and recovery have enabled me to rebuild my life, to learn how to care for myself as well as my children – and to believe I am worthy of that care – and to gain the confidence to begin using my personal experience to help educate and support others in both the eating disorders and perinatal mental health areas.
“Rewind three years and I would never have believed I would be sitting here today working for a fantastic eating disorders charity, Wednesday’s Child, and supporting others struggling with these devastating mental illnesses.”
Read Abi’s letter below:
It’s hard to know where to start really. Just saying “thank you” doesn’t really seem enough.
They say (whoever ‘they’ are) that healing happens through connection, and that is something you have offered in such abundance over the past two-and-a-bit years.
You came into my life when I was at my most vulnerable, broken and scared, and demonstrated such unconditional, generous and warm acceptance, empathy and wisdom that you somehow managed to connect with the small, quiet, hanging-on-for-dear-life part of me that I feared was completely gone. The part of me that could hope, could fight, could protect my children, and feel worthy of being here.
I can’t remember much of those early days after Laurie arrived – the combination of sleep deprivation and the war being waged between my body and my mind made everything pretty blurry – but I do remember you sitting on the sofa next to me time and time again, a consistently calm, reassuring, gentle and accepting presence. The level of patience you showed as I cried, despaired and struggled to make decisions about how to take care of my children and myself, when it often felt like those two things were at odds with each other, made your presence a place of true safety. Of release. Of understanding.
Your ability over the past two years to give me total confidence that you always had my children’s best interests at heart, yet also deeply cared about their mother, has been so healing after my illness made me believe that my presence in my boys’ lives would make it impossible for my children to ever be safe and happy.
But they are safe, and they are happy. And while there are still days where I feel like that is the case despite me rather than because of me, I am now in a place where I do actually believe that they are better off for having me here, and that I am worthy of the privilege of being their mother, even if much of the time I don’t feel like I am quite…enough.
And that belief that I am – as you have so often told me when I have been running out of steam – important, is in large part because you have always seen health and strength in me, even when I couldn’t see it in myself. That kind of faith doesn’t come along very often, and you could not have given me a greater gift.
I have shared my very darkest thoughts with you. My greatest fears. My guilt and shame and hopelessness. And you have held my hand through it all.
I am devastated that we won’t get to benefit from spending time with you as our health visitor anymore. I feel like I am losing a true friend. But please know that your legacy in our family – one of honesty, care, integrity and compassion – will remain for a long time to come. You have made an indelible mark on our lives, and it is time for another group of incredibly fortunate families to benefit from your dedication and support.
So I guess “thank you” doesn’t quite cover my gratitude and affection. You are one of a few very special people who have truly made the difference between me being here today and not, and I shall remember that for the rest of my life.
With all my thanks and admiration,
Fiona Black, Abi’s health visitor, adds:
“At the core of health visiting is relationship building, and this is exactly what happened for Abi and myself. We built a very special relationship based on respect and trust. I feel so privileged to have been with Abi on this journey and she has taught me a lot about the importance of our profession in supporting family mental health and wellbeing.”