TW: This article discusses suicidal feelings
Legal entrepreneur Daisy Doardo experienced childhood trauma which led to a pattern of depression, self harm and suicidal feelings. But her story is one of hope. From a ‘broken’ teenager who dropped out of Sixth Form, she has managed to turn her life around in spectacular fashion. With therapy, support and an unwavering sense of self-belief, Daisy dared herself to dream and created a life for herself to be proud of.
Originally from Alderney, Daisy now lives in rural East Anglia with her partner. Earlier this year she graduated from Essex Law School with a first-class law degree. Every day she wakes up and feels grateful to be alive. She is sharing her lived experiences as a lost 15 year old girl in order to offer hope to others; essentially transforming into the role model that she so desperately needed when she was a teen.
This is a powerful read. Some people may find her words distressing, others may not agree with her opinions. But we believe everyone will be inspired by her story and will feel motivated to create positive change in their own lives and in the lives around them, no matter their background or circumstances.
Daisy is Listed.
‘Unstoppable’ is not a word I would have used to describe myself until recently. I was very ‘stoppable’. In fact, as a teenager my entire world stopped.
Childhood trauma had taken its toll. My nervous system was in tatters. You’ve heard of the ‘fight or flight’ threat response. Well, there is another response that emerges when you are unable to fight or take flight. Freeze. At fifteen, I found myself in ‘freeze’. I sunk into a deep depression. My bones ached like my heart. I started missing school.
During the day, I was a ghost. At night, I drowned.
I started self-harming and it quickly became an addiction. I felt broken and I couldn’t fix it. Diagnosed with clinical depression, I was medicated but nobody noticed that I was isolated. They all asked ‘what’s wrong’ but I couldn’t tell them. I didn’t yet know. All I thought was that there was something wrong with me.
Over 10 years ago, when this was playing out, my perception was that the only mental health support available on Alderney was a trip to the pub. It goes without saying that this was not a solution, particularly for a child.
The depression got worse, as did the self-harming. I tried to take my life a handful of times and it wasn’t long before I was admitted to the psychiatric ward at the now closed Castel hospital. Shipped to a different island and imprisoned with the adults, I was told that if I didn’t go voluntarily, I would be taken by the police. They took my phone and made me take pills - ‘Don’t make a fuss or we will tell your psychiatrist. You don’t want that if you want to get out.’
They did let me out, eventually. But the experience terrified me and added to my trauma. I was a child. I needed support. Instead, it just felt like being shipped to a different island and imprisoned with the adults. After that, the depression, self-harming and suicidal thoughts remained. I just got better at hiding them.
Growing up in Alderney has its positives and negatives. In a sense, there is an unrivalled feeling of freedom growing up on the island. I spent most of my childhood outdoors. Some of my favourite memories are of going to the beach and playing in the sea. The culture is so different to anywhere else that I have lived. It instilled in me values of community and caring.
There is also a negative side of living in a small community, particularly if you are different. The judgement is insidious. The rumour mill was - and still is - vicious.
Another reality of Alderney living for state schooled children is that if you want to continue in education after 16, you must move islands and live with a host family. You are paired with a family of strangers, given a room, and expected to get on with it. This would be intimidating for most teenagers. For a suicidal sixteen-year-old, this was far from ideal. Having said that, I actually loved sixth form and made great friends. Life was getting better. I saw a future ahead of me that I hadn’t seen before and I REALLY wanted it.
But behind the scenes, I was still struggling. After a suicide attempt, I dropped out. I enrolled again the next year, but it was much the same story the second time around. So, thoroughly defeated and depressed, I returned to Alderney and ended up claiming benefits.
I thought that was the end of the road, but one amazing thing about life is that it ALWAYS changes, even in a small place like Alderney. My time living in Guernsey had shown me that things could be different. It had given me hope. I knew there was more out there and I didn’t want to let that go. I decided that I was going to build a better life for myself, I just didn’t know how.
There was no significant event that I can look back on and identify as a turning point for my mental health. Just a series of positive changes and a gradual progression that made things better.
At 18, I was hired by the local insurance office, who supported me to study for professional qualifications. I started to have more and more support around me, for which I will always be grateful.
At 22, I realised that although things had vastly improved, I was stagnating. So, I worked two jobs to save up and booked a one-way ticket to Bali. After a stint of scuba-diving and travelling, I moved to England and later enrolled at Essex Law School.
Earlier this year, I graduated with a first-class law degree and was awarded the Highest Year Mark Award 2019/20 and the School of Law prize for the Best Performance in Jurisprudence 2022/23. Alongside my studies, I founded a legal marketing business, Daisy Legal. I now work as a clinical negligence paralegal and (if all goes to plan) will qualify as a solicitor in 2025. Not bad for a sixth form drop out!
I believe that for most of us, our present moment is the result of a lifetime of choices. At 22 years old, I chose a different life. I wasn’t special, there was nothing extraordinary about me. I allowed myself to dream, I made a choice and I did what it took to bring that vision to life.
There will always be things that are outside of our control. However, I made a choice to take ownership of my life and actively built it anew. Through planning, perseverance, and an unwavering sense of self-belief, I have transformed my circumstances and made my life work FOR me, rather than against me. Becoming an active participant in shaping my life rather than falling into the role of a passive bystander has instilled in me a sense of empowerment. I see the impact that my choices make on myself, my environment and the people around me. Therefore, I try to make choices that serve me.
Around 5 years ago, I started therapy. I was shown a trauma-informed approach to mental health, and it has been transformative. A trauma-informed approach takes into consideration the impact of trauma. It recognises that it is healthy, natural and normal to react to overwhelming and harmful events, even if those reactions can be distressing. You are treated holistically, as a human being impacted by their environment and in need of support. This is in contrast to the medical model of mental health which, in my opinion, pathologises trauma responses, treating them as manifestations of mental ‘disorders’ situated within the individual. This approach really worked for me.
By recognising that there was nothing inherently wrong with me (e.g. I didn’t have a chemical imbalance in my brain – a myth that is still peddled as the cause of depression, despite being long debunked), I was able to work through the negative beliefs that I held about myself and my place in the world around me. Since starting therapy, self-development has become a core part of my life. By developing myself, I can make a more positive impact on the people and world. I also recognise that I deserve to thrive, without justification. This self-belief helps me to make choices that serve my health and happiness.
I'm not saying I have it all figured out, but I've found a way of living and thinking that enables me to thrive./p>
I now live in England with my incredible partner and our dog. My days start with a walk along the river, sometimes followed by a home work-out or trip to the gym. Most days, I work from our home office in the rural East Anglia countryside. Other times, I head to the main office in London.
Weekends are for time with friends spent relaxing or exploring – the more time outdoors the better. I’m grateful to have kind, compassionate people around me and we support each other through the good times and the bad.
Every day I wake up and feel grateful to be alive. If my wishes had been granted, my life would have ended long ago. I didn’t see a way out when I needed to. So here I am, being the role model that I needed to see.
I hope that by reading this article, you are left feeling hopeful, inspired and motivated to create positive change in your own life and in the lives around you.
We can’t wait around for somebody else to come and make things better. It’s up to us. Only we have the power. Our past doesn’t have to define our future.
If you are experiencing suicidal thoughts, or you are worried about someone who may be, Guernsey Samartians are there to listen, without judgement or pressure, 24 hours a day. If you feel that someone is at immediate risk of harming themselves, contact the emergency services on 999.
Guernsey Mind can help you to spot the early signs that someone may be struggling and build confidence to apply a ‘first aid approach’ to avoid a crisis and help someone with thoughts of suicide stay safe and stay alive. Get in touch with the team to find out more.
You might also want to take a look at Where to Find Mental Health Support in Guernsey.