Just two years prior the mum-of-two was so savagely assaulted by someone with the same condition, her attacker was convicted of attempted murder.
The assault in 2015, in which Sarah was hit numerous times with a metal pole when her back was turned, resulted in a broken nose and wrist and took her around seven weeks to physically recover.
Since then Sarah, now 43, has also suffered with post traumatic stress disorder with her ‘always anxious’ that someone could be behind her.
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‘I’ll never be better from that,’ she said.
‘All I remember is her saying “do you want to see my metal?” and then she tried to kill me. I remember a neighbour saved me.
‘I thought that woman was my friend.’
As reported in The News in 2015, her attacker had untreated paranoid schizophrenia and had been heard by a mental health hospital security guard to say ‘I want to murder someone’ in the run up to the attack.
More than a year later Sarah aimed to make a fresh start putting the attack behind her, moving to Eldon Street in Southsea.
Then, in 2017 while attending a mental health workshop the unthinkable happened.
The lady sitting next to her – Rosie Nicholls – announced to the class that she was a paranoid schizophrenic.
‘Instantly my hackles were up,’ said Sarah.
‘I just heard her say that and all I could think about was the other woman who had attacked me.’
In yet another twist of fate the pair then realised they were neighbours in the same block of flats after arriving home at the same time – with just one floor between them.
Although Sarah was wary of Rosie to begin with, the duo have gone on to become the ‘best of friends,’ helping each other in their day-to-day lives and even when not feeling mentally or physically well.
Sarah said: ‘My faith has been restored by Rosie.
‘She has shown me that her condition isn’t dangerous and that people need to be aware of mental health conditions.’
When Sarah contracted Covid-19 in January this year, Rosie helped her through her illness.
‘She really helped me,’ she said.
‘I would open the door a little and throw some money out which she’d use to go down the shop to buy me food.
‘And then she’d leave me the food outside my door. Nobody else was going to do it for me.
‘And it’s not just then, if I’m not feeling good or I’m feeling isolated and I call her for anything she will come over and vice versa.
‘I think we’ve helped each other.’
Rosie agrees. The 58-year-old, who has lived with paranoid schizophrenia for 37 years, said: ‘Sarah means the world to me. We look after each other.
‘We eat together and sometimes we have sleepovers if I don’t want to be alone.
‘We share our problems and support each other. She’s there for me if I feel suicidal or if I need it she will call the crisis team.
‘I understand why she was worried. When she was abused by the other woman with paranoid schizophrenia she was given two black eyes and a broken nose.
‘I would never harm her, the other woman and I are like chalk and cheese.’
Rosie has no family members to turn to, having grown up in the care system since the age of one.
Although she is on medication to control her schizophrenia she can have relapses.
‘When I relapse I get voices inside my head,’ she said.
‘They tell me to self harm. I also get panic attacks, anxiety attacks and hallucinations but when those happen the crisis team in Portsmouth can help me.’
She has discovered that taking up hobbies helps to distract her and she has accumulated 1,570 certificates from different studies and activities, as well as multiple trophies and medals over the years.
Currently she takes IT and drama classes at the John Pounds Centre in Portsea.
‘There are three levels of schizophrenia,’ she added.
‘At the first level you are stable but occasionally relapse, which is me.
‘The second level you self harm and hallucinate all the time.
‘The third level is when you are a danger to other people and smash things up.
‘It’s important to know not everyone who has paranoid schizophrenia is the same. And there are ways you can get help to be better.
‘I just think people need to be more understanding of mental health conditions.’
What is paranoid schizophrenia?
JUST over one percent of the population lives with schizophrenia – with paranoid schizophrenia being the most common type.
The paranoia stems from delusions and hallucinations, causing people to see or hear things that aren’t there.
Although these are the most common symptoms they are not the one ones.
People with schizophrenia often also experience low mood, trouble with processing information or thoughts, find it hard to concentrate, and have sleep issues.
They can also feel a loss of interest or joy in things, want to isolate themselves from others and have a lack of energy. Some of these are in common with depression.
According to Solent Mind, some of the common misconceptions about schizophrenia are:
:: People with schizophrenia are violent. In reality, people with a severe mental health issue are much more likely to be a victim of crime than the general population.
:: It means someone has ‘multiple personalities’ – this isn’t true. Everyone’s experience will be different.
:: People can never get well. The majority of people can live fulfilling lives. Four out of five people will be able to manage it most of the time.
If you think you need support for schizophrenia or another mental health condition, call Solent Mind on (023) 8017 9049.