I have wanted to talk about my own experience of mental health challenges for a long time.
I have been circling this blog post for weeks, as if preparing for a small battle. Looking at my lap top, open and ready while I take the longest time I can to finish my tea.
Every so often something will creep out in conversation, I will let something slip about my own mental health. A tiny snapshot of the person you can't see. Then it disappears back inside. That darker creature, the one with a history, getting a little more persistent each time. And, as I now accept, rightly so.
I should talk. I should tell you. I want you to know. We all know its good to talk.
Problem is, I don't want to say it. I just don't want to tell you myself because I will hear my voice crack, my tummy flip and my blood run just a little bit colder. Its a tough subject. It 'aint pretty you know.
I wish I could have a discrete little manual I could distribute to friends, family and colleagues that list the places I have been, good and bad. They could read it with interest, respect and acceptance and all would be well. It would detail all the ingredients that make up Me. All the long paths and the hurdles. All the mental health mess laid bare, and there is SO much it would run to lots of chapters.
I have found great comfort in reading about others and their experiences of mental illness. I have found I am able to see myself in others. Often I want to shout " I am just like you! I know those places you have in your head, they are on my map too! "
Its like a special, secret club, except its one that's not that much fun. But safety in numbers and there is solace to be found in sharing.
I have lived with the sharing 'Filter' on strong for so long. A filter I made myself due to stigma and the fear of making others uncomfortable or even upset, and largely due to not being able to take the pain of what led to my diagnosis and then what led to my recovery. (Do we ever 'recover? Or do we learn to live again?). I would assess at which point in a relationship or friendship I could let a little bit trickle through. But never the full story, and certainly no real detail.
The creator of "Torchlight" Kevin Braddock, has the following advice for getting experiences out and onto paper:
"...My advice would be to take your time with it and just let it be what it is going to be rather than over-plan it or decide what the finished thing will be. I also realised when I was writing that I had to choose a cut-off point and let that be “the end”, otherwise I would have carried on writing and faffing around with it forever. What I mean is, life doesn't stop after you’ve written it, so you have to decide where the story finishes."
"Also, when you think it's done, sit on it for a few months and look at it again. And the hardest thing - show it to someone else. That’s the really tough bit, but in the end that’s the point - to write it and put it out in the world, which, yes, is terrifying."
"Just do it, I'd say. This stuff is the big conversation now and you’ll be sure to find an appreciative audience"
So here I am. Just doing it. Its a start and it feels okay so far. If a little self indulgent perhaps.
I am so tired of using my inner Sharing Filter now, I am bored of it. It doesn't help this big stigma battle we are fighting. I forget who I have told what to, and then it feels like I am creating my own conspiracy about myself.
Not to share feels dishonest as my experiences are real and valid and it really wasn't all in my head.
Well, it was, but you know what I mean.
On February the 11th 2018 we are launching a crowd funding campaign. We want to start a conversation about mental health that is powerful. No more treading on eggshells. We are not invisible, we do not want to be hidden away. Our work in the studio and shop is #SmashingStigma every day, and now we are going to be a little noisier.
You can be part of our campaign by joining the team and becoming a SMASH IT Ambassador. Register here- https://smashingstigma.hubbub.net/ambassador/login/?next=/ambassador/
As part of the campaign we are also looking for more blogs about mental health stigma, so please get in touch if you have a story to share.