One of my main ‘memories’ as a child is that of a cartoon which highlights good from bad by using an angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other.
It could be seen as one of your first insights into mental health without realising it.
Yesterday I read an interview with Olly Alexander, lead singer of the band Years & Years ,which was featured in The Guardian in which he spoke candidly about his struggles with depression and mental illness.
It inspired me to share my own experiences.
Firstly, I should point out that my experiences are nowhere near as bad, but in an age where talking about mental illness and depression comes attached with stigma, it shouldn’t be devalued in any way.
This is also one of the first times I’ve openly talked about these issues, so if you know me personally it may, or may not come as a bit of a surprise.
The human mind is a complex machine which is marvelled by many, but for some it can seem like a prison. It has the power to create wonderful dreams, but also the potential for unrelenting nightmares.
I’ve found my mind to be fragile, yet so powerful. It doesn’t take much to set my mind onto a negative path but once it does it’s a long, dark tunnel.
The smallest, most insignificant thing can set me down that path and it seems it’s never-ending sometimes. Hell, I’ve found that sometimes there’s no trigger at all; out of nowhere I can just take a ‘turn’ as I refer to it.
Home. Work. Socialising. There’s no discrimination. The turn can take place any time, any where.
My mind telling me I’m worthless. Victimising myself, telling myself that everything is my fault and a constant barrage of negativity as I saw it described by a fellow blogger on the issue.
As a result, I’ve literally hidden myself away for days at a time blocking out any communication and socialisation with friends and family and only turning up at work because I’d lose my job if I didn’t go.
I’ve blogged briefly before about the ‘Little Book of Secrets’ I keep – my safe place as it were. Those of you who do know me, will know that I travel absolutely everywhere with my trusty rucksack, and plenty of you have asked me why. Well, it’s because I keep this book in it. I don’t go anywhere without this by my side.
Babies have dummies (or pacifiers for any American readers) when they’re distressed, I have my LBOS.
Every now and then, I open it up and read through it. You might think this would set me off, but actually it does the complete opposite. It serves to remind me that no matter how bad a turn I’ve had previously; I’ve always overcome my worst day.
Last summer, I got my first of two tattoos. On my right wrist I have rosary beads which wrap around and a cross hanging down on the underside of the wrist.
Within this cross, and the most personal part of this tattoo, is a semicolon. This isn’t immediately noticeable unless you’re really looking at the tattoo in detail when you see it in the flesh.
For those of you who haven’t come across the meaning of the semicolon tattoo, it’s part of a brilliant movement called Project Semicolon – A global non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and love for those who are struggling with mental illness, suicide, addiction and self-injury. Project semicolon exists to encourage, love and inspire.
There have been countless times where I’ve been down, or on a turn where people have asked me if I’m alright, yet I’ve always been too afraid to speak out about it despite the fact they have clearly seen something is up. Without the support shown by family, friends, work colleagues even though they haven’t known what the problems have been, has been brilliant.
I dread to think where I could be, or would be, without every single person who has ever asked me if I’m alright, showing me that even if I don’t feel it in the moment, there is always someone to talk too. Someone who cares, and someone to make sure I’m not alone.
From the bottom of my heart; thank you.