Since the beginning of last year one of the promises I made to myself was to reignite my passion for reading and so far it has paid off. I’ve re-read some classics, read marathons of books we “all have to read” and have been introduced to some phenomenal authors and people in the process. Yesterday I finished a brilliant book by Bryony Gordon called Mad Girl. A whirlwind diary, look back and frank retelling of her close personal demons with mental health including OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder), bulimia, anxiety and depression. It covered a broad spectrum of emotions from feeling her despair, the pity, the laughter and also the cringe inducing moments of what mental illnesses can bring plus highlighting the awful state our mental health system is in when it comes to the NHS.
One thing though that fascinated me was that there were symptoms I recognised in myself from childhood that she dealt with. Her obsession with Aids, hurting people and being a bad person was something I closely dealt with. Though I was born after the Aids epidemic, I was obsessed with hurting people (mostly myself) and was terrified of absolutely anything and everything. My safety zone permanently encapsulated me with every little thing bringing terror and what I now know is anxiety. Memories of being on an adventure camp and crying out of pretty much everything because I was too scared to do it and feeling that immense stabbing pain of failing at deadlines, or failing my parents with bad grades and even failing at making friends. Funnily enough this would follow me into my twenties where the F word become a close personal friend and due to the overwhelming stress of dealing with it, I dropped out of whatever was going on so as not to bring about the shooting pain of failing something after having tried. My mind told me it was better to run and hide than to try and fail, a battle that still I deal with most days.
The frank and obvious demons that Bryony talks about is something we all need to recognise and follow her steps in telling our own stories. I talk candidly to some extent on mental health but maybe there is more even I could do? So much around me frustrates me because there is such a lack of help where it’s needed, primarily in our health service and more promises from politicians fall far short from what we need with constant rising numbers of people in mental distress. Illnesses that are taken with a pinch of salt yet they bring torture and a huge dose of pain to those they strike down. Yet to have to wait weeks before you can even be seen by a counselor and most GP’s write out prescriptions to various drugs that have a multitude of side effects without really explaining to the person what is or could be going wrong with them. And don’t even get me started on Google.
Whether you want to advocate and champion mental health or whether you are intrigued by what it brings I strongly recommend you read Mad Girl. I also recommend you read Sane New World by Ruby Wax. These are honest, unabashed and unashamed written legacies of what mental illnesses can do to people and how low they spiral a person down. Maybe one day, outside of this blog I’ll follow their lead and tell more of my story and hopefully you might do the same as well.
No one can promise that your scars will fade and no one can promise that tomorrow will always be great. But what we, a community of survivors and of those who feel the struggle, can promise is that we will be there. We will be there to talk, to distract, to make you laugh, to cry into, to hide under a duvet with, to sit beside you or to help you find the right help, all the while championing that you deserve and need it as much as the next person. This wonderful community is here to be the voice of love and friendship, one that our own minds fails to give us. To read books like this and feel this warmth, this true honesty that hits you in the heart brings so much hope. If you need that little pebble of hope then read this book, and seek us (and me) out because we will be there to hold your hand through it all. Because as Bryony and so many of us say, you are not alone.