World Mental Health Day: sharing is caring

My interest in mental health means I already follow* plenty of people who write or comment on the subject but I like to think that World Mental Health Day (WMHD) has raised awareness outside of the inner circle.

Over the past 5 days I’ve been part of something very special. Deep down I know this is the norm but it’s hard to accept that when I’m spiralling downwards.

On Monday I sketched out some of the thoughts that go round in my head. Not all at the same time. Nobody could cope with that much negativity every day. If you do however, hats off to you, you’re a stronger person than I am. Stick with it but for God’s sake ask for some help.

My simplistic illustration was an easy way to ask people to get involved. To take some time to consider how it feels to live with mental health problems. Life’s not all misery and despair but the strength it takes not to fall into that rabbit hole can be exhausting before the day’s even begun. I thought if I was prepared to share some of my innermost thoughts I could legitimately ask others to invest themselves just a little.

And some of you did. With bells on. Great big jangling shiny bells. No euphemisms here. Think Christmas and Liberty, not end.

This is my illustration:

Inside the outsider

Not a great work of art and with full disclosure it only took me about 30 minutes but it is an accurate representation of how I’ve felt in the past.

It clearly struck a chord. I can’t remember the last time one of my tweets made such an impression (see what I did there?). But more than that I was blown away by the response by my friends on Facebook. First up Paul Walker, my much loved friend from Uni commented that he thought it would make a cool canvas — Paul is an incredible artist so a huge compliment! Then Lesley Marshall, a friend from my days at BT, asked if she could share it.

And then things went a little crazy. Paul, Lesley, Jo McEnery, Will, my sister Ruth, Mark Doughty and Andrew Sugden used it as their profile pic to raise awareness of WMHD. Plus other friends shared very lovely messages of support — Sophie, Carry, Carrie, Rachel W, Rachel D, Tim, Ben, Paula, Sarah, Kirsti, Vicki and Julie.

And then, things got really silly and I was asked if the image could be used by several companies who were planning campaigns during WMHD. Of course I said yes and I feel ridiculously proud (and also somewhat embarrassed).

The irony of my mind map and the support network I have isn’t lost on me. I use phrases like ‘unlikeable’ and ‘unloveable’ because I genuinely feel like that, most days. Which is why I also say ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ because it’s the truth. Don’t give up on me or other friends/colleagues/family members like me. We’re probably doing everything we can to stop ourselves from sinking and you never know how much that kind word or thoughtful gesture might mean.

Finally, to everyone who liked, loved, shared and engaged with my picture — thank you. I hope it’s given you a look behind the curtain. If I forgot to mention you I’m sorry, take your pick of the statements in my illustration; one of them will provide a reason/an excuse I’m sure.

*Online obviously. I’m not loitering outside Matt Haig’s house, or trying to catch the same train as Ruby Wax.