I’ve been very lucky this year, in that I’ve finally achieved some element of independence. I travel frequently, I see friends on a regular basis, and I’m slowly learning to laugh again.
It’s not all great, sure. I’ve had my heart broken, and spent two months telling the person who broke it to leave me alone. Upon saying “fine, I’ll hear what you have to say if you leave me alone afterwards”, I was pressured for details about my love life as it now stands and later the target of a mental health slur.
I’d allowed myself to be pressured into communicating with a person who’s used to getting their own way. It makes sense that they weren’t pleased to hear that I didn’t feel as though I could have them in my life as a friend, let alone as a partner. And yet, I was surprised when I received a text with a mental health slur, as this person is a founding member of a local group that claims to support people with mental illnesses.
A friend later said three words to me: “Lessons and blessings”. This friend of mine has a habit of being right. The lessons I’ve learned? No more dating alcoholics who have no intention of changing their ways, and no more 3rd chances for toxic people. The blessing? My heart is filled with love for the people who caught me when this person caused me to fall.
There really were a lot of people waiting to catch me; some who knew what was coming even before I did, and some who were as taken aback as I was.
Now, I’m in a position whereby I’m unable to access therapy due to the length of waiting lists causing referrals to be closed. I’ve started taking medication to help me get on a level, something I never would have done in recent years. And y’know what? It’s actually helping! Throughout dealing with my volatile ex, I was able to remain perfectly calm. I even had a bit of a giggle with a friend over his somewhat childish behaviour.
The thing is, after years of being knocked to the ground because I was always living my life according to what others told me I ought to do, I’ve finally learned that I know myself better than anyone. When you recognise that, you’ll never look back.
I think the first example of this is my blog. I’ve been told it’s not a good idea; that some things are just meant to be kept private. I still blog. In fact, my life’s improved dramatically as a result. If I didn’t blog, I wouldn’t have had the world of mental health research opened up to me, and I certainly wouldn’t have entered my name into the ballot to run the 2018 London Marathon.
Since then, I’ve had people try to tell me that standing up in front of a room full of people to talk about my mental health journey will be detrimental to my recovery. Shock, horror, far from being detrimental, it’s actually helped me to grow as a person. I’m more confident in speaking to people than I ever have been, and I fail to see how that can be a bad thing.
Apart from anything, something I’ve said time and time again (and I’ll never stop saying it, so there!) is that the first step in waging an effective battle against stigma is talking openly about mental illness. Remind people that it isn’t a dirty word, and it isn’t something to be afraid of unless it’s allowed to spiral out of control; most importantly, we have the power to prevent it spiralling out of control.
This month, I get to see some of my all-time heroes on-stage. From Shane Koyzcan to Neil Gaiman to Stephen Fry, I’m going to have the incredible experience of sharing a space with them for a few hours. Just the thought of it makes me emotional! And I have to wonder, would these incredible humans be who they are today if they’d simply lived their lives according to what other people thought was best for them?
I doubt they would.
Furthermore, I think everyone would be hard-pushed to say that these people aren’t kind of great. Don’t we all aspire to achieve greatness? I know I do. So I vow to take people’s advice on-board, but not to follow it to the letter if I believe they may be wrong. I believe with every ounce of my heart that this is the path to greatness.
In a world where we’re all encouraged to be extraordinary whilst simultaneously being told that we need to fit within rather confined boxes of “ordinary”, it’s up to us to step outside of those boxes. And sure, it’s scary at first. But take it from someone who’s been wandering between boxes for some time now – you will bump into some pretty incredible people along the way.
Don’t get me wrong, you’ll also stumble into some boxes that will be so jam-packed that they’re suffocating, or you’ll decide to join forces with someone who’s wandering between boxes because they’ve been pushed out of their box with very good reason. But for the most part, you’ll grow to be pretty comfortable. You’ll realise that there are far more achievements waiting for you the moment that you step outside of that box.
So, I’m going to reach out and invite you to join me out here. It’s a big, big world. And it’s pretty damn fantastic.
Hope and hugs