Hello! I finally get to do my write-up of yesterday. WOWZER. I’m absolutely thrilled at my virgin experience of being interviewed for the telly. It went like an absolute dream and I’m still feeling super shiny and luminescent this morning….basking in ‘dreams coming true-ness’. I’m trying to blog authentically here without caring how I sound, despite the fact there’s a high chance the reporter who interviewed me might be reading this as she now has my blog link….so why do I feel a bit silly typing out how I feel? I don’t usually feel these inhibitions about sharing anything. I guess I wonder if I’ll come across as too desperate…too ridiculously enthusiastic…inauthentically gushing and overly keen perhaps?…but there is nothing inauthentic about the upcoming gushing you are about to read. It comes from the heart and the soul. It also comes from a deep place of very raw and unfiltered emotion. Today I am proud to be me.
This blog is called SUMMER STARTS TO SHINE. At other times during my mental health recovery process I have considered re-titling the blog to ‘summer falls flat on her face’, ‘summer struggles’, ‘summer feels absolutely SHIT’.
Summer has struggled to shine massively. Summer has not always been the brightest star in her ‘mentally-ill-pigeon-holed-by-society’ box.
But yesterday has a huge milestone in my personal development, and also a wonderful moment of registering how I have come full circle and transformed so much since reaching my personal rock bottom.
This blog is about post-traumatic shine (my name for post-traumatic growth). It is based on the concept that…
…NO MATTER WHAT HAS ALREADY HAPPENED IN YOUR LIFE TO DATE, the future stands untouched and full of positive potential.
Yesterday was a crucial vantage point to reach where I could survey where I am today relative to where I’ve been, and also where I hope to be headed. As I sat perched on a bench with the tripodded camera recording everything, I looked over the beach where the filming took place, I gazed at the waves which once nearly swept me out to oblivion during my first suicide attempt, and I felt seriously proud to be alive, so be strong, to be still standing.
Maybe that would be a good alternative blog title. SUMMER IS STILL STANDING
I am still standing.
I am alive.
I am (relatively) well.
I am recovering.
All is OK.
Everything is unfolding just as it should.
I am incredibly prone to feeling frustrated with the speed of my mental health recovery progress. I feel like if I don’t recover enough fast enough I am letting my loved ones down. I know rationally that is not the case, but I have such a powerful drive within me to overcome my problems and conquer my destiny that I can never improve fast enough for my ‘very high standard pace’.
I spoke to my psychologist yesterday morning on the phone about this. She knows me extremely well and knows the amount of pressure I put on myself to be well and be capable and to support and inspire other people in their healing journeys. She knows if I have a bad day it is very easy for me to beat myself up for this and berate myself for not coping maximally well. She tries to demonstrate compassion to me in the hope I will internalise this relaxed feeling myself about myself…but habits are hard to break.
I said to her yesterday before filming “I hope I don’t fuck this interview up. Hopefully I won’t.”
The social anxiety is always there lurking at my heels, telling me I’m not enough and could have done better…As it is already this morning social anxiety post mortems have been and gone about what I said or failed to say. I am working really hard though to reassure myself of what an achievement yesterday’s filming experience was. I may not have achieved total perfection, but the point is, I did it. I braved the camera. I spoke honestly without self-editing. I shared the facts as I saw them, and I shared my views and feelings too in an authentic way. Not everyone will necessarily agree with them, but I was the volunteer. I was asked to do this media opportunity, and I grabbed it with both hands as this is exactly what I wanted and have wanted for such a long time! I put myself in the arena for social judgement, because I’m no longer scared to be myself. Yesterday was an absolute dream come true.
This is what happened…. :)
The build-up to the ITV crew arrival was relatively calm and serene. I had pangs of nerves, but not unadulterated TERROR fortunately ;) so I could deal with a few nerves no problem. The fact I managed to stay calm yesterday after only being off my long term anxiety meds for a week is actually pretty remarkable I thought! Go me!
The weather was perfect…warm, sunny and spring-like/hopeful…mirroring exactly how I felt inside. I had been expecting the reporter lady to arrive alone and self-shoot, but she had managed to find a stray professional camera man wandering about in telly land and booked him for a filming slot so two people arrived.
Even though he was a man (usually strangers who are men worry me due to PTSD,) I had a quiet word with myself, told myself not to panic, as he is a telly man. He will definitely have no need to touch me or even come that near me. He is safe and licenced and has a friendly smile and a nice voice which you can’t be scared at. So I got over that initial anxiety peak and travelled my journey along the valleys of the calm mountain.
‘CHILL THE FUCK OUT IMANI SUMMER’, I reassuringly told myself while driving to the nearest beach to film the interview. Not all men are scary and will attack me, especially not ITV camera men!
Driving to the beach with the ITV News emblazened car following behind me was a moment that was deliciously surreal. A “is this really happening?!” kind of moment. But I wasn’t nervous as I was just looking forward to getting stuck in.
I parked in a parking bay and got in the ITV car to drive down the hill to be dropped off there with the reporter lady as they had all the heavy equipment to transport. I sat in an ITV car with ITV people, yaaay! haha ;)
I have sat on the bench where the interview happened in all stages of mental illness. I have sat there when depressed, when anxious, when dissociated, when I’ve felt heart-breakingly sad and been grieving for losses that hurt more than I can say, I have sat when hearing voices in my head and even feeling like I were different people, but yesterday I felt content and excited and happy when I sat there, as I was there for a fantastically POSITIVE reason!! ….To tell my story, to speak openly, to hopefully shift public attitudes a little, and to destigmatise people engaging in open conversations about mental health.
Trying to pretend a camera isn’t there when a camera clearly IS THERE is not the easiest of things to achieve!!! particularly as the reporter and camera guy were periodically communicating about tellyish things that as a lay person I didn’t fully understand, but I tried to chillax as much as possible and just think to myself ‘I’m here chatting to a lovely lady who is interested in hearing what I have to say because she thinks what I have to say (as someone who has lived experience of mental illness) is actually worth listening to.’
Those positive self-talk inner chats with myself helped a lot and I remained calm and focussed and was able to concentrate fairly well. For once my PTSD and BPD brain actually cooperated and respected my expressed wishes! I wish it always would eye roll
Anyway, we did the speaky interview bit…..
Talking with the soothing white noise of the ocean in the background was both relaxing and a little distracting for my bonkers brain, but apart from a couple of occasions where I started speaking then forgot what the actual question was [LOL] my brain behaved itself and I did it!! …Not only that, I enjoyed it immensely. YAAAY!
Woop woop to successful telly interviews a week after discontinuing anxiety meds! Who’d have thought I could take that in my stride? Not me!!! :P
Interestingly, the most tense bit of all the filming was the naturalistic shots of me that were done after the interview, walking ‘naturally’ along the sands of my favourite beach. My husband and girls were there too with me. I chose for them to be involved. We worked on a sandcastle together. I am a family person, a normal person, a stay-at-home mum, a volunteer. I am nothing out of the ordinary. I am just a person who happens to also have a mental health history. It can happen to all of us and any of us, and most likely will at some stage of your life. I purposefully wanted to be filmed in context of the daily life I have with mental ill health. I’m a normal person, who nearly died several times due to mental ill health, and as my children are fully aware of their mother’s mental health I see no reason to hide anything.
So I strolled around the beach “naturally” while feeling inside very unnatural ;) did a cartwheel that went wrong, got wet shoes and socks and skinny jeans when a stray wave tried to claim me! All in all though it was amazing. Magical moments that remind me all that awful hellish shit is now behind me. Yes I have bad days, but I used to have bad months and years!
Once the camera had been packed up we headed back to the car chatting happily as though we film on the beach with ITV Tyne Tees news reporters and camera men everyday! The normalness of it all was reassuring. It wasn’t scary. I was given a lot of respect and dignity and control at all times. I didn’t feel exploited or that the questions were at all posed with a sensationalist bent to them (which was a slight fear I had about media volunteering)…it didn’t feel rushed, and if I made a slight mistake it didn’t matter. It honestly couldn’t have gone any better than it did :)
Yeah, of course since we gave the reporter and the camera guy a cheery wave goodbye yesterday I have thought of a million things I wish I’d added and included, but there is no such thing a perfect interview where you say absolutely everything that you want to get across. I am just proud I spoke candidly about my life with mental health issues. Dead proud.
My favourite question the lady asked was “do you think you’re brave for doing this?” It was a good question…and one I wasn’t sure how to answer. I don’t think I’m particularly brave, though I acknowledge that other people do, as they directly say they think I am. I guess I just try and accept myself, and hope that other people who read my words or hear that piece on the telly will accept me as I am too. That is all I want. Acceptance & a bit of compassion. Yesterday I got that in bucket loads from the lush reporter who did the interview, so regardless of how anyone who watches the clip will react, I connected on a human level with a real actual telly person who actually was prepared to give me the air time to tell my unique but also very ordinary story. I’m a mum. Bad things happened to me as I grew up. Adult mental health problems happened as a result. There’s no shame. I am worth no less than anyone else. I matter. Everyone matters. So what if your brain is a little wonky and you struggle more than the average bear? I told my story. I hope this is the first of many opportunities to do this :) and typing that gives me the warmest glow inside that you could ever imagine!
If you get the chance to go public, and you want to try it, go for it. Put yourself forward. Volunteer yourself. You matter! What you say matters! You are not only helping yourself but you may make an incredible transformative difference to someone else’s life too. I hope this happens for me. I hope my story does resonate with people watching and it might promt them to seek help and open up about the chaos inside. There is no need to hide the chaos. Embrace it! Vocalise it! Alchemise it to good use. Be that person who is prepared to speak out, and wait and see how many people’s lives you can touch just with a few simple heartfelt and meaningful words. That’s what I did, and I feel bloody fabulous for having done it :)