I need to create some sacred space around me. I need to be encircled by something protective. I need to just sit a while and not move with no pressure from anyone or anything. I need to take lots of life aspects out of the dust covered chest, look at them and purposefully decide which aspects I deliberately want in the picture of my life. I want there to be no accidental bits, even tiny fragments that are not fully felt by my beating heart.
I need everything to have meaning and purpose and nothing to be accidental. I need the right people, the right projects, the right focus, and most importantly I need a lot of white space around these shapes to allow these objects to mean something and be differentiated from the background murkiness of living.
I want clear shapes. Hard edges. Clear contrasts between light and dark.
There is too much noise. Too much commotion. Too much emotion. Too much promotion of desires pinned along with my precious hopes which I clutch onto like straws that I’ve been keeping in my pocket for months on end. The straws are not crisp cylinders of equal roundness. They are squished and bent due to the movement of my physical body in space. Those straws of hope are deformed within the capri pant pockets of my running trousers when I run away from my problems and step forward into my future. Those straws of hope are what I grasp onto with sweaty over-worked palms. They are part melted and do not resemble their original aesthetic form….but the content is still the same. Isn’t it?
How have I changed since 1st January 2017? This is my year to shine. It is because I said at the start of the year that this is what it would be. And it has been.
I chased for the glinting jewels of success and am proud of my sparkling stash. What is a success to me is not what a success is to you and you. We are all different. Different wants, needs, hopes, dreams, talents, skills, attitudes, motivations, drivers- I can say with conviction that there are not a great many humans who resemble me. All diamonds are unique. No two stones are the same, even though the process by which they were formed is identical.
There is more public visibility about me than there has ever been in my life. I am feeling this acutely at the moment, as in two days time I’ll have had my first ever appearance of the regional TV news. Whilst that does not make me a celebrity, it makes me considerably more notorious on Monday, after this is aired, than Sunday, the day before the interview has beamed the screens.
We all sit with these widescreen boxes in the corner of our living rooms, or we look at the widescreen flat thing attached to the wall if you’re posh, and I bet every one of us has at some point imagined ourself with our face in the box. My husband has already been on the television, but his onscreen debut was a silent role as “tense audience member” when we went to watch the live recording of Channel 4’s ‘Deal or No Deal’. His face filled the screen looking gripped with tension as was the requirements to be selected by camera five for that few seconds of “tense audience member” footage required.
What I am doing is rather more personal and scary and tense, than the unimaginable tension of wondering what box the deal or no deal contestant would open next and whether the person would get to take his grandkids to Disneyland or not.
My face will be filling that widescreen box and my mouth will be moving saying words that are difficult to say. Things such as “I was abused” “I am a survivor of trauma” “I have Borderline Personality Disorder” and “I was admitted to St George’s (the acute psychiatric ward I stayed at). My face will be pictured and there are no voice corrupters to make me anonymous and unrecognisable. It is me, saying all that, on telly.
This is what I wanted and what I still want, but anything that happens for the first time ever will slightly freak me out and up my anxiety a notch. It’s evitable.
I wonder how I will feel the first time I do the school run, the first time I go to the shops, the first time I walk the dogs afterwards. Who will see it? Will everyone see it? If they see it, will they tell me they’ve seen it? Will I get complete strangers approaching me when I’m out in town saying they recognise me from the telly? Will people say nice things? Will people say judgemental stigmatising attacking things? Will there be gossip? Will there be praise? Will there be indifference? All these questions will go unanswered until the times comes when they are answered (whenever that is next week and beyond).
The first time a blog post went out on national Mind social media feed and on the top stories section on their website I bricked it. I felt tense and sick. I’d got what I wanted, but I also had no way of knowing how it would feel to have my writing and my personal thoughts and experiences read and dissected by complete strangers who would then leave comments.
People can sometimes be very ballsy on social media and sometimes forget there is a person behind that post who has a heart and feelings. They state their views on what you’ve written as though you are some useless writer pleb who almost doesn’t exist.
If you put yourself out there as a writer, or in a televised interview, you are usually not doing it because you are a robot. Most people who are prompted and driven to tell personal stories in the media about their personal life experiences do so out of a genuine wish to be of benefit to others. We do it because we have a heart that wants to help others. We do it because we want people to nod their heads when they’re reading or watching at home in recognition. We want people to see aspects of themselves in us, match themselves up, relate, and then benefit from what we say. We do it because we want to be role models.
In my case I want to destroy stereotypes about what people who have diagnosed personality disorders are like. I want to show we can look ‘normal’, maybe even semi-attractive, yet still be very unwell. There are so many myths and bullshit beliefs out there that I want to correct. I want to demonstrate that even people with nice homes and nice kids and nice husbands, surrounded by wall to wall niceness can still be one of the one in four with mental health disorders requiring professional treatment. I was told once I can’t be clinically depressed, because I’m too pretty! I have been also informed by some bright spark that I was “wasting my good looks” being depressed and I should just be grateful to look like I look. That is something I immediately threw in the imaginary bin in my head named BOLLOCKS. The lovely TV reporter who did the interview sent me two stills from the reel of me and my family to ‘show you how great you look’. I want to not look great though. I want to be great. I want my personal contribution to banishing stigma be great. I want people watching to be inspired or to have their attitudes shifted in more balanced and realistic directions. I want to de-shame people who have diagnosed mental health problems undergoing treatment.
That is the greatness I want to be in the world.
I am not sure social media is good for me generally, being as sensitive to people as I am, but here I am. I am not sure how good it is for me to form friendships with strangers over the internet, but here I am, talking and writing to you-whoever you are, in whatever country you live in. Here I am. Loud, proud, scared, exposed, nervous, apprehensive, buzzing, vulnerable, wanting to hide yet wanting to be seen all at the same time.
It;s psychologically an upheaval for me. It’s all new. I tasted large scale exposure with the Mind vlog, then the two blogs, then the PharmaTimes article and the NHS piece. Those have been my biggies….my biggest claims to notoriety so far. But the telly piece is the most exposure.
I can hide all I want but I can’t ignore myself, looking into the barrel of the camera telling everyone in the North-East of England my once private story. I have asked for a web link to include on my blog so hopefully I can share with you guys- all you unknown people out there. I don’t even know what you look like, what are your real names, where in the world you live, what jobs you do, how you like your tea, your favourite colours, what your laugh sounds like, what your face looks like when you crumple up and cry, but people will know me. People will know bits about what happened to me. My anonymity is gone and there is no going back, only forwards, carrying my straws of hope that I’ve been clutching that are bent and deformed in my body heat warmed pocket. Hope that I’ll be ok and my family will be ok and no bad things will happen as an outcome of this public bravery.
But until I know I’m ok, PTSD me will be hyper vigilant, looking for threat, looking for potential trouble. It’s brave to put your face in the widescreen box in the corner. I’m apprehensive, but my god I’ll be proud when this is aired.
Phase one of starting to shine in 2017 will soon be complete.
January to May 8th (TV debut) will be done and dusted, still clutching my straws of hope for the rest of this shiny year. A HUGE big thanks to Mind Media team, who have been bloody FANTASTIC in their support of me :)