There’s no obvious feeling of excitement as yet, rather an increasing realisation that my mental health experiences (and therefore by definition part of my life story) are about to be shared to a far wider audience that I could ever have imagined. I haven’t yet managed to fully deal with the nervousness – which borders on anxiety at times – caused by both that realisation and the uncertainty about how the book will be received … or maybe how I will be perceived.
What people think of me or my story really shouldn’t matter … but I am all too aware that it does. A lack of confidence or self-worth (or maybe just a desire to be “liked”) is an aspect of many mental health conditions that can weigh particularly heavily. I am trying really hard not to dwell on how people might react, and focus on the positive elements of the process. I’m not there yet, but being able to talk about those worries and anxieties is certainly helping to give some sense of perspective.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, I’m far more comfortable with the content relating to my hundred challenges, but even though these chapters cover a wide range of often seemingly unrelated tasks, they never stray very far from the book’s central theme: it is fine to talk about mental health and equally fine to ask for help if you feel you are struggling.
As far as the overall cycle of diagnosis and treatment of mental illness is concerned, the awareness I am hoping to raise is only a small part – but one that I feel is vital. I would never profess to be an expert in all the different treatments, therapies and services that are available; but for me, talking is the first, the hardest and the biggest step of them all.
The availability or quality of those services will of course become relevant, but the best treatment in the world won’t help someone who doesn’t feel able to talk about how they are feeling, or how much they’re struggling.
So as far as posts, blogs or maybe (if I’m lucky) future talks and presentations are concerned, I’ll be concentrating on exactly the same themes that have driven me since the start of my “challenges” and right through the writing of the book.
There are plenty of people out there whose knowledge of the wider mental health system is far greater than mine; and I’ll leave it up to them to highlight or debate the important or complex issues. At my more simplistic end of the scale, there is still a stigma around mental health that needs to be challenged, and I just want to do whatever I can to raise awareness, and hopefully give even one person the belief and strength to talk…