I thought I would be excited by now, but publication is perhaps just too far away and the writing process too recently completed for any great sense of anticipation. Hopefully that situation will soon start to change as the former draws ever closer, and I’m definitely looking forward to working with Hope on the promotion of the book.
My parents had the opportunity to read the final draft a couple of weeks ago. I’m sure prospective readers will understand that their reaction – along with that of my wife Elaine - was (and will always be) the most important; and the fact Mum and Dad’s response was so positive means the world.
I don’t have any real idea who will read the book. Hopefully some will be family members or close friends; others may well be total strangers. Some will have made or are still making a real difference to me and my life, but even though I never took Biology ‘O’ level, I think I can state with total confidence that without Mum and Dad I wouldn’t be here at all … so having their “approval” (if that’s the right word) on top of a lifetime of love and support is everything any son or daughter could hope for.
Obviously, as parts of the book are based around lived mental health experiences, there are some sections that are quite tough to read, but other chapters relate the stories behind many of the 100 “challenges” I have completed to try and raise mental health awareness. My aims were to offer a book that is raw and real, powerful, positive, occasionally uplifting and even less occasionally funny.
With the help of Stephanie at Trigger Press, I genuinely believe those aims have been achieved, but as with any good pudding, the proof will come once the contents have been objectively digested. I may not know some of my readers very well (or at all), but they will certainly learn a lot about me, and I am actually quite anxious about how the book – and by definition how I – will be received.
My reason for opening up about my own condition and for undertaking all the challenges was to show that is fine to talk about mental health, and it is also fine to ask for help if you’re struggling – and, in that regard, nothing has changed. If just one person finds the strength to talk, or the courage to ask for help after reading my story, then laying myself proverbially bare across 240-or-so pages will have been totally justified.
There are so many insightful and knowledgeable people on social media who are challenging mental health stigma; from offering inspirational quotes right through to questioning the timeliness and availability of services; all those people are amazing. I don’t really have any particular words of wisdom, nor do I know enough to recognise faults in the system … but I’ve still written a book.
And even if the messages it contains seem basic enough to be glaringly obvious, anyone who has taken that first tentative step towards some form of recovery knows just how daunting the reality actually is. I’m just an ordinary bloke (the “man on the Clapham omnibus” for those of a certain vintage); I’m neither brave nor particularly talented … but when I was at my lowest point I reached out for help it was there. I still struggle (most days if the truth be told), but I’m loved enough to want to fight, and strong enough to be able to fight.
It took many years for me to realise I was not alone … but my wish is that for someone out there, it might take just a few pages.
At the third stroke, it will be 53 days…