The Art of Is

It’s World Mental Health Day. I have thoughts and feelings about this, but that’s not why I’m writing, so I am going to push those to one side whilst I write what I’m actually thinking about.

For a long time, my OCD (or anxiety, or something) has stopped me from writing about my achievements. I begin to share something good that has happened; something I have achieved; that I have been feeling happy, and a little voice in my head says, ‘But you can’t say that, or everything will go wrong’.

This, of course, is not logical. If everything were to go wrong because somebody said something good about their lives, appraisals and therapy sessions would be very different beasts. Telling someone that you are quite happy with your life doesn’t mean that you are going to be smited with the misery and unluckiness stick by some unknown force. Karma may be a bitch, but I’m not entirely sure she’s that bothered about people who are trotting along in their own happy way.

So, some good things have happened to me recently: I finished my NQT year; I started working full time in a job I love (despite all the moaning I do!) and I was nominated for a Mind Media Award. This has made me feel very happy.

I was supposed to be going to sleep now, but instead I am writing this because I had a thought and I wanted to see if it made as much sense on paper (or screen) as it does in my head.

I used to think that there was an end point to all of this. There was a song that was released for Children in Need during my last year of university (and the last winter before I was admitted to hospital). It was a cover version of Avicii’s Wake Me Up, sung by various talented teenagers and John Craven, among other celebrities. I went through (quite a long) phase of listening to it on repeat, wishing and wishing that the chorus

wake me up when it’s all over

when I’m wiser and I’m older

would come true. I hoped and hoped that I would wake up one day, fully recovered, ready to eat a cream cake and go a whole week between showers.

I spent a long time waiting for this day. Sometimes, it felt like it was never going to come. Other times, I thought it was really, really close: almost within touching distance.

You think, don’t you, that I’m going to spend the rest of this post writing about how I’ve reached it; how you can reach it too.

I’m not.

I’ve come to believe that my ‘end point’ is fictional.

There is no end because my mental health is part of me. It’s the part of me that makes me anxious and obsessive and gives me all the symptoms of Anorexia that are part of my daily life, but it’s also the part of me that slowed me down; taught me to think about things more deeply; gave me a love of poetry and music. It’s the part of me that led me to friends; to my job; to my relationship with my family.

And those are all things that I’m grateful for. My life is good: I have everything I want and more. But that isn’t to the exclusion of Anorexia and Anxiety and Depression and OCD. That isn’t because of Anorexia and Anxiety and Depression and OCD.

It simply is.

It is because I am.

And this year, I want to share with you the joy of being.

You do not have to recover for good things to happen to you. Good things are not exclusively reserved for the mentally healthy; just as bad things are not reserved for those struggling with their mental health.

The joy of being; the art of being is peaceful.

For me, the art of being is knowing that, although I might live with various mental illnesses for the rest of my life, I can be with them – recognise them as part of me – , that they are not to be feared. Somehow, when you’re not scared of something, or of the effect that something is going to have, it loses all its power.

Because, alongside the mental illness, I will also just be. Good things will happen. Bad things will happen.

I am human.

I am.

Your mental health doesn’t change who you are.

We know that it is true that other people’s perceptions should not be altered by knowledge of our mental health, but neither should our own.

For me, this World Mental Health Day is about celebrating that I am.

And no amount of illness can take that away from me.


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