Stop using mental health as bait

We all love to boo a pantomime baddie, but that’s usually because they’re stealing a magic lamp or weaving destructive magic spells. We know it’s all made up and we know they’ll get their comeuppance. But yet again, Katie Hopkins and Piers Morgan are enjoying the boos and hisses by taking their pantomime into real life. They’re baiting us with mental health stigma. Sadly, that’s not fictional.

MegaphoneBBC Question Time was a prime hook for the recent onslaught of mental health provocation with Katie Hopkins, rather predictably, tweeting:

‘Breaking news: it is possible to pay for mental health counselling privately if you save hard enough’.

Of course the mentally ill are fair game aren’t they. They’re bound to get upset and have a tantrum. That’ll get the Twitter engagement figures flying. That’ll land more controversial headlines.

It was much the same with Piers Morgan’s recent attacks on Will Young:

‘Will Young does not have PTSD. He has WNTS – Whiny Needy Twerp Syndrome.’

Mental health campaigner Denise Welch rightly called him out which resulted in more mud-slinging from the lovely Piers who called Denise a ‘publicity-starved bore’. Nice.

So why am I falling into the trap and talking about them some more? Because they already have the platform and the airtime. They already have the ears and eyes of millions of people. And they already have the power to influence. Sadly.

Continue reading

Review: How to be a Woman, by Caitlin Moran

Eeeehh I’m late to this one! As per.

How to be a womanCaitlin Moran, blowing the power of the princess out of the water and leaving it firmly agitating the heads of those who would rather ‘be’ than ‘do’. What a book. Although, I still stand by one princess. She-ra. She had it going on.

As someone who grew up dis-interested in the idea of the princess (my mum might have put me in a dress but I spent my spare time doing impressions of John McEnroe and racing Stuart Fleming on his BMX) it was a shame that it became my sole ambition to be one in my early twenties.

For some reason, I left my love of volcanoes, angsty music and drinking pints of Smooth behind and found myself heading to the RnB dance floors, complete with fake tan, brazilian and a bottle of Smirnoff Ice with one sole ambition. To not be single.

I can only cringe now when I look back. I spent most of my travels to Australia, New York and New Zealand trying to ‘be’ rather than ‘do’. Be first, do second. No wonder I didn’t take in the wonders of road-side koalas and thermal villages when I was so worried about the size of my jaw and keeping the old landing strip in check. Oh Caitlin, where were you when I needed you!

The book takes you through all the ridiculous notions we soak up as the truth when our self-esteem is low. The ideas that we think make us a woman. The ideas that seep in when you swap Courtney Love for Carrie Bradshaw as your hero. What!? Why did I ever do that.

We need to wear heels, buy designer handbags, be subservient. Be, be, be. While the men are out there having fun doing the doing. Doing us. Shit. That really is shit.

I’m not pretending for a moment that prior to my early twenties I was some kind of kick ass Courtney Love. But as a child I loved Spider Woman, the power and unpredictability of tectonic plates and jumping on my life-size dolly to see how far its head would fly across the garage floor. I was shy and quiet and really not great with the boys. I didn’t have much self-esteem, but I was moving in the right direction, with the right interests and idols.

Caitlin talks about encountering some sexism. I did too! Same place as she did – in the office. 17 years old, on work experience, and the guy in his 30s with newborn child and loving wife says to me ‘don’t tell anyone, but I might take you out one night‘. I reported it and was moved to another department.

So why, when I hit my twenties, did I delight in sexist attention (not married man attention, just ‘you’re nothing without a man’ kind of attention).

It wasn’t about things around me changing. It was about what I chose to have around me. It was about changing my expectations and my ambitions. About wanting to be more Cinderella than She-Ra. More Rapunzel than Spiderwoman. I wasn’t going to save me, some bloke with a terrible chat up line was as we danced to *shudders* Nelly or N-Sync in a bad, bad nightclub (I used to go to Spiders and dance to the Violent Femmes for fuck’s sake. What happened?)

Caitlin teaches us about doing and not simply being. About embracing the fact that we will get older everyday, and inch that bit closer to death. Because that makes today seriously special. She teaches us that princesses are boring as arse. Just being – wearing pretty dresses and tiaras and waiting for Prince Charming. Just waiting for something to happen to them. Sleeping Beauty was asleep – unconscious – until saved by the Prince. I guess I was unconscious in my twenties too. Waiting for someone to save me.

It’s all bullshit. I don’t want to proclaim that Caitlin Moran saved me. That I was just sitting here unconscious waiting to be kissed by Moran and propelled into reality. But she kind of does open your eyes to life.

Luckily, my brain started to wake up and realise its potential a few years ago now – but we continue to learn every single day (something that Caitlin also reminds us – it’s never over. And to be honest, it would be boring if it was).

I met a real man. A proper one. He’s not the perfect fairytale prince (he deep fries my halloumi!). But he’s aces. We can spend hours playing our own version of Mallett’s Mallett, we are addicted to watching Police Camera Action and Monkey Life together and find both enjoyment and fury debating today’s terrifying politics. As Caitlin Moran says in the book: “Compared to that, Prince Charming looks like a total donk.”

My counsellor has recently encouraged me to ‘liberate’ myself. And funnily enough, I’ve had some pretty instant reactions from my other half when he’s seen me dancing around the kitchen to Get Off My Cloud by the Stones, in my pyjamas belting out a terrible Mick Jagger impersonation that could only be described as strangled cat crossed with Katie Price live. He bloody wanted me in that moment. Me – doing, liberating, enjoying the moment, dancing with life rather than trying to grind it to a halt with plastic surgery and hold-your-stomach-in pants.

Over the years, my main influences went from Spiderwoman to Madonna to Courtney Love to Carrie Bradshaw to Caitlin Moran. I’d do it all over again – minus Carrie Bradshaw. You’re really not a liberal woman just because you’re having sex in the city (I know it’s ‘and’ but it doesn’t quite work here). You might be having sex in the city but if you’re holding in your farts, wanking over pricey Blahniks (that’s also inspired by a great line from Ms Moran) and making a career out of being unable to help wondering about why men think what they think about you, you’re not really very liberated are you?

Ditch your Mulberry handbag and SATC love affair ladies. Instead, pick up How to be a Woman. You’ll not regret it. Not one bit.

 

 

 

 

It’s behind you!

As part of my therapy, my counsellor asked me to write a metaphorical story about me, as a child, and my struggles. So this is a little story about anxiety and the upbeat parts of my personality that I wouldn’t give away – the excitable parts. Would I swap my excitability if it would take away my panic? I’m not sure I would.

I’ll be taking this with me next therapy session to discuss it. Which is kind of nerve wracking. But here goes…


She opened her eyes. They were still sticky from sleep and she struggled to make out the shapes of her teddy bears sitting in a neat row at the bottom of her bed. The dust was floating calmly in the sunshine as it shone through the gap in the floral curtains.  The mass of teddy-like shapes gradually sharpened up and she could make out her favourite bear.

It was morning.

But wait. What was that? Was that a dark shadow lurking behind her purple woollen bear?

She couldn’t be sure. It vanished in an instant. But the image hung heavy in the air, weighing down on her shoulders and causing her toes to curl tightly into an awkward stretch.

She needed to be sure. She had to find it. Where had it gone? It was definitely there, wasn’t it?

One by one she lifted all of the teddy bears from their resting place at the foot of the bed. It was time they got up anyway. She placed her favourite bear on the laundry basket. There was nothing there. It must have left already. But what was it?

A feeling of unease rippled over her. She clenched her jaw and leapt up out of bed, determined to find the shadowy thing lurking beneath her bunk bed before it found her. She took a deep breath and peered cautiously between the gap of the cream berber carpet and the varnished pine slats. There were shadows everywhere, morphing into the darkness behind Buckaroo and Hungry Hippos. The darkness created shapes that appeared to move and dance in a menacing rhythm.

Wait! What’s that Knight Rider car doing in the middle of the carpet!? She was sure she hadn’t played with it in weeks. Had she? Had the shadowy thing moved it? Had it created a dark force that could change everything. Buckaroo and Hungry Hippos became ugly. The car took on a life of its own. Her life was in peril.

With her fingers trembling she reached out to pick up the car. It was her favourite car. She loved Knight Rider. But now it was tainted. It had been at the mercy of the shadow. There was something terribly, terribly dreadful about it.

She opened the wardrobe with the wooden slatted doors and threw the car so that it hit the back of the wall, fell, and made an eerie sound with its wheels clanking and buzzing as it collapsed awkwardly into a heap of discarded toys. She closed the door. She walked away. But the pull of the shadows drew her back…

Peering through the slats she searched out the shadows. They seemed to be everywhere now. All around her. They felt threatening. But she couldn’t make out for certain exactly where or what they were. She couldn’t make out a definite outline. But she knew they were there. Taunting her, jeering at her. They felt deathly and heavy and she was sure she could hear them whisper. There was definite danger. It was imminent. She felt sick.

Me grinningShe took a deep breath and walked down the stairs. Her mum was in the kitchen. She was glad she was safe. The kitchen felt brighter and smelt of toast. Her mum had the round ends of the toast and her dad had the square ends. Lucy liked her toast to be light. But it wasn’t quite light enough today. She rejected half a slice pulling her nose into a sneer and pushing away her plate. It wasn’t quite the toast she loved.

She walked into the lounge and felt a little tap on her shoulder. She turned in shock. In horror. Had it followed her down the stairs? Her mum was behind her.

‘Did you see that?’ she gasped.

‘Yes I did.’ said her mum with a smile. ‘It was Mighty Mouse’.

Oh wow! Mighty Mouse. She KNEW he had to be real. He was her favourite ever mouse. She liked Danger Mouse, Mickey and Minnie were fun and she thought Jerry was a hoot. But Mighty Mouse was THE BEST MOUSE.

She couldn’t sit still. She felt another tap on her shoulder.

‘Mum, mum, Mighty Mouse just tapped me again’.

‘Yes he did’ said her mum.

Every time she wasn’t looking Mighty Mouse appeared behind her, teasing her. She imagined him giggling and winking at her mum. She loved that her mum could see him and knew she must be special or he wouldn’t have visited her house. He was in HER HOUSE! How could something this brilliant happen.

She wandered back up the stairs, full of hope at the thought of encountering a super hero of the mouse variety again.

The bedroom was light and the dust particles were dancing happily in the rays. There was anticipation in the air bobbing through the light and twirling around her in excitement.

But wait? What was that? Did she just see her teddy bear move? She was sure he was sitting up straight on the laundry bin when she went downstairs. She’d placed him there when she was looking for that shadow thing.

How had her bear moved?

She knew what it had to be. She was so excited she could burst. Her house was coming alive with teddy bears and super hero mice and all the wonderful types of things she watched Emily enjoy in Bag Puss. And it was happening to her. It was magical. It was amazing. This was the BEST DAY OF HER LIFE.

She left the room and hid in the bathroom. When she sloooowwly, quietly crept back in, she knew she was going to see her teddy bears dancing and picnicking and partying in her room.

Her heart sank. Her teddy hadn’t moved. There was no Bag Puss party. There was no Mighty Mouse. Reality hit. She wasn’t that special. She hadn’t been visited by real live teddy bear creatures after all. She had nothing to report to her friends at play group.

She collapsed on her bed. And looked up to the ceiling, deflated and sad.

Wait! What was that? Did a dark shadow just dart across the room?

EastEnders: Is it wrong to portray somebody with mental illness talking to themselves?

This will probably go down like a lead balloon….and I will state right away that I am completely happy to be challenged on this – you might even change my mind…but here goes…

I know that there has been upset regarding the Lisa Fowler storyline in EastEnders. Her character returned to the Square and within days was seen talking to herself in what people believe is a stereotyped portrayal of mental illness. But there’s something that I, personally, think we are getting confused with regarding portrayals of mental health.

Whilst I don’t believe we should betray people as scary, frightening and irrational, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t portray mental illness in that way. It is, after all, pretty scary sometimes.

So I think with this EastEnders storyline, it all depends on what happens next. It all depends on the context. Do we get to see Lisa the person, or do we only get to see Lisa the ‘crazy person’? That’s when I might want to raise a complaint. But I’ll give it a little time yet.

I have to make something clear before I go on, I haven’t experienced psychotic symptoms myself, so I am quite prepared to put my hands up and say I’m wrong if challenged. However, I have witnessed psychotic symptoms first hand when they have blighted the lives of several of my friends when I was growing up.

If we become too consumed with stigma and confused about why we challenge it, we might shy away from showing the distress that mental illness can cause for the individual and perpetuate the idea that everyone’s ‘a bit OCD’ at times

If that was all I could remember of my friends that would be terrible. But it isn’t, of course. Because mental illness was just a part of their lives. I could tell you so many brilliant things about them but I wouldn’t want to risk naming them – because it’s not my place to do so. But if I make a point of thinking about the psychotic behaviours I saw, they were, in fact, frightening at times- more so for them than for me I must add. But nonetheless, it wasn’t a walk in the park. There were sometimes strange conversations and they did sometimes attract attention in public. Much like I have when I have suffered a panic attack that brought me to my knees or anxiety that had me convinced that I was hallucinating (a frantic hour that led me to pull a bag of hay out of the dustbin three times to check that I hadn’t imagined the mites I had removed from the chicken coop).

Talking to yourself isn’t confined to psychosis, either. I have paced the front room frantically repeating a phrase over and over mid panic, and only two weeks ago found myself doing something similar whilst driving the car on the A1 in an attempt to stop the ‘inevitable’ crash or black out I was convinced might be heading my way.

The reason I bring this up is because mental illness is often ugly. It doesn’t mean that the people who suffer are though – and that’s what we need to remember. My profile picture on Twitter does not show a terrified and anxious wallflower. But an occasional tweet might tell you that I am terrified at that moment in time.

If we become too consumed with stigma and confused about why we challenge it we might shy away from showing the distress that mental illness can cause for the individual and perpetuate the idea that everyone’s ‘a bit OCD’ at times. Or the idea that if somebody suffers brief palpitations before giving a presentation in front of an audience then they probably have an anxiety disorder. If we are scared of showing what mental illness has the potential to do to us we are giving Piers Morgan more ammunition to call us whiny, needy, twerps.

So I do think its important to show the distress – as long as it doesn’t cloud the personality. If Lisa leaves the Square immediately following her psychotic breakdown, or we see her attacking Louise (let’s remember, she hasn’t tried to hurt her, has she?) then I’ll be writing to points of view. But if the story pans out to allow us to see the empathy, the recovery and the love she has for her daughter, then I think it’s not such a bad thing after all.

What do you think?

Lucy x

 

 

 

 

 

 

Book Review: If They Could See Me Now Author: Denise Welch

Denise bookI read this within 24 hours. As the first sentence in a review of a 350+ page book, that says quite a lot. I barely put it down – in fact, I think my copy will have my breakfast crumbs firmly embedded in the pages now…

This is Denise’s first novel – and I admit I am a little behind as it was published in early 2016. Late to the party – again! But I’m glad I turned up eventually.

The story focuses on Harper, a 53 year old with a rich husband living the high life in Cheshire with the ladies that lunch. So I wasn’t convinced I would relate, but I thought I’d give it a whirl…

Thing is, this isn’t so much about the superficial bits of Harper’s life – other than showing how truly superficial they are. It’s a study of relationships, love, abuse, bullying, self-esteem, mental health and independence. It explores how the family dynamic impacts on each member and reinforces a particularly important lesson in life – that you should never lose sight of who you really are.

Harper makes a huge sacrifice for love. Or at least, for what she wants to believe is love. And this story shows that abuse doesn’t have to have physical signs. That bullying doesn’t have to involve fighting. In fact, what’s important in this story is that the person experiencing the bullying and abuse may not even realise it. And when you paint a smile on your face, nobody else need realise either.

How many of us have sacrificed parts of ourselves for somebody else? I know I have many years ago. I look back and think, perhaps it was because I was young? Perhaps I was naive. But it’s not just about being young and naive, it’s far more complicated. It’s often impossible to see it when you’re on the inside. When you believe that this is the best that love has to offer. When your self-esteem has hit an all time low. Sometimes, you can’t even see that, either.

I don’t want to give too much away, but I think what is also incredibly thought-provoking in this book is the impact that relationships can have on the wider family. And how within a family, it isn’t simply a series of individual relationships, but a bigger, whole relationship with individual parts and bonds that all react to one another – both positively and negatively.

It’s about love. Who you truly are, who you love, and allowing a little love for yourself, too. It’s not about neutralising one for the sake of the other. It’s about combining and accepting all the best, and worst, bits of each other, of a family, and making something really special. It’s the only way to thrive. Compromising who you are is a strong indicator of something toxic creeping in…

But can Harper see that? Give it a read and find out.

If they could see me now which is published by Little Brown is available to buy online – click here to order.

Panorama – a prescription for propaganda

So the recent Panorama has caused some controversy. It was entitled ‘A prescription for murder’ and was supposedly an investigation into the dangerous effects of antidepressants.

In my view, it was wholly unfair and served to reinvigorate stigma around medication. Of course, I’m not suggesting that taking SSRIs is a risk free business, and I am certainly not suggesting that serious reactions do not exist. I was, however, accused of doing so after publishing an article with the i Newspaper. My problem was with the portrayal. Not with the idea that some people may experience frightening symptoms.

Click here to read my i News article. I’d love to know your thoughts on the topic as well so please do comment below.

 

Psychology – I’m a believer!

Psychology has long fascinated me. But I never truly believed that psychological approaches would work for me in quite the way they seem to be right now. I never believed they could have a long-lasting, deep rooted effect. But much like The Pixies, Courtney Love and, sadly, Sun-In spray-on hair bleach (my locks haven’t been quite the same since the early 90s) I think something really is beginning to have an impact.

Given that I’ve had almost as many therapists as I’ve had hair colours over the years, I must make it clear that none of it was a waste of time. I’m not contributing to the suction of resources from the NHS for a giggle. All my sessions have helped in some way or another, and I have never forgotten the CBT tool and tactics that I picked up along the way.

The difference today, however, is that my therapy has shifted from symptom management to tackling the meaning behind my anxiety.

Now the meaning of my anxiety has always been as vague to me as the meaning of a Pixies song (I bloody love ‘Caribou’, I wanted it as my wedding song, but WTF is Black Francis on about – ‘I live cement, I hate this street, give dirt to me’??).

image2(3)

Sleep – one of my favourite things. Not recently something I’ve been very good at.

I guess the reason behind this apparent murkiness of meaning is laziness. I never truly believed that I could find any meaning to it, so I tried about as hard to find it as I did to pass my Law A Level. I just let the idea wash over me and carried on Googling sinister illnesses and then minimising the impact of said Google searches with CBT. Talk about sticking plasters.

But amazingly, when you let yourself open up to the idea, so much stuff magically appears in the front of your mind. So much stuff from your childhood. So many memories of feelings and behaviours that keep repeating themselves in my adulthood.

I panic when my husband goes snorkelling. To the point of begging him not to go back into the sea or to stay where I can see him, rather than going where the beautiful fishes are and enjoying himself. But I remember now that I felt the same about my dad when I was a kid. He used to go out for miles and I would feel unsettled until he returned.

However, when it came to me, I loved nothing more than jumping the waves on the Newquay beaches during the surf festival as a kid. I would stay there for as long as I possibly could with my sister, eventually realising that the tide had gone out so far that we were all of a sudden miles away from our wind break, sandcastles and now predictably warm and gritty sarnies. But we didn’t care.

‘Can the three girls jumping the waves in the surfing area please return to the beach. I REPEAT, CAN THE THREE GIRLS IN THE SURFING AREA RETURN TO THE BEACH IMMEDIATELY’.

Cue me, my sis and our best mate Pippa almost getting skewered by a surf board and a lifeguard on secondment from Bondi Beach seriously losing his Aussie cool.

So there is possibly something to consider here. As a little girl, I wanted to have fun, I wanted to take risks but I was also terrified of people getting hurt. It’s as big a conflict as deciding whether you’re a (commercial) rave fan or a (mainstream) grunge fan in high school in the early 90s. It’s a hellish conflict!

So I can see this now. I can see this little girl desperate to have fun but terrified of the world around her. And last night, in bed, when I felt as though heart palpitations were sneaking in, when I remembered the last time I had a major panic attack was after consuming pizza, chips and beer too, instead of losing myself in panic central, I imagined that little girl. Me. And I imagined giving her a hug.

Little meDon’t laugh. No, please don’t. I’m honestly not a hippy dippy love type channelling my inner soul and all that stuff. But it really worked! I have an image in my head of me, as a little girl, aged about four, wearing a navy dress with a little boat on it (how apt), sitting in a chair and wearing my white blonde hair tied up in a ponytail. And I imagined cuddling her (in reality, I was cuddling Tumba – my cuddly monkey hot water bottle). I imagined feeling her hair under my chin and slightly messing up her hairstyle with the hug. And then I fell fast asleep.

I woke up still clutching Tumba. There had been no panic attack. I slept through the night.

This might be a coincidence. But given that my last counselling session was on Thursday, and I have had two bloody brilliant sleeps since, it’s worth the effort to keep going. It’s worth it because it means I might be able to keep consuming my caffeinated Diet Coke and still get to sleep. It’s worth it because it will allow me to conserve my energy at night, rather than waste it all panicking about something imaginary like having a fatal illness that doesn’t even exist. And surely that’s more ridiculous than imagining that I’m giving my child self a hug?

However, as much as I love ‘Caribou’, I’m still not convinced I will find the real meaning there. So if anyone else wants to enlighten me, please go ahead.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Show me purpose and I’ll raise you a fighter

Family

My ultimate purpose – family

Anyone who’s in the not-so-exclusive club of the 9 million peeps who have read ‘Man’s search for meaning’ by Viktor E Frankl will totally get this. I’ve not even finished it, but I’m finding it as inspirational as Madonna’s Virgin Tour was to the eight year old me. But unlike the queen of pop, the king of spiritual enlightenment, Frankl, will not be going off trend any time soon. And he is not encouraging me to walk the village streets wearing purple lipstick and lacy fingerless gloves. That was the 80s. Frankl wrote this in the 40s – and it is still as relevant and widely accepted today. Unlike Madonna’s fashion sense.

There’s a quote in there by Nietzche and its theme runs throughout:

He who has a why to live can bear with almost any how.

Wow. That’s quite a statement. Especially once you learn that Frankl experienced the Holocaust.

Now the Holocaust is too horrific to even contemplate. But my god, if people can find hope during times like that, we sure as hell owe them an attempt at finding hope in our world today. So this idea of having a ‘why’ can be applied to almost any situation.

Finding purpose

I once had a job where I was treated unfairly. During that time, I lost days to anger, anxiety and a few too many bottles of wine. My mornings were peppered with tears and involved me hollering at my loved ones for absolutely no reason whatsoever. Every day I’d get on the bus to work and sit obsessing over my anxiety symptoms, believing I might have throat cancer or worse because it felt like my breakfast bagel was lodged in my throat when in reality, all that was lodged in my throat was a big ball of stress. And possibly a 24-hour reminder that cheap wine has the same effect on the throat as a strong wallpaper stripper does on wood chip.

Basically, I was going through the motions. Living life without seeing anything beyond the monotony of the utter shite that was work. If you become consumed with the shit storm, you’re going to miss the gentle breeze that blows around it and the little rays of sunshine that offer up the all important vitamin D. You’re going to forget who you are and who you love. And you’re going to forget the ‘why’.

You’ll no longer laugh at Sarah Millican’s ‘taking the bins out’ joke. Kylie will no longer manage to get your arse up off the sofa and wiggling round the kitchen while cleaning the oven. And you’ll not even notice that your husband is wearing ridiculous Sponge Bob pants that practically glow in the dark.

And then, one day, you decide that fate isn’t your master. Fuck that. Where the hell have I been for the past six months? All of a sudden, Sarah Millican tells the world she got knocked up by Mr Kipling and I nearly pee my pants. And speaking of pants, my husband’s are shining so brightly his arse appears to be radioactive. I am once more Spinning Around with Mr Muscle in the kitchen and wiggling my own arse (please take note, in our house, we both clean the oven. And we both put the bins out. In literal and Sarah Millican terms – but enough of that filth I don’t write for Razzle).

I remembered that I could deal with the shit in my own unique way. I didn’t have to lose myself to other people’s actions. Win or lose, I knew that I would feel calmer by fighting through it, rather than letting the mucky whirlpool of water drown me out silently.

Weirdly, by taking on what seemed like a load more stress (i.e. applying for new jobs, battling a legal fight), my anxiety levels started to drop and my confidence started to tell me that I was way stronger than I thought. So strong, in fact, that if I spilt a drink over Courtney Love in a bar I could hold my own in the ensuing fist fight (sometimes, you can get a little over excited with new found strength I guess).

I chose to be myself in the situation and not some kind of rapidly expiring lost soul waiting for fate to sort things out for me.

It’s the same with mental illness isn’t it? You can feel like its kicking you down into the pits of hell, but what seems at the time to be the smallest step towards recovery (often talking about it with your GP) sends a great big ray of light towards you. It’s not cleared the black menacing clouds yet, but you know it might be on its way. And that little ray is enough to keep you going.

There’s a wonderful scene at the end of Denise Welch’s award-winning film about depression, Black Eyed Susan, where she sees the golden light shine through the curtains. That moment changes everything.

I’ve fought that fight and many more (believe me, there’s a few people better off since I challenged the inconsistency of bus fares on the Gosforth to City Centre route a couple of years ago. Esther Rantzen eat your heart out).

Public speaking

I’ve overcome a fear of public speaking to be able to use it for a purpose

But it’s not just about fighting. It’s about purpose in its broader sense. What is our role in life? For me it’s about loving my infuriatingly annoying but wonderful and eccentric family. It’s about cooking my stepson his favourite veggie chilli. Or singing so badly to Bonnie Tyler that it makes my husband start his Monday morning with a chuckle as he leaves for work. It’s about being part of a family of animal lovers who rescue poorly hedgehogs and birds. And of overcoming a fear of public speaking allowing me to speak out passionately against mental health stigma.

There’s so much I still have to do.  And to learn, of course.

There’s more to life than the Tories striking a deal with the DUP. There’s more to life than the fact that Donald Trump got into politics and that Katie Hopkins has a few too many ignorant Twitter disciples. Because if there wasn’t we wouldn’t really have any reason to care about these what these complete dicksplats get up to would we? We’d have no reason to fight the arrogance and intolerance if there wasn’t a bright side to life. If there wasn’t hope.

Some of my ‘whys’ are above. The ‘how’ can be pretty difficult at times. But the ‘whys’ trump the ‘hows’ every time. I’d love to hear your ‘whys’ too. You don’t need to be famous or running the country to have them. I mean, those who are running countries seem to have forgotten what theirs even are don’t they….