I campaign for health, mental health in particular on the Isle of Wight (where I live). When I first contacted my local MP in 2014 he replied (along the lines of) he wasn’t aware there was a problem on the island…
I replied to him that people with mental health issues are some of the least likely people to contact figures of influence to ask for help. You see, I continued, we are talking about some of the most vulnerable, exhausted, isolated, frightened individuals in your constituency, and I am here as one of that group. He smiled at me kindly then looked mildly bemused.
It was at that time that I realised there was a lot of work to do.
I’ve fought personal mental health issues since I was a teenager. I’ll be 34 this month, so that’s half my life. I’ve experienced physical health challenges as well, including a back injury that left me unable to walk for some time and jeopardised my ability to do my job as a building surveyor.
People who have had physical injuries aren’t told to snap out of it or get over it as much as people who experience mental health issues. It’s not right. I refuse to call them problems, or disorders, as much as I wouldn’t call someone in a wheelchair “crippled” or another person “useless”. Everyone is useful. Everyone has talent, skill, potential…
I started asking why from a young age. Growing up with an abusive parent in a household with domestic violence, I was told to be quiet, but I didn’t do as I was told. I got expelled from school because I wasn’t compliant or conformist. Then I saw the charming man I fell in love with and married, turn into a controlling and demeaning character that for a time left me feeling afraid to leave my own home.
Yet I’m glad I didn’t fit into the school system – I found my own way through college and onto university. My relationship may have crashed and burned but since it ended I have met numerous people who feel lonely, afraid, anxious, dependent upon substances and/or relationships that are not healthy, and have been struggling to find their voice.
I have become it for them. I speak for the vulnerable, because I have been there, I am still there, and I will be there for some time.
This is why I’m not afraid of politicians or authority figures who might attempt to placate me with kind words and then do nothing proactive. I have a rebellious spirit and this is why I will continue to fight for my family and friends with mental health issues every single day.
I still have panic attacks. I still have depression. I still have anxiety and I am still waiting for a diagnosis as to whether I have bipolar. Yet I am not a sufferer – I am a survivor, and as long as I am breathing, I will continue to fight for those who are too scared, unwell, vulnerable or anxious to fight anymore. I may still be happysad, but I’m not stopping yet…
If you’d like to tell me your story or share your ideas for how to make things better, or you’re having a bad day and would like to say hello, I’d love to hear from you. Come and join me on twitter @KnittingYogurt