When I started this blog in either 2012 or 2013 it was meant as anything more than a personal outlet, a way to try and get encouraging messages out to myself. Other people, mainly my friends and acquaintances around uni took notice and praised me for what I was doing. Generally there was one line that I kept hearing repeated to me in these positive affirmations of my writing; “Black men don’t talk about this stuff”. Soon I realised that I had some ability to speak to and reach out to people dealing many different forms of mental illness. I wrote more. People started asking me to write for their blogs and websites. Then people started asking me to speak on podcasts and such like. Run workshops and the lot. I became some kind of activist and it was a mantle I very much took to. In fact it became more like a calling to me. This undying desire and drive to do my utmost to raise awareness of, openly discuss and in whatever small way I can help provide solutions about mental health issues, particularly those facing Black communities. That desire has never changed but, something has.
Starting this blog coincided with me accepting help for my mental illness after about five years of suffering in silence and outright denying I needed help or that much was really wrong in the first place. The initial years were honestly the most difficult of my life so far (big statement as I am only 26 but hey ho). There was a misdiagnosis leading to ineffective treatment for me, difficulty accessing the care I needed as I learned just how complicated healthcare can be if you are a student who has moved out. My education was a disaster with the star student moniker that followed me until sixth form a distant memory by the time I failed my second year. Little if anything went right for me until 2014. I was back at my parents’ house. I decided that this was going to be it. Every bit of energy I had would go towards the sole mission of me sorting out my mental health. Once and for good. And it worked. Well I thought it did anyway.
After some part time work and an exciting foray into the London spoken word scene I finally secured the arts marketing job I had been chasing, two years after I graduated. I was creatively, professionally and personally fulfilled. I was in the gym often, made sweet gainz and chucked a lot of clothes out coz man was getting too hench and dat. I was reaching more people with my activism. Someone gave me money to talk about mental health at Cambridge University. Fam, I barely finished uni myself so that was all very mad for me. I was the positive, shining face of recovery. Been through the storm and made it out the other end with a testimony ready for all willing to hear it. Life decided to not be that simple.
In the last two months two episodes have led me to the decision to re-enter therapy. I am nowhere near as unwell as I was in 2012 or even 2014 but I had to look at myself and accept that perhaps I was not as well as I thought. And that shook me more than I came to realise. At the time of writing it is #WorldMentalHealthDay and that’s a fact that has been heavy on my mind. I have seen Black men talking about mental health more and more. On bigger platforms, reaching more people, hopefully changing minds and lives for the better. I see Brothers who have, at least from what is presented, made it through the storm. I hope that gives hope to many. But I wanted to speak from the other side.
The last few months, this turn in my health has made me question things I did not think I would. I ask myself if I am the right person to be speaking about this subject. I wonder if a guy who has increasing numbers of breakdowns and 2am tweet and delete sessions is putting out the right message, sending the right signals #fortheculture. I self-censored. I deliberately stopped talking about mental health when mine took a tricky turn. I still spoke…mainly to my therapist. But I was no longer going to take on that mantle. I became a recluse to myself, started to ignore and turn down opportunities to continue my work. Because I no longer felt good enough. This is me know, Not feeling worthy to speak about my won experience because my mind finds ways to convince me that this is fact. This is me in the tricky, oh so sticky parts of the process. So I want to open up for those going through the rough road of recovery too.
It is rough. This is probably the first of many bumps I will face. It has been and still is tough. But I have dealt with it. I am dealing with it. I have done better than I did before in some places. Not so much in others. I found that the bottle is still too good a friend of mine in the dark. But also that I can bounce back quicker than I ever could. I can produce the most brutal self-doubt and still knock myself down at a whim but I can also push through when I need to. I know that I need to learn that nothing I have done is invalidated by my recent struggles and current view on myself. Nothing I know is erased. Be it my knowledge of my own health or the general issues that impact wider mental health on a societal level. I am still valid, I am still valuable. Perhaps I can embrace that it is I am not valuable because I suffered and succeed, but because I suffer and persist. Maybe you can embrace that too. As I said at the start, my journey to becoming a somewhat mental health activist did not start with me being some shining example of recovery. I was a mess in the days of my early posts and yet those posts brought so much good to me and I hope others who have come across me since. So in short I guess I am trying to say that maybe the day of your ‘greatest achievement’ was not your best day. Maybe just maybe, the day you just about survived really was…
a good day