A few months ago, I very publicly published a blog about my ongoing battle with depression. It was a ballsy move and one I wasn’t sure I was ready to share. I knew there would be mixed reactions; some would see it as weak, an admission of a chink in my armour. Others would see it as a liberating move, a shout out to the 1 in 4 people that suffer from mental health problems today.
I also felt that it was really important that I followed this piece up and that I didn’t just publish the blog, end of story. After all, when we have gone through any illness we go back to the doctor or hospital for a check up so a follow up to my first article was essential to my recovery.
Four months on and I can happily say that I am out of the woods and feeling so much stronger, healthier and happier.
Mental health is still a huge taboo and even though it is more and more prevalent today we are still met with a degree of misunderstanding and judgement.
In the last four months alone there have been at least five very high profile suicides. These include Kate Spade, Anthony Bourdain, Verne Troyer, Avicii and Sophie Gradon. It seemed I couldn’t go a week without reading another tragic story of someone who on the surface appeared to have “everything” but were so desperate that they saw no other way out. Its true that these people really do not want to die, they just don’t want to continue feeling the way they do and they can see no other option to ending their pain. This is something I never fully understood until I really researched mental health problems and I will be honest, ten years ago I would have been the first to call suicide selfish. What a difference a decade makes.
Most of you will recognise the names of the first four but perhaps not that of Sophie Gradon. Sophie was a beautiful 32 year old model from Newcastle and a contestant from series 2 of Love Island. Love it, or hate it, but that show has made most of its contestants famous and relatively wealthy. If you looked at Sophie’s Instagram page, she appeared to have it all. Sadly, this was not the case and on 20th June this year she took her own life. She reached out to friends about how she was feeling but this was possibly too little too late. It was well known that she was bullied by online trolls around her appearance, her life and her choices. The pressure clearly became too much. Tragically, her boyfriend took his own life less than two weeks after her, unable to cope with his grief.
It would seem that the pressure on these celebrities, actors, chefs, sports people is all so much that eventually they crumble and unless they have the best support network this problem is not going to get better. In fact it seems to be getting much worse.
In an era where social media is King, where young people are online 24/7 instagraming and snapchatting their every move (with a filter on it of course!) they are living a life where everything needs to be approved and liked by total strangers. Unless they have this seemingly perfect persona and lifestyle they class themselves a failure; as do their followers.
Ellie Soutter is another example; an 18 year old snow boarder who piled so much pressure on herself to be a high achiever and not let the world down, that rather than failing she took her own life on her 18th birthday.
To a degree, I felt similar. Having a relatively high profile in business across Scotland, and the perfectionist I am, I put so much pressure on myself to continually get bigger, better, win more awards, achieve the un-achievable that something was inevitably going to explode. And it did. And it led to my depression. But I am extremely lucky. I have a fantastic support network, from close family, to friends and to my wonderful team at FSA. Self care and healing is crucial, as well as time off from social media and the constant need to “impress other people”.
I am glad that I am a child of the 70's and 80's and that I did not have to grow up in 2018. All these social media channels that put enormous pressure on young people today that we just never had to contend with. Its no wonder so many struggle with mental health issues.
So what is the solution? I'm afraid I don’t have the answer. However, I engage with many people on twitter who are going through recovery and its really good to hear stories from those that have struggled and are still struggling. They come from all walks of life from all over the world. They don’t judge, they don’t criticise. The listen, they support and they celebrate your good days and send messages of hope on the bad ones.
What I do know is that I am the strongest I have been in three years. I am ready for new challenges and the next exciting chapter in my life whatever that may bring.
This will include my long awaited therapy puppy, "Calley", a cockapoo that I will be picking up in three weeks time.
My message would be this: Keep talking, even to strangers. Feelings of despair don’t last forever, they will pass and even on your darkest days there is always a light at the end of the tunnel.