There is a new book on the block, a new book which full-out lays bare mental health, and I am one of the proud contributors. A Day In My Head, presented by Aron Bennett (who has previously published The Walking Worried about his own battle with OCD) is quietly breaking ground and pushing barriers, to throw light on the real darkness of mental health. Brutal in its honesty, brilliant in its impact, this book feels as though it has been needed for a long while. A very long while. A stunning compilation of almost 100 pieces of writing, each written as a diary entry by someone with mental health issues, ranging from anxiety to schizophrenia, including eating disorders, depression, psychosis and survival of sexual abuse. It’s a heavy read. But a wholly challenging and fascinating one. It is heartbreaking and uplifting in totally equal measures. Some entries display hope while others most perfectly convey the hell inside an unwell head. As a fellow Norfolkian, I met up with Aron ahead of the book release to ask him why he chose to create this important project. I asked him if he feels there’s still a stigma surrounding talking about mental health? ‘Yes. What we are lacking is compassion‘ he told me ‘Hopefully reading people’s pieces will help go towards building some.’ Aron and I agreed on the fact that discrimination against people suffering with mental health issues is still massively prevalent and, that, is due to a lack of understanding, an ignorance of how important the health of your mind is, how the less people speak up, the more it gets neglected. So Aron took it upon himself to build this book. And I for one am thankful and impressed that he has. He scoured Twitter to find bloggers, charities linked to, and individuals suffering with mental health and managed to collate a group of 89 people, ranging from American porn starts to Iraqi refugees who were all willing to talk openly about their own very tough battle with mental illness.
This book shines a real light. Each piece is so personal and different, yet, there is a clear unison, there is a strong narrative that links every writer, we know ourselves so well and our illnesses so clearly because we struggle with them so inwardly and so relentlessly, that we all have a beautiful clarity and expertise when describing it. Lots of sufferers talk about sleep, talk about hiding in sleep, about sitting silently with their cat, about feeling alone, about feeling angry with their head. Many pieces, including mine, talk of both an overload of senses as well as a numbness void of any feelings; the painful extremes of mental illness. Some writers speak with such perfect quickened haste, rambling onto the page as an anxious head rambles in your brain, there’s some exceptional descriptions in this book. This book shows the all-encompassing and the all-controlling terror of a life with mental illness, any reader should end the book with a sense of what it really is like to be in the writers head. It serves as sad and upsetting, but also as enlightening – to sufferers and families of sufferers – informative and educational. It helped as reassurance to me, that many others are struggling, that I am not alone in this, and, it also adds perspective for me, after reading all the entries, I can see the hope in my piece, a chance, a shift, I am aware of my heads ability to try to control me, and I can see that maybe I’ll be ok. We just need to talk about it. All of us do, because all of us need good mental health. And this wonderfully inspiring book is making a strong start to that conversation.
My contribution to the book;
How can this feel so surreal at the same time as feeling more real than anything ever before? Loaded up on fear, I closed my eyes and took the leap. I don’t care anymore, yet I have never cared so much. I’m a girl of dichotomous extremes, I know that well. I’m fluorescent or I’m faded. I’m jumping or I’m lying down. I’m dancing or I’m crying. Today, the fear flooded in. It started getting a hold of my throat, I could feel it smothering my mind and my heart, and at the point where I would usually surrender to it, the point where it would usually have me shut down and sobbing, I faced up to the biggest fear of them all; I stood up to mental illness. I don’t want this thing to be controlling me anymore, it has been for too long. I need to take back the control now and it has taken me this long to realize that I can. I’ve got this. I’m capable. It’s scarier than letting it hold you – there’s a comfort in the familiarity of pathology and habit – but to take it into your own grasp and push it away from in front of your face, to not let its grip get onto you, that takes balls. And, I think maybe I just found mine. Gritting my teeth, I trusted myself and took charge. And you know what? I was OK. Because I don’t want to feel like this anymore; this yearning to feel better, overwhelmed the feeling of stagnation. Like the final push in an arm wrestle, I found my force. I’m not taking this shit today. This shit has had me sodden with sadness, this shit has had me anchored in a state of anxiety and floored by self loathing for the whole of my life. This shit has had me starving my body for years, bent over a toilet with bloodied knuckles rammed down my throat more times than my heart wants to remember. But, this shit has brought me to now. It’s got me to today. It is exactly what gave me the reckless determination to find the strength to smack it down, to be much stronger than it. This won’t be conquered every time. I’m not so naive to think that. It will overpower me again, numerous times, it will tell me it’s my ally, that it knows me best, and over and over again it will have me down on my knees and powerless. But today I fought back. Now I know I can. Now there’s a strike on my side of the chalk board. Game. On.