This week has been quite a whirlwind and a revelation. There’s been lots of interest in my challenge and I’ve had some incredible feedback on twitter and via email. I’ve also started to do some face to face publicity for the ride and the cause.
I’ve mentioned that I’m using the business networking organisation, 4Networking, as a platform for the ride… of which I’m already a member. I got to a couple of groups regularly and this week I stood up infront of a couple of groups of my peers and announced what I’m doing… and Why.
1in4 people in the UK will experience a problem with mental illness this year… I’m one of them…
The first time I stood up and said this was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I’m a very comfortable public speaker, in fact I’ve given presentations on public speaking, but I’ve never spoken about something so personal and made myself feel so vulnerable. What was such a revelation was the response that I got, which was one of unanimous support. Support from friends, colleagues and business people that I have never met before. There was a few knowing nods from people in the room and it was clear that a few things I said really connected with some of them, a couple of folk even spoke to me afterwards.
yep, me too.
Is a phrase I’ve heard a few times in the last week and many of these people have never felt able to speak out about their illness. I’m not suggesting everyone should put up a big website saying “Hey, I’ve got depression” and go telling the world, but everyone should feel that they have the choice of whether to tell people or not without fear of being judged.
There’s a flip-side to this though and for every 1 person who has their own experience of mental illness, there’s 3 who don’t. Many of these people have little information about it and don’t really know how to react to people who struggle with it. Some of these people may also have suddenly found out that they are living with someone with a mental illness and they have no idea how to deal with it and it can be incredibly hard on them too. This is why raising awareness is so important and why I’m doing this challenge.
Lastly, there’s the people who really have no connection with it at all – I had an interesting conversation with someone yesterday about my challenge and my reasons for doing it. It’s someone I know, all though not particularly well. They asked why I’d chosen to raise money for a mental health charity and what sort of mental illness I wanted to raise awareness of. I said that I have clinical depression. There answer went a little something like this:
WOW, but you’re not sad or fed up… you’re mister confident. I wouldn’t have put you down as mentally ill – If someone asked me to describe you, I’d have said ADHD!
This was really uncomfortable for me at the time as I was speaking to someone who knew me, telling them something they had no idea about or any experience of. They didn’t judge me and they were genuinely interested in my experience and what it meant to suffer with mental illness. I felt so exposed but at the same time knew that this is exactly why I’m doing this.
Looking back, I now find that statement really funny. I’m now much more comfortable in talking publicly about my own experiences and really focussed on helping others understand more about mental illness.