For the month of August, Voices of Hope will be running the #ICHOOSEHOPE campaign. While we were away on tour, we spoke about the power of your words – that when you speak, you can either speak hope or you can speak hurt. As mental illness survivors, we learnt how important it is to surround ourselves with people who support and encourage. When we couldn’t speak hope for ourselves, those around us stepped in. Since the beginning of Voices of Hope we have taken photos with our interviewees with hundreds and thousands on their lips; This stood for “hundreds and thousands of reasons to speak hope”. Over the month of this campaign, we encourage you to take a photo with hundreds and thousands on your lips and upload it to social media with the hashtag #ichoosehope – standing up, stating that as a society we will choose to speak hope. When people need help or are in tough situations we will not speak hurt, but encourage, challenge in a loving way and stand with those around us. We hold the power to make change within our words and WE CHOOSE HOPE.
I have always been obsessed with words. The words we use today are the history, thoughts, actions of everyone that came before us. They’re tools, they win battles, save lives, fix hearts, break them. They’re part of how we came to be here. And, unfortunately, they’re often the first things to leave us when we’re in a rough place.
Mental illness affects everyone differently. Mine was a long game, starting young, not glaringly obvious. It was there in the way I stopped wanting to learn at school, in the way I never finished anything I started, the way I treated my friends, my family and the way I treated myself. There’s a line from a film, ‘The perks of being a wallflower’ the lead says: ‘’We accept the love we think we deserve’’ — I remember hearing these words and realising I didn’t like myself. My anxiety was crippling. And I never talked about it, because it wasn’t ‘cool’ back then to look weak, to admit you were not ok. I’m here to tell you that it is cool, bare with me — I’ll explain why.
I quit everything. As a kid all I’d wanted to do was make stories with great words, write them, play pretend. I wanted to be an actor. But not many people believed in me. I’m not mad - it’s part of the modern day psyche, a sense of fear keeps you in security. I was told ‘no you’re not good enough’ a lot, often. By teachers, drama school, family, strangers at the bus stop. But I did it. I made a choice to love myself enough to believe in myself, to let myself fail without judgement, to not be scared but to be excited at the prospect of getting the chance to try.
So why is it cool to be able to look weak, to be able to admit that you’re not ok? Because that makes you human. Being vulnerable, allowing people to see you, allowing yourself to fail and feel — that is what makes you human, it makes you alive, it makes you incredible.
I never felt valuable, I never thought I had a path and at one point I didn’t feel I had a future here. I was wrong.
To the person reading this, you are not and will never be alone. You are valuable, you have so much light and life to offer this world. Show us. Be brave. You can do this. I promise
The day I was admitted to hospital my mum put this quote on my wall, right in front of my bed, so whenever I questioned if I could get through the day I was reminded that I could and I would.
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”
I believe the first step to recovery is acknowledging you have a problem.
I knew there was something wrong with me but until I was admitted to hospital I don’t think I realised just how unwell I had become.
Once I accepted that I was in the best place; once I accepted that recovering was worth the fight, I began to move forward. Slow and steady, forwards and sometimes backwards but I had taken that first step. That single step in the right direction to a life of freedom.
Some days that “single step” meant just getting out of bed, sometimes it meant calling a friend to chat, sometimes it meant going for a walk down the hospital corridor. No matter how small the step was, it was a step on my journey and on my way to recovery.
I had many days when I was completely overwhelmed, many weeks when I had more days I wanted to give up than days I wanted to continue fighting but that quote inspired me. It reminded me that no matter how small the step may be, as long as I was stepping towards a life of freedom I was on the way to recovery.