Don’t Make Assumptions About Mental Health

Just because I sometimes need help, don’t assume I don’t have a lot to offer

In 2000, I was too frightened of the world to open my post or answer my phone for 6 months, racking up massive bank charges and getting my phone line cut off as a result. But the same year, I won the World Intelligence Championships.

Some days, it is so hard to move my legs I have to get up over an hour early just to get out of the front door. But I competed for my university athletics team and have attained a national level of achievement at indoor rowing.

Put me in a party or a restaurant and I will be so overwhelmed that I will have to make for the nearest corner or door in order to avoid a crippling panic attack. But I have won poetry slams and TV game shows in front of large, live audiences, host an acclaimed spoken word show and happily deliver presentations to international conferences.

There are days when I find it physically impossible to choose a flavour of soup at the supermarket. But I got one of the highest firsts in my year at university and one of the highest marks in the year in my Masters, and competed internationally over three years for the Great Britain juniors bridge team.

Think of all those business people society admires because they work so hard, putting in hundred hour weeks of high stress work. That gives you something of an idea of the effort I have to put in just to get out of bed, get dressed reasonably presentably and *be* at the office. But I still manage to achieve at least the output of a full day’s work.

I manage to achieve at least the output of a full day’s work. But think of all those business people society admires because they work so hard, putting in hundred hour weeks of high stress work. That gives you something of an idea of the effort I have to put in just to get out of bed, get dressed reasonably presentably and *be* at the office.

I got one of the highest firsts in my year at university and one of the highest marks in the year in my Masters, and competed internationally over three years for the Great Britain juniors bridge team. But there are days when I find it physically impossible to choose a flavour of soup at the supermarket.

I have won poetry slams and TV game shows in front of large, live audiences, host an acclaimed spoken word show and happily deliver presentations to international conferences. But put me in a party or a restaurant and I will be so overwhelmed that I will have to make for the nearest corner or door in order to avoid a crippling panic attack.

I competed for my university athletics team and have attained a national level of achievement at indoor rowing. But some days, it is so hard to move my legs I have to get up over an hour early just to get out of the front door.

In 2000, I won the World Intelligence Championships. But the same year, I was too frightened of the world to open my post or answer my phone for 6 months, racking up massive bank charges and getting my phone line cut off as a result.

Just because I have a lot to offer, don’t assume I don’t sometimes need help

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27 thoughts on “Don’t Make Assumptions About Mental Health

  1. great piece Dan. It reminds me of a poem by Ian Mcmillan but I can’t find it. It has a line something like ‘ on bad days I have trouble tying my shoelaces’.

    • or to be retro, Paul Simon: ” a good day, ain’t got no rain. A bad day’s when I lie in bed and think of things that might have been.”

  2. Thank you so much all – Roz, I completely understand perfectionism and how crippling it can be, especially if you ever want to “finish” anything (I realise finish is a word that’s absent from the perfectionist’s dictionary)

  3. i know this person very well. It’s a shame so many others, society ‘at large,’ those who would remodel or deconstruct what little we have in terms of ‘protection’ or ‘assistance’ can be so small as to believe ‘mental illness’ means, in absolute terms, ‘total incapacity.

    Our world can be seen as very small, limited, but I think the truth is just the opposite.
    xx

  4. This too I understand, the fact that I can be what seems a mass of contradictions, and do things that make others say, “But, if you can do X, surely you can do Y?”

  5. This is such a succinct, direct way of showing us how life is for you. It’s not sympathy, nor any patronising, that you need – but empathy. We can cheer on your successes, and know that sometimes you will need help with soup. But please tell us when it’s a soup day – then you’ll realise how many are on your side.

  6. Viv, that’s exactly it – whatever x and y are, the thing people struggle with most is that doing x doesn’t relate to doing y – it’s something we experience daily with mental health but it’s also something that applies to people in general

    Jo “soup day” – I love that phrase and will use it from now on :)

    Gev, hugs back

    Liz, thank you

    DJ – yes, I’ve just posted what I thought was an unrelated piece about whether the conventional novel is an appropriate way of writing about being human (http://authorselectric.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/the-novel-is-dead-long-live-novel-by.html) but actually it’s exactly the same thing – whilst simplifying things serves so many useful functions, if we want to get to grips with life, we need to be prepared for complexifying as it were

  7. Pingback: Dan Holloway | indie e-book review

  8. I spent my entire adolescence in psychiatric hospitals, but I’ve never got below a B grade in my life.

    I can no longer read due to the strain on my concentration levels from my bipolar disorder, but I won an international prize and have a book out this year.

    I go on unprecedented spending sprees on stupid shit but I once donated £200 to Mind whilst on one. I don’t have a job.

    Thought I’d add a couple of my own. This’d make a really cool meme. Someone care to set up a Tumblr for these things? (that was the most ‘internet’ thing I’ve ever said aha)

    • that’s a super idea! It’d need to be someone with more tech than me (I can’t afford tech after blowing pretty much all my money and available during mania spending sprees!) – love the idea of a group of us taking selfies and having them cut in two down the middle with one quote one side and one the other and called something like “there are at least two sides to everyone”

  9. For me, I would add ‘Most days I can’t compose a text message or make a phone call, but I can write over 5000 words or draw a pencil portrait out of my head’ – and of course the skill of being a wordsmith also applies to you, Dan :) x

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