“keep smiling darling, you have so many wonderful opportunities coming your way.”
– katie derham
This is going to be a blog post of a different sorts, it has a topic, but instead of giving you the history first, I’m going to start with the positive. Because that’s what someone who struggles with mental health is told, isn’t it – don’t let your mental illness define you. So, this is me – attempting to not let my mental illness define me and talk about how it has shaped me into the person that I am today.
I’ll give you a little bit of context too, for anyone who hasn’t been here (which is a lot of you!), I’m currently sitting by the window in the Brighton LEON. Which, I hope you’ll all know how that specific location, and the people connected to it, have impacted my life. Because that’s another, very important part of mental illness – being able to talk about your struggles with the people who you trust.
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If you were to ask me now, I honestly don’t know what my exact diagnosis would be – I haven’t been properly diagnosed in a few years and, without going into details, my family and I had a number of issues with the psychologist who I had been seeing. Though I know that I can tell you this – I do suffer from mental illnesses and no, there is no harm in it, or being able to talk about it. And I know what events impacted my life, which is everything when it comes to discussing such issues as well.
Without long winded explanations and stories about each, I can tell you that my own struggles came from various life events. Some were so significant that I know for sure that my life would be far from the way it is now if they hadn’t happened. And some, well, I’m sure my life would still be similar but I definitely wouldn’t be in the exact same place that I am right now. The most significant ones though – my father’s death, my adoption, my mother’s diagnosis with amyloidosis and struggling to figure out my own sexuality – would most likely land me back to where I am right now – sitting here, alive, in the Brighton LEON and writing all about my struggles.
Many of the things I mentioned above had a huge impact on my life, and while I wish that I could change the fact that some of them had happened to me, I’m grateful that they did. If it weren’t for many of those events, I don’t think that I would have discovered how important it would be for me to move across the ocean, which to this day, is one of the best decisions that I have ever made. (Telling Elizabeth how I feel about her and meeting Katie Derham for hot chocolate are definitely the runner ups.) Without my struggles, my failures, my pain; I wouldn’t be who I am, nor would I find myself where I am either.
My sexuality comes from a more complex perspective, because for the longest time, I never really knew what I wanted when it came to crushes or typical high school relationships. Because of all the things that I had been through, I found more comfort in talking to strangers (okay, not total strangers now, I’ve met a lot of them) online about the books, movies, television shows … anything at all. It was there that I really began to become more aware to the fact that the world isn’t black and white, it’s a much more interesting place than that. And with that interesting place that I was becoming more and more aware of, I was realizing that my own hopes and dreams were changing too. I no longer found myself picturing my life in the typical way, with a husband and kids and the little picket fence that everyone talks about, but I knew I wanted something like that.
I still remember the first girl who I ever looked at and said to myself “holy shit, I’d like to kiss her, I wonder if she’d like that too”. Well, for said girl’s privacy, I of course won’t mention her name and I never did actually find out if she would ever be interested in me that way. But that’s okay, because sexuality is a lot more complicated than just finding someone who you want to spend time with. When you don’t identify as straight, the world doesn’t suddenly change the first time you announce that you’re no longer just interested in only the opposite gender – it is constantly changing, for better or for worse, around you. You can’t predict how the person who you spent elementary school with on the playground is going to react to your first “gay” post, or how the neighbors down the street will react when they see the rainbow flag sticker in your window … I could go on. But I have been lucky, for everyone who I’ve encountered has always been accepting of who I was – even if I didn’t understand it myself.
If it weren’t for all those things, I don’t think that I would have found my passion for video editing, or even the skill I have in communication. Without realizing those things, I wouldn’t have found myself chasing the dream of working in television and digital media production, or thinking of my future plans in the field. I know for a fact that I wouldn’t have found myself almost two years ago, writing a fan letter to a woman who I found inspiration in from the way she talked about the loss of her own mother. And I know for a fact that, if it weren’t for those things, I wouldn’t be sitting in the middle of Brighton to write about it.
I can’t admit that it’s been easy – there’s been many, many times where I knew that giving up would be much easier. But each time, I found myself with someone who wanted to listen to all the things that went on in my head. So, to those people – to Niki, Jenny, Izzy, Becca, Louise, Katie and Elizabeth… this is for all of you and to thank you all for making the space in your lives for someone like me. I will forever and always be grateful to have found friends – or more family – like you. Thank you for having faith in me, even when I thought that giving up would be much easier, I owe all of you the world.