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For Jonny Benjamin: I'm No Longer Afraid of My Shadow

26/12/2014 15:55 | Updated 25 February 2015

This week, I learned of mental health campaigner and lovely guy Jonny Benjamin's readmission to hospital. To hear him say to camera in his most recent 'recoverlog' on YouTube, in barely a whisper, that he hates himself is absolutely heartbreaking.

Imagine being unable to stand everything about yourself. Your voice, your thoughts, your body, your personality. I can't now. Though years ago, I came pretty close.

And if Jonny Benjamin can be honest, then so can I.

I've always been confident, determined, independent, self-motivated and sociable. These are all good qualities, and when people describe others as having these traits the connotations, I think, are positive. I'm proud to be all these things.

But I, like the 7.125 billion other human beings on this earth, am a complex, multifaceted individual, and thus I am these and many more things besides.

As a child, my parents described me as 'intense', referencing photographs of me with clenched fists as evidence. Not the most attractive quality in a little girl.

As a teenager, I was angry that my independence wasn't respected or allowed. I skived lessons, poisoned my body, went out and lied about my whereabouts and fought my way into adulthood. I caused my mum, in particular, much heartache. And for many years I carried that guilt with me, trying to make up for it.

Between the ages of 18 and 23, I was very unhappy. And I did some terrible things to people that were trying to help me, or simply caught in the crossfire. These episodes I've reconciled in the time since as belonging to a different side of me, one that was consumed by a deep depression and having developed, as a result, this destructive nature.

I do not have schizoaffective disorder, nor do I pretend to know what it must be like for Jonny Benjamin, but something that he said during his 'Find Mike' documentary resonated with me. At the time he was diagnosed, he was hearing a voice in his head, a voice that was cruel to him. But he, a 16 year old boy, thought that everyone heard a voice in their head, and that he'd simply been granted a bad one.

Swiss psychiatrist C.G. Jung talked about the Shadow Self, which is all the parts of you that you that you wish you weren't. In my unconscious 'shadow' state, shall we say, I've burned a few bridges. And in my conscious state, I've made many apologies.

It's several years ago now and feels like a different lifetime. I've been a happy person, getting even happier year on year since. But back then, after hitting rock bottom, in order to survive, I drew a line under these experiences and locked the memories away. I shoved them all in a box, along with my Shadow Self, so that they - and it - couldn't hurt me or anyone else anymore.

And I've been carrying this box around for five years.

But you know what I realised in 2014? I needn't be afraid of my Shadow. I am it, and it is me. In fact, without my Shadow, I couldn't feel the supreme joy, passion and love that I do. My parents were right, I am intense. And that is no bad thing. It just is. I have the capacity to be both intensely positive and intensely negative.

I have the ability to fill a room with the mood that I feel inside. This is something that I share with my mother and her mother. My grandmother was a woman with an iron will, an acid tongue and a propensity for belligerence after one too many of her chosen tipple of choice, brandy. But I remember also her laughter, her sense of adventure and that she was loved by her friends.

I don't apologise for my Shadow anymore. I've done it enough. I can't change the past. And I wouldn't even if I could. It has made me who I am: A unique bundle of intense energy, which is more often than not (and increasingly so) positive, bringing people together and spreading joy. My Shadow is the dark side of the same moon, 'tails' to my 'heads'. I acknowledge this and celebrate it.

I hope that Jonny can come through this difficult time and once more be accepting of the beautiful human being that he is.

Need help? In the UK, call The Samaritans on 08457 90 90 90. For more support and advice, visit the website here.