I'm a 41-year-old depressive who has learned to live with, and embrace, the dark side of my nature. The most important part of conquering my mental health problems has been to talk about how I feel, and keep talking. We need to start being honest, all of us, with our friends, family and in the workplace. To stop being frightened about who we are and how we feel.
So that's the long and long of it. Just a blow-by-blow account of not feeling in control of your own tornado. Hope someone got a half a moment's relief. But if not, keep fighting the good fight. It's just about all we can do.
Depression crept into me when I was very young. I can't recall the first time I could identify the sadness, but I remember frequent episodes where I would float out of my body and not recognise myself. I've always felt like two people.
When I did my show I was really touched by how many audience members said they could relate to it, hung back after the show to talk to me about it, and also how many comedians have mental health issues, although in hindsight this should've been obvious to me as it seems to be to everyone else. I decided that once The Fringe had finished I was not ready for my little safe to talk about mental health issues bubble to burst...
The relief of realising I was actually ill with an illness not merely "rubbish" and "lazy" has been incredible. The fact I can get better, gigs, Leon and my mum and dad who need me; they're what keep me going.
They assured me I was going to die. I beamed. At least I would die skinny. I was 14 years old and my anorexia was at it's peak. Though I was weak of body, I was frighteningly strong of constitution. That's where this illness gets you.
Since receiving the help I desperately needed, I am happy and in control. My anxiety will never truly go away. I still have my bad days. People sometimes don't understand why I spend all day sulking in the corner. It's OK if you don't understand. We're all a bit different. What if you need a little mental health care? What if you know someone who needs it? What will you do?
In an ideal world, we wouldn't have to deal with anxiety, bipolar disorder, or anorexia - but this isn't an ideal world, so the best we can do is find any way to take away the hold those conditions have over us. If we can laugh about our own problems, it can help take away the spikes and prongs and slowly chip away at the them until we can take the power back. This is why we're running The Best Medicine - a week-long series of blogs, stories and videos on how comedy, stand-up and laughter can be part of the solution to help people cope with mental health problems.
We're a very generous nation and most of us give money and support to causes we really believe in. But so much mail and email these days is unsolicited and unwanted. I know I'm not alone in finding it really annoying to be bombarded with requests for money or action by organisations which are not of my choosing.
A lot of people tell me that I am "brave" for being so open about my mental health problems. But one of the reasons why I am open is because I don't want "brave" to be a connotation for opening up mental illness anymore. I want people to talk about their issues without being scared of people's reaction.
True acceptance means welcoming all shapes and sizes. By banning an image of a slim woman, what message are we then endorsing about being slim? Is being thin wrong as well? Instead of demonising just another body type, we need to take control and responsibility of our own reactions. Why not refuse to buy magazines or watch programmes which diminish women, snub diet talk in the office, reject the diet industry and its product and advocate self-love.
Last week was a gruelling news week in which the consequences of poor mental health were splashed across TV screens and newspaper headlines around the world. The week began with the massacre of 49 LGBT Americans in the Pulse gay nightclub in Orlando and here in the UK the week ended with the brutal murder of a popular Member of the UK parliament Jo Cox on the street of a small Yorkshire town.
Mental illnesses are horribly isolating at times, this is a message for all those who are struggling right now. Whether you are someone I know or a stranger far away, this applies to you. Heck, this isn't purely for people who are finding their mental health a challenge right now, but includes all those who are struggling with life or situations being put their way.
Understanding what's going on is crucial to getting a handle on it, for us and for those around us. In no particular order of preference, here are a few things I would like people to know.
Today I celebrate my third Father's Day as a father. For me it is a day not just to celebrate how fortunate I am for my young family, but to reflect on just how much I've learned about fatherhood and the issues facing fathers in all walks of life. In particular, it is a time to reflect on my responsibility to look after not just the physical health of my two children, but to treat their mental needs as just as important a priority... On this Father's Day, I encourage all fathers to take a moment to ask their children how they are doing. Take the opportunity to discuss how you are coping with life and fatherhood with your wife, partner or with your friends. And know that if your son or daughter ever needs help, they need their father's guidance and support just as much as they need their mother's.
My Dad was there for me at a time when some people pushed me away because of my mental health. I have seen people blank me, avoid talking to me, cross the road to make it clear they will not acknowledge me, when all I wanted to do was say hello, not take up their time.