I have mental health issues. Now before you stop reading and label me a nutter... guess what? So do you! So does every member of your family, every friend you've ever had, and every work colleague you've ever met. We all have them.
Most of the time you wouldn't even think it as an issue... devotion to a football club, a fixation with shoes, continuously checking your hair, getting plastered after a bad day at work, even working too hard. But in truth all these are signs our little brains sometimes miss a tick and can't cope with what's going on around them. Each and every one of us looks to deflect problems we can't control on to matters we can. It gives us comfort and it diverts our focus.
But sometimes though these little mental ripples of diversion turn in to waves, waves into rogues, and rogues into tsunamis that completely wash away everything you thought you knew in your life.
For me that was a trip along 'Bulimia Lane' as a teenager. Born from a fear of not knowing who I was and of losing my place in the apparent predetermined chain that my life was mapped out to be. All these led to me fixating on one issue and trying to block out the other questions that enveloped me. Drugs weren't available, drink was hard to come by...so for me I became a food addict. Thus began an 18 month cycle of binging and purging, constantly measuring my shape and weight, not for reasons of vanity (believe me I knew at six stone I looked God awful) but because it was something I thought I could control, a goal I could aim for.
Don't know who you are? Don't know who you want to be? Scared you're going to fail? Don't even know what you want to succeed at? Now these are all questions we have asked ourselves at some point in life, but for me that ripple of questions grew and grew into a 24 hour paranoia that burst the flood defences and washed me out to sea.
It took 18 months of my life to get over the physical side, but nearly 12 years of swimming against the current to reach land again.
The strange thing is though...I don't regret it. It taught me more about myself and other people than a life of blissful ignorance ever could have. Now I'm not some lifestyle guru evoking peace and harmony, with fluffy white clouds in some surreal utopia... in fact I'm the opposite. I say embrace your nutter side, appreciate it, accept it. Every successful person you aspire to, have become who they are because of mental health issues.
That little voice inside their heads telling them they have to succeed, they have to score that winning goal, have to win that Oscar, have to create that Global conglomerate... that's all because they need to feel they have proven themselves in other's eyes. Why? Because they can't fully acknowledge themselves, they need others to do it for them. They need to be the best, the richest, or the most desired, because they need others to see them as worthy, to tell them they are respected.
So here we are in Mental Health Week, a week created to break down stigma towards mental health and to create better understanding of the issue. The trick though is that people need to realise it's not a disease. It's not some trauma like cancer seemingly picking people at malicious whim. Mental health is something that is in all of us. For some it engulfs us, and for some it doesn't.
The best first step though is to acknowledge that very potential in all of us. The chance that at any time we could lose control of those demons that drive us, and that they become the driving force in our lives.
Kept in check they are something to be desired. They push us, they make us want to succeed, to be respected, to be liked. They are what sets us aside as human, as beings flawed enough to always seek the next adventure rather than happily munching the grass in the field we know.
Don't fear that flaw, embrace and use it. But always be aware he can come back and bite you in the arse. Treat it with respect and cherish it, and like an open fire he will keep you warm at night. But just remember next time you look over and see your neighbour's house burning down.... don't judge them. They just wanted to be warm too.