This is a story about the feelings I had while reading Dodie's Secret for the Mad. But it's also about how blogging, and writing about your mental health can help you process.
I started to read Secrets for the Mad the very night I got it, but I read the bulk of it on the train to meet my mother for the day, and it was the perfect train read. There is something about trains that make you reflect, and this is a book all about reflecting.
One of the main things I really loved about the book was the way Dodie used her lyrics and photographs, as ways to demonstrate and reflect on certain parts of her life. It made me think back to what I can remember well and not so well, and made me realise that some of my most vivid memories are when I went on a trip around Europe at the end of my first year of University. For a lot of people the trip would have been pretty tame, and boring, but it was one of the best times I've had in my life and made me remember how much I love travelling.
It also made me think back to the memories I have from when I was younger. The ones I remember the best are as follows. I remember the toy car I used to love when I was little. It was a green Mercedes peddle car (the only time in my life that I will actually remember a car- I am notoriously bad at remembering what car I am in- never leave me alone in a car park). I remember that I used to love just peddling round and round in it, in my garden. Even as I started to get too big for it (in fact I can remember that part sometimes even more, which is weird for me as I have an habit of suppressing bad memories). The story I usually tell about the car is that I used to 'drive' it down my street, and knock on the doors of people down the street, asking for petrol. I was a bit too outgoing and didn't really understand 'stranger danger' as a child (to chart my life you kind of say I went through extroverted, to introverted to somewhere in between).
My other prominent memories revolve around clothes/ costumes. I remember my gold shiny dress that I loved, and would wear to every special event. I remember my pink fluffy coat with matching handbag. My orange sun hat with a sunflower smack bang square in the middle. My La La from Teletubbies costume that I refused to take off, and was a symbol of my childhood obsession with transitioning into an actual teletubby, complete with teletubby toast (courtesy of a cutter) and teletubby custard (which was a disturbing shade of pink and essentially yoghurt for anyone not in the know). There was also my Blossom from Powerpuff Girls costume (though I wanted to be Bubbles). Considering the obsessive way I like to plan what I want to wear for a certain event (it never goes the way I planned); its unsurprising that I remember everything by outfits.
In Secrets for the Mad Dodie envies her childhood brain for being able to remember when she cannot. For me, it was just reassuring to hear that I am not the only one who forgets. I'm the sort of person who can remember the exact details of homework set but if you ask me to recall the last year of my life; you'd only hear fragments. After my dissertation I even managed to forget what it was about (it doesn't help that I hardwired my brain from a young age to try my best to forget anything unpleasant).
Dodie, however, unlike me, suffers from Depersonalistation disorder (DPD, or dissociation, or derealisation (DR), she describes it like essentially feeling like you are drunk all the time, and are not quite attached to reality. She discusses in the book how she was able to eventually get treatment, but how it took years of fighting for people to take her seriously.
People with mental health issues should not have to fight for a doctor to take them seriously. The majority of people have a natural aversion to the doctor, even more so when you have something wrong that you can't quite put your finger on, like your mental health. You should be listened to, never turned away (like Dodie is at one point in the book).
It's sad to say that this is the truth. I know friends who have had bad experiences with therapy. Who just wanted to have someone to listen to them but found there was nowhere capable of being 100% there. I have always tried my best to listen, but I admit I struggle with knowing quite what to say, or how to be there. 'I understand' and 'I'll always listen' never quite feels like enough.
Mental health can be hard to understand, especially if you've never struggled with it. That's why in recent years so many people have tried to break the stigma surrounding it by talking about. In the end while it's helped, people then talk about how they feel every Youtuber or blogger has now come out with a mental health issue. All I can say to that is so what is they have? And maybe there is something about the desire to share a bit of yourself online and to be heard that means that means there is something in your brain you just need to get out.
Youtuber Zoella has famously discussed her mental health, in particular her anxiety.
I personally have talked about suffering with my mental health. Vaguely, and not in great detail. Maybe one day I'll get to the point where I can talk about it more. To be honest, I have had no official diagnosis, no definite clue. That is my own fault, as much as I talk and encourage my friends to get the help they need or go to therapy; I have yet to do myself.
Despite, oversharing on my blog, I don't like talking about me. I don't like being personal and honest. To be honest I'm scared (bizarrely enough) it's all in my head, and I'm just too emotional or hyper sad.
Reading about other people's experiences helps however. Especially when you know they understand because like Dodie does in Secrets for the Mad they have somehow managed to find that magical land where they can discuss how to talk to someone if you feel like you're suffering with mental health problems, without it feeling patronising.
Within Secrets for the Mad Dodie also discusses the other things she worries and obsesses over (I don't know about you but I've always felt like I obsess over too many things, and it was refreshing to see someone not just cover one aspect of their lives but lay everything bare) from her bad skin, to issues surrounding body image (I was relieved to see this addressed, as so often I see famous people be they film stars, or Youtubers lose weight and then not talk about, as if they were always that way); sexuality (I love that Dodie is dispelling the myths surrounding bisexuality), and how sex education actually fails to talk to you about the stuff surrounding sex leading to damaging patterns and abusive relationships (and how that abusive is not always physical- and we shouldn't keep letting bad things happen to the people we love because they've not been hit yet).
Dodie discussing her sexuality on her Youtube channel.
Another thing that I love that is stressed is the 'Little but Important Things', something I've tried to grasp onto recently. I may have had a bad week, or a horrible moment in my day (that I'll obsess over and play over again and again in my head) but instead I try to focus on a moment I'll have laughing with my significant other, or a piece of good news, or a special moment with a friend.
This book reminded me and inspired me to keep on writing, whether it be in my blog or in the novel that I promised myself I would write ever since I was little and first picked up a pen. Hopefully, I will have the courage to be just as confessional though I can't help but make mine just a little bit more fantastical.
What I do know though is that blogging, and gradually getting more and more personal in my blogs has let me release a lot of fear I had about discussing mental health. You don't have to publish your ramblings like me, but maybe one day pick up the pen, or tap right away at those keys and see where it takes you.