Summer has been really busy and that’s why I haven’t been around, but I have a few things that I really wanted to tell you about.
Firstly, I was lucky enough to attend Campaign Bootcamp at Bore Place in Kent at the start of July. However, I wouldn’t have had this opportunity if I wasn’t working for Time To Change. As part of my role, I talk about my lived experience of mental health problems. So I guess that’s where the mental health barrier became an opportunity.
Bootcamp was the most amazing and maybe even life-changing (is that cringey?) week. I learned so much from the sessions, which included strategy, tech, and self-care. But I think the most powerful conversations I had were with the other campaigners about their work. I learned about issues that naïvely, I hadn’t thought much about before (e.g. my own white privilege) and it was great to be around so many like-minded people. My biggest learning point was around the ‘queer’ movement. Being reminded of people’s pronouns became the norm, which is great. I was also corrected when I inevitably got some of them wrong, which was a necessity for my learning.
For me, wheelchair access was a huge point to consider and I was very happy to discover that there was no step to get into my accommodation and although I had to go the long way round to get to the dining hall, that too was step-free. I’m so used to having to ask people to help me in terms of mobility assistance, so it was such a relief to be able to get around the site independently. It was a place where my chair didn’t feel like such a big deal, it was great.
The whole week was extremely intense and I experienced a whole range of emotions. I think the fact that I felt safe enough to get upset and show my vulnerable side is testament to how wonderful and supportive my fellow ‘bootcampers’ and staff alike were. I opened up about myself, my identity, and some of the barriers and opportunities this creates for me more than I ever have done before. Certainly more than I ever expected to. This was such a cathartic experience and I’ll be eternally grateful to the whole group for listening so intently and for their kind words of support and encouragement afterwards.
My highlights were: the food (wow! All hail Sparky the chef) and the lip sync battle on the last day. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do but never had the confidence. Bootcamp was a place to let go of my inhibitions and give things a go. I loved it.
I hope I have made friends for life, all of their stories and campaigns really did inspire me to work harder to be a better campaigner. We had the opportunity to write ‘warm and fuzzy’ compliments to other members of the group over the week and I will treasure mine forever. Thank you to everyone involved in Bootcamp 10. It was an experience I will never forget!
After Bootcamp I was even featured in an article in the London Evening Standard (another opportunity)!
Oh, and Pride! At the start of July I marched in London Pride with Rethink Mental Illness. It was my first Pride, something I’ve always wanted to attend and I had a fantastic day with friends and colleagues. If I hadn’t experienced poor mental health, I wouldn’t be doing my current job and I subsequently I wouldn’t be marching in Pride. Swings and Roundabouts, eh? I’m so thankful I got to do this, it was one of my happiest days this year!
Of course, poor mental health sucks. Yep, it’s a barrier. It stops me getting out of bed at times; and it makes me doubt myself. Do I wish the bad stuff in the past hadn’t happened? For sure, 100%. But hey, I guess bad break ups happen, and people lose friends. I’m definitely working on moving forward. It’s only after two years of therapy (another opportunity, I wouldn’t be having regular therapy if I wasn’t studying my MSc Psychotherapy) that I’ve realised my feelings are valid. As are yours. It’s OK not to be OK, and the more we talk about this the better, in my opinion. I still have bad days, there’s still a long way to go, but that’s OK, and more and more I’m turning the barrier into an opportunity.
The title of this blog comes from the title of a session I did at the GroundWork Youth Summit last week. Again, I went there with Time To Change and spoke about the work we do: to challenge the way we think and act about mental health. I’m also working with a group of HeadStart ambassadors to put on an event for World Mental Health Day in October. There’s another barrier I used to face… At school, I used to DREAD reading aloud in class. Now, I get paid to deliver presentations as part of my job. I grew in confidence and I took opportunities that came my way.
At Bootcamp and by working with HeadStart and GroundWork Youth I have met so many wonderful people who campaign about issues close to their hearts. I feel honoured to have met you all, thank you.
As always, thank you to my best friends and family who keep me strong during the dark times and are the reason for my smiles in the happy times. I love you.
I’d really like to hear about barriers you have overcome and turned into opportunities. Please feel free to share them.
Hope you’ve all had a wonderful summer, here’s to the next academic year. May you all find time to do things you’re passionate about and that make you happy, like I’m fortunate enough to be doing right now.
P.S. RIP Chester Bennington. Thank you for the songs that I love and that have helped me through such hard times.