Written by Jordan Camp
One adult in six has a common mental disorder.
Suicide is the most common cause of death for men aged 20-49 years in England and Wales.
One person in fifteen has made a suicide attempt at some point in their life.
It’s time for everyone to join the conversation towards greater awareness of Mental Health.
I associate a lot of my younger years with negative thoughts. For so many reasons, some of which I think I will always be blind to, I was crippled with low self-esteem.
I carried that enormous weight of low self-esteem with me in everything I did, and it led to me having this very dark outlook on the world and my place within it.
Those feelings of depression, anxiety and non-stop negative thoughts all occurred under a constant shower of isolation, and that was normal to me – I didn’t know any better. I thought that was how life works.
From the age of 17 to 20 I was living with that mindset and I did the worst thing any one of us can do and ignored my feelings, I just pretended they weren’t there. Ignoring our negative feelings and letting the darkness build up inside us is similar to continuously filling a balloon with air. Eventually the balloon will burst - just like I did on May 30 2014.
May 30th was originally meant to be a cause of celebration because when the clock struck midnight, I would turn 20 years old. I had arranged a whole weekend of celebrating starting with a Friday night game of pub golf.
I was so ready to turn 20. I had convinced myself it would be the extreme version of new year new me and that my 20’s were to be ‘My time’ but shortly after I turned 20 I had the biggest reality check of my life to date and it came in the form of a mental breakdown.
We had just left the eighth pub of pub golf and a few of us, including myself, were looking worse for wear so were turned away from the ninth and final pub. In my drunken state I didn’t understand what was going on and the bouncer made one comment to me and that was it – I burst.
My emotions burst out into the open like the released air after a balloon has been struck by a pin. I was in tears, I was shaking and courtesy of the shove I got into a wall by the bouncer I was bleeding all over my new shirt.
Three very close friends of mine saw everything, got me into a taxi and the next thing I knew it was 12 hours later and I was suffering the worst hangover I’ve ever had – but that was the last thing on my mind.
Therapy, Travel & Taylor Swift
What followed May 30th 2014 was an incredibly tough week which ended with me sat in a small room undergoing my very first therapy session, explaining to a professional the details of that night as well as the negativity I had been hiding from everyone for so long.
I saw a therapist once a week for nine months and after the first few weeks we established that there was very little in my life that I enjoyed doing - in particular on a day to day basis.
During those conversations one of the things that came up a lot was my huge desire to travel. It was something I always spoke about but never had the confidence to act on.
That was until a week long holiday to St Lucia in October 2014. While I was out there, I did a lot of research into a three-month backpacking trip I had labelled a pipe dream. I went as far as booking an appointment at STA Travel to get some quotes shortly after I landed back in London – less than a month later it was booked. March 15th 2015 would be the day I left England for three months all by myself.
The booking of that trip didn’t mark the end of my depression, but it was a huge moment in the progression towards mental realignment – a journey I am still on today.
In those nine months of therapy I told someone for the first time that I would love to explore the idea of a writing-based career and I was encouraged to write about my mental health. Which is something I took with me when I produced a travel blog to keep friends and family up to date with what I was up to on my adventures.
One thing I learnt during that nine months is that mental health doesn’t stop. Even if we’re going through therapy or everything seems perfect in our world – it can all change as quickly as snapping our fingers.
When those moments crept up on me, I found comfort in listening to ‘Shake It Off – Taylor Swift’.
She was never an artist I particularly listened to in early on in her career but at the time I was going to therapy ‘Shake It Off’ was constantly on the radio and it helped me realise that whatever I was going through or feeling, music wasn’t going to yell at or belittle me – it was going to make me feel better about.
Shortly after becoming a fan of ‘Shake It Off’ I became a fan of the album it was the lead single for, 1989, and it became the soundtrack of my travels that followed.
Within the first half of my time seeing a therapist we identified a number of things I loved that were lacking in my life. Travel. Writing and Taylor Swift’s music.
Five years later I have travelled the world, have undergone a career change to become a journalist and have been to a Taylor Swift concert.
When I was younger, I thought life was really tough on me, but looking back on it now, five years on from my mental breakdown - I just remember the good stuff.
And I owe that to therapy, travel and Taylor Swift.
In September 2016, sandwiched between my second and third backpacking trips I cycled from London to Paris. I decided to do the event for charity, with Mental Health Foundation being who I decided to fundraise for.
When I announced that I would be cycling from London to Paris and which charity I would be doing it for I wrote a very different post on my travel blog. In that post I told the story of my struggles with my own mental health and the feedback was huge - far bigger than any of my other blog posts.
The reason the response was so big was because from what anyone could tell from what I posted on social media – I had the best life ever.
The reason everyone had that assumption was because that’s what I chose to let them see on social media. Traveling, Taylor Swift concerts and a season ticket for the football club I have supported my entire life and always having a laugh with my friends and family, who wouldn’t think that?
Those comments of ‘You have the best life ever’ really got to me. I struggled to look myself in the mirror knowing that people had no idea what I went to. Because if people had no idea what I went through, then who else is suffering in silence?
The stats point to one adult in six. Think about how many people are in your close-knit friendship group and do the maths, do the same when you are commuting to work in the morning or when you are in the pub on a Friday night.
Eight months after the London to Paris cycle I embarked on what would be my final backpacking trip as I explored South America before returning to the big cities in North America.
Shortly after landing in London I took my travel blog offline and after a short break from writing I set up my mental health awareness blog – www.lifeofmind.co.uk – a place where I cancontribute to the conversation around mental health.
Opening up to a therapist about what I was going through was one of the hardest things I’ve had to do in my life so far, but I will never underestimate the importance it has had on my life.
In these past five years I have been lucky enough to travel to some wonderful places, makes friend all around the world and start a career as a journalist and I can promise you that none of that would have happened if I didn’t start talking.
I don’t know where I would be if I never opened up about my mental health – thankfully I don’t have to worry about that. Now I’m here it’s important to keep the conversation going so that others find it easier to open up and get help.
One of my big regrets is that I didn’t start talking sooner and to more people. The only people that knew I was seeing a therapist were my dad and about five of my closest friends and at the time I struggled talking about it with that small amount of people.
Yet now I can talk about it weekly through a blog post that I share all over my social media, but I want to keep this conversation going further. One of the things I haven’t done a lot of is talk with other people who are struggling or who have struggled.
There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be just as comfortable talking about our mental health in the same way we would talk about a game of football or the latest series we are binging on Netflix.
Suicide remains the biggest killer to men below the age of 45 so showing everyone, everywhere that it’s okay to talk about whatever they’re going through has never been more important.
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health, here are some charities that may be able to help:
www.mindout.org.uk (Specifically for LGBTQ community)