It’s not easy living with mental health problems. But I know it isn’t easy for my friends or family either.
My mother is my longest and most constant support. From the first moment I was diagnosed to this day, she has had faith. Faith in me.
When she first took me to therapy appointments as a teenager, when I had my psychosis, when I went from living with anorexia to compulsive overeating, when I was suicidal, the days I wouldn’t leave the house due to anxiety, the days I wouldn’t leave my bed due to depression - she kept speaking to me, her daughter: the one beneath the mental health issues.
And because she spoke to me, that part of me responded. She kept calling me gently back to who I am and back to my recovery.
I’m taking my debut solo show to the Edinburgh Fringe
Last year I moved to a new city. It was a challenge. This year I have taken on a bigger challenge. After two years performing in a duo I’m taking my debut solo show to the Edinburgh Fringe. It’s also my first year at one of the Fringe’s Top 4 venues; the Gilded Balloon. There has been a lot to handle and at times I haven’t handled it well. It’s been stressful. And stress is a trigger. My body dysmorphia, eating disorders, anxiety, paranoia and obsessive compulsive urges have been harder to manage.
Undeterred, my mother continues to speak to me: the me that made this choice, the me that wrote this show, the me that knows this will pass. She helps by saying she’s proud of me and knows I can get through this. Her faith in me helps me find faith in myself.
Mental health is a bit like a safety procedure in an airplane
When I first moved to this new city, my mental health problems were more manageable: I didn’t have such dramatic symptoms. The friend I live with has found it difficult. But he’s been supportive and willing to learn. My darling mother has given some tips:
“You didn’t cause it, you can’t cure it.” My mother learnt that mantra at one of the clinics I went to. It frees supporters from the guilt that is easy to feel. Mental health is a bit like the safety procedure in an airplane: take care of yourself before taking care of others.
As much as I push him away, the friend I live with has held on. Even when I don’t feel up to it, he encourages me to see my therapist and to see other friends who accept my mental health problems; those that allow me to talk about it freely.
One such friend texts me every so often just to ask how I am
One such friend texts me every so often just to ask how I am. When I’m not up to meeting due to anxiety, he doesn’t take it personally but instead offers to text chat or to rearrange our meeting. He helps simply by asking if there’s anything he can do to help. Even if he doesn’t know how to help, being willing to is enough.
Most of all, these good friends listen.
Listening can be a powerful tool
Listening can be a powerful tool. Neither my mother nor my friends force me to open up. Sometimes I simply can not. They accept that. But when I do feel ready, they are great listeners. They don’t speak over me, interrupt or tell me what to do. They just listen - often not to the words I say but the way I say them. Usually it is the emotion behind what I am saying that I really need to communicate.
A hug can help a lot too. But sometimes my body dysmorphia is so bad that I can’t bear to be touched. They aren’t offended if I refuse a hug but gently let me know as soon as I’m ready, a hug is waiting.
My mother has a secret weapon – the day out!
On particularly bad days, my mother has a secret weapon – the day out! A quiet day with a supportive person when I’m low or anxious helps me focus on the things that deep down I love about life. A walk around some gardens, a visit to a new part of the city, some quiet window-shopping, a trip to the cinema: nothing massively exciting, but a blissful break from my cyclical thoughts.
This month I will perform my debut solo show at the Edinburgh Fringe and the run up to it has been stressful. But I don’t want to back away from it. Because this is life: this is living. And thanks to my friends and family I know I can do this. Thanks to them I can live with mental health problems, which - at times like this - can pose a threat. I can get through it because I’m not alone. And I can never thank them enough for that.
What do you think about the issues raised in this blog?
Juliette will perform her new show ‘When I Grow Up’ at the Gilded Balloon at 1.15pm from 31st July to 26th August (not 13th). To buy tickets visit https://www.edfringe.com/whats-on/comedy/when-i-grow-up and for more information visit http://maceandburton.com/whenigrowup/