Walking on Custard & My Own Mental Health Journey

Sometimes you watch or read something and it knocks the wind out of you. You wonder where it’s been all your life.

And you have a new way of understanding yourself.

And you feel less alone.

That’s what happened when I first saw Neil Hughes’ TED Talk about walking on custard and anxiety.

I’ve struggled with a toxic combination of obsessive compulsive order, anxiety and depression as long as I can remember. Some of them would come up every now again. Others, like my OCD remained consistent like the feeling you have after you eat a whole tub of Ben & Jerry’s.

I used to put it down to teenage growing pains and angst, but there’s only so far you can get into your twenties until you start realising perhaps that’s not the whole story?!

And it’s not something I’ve massively talked about publicly.

Not because I haven’t wanted to, but because some things are hard to put into words. I’ve been open here about how being an activist and needing to leave the world of activism had a huge impact on my mental health, but that’s only a bit of it.

So today I want to share with you some things that I got really good at that you didn’t know. Things that I never planned at getting good at but came free with my mental health issues, like a really shit boomerang in a kids magazine. You never wanted it but they gave you it anyway.  Some of these things are still relevant today but thankfully, on most days, these skills stay unused.

  • How AMAZING I am at ignoring the weird looks people have given me when I have to check to  things 21 times to the count of 7, and repeat three times.
  • Fast counting in my head. SHIT I am good at that. And I’m SO good at forgetting whether I did it properly so doing it all over again. And again.
  • Convincing myself I’m unable to leave the house/go to the doctors/go to the shop because I do’t feel like I’m able to
  •  Laughing it off really hard and convincingly when someone makes me feel like shit
  •  The success rate of friendships being sometimes massively affected by my mental health
  •  How excellent I am at creating completely hypothetical situations that involve losing the people  around me
  • Convincing myself that said hypothetical situations are going to happen
  • Making up excuses not to shower

There was a time when I used to the fear that if people knew how great I am at those things, then things would change. Perhaps people wouldn’t listen to me? I’d be put in a box? I’d be asked who I am to talk about what I talk about when I haven’t got my own shit together.  And there was some shame. (Because shame is EVERYWHERE.)

But I know it’s important to share your shit as well as the good stuff.

And I know only too well I’m not alone in this struggle. It seems like most creatives and mission driven people struggle with their mental health at one time or another. So, thank you Neil for encouraging me to share my own story. And for being a fucking hero for sharing ways you’ve found to re-train your brain.

If you struggle with your mental health, I can’t recommend Neil’s talk enough.

And for those of you who walk on custard (now you’re curious to watch the talk!), I’m waving and shouting hello from my own sticky mess.