Stigma. As a mental health social worker I have had plenty of experience of trying to support people with mental health problems and particularly dealing with stigma and discrimination.
Now I’ve gone public, it has been a real eye opener observing how others are relating to me or so I think.
But then that is the problem and the title of this post; “Is it me or is it you, or is it both of us?” reflects the ongoing dialogue I am having with myself these days.
My message to those around me near and far is “I am ok.”
Don’t feel sorry for me.
Don’t feel responsible for me.
Treat me as you did before.
My breakdown was a long time coming and not a product of something that happened recently in my life.
We are all trying to live our lives the best we can and I am no different.
My mental health just became unsustainable with all that was and is going on in my life.
As a good friend and a person I respect a lot said, I “simply run out of petrol, and my engine was trying to work on fumes.”
If I was a car I could simply get a new engine or ditch the car and buy a new one.
But the mind is not a car, it’s more complex.
But with help, support I’ve been able to re-build and try to learn and develop better coping strategies.
I have lots of comrades out there old and new whom I respect and from whom I get great comfort and solidarity.
I recognise that even with support sometimes I am going to have some sort of relapse and I just hope I am able to cope.
If I can’t, so be it.
But I am ok.
I can make decisions and I can take the stress that comes with organising.
Organising is in my blood.
It’s taken me such a long time to realise organising is part of my DNA and that is ok, as long as a try to find “me time”.
Ironically, for the last decade whilst fighting mass outsourcing in our community I would repeat my warnings to activists to be aware of “burn out”, “take care of your mental health”, “take breaks”, all of which has, in a nice way, fed back to me from the same comrades.
It some ways I think I am stronger, that may sound strange but I have a sense of freedom now.
I know I am a target.
They know that I know, if that doesn’t sound odd.
I am ok.
I’ve a lifetime of organising in the public, voluntary and private sector. When I was 23 I organised a load of Travel Courier’s for a famous travel company. We were on zero hour’s contracts before they were called that, no annual leave, no sickness entitlements, we organised and won contracts with guaranteed hours & entitlements. It was very cloak and dagger, we didn’t have a union to help, we were grassroots low paid workers organising ourselves.
I’ve tried to walk away from organising, but as a friend of mine said once “Just when I thought I was out they pulled me back in!”
Whatever is coming I am ready, the work still keeps coming in sometimes it feels never ending even overwhelming but I am part of a great team of reps and staff, and that is all you need sometimes.
So, if it is me, I’m sorry.
If it isn’t, then all I can ask is treat me as you always did, I am the same John perhaps a little ragged, a little older and wiser and just perhaps a little stronger.