Earlier this week I shared a missing person's report - something I never do usually. It was different this time, however because I knew Spencer. We first met through our shared experience of blogging. He was campaigning to persuade Amazon to stop selling a book that advocated beating your children to discipline them. I interviewed him on my radio show and a while later we met in person at a blogging event that we had taken our kids to. He was a lovely guy. We chatted about the Beatles, how we liked our tea the same colour and living and growing up in London.
We stayed in touch even after he moved up north to be with his lovely partner. They would listen to my radio show and contact me while I was on air to request songs and to tell me how much they were enjoying it. I loved knowing that they were listening. I hadn't seen Spencer since he moved to Barnsley. We stayed in touch via Twitter and I often asked how he was doing as he suffered chronic pain. He was struggling and I felt for him, but his humour was always intact in his public persona.
Then earlier this week I saw a tweet that showed his face on a missing person's report. He had distinctive blue eyes so you couldn't miss him really. I was really surprised, but I shared it on social media as he used to live in London. It was worth casting the net as wide as possible to encourage him to get in touch and say he was ok.
Today Spencer's partner K shared the tragic news that his body had been found. It was such a shock to all who knew him. It also reminded me that we had many conversations about depression and childhood spent living with an alcoholic parent. I cannot imagine how K is feeling right now, nor his beloved children. Is it any wonder that my words were lost. How do you express a loss that isn't yours, but that you feel connected with ?
The headlines I wanted to share about Mental Health Awareness Week are even more relevant in light of this. There are some recurring themes that come up whenever mental health is talked about:
It is not shameful - and yet it is still so difficult to tell the truth about being depressed. Recently someone I trust talked about my being depressed as a justification for his own terrible behaviour. Had I been less broken he wouldn't have done what he did. So on top of my own mental health issues I now have to deal with the guilt of making life difficult for another person. As well as the judgement of those he told. They looked at me and said, "Well that makes sense now."
Be open and honest - ok so I write about it on here, but I've never spoken about it to my family. I don't want them to see me as weak or a failure. I already think that about myself why would I want other people to think it too ? Last year a friend said, "Talk to me about it. If I know I can try and understand." So I trusted him and told him about the anxiety that cripples my capacity for rational thought. I told him that my responses are impaired by my inability to tell actual threats from perceived ones. As things in my head became more complicated he eventually walked away. It was too much to expect any support. Should I just have pretended I was fine ?
Take care of yourself - when your self worth is non existent why would you think that you are worthy of self care ? Taking time for myself has always induced guilt. As if my own wellbeing is inconsequential. People can be so blasé about 'me time' and 'self care' as if it's as simple as going for a spa day. I'm finding ways to take care of myself, but they are things like going for a walk or a swim or a run. Space to just be.
So do I regret talking about mental health and letting people in ? I guess to a point it would have saved a friendship if I hadn't. It might have been less painful if I'd just carried on as if nothing was wrong. However my real friends reassure me and know that a hug is like magic when I'm struggling. They remind me that I am strong, determined and kind. When I surround myself with those who love me I feel like a warrior.
Tonight I raise a glass to Spencer and wish he had found a way that would have enabled him to still be here. I'm also thinking of K and hoping she has hugs and love to hold her through this pain.
I am so thankful for those who keep me going. You are precious and I am so lucky to have you.