June 25, 2019
As I sit and allow the speaker’s words to wash over me like a warm tide lapping at my bare feet, I experience an overwhelming sense of homecoming.
Some people are lucky enough to have an innate certainty of their life’s purpose from the outset, putting their energies to good and adding value to the lives of those around them. While for others, it takes time and self discovery. I’m that person.
I have always had an acute awareness that my deep-down fulfilment would only be satisfied if I could bring joy to, and facilitate positive change in others… but I wasn’t sure how. As I bathe in the tide of emotional outpouring from speaker after speaker, I realise I might just have found the perfect place to start.
The event, A Disorder For Everyone, explores the overwhelming case that clinical diagnoses of emotional states can have devastating effects on the sufferer. Of all the messages shared by the event’s organiser, Jo Watson, and guest speakers including Dr Lucy Johnstone, Professor Peter Kinderman, Sami Timimi, Dave Traxson, Akima Thomas and author Johann Hari, one in particular reverberates around the walls of Wolverhampton University throughout the day:
The narrative of mental illness needs to change. Instead of asking “What’s wrong with you?” we need to start asking “What’s happened to you… and what’s strong with you?”
As Johann Hari, author of Lost Connections says, depression is a signal that something is wrong, not a diagnosis. Only when we invite people to tell their stories can we begin to understand how we can support their healing.
Dr Lucy Johnstone, a long-standing critic of the biomedical model of psychiatry and engineer of the Power Threat Meaning Framework, delivers a statement that resonates to my core: “It’s never too late to be the person who listens to these stories and shows care and support.”
Hearing these words, something clicks into place inside me, and I realise I might just have found my purpose.
My own story began 20 years ago when I embarked on a career in television and video production. I learned my craft through a wide range of broadcast and corporate communications projects. The ones that got under my skin and became part of my DNA were the human interest stories.
I relished opportunities to help charities, arts organisations, health and wellness providers, and personal development facilitators share their compelling and heart-felt stories through video. The return on investment was measured not in economics, but in the improvement of the human condition. This became the focus of my professional work, so I added three simple, yet emotive words to my company name: videos with heart.
Video is a unique form of communication; it contains the individual elements of vision, sound, text, music and effects. Achieve the ‘Goldilocks’ combination of these ingredients (just right) and the results can be mind-altering… not just for the audience but for the contributors as well.
Back in Wolverhampton, as I listen to deeply personal and heart-wrenching accounts of real life traumas, the ensuing effects on mental health, and the subsequent catastrophic results of disorder labelling, I realise that through my camera lens and sensitive editing, I can offer much needed care and support. This is just one of the ways I will be contributing to and supporting the important work of Jess and Ange at Emotihealth.
And I also approach this new and exciting role with first hand experience of emotional struggles. My entire life I have battled with sporadic and sometimes debilitating insomnia, which has left me feeling frustrated and out of control… not to mention tired! At the worst points, my doctor prescribed anti depressants, which provided temporary relief but did nothing to explore or reconcile the root causes.
More recently, a no-fault marriage breakdown has tested my emotional resilience to the max, and galvanised a journey of self discovery that has revealed some intriguing new truths. Again, during the low points I was offered medication as a way to numb the pain. Thankfully, I have learned to listen to the intelligence of my body and soul; it is time, compassion and self care, not pills, that heal a broken heart.
So here I am, embarking on this exciting journey. Armed with my camera, 20 years of digital storytelling experience and my own emotional scars, I have this amazing opportunity to bring about positive change, healing and joy. I have always believed that if, collectively, we allow ourselves to lead with our hearts not our heads, the world will be a better place. I have a part to play in helping people become emotionally healthy by listening to and honouring their stories. Watch this space for videos with heart!