Thursday, 18 July 2013

"Diaries of a Broken Mind" - What I thought about it all.

As part of BBC Three's Mental Health season, the next programme to be featured was "Diaries of a Broken Mind", a documentary in which 25 young people film themselves living their daily lives with a mental health illness.

My other half had been a bit doubtful of me watching at first - I'd found other programmes in the season slightly triggering, but I had sworn I would watch all the programmes as I feature in one of the documentaries myself. So, as I sat down to watch, I suppose I did feel slightly anxious. "Broken" minds? Were we "broken"? What was their reason behind the title? I later came to realise that this title was better than a previous option, and I have tried to view it in the context that you would "break" your leg, so you'd "break" your mind? Or something like that.

Anyhow, with the slight concern that this would be a bad portrayal of mental health disorder sufferers, I grabbed a box of chocolates and prepared myself. I was soon not worrying about the title though - as we met contributors in the documentary, I realised this was actually a fantastic piece of work.

Whilst I couldn't name all the contributors (due to having a terrible memory!) I was amazed at firstly, how brave they all were. Each contributor let us in to their day-today lives, and I honestly admire their determination to break down stigma. With conditions from agoraphobia and anxiety, to bipolar and multiple personality disorders, the audience was there from the highs to the lows. I can see how certain aspects of the documentary may have been particularly triggering, especially when we see people like the gorgeous Tilly struggling with her meal plan, and when the lovely Bex has a panic attack whilst out with friends, but I truly do admire these individuals for documenting such a personal part of their lives. These lows need to be seen to help break down the stigma a little bit more.

A couple of stories really tugged on my heartstrings. The lovely warm-hearted Bex with her agorophobia and anxiety hit home with me. Whilst I have not suffered with the debilitating condition of agorophobia, I could empathise with her anxiety completely. Watching her push herself out of her comfort zone was incredible to witness, and I was glad to see how her friends commended her on just going into town. This kind of support and understanding is vital, and I'm glad we could witness this taking place for Bex's sake. I did find her panic attack after leaving the club ever so slightly triggering, and I could feel my heart starting to pump harder and faster in my chest, with my hands going clammy, just knowing the feeling of what she had been going through. But her determination was incredibly inspiring, and this in turn just really put a smile on my face.

When Sophie popped up on my screen, along with her condition, I remember shouting "NO.WAY." I couldn't believe someone on television was talking about emetophobia. First I was anxious to read the word, wondering what would be spoken about, and whether I would find it triggering, but I soon came to realise that it was important for me to listen to her story. She's suffered with this horrible phobia since the age of around nine, and in that time, has tried various different therapies and medication, something I could completely relate to. I felt my head nodding in agreement, looking at her family albums and thinking "this is me". And when we followed her journey whilst coming off of medication, it hit me hard. I have felt that anger, that loneliness, that hatred of myself just too many times. I've known for a few years now that other people have this phobia, due to forums and social networking, but I've never seen emetophobia in this light. It was being talked about, and what I felt and thought was okay and nothing to be ashamed of. I will always be greatful to Sophie for "airing" this phobia. In the past, I've thought "maybe it isn't real, maybe I am the only one and I just need to get on with it", but thanks to Sophie's bravery and intellectual story around this, I woke up this morning feeling generally more at ease with myself.

Thanks to the producers of this film, we also got a valuable insight as to what it was like for friends and family surrounding the contributors. In places, I believe it showed the lack of understanding around mental health illnesses, but in the light it needed to be shown. Why don't we talk about this more? Why do, for example, people understand what a broken leg is but they don't understand what depression is? We must educate people in order to create a society that will talk about depression like they do the weather, before this stigma takes over.

One of my favourite parts about the documentary was the thought-provoking questions. And of course the one that's still playing on my mind today is the one about whether I would get rid of my disorder if I could. I'm still not sure I have the answer to that one quite yet.

What would I change? Well I suppose I'd like to have seen other therapies that may have been used. There was a lot of focus around CBT, but not so much around Mindfulness, wellbeing courses, self-help, but maybe the programme was meant to be focused around the benefits of CBT. It definitely highlighted the urgent need for more care in certain parts of England, and it proved how much it differs from location to location. We need more consistency, and desperately. I couldn't believe the waiting time for Bex's CBT especially, and seeing the disappointment on her face when she was told the length of the waiting list just said it all. One of the contributors said something that may be seen as controversial but in face I have been thinking on the odd occasion myself: it's like you have to prove you're ill enough. Yet again it seems to boil down to the fact that if your problem is mental, then you have to sit it out. But we need to try and change this somehow.

The contributors in this programme were all creative, intelligent, articulate and beautiful in their own right. I hope that this morning they have woken up proud of their achievements, knowing that they have helped others realise it is okay to talk about mental health disorders. If I could give each and every one of you a hug, I would do so!

Find out more about the programme here:

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