You don’t always know when mental illness is going to strike. It just strikes. Sometimes with a blow so hard you’re unable to pick yourself up. That’s why I owe my life to the kindness of the volunteers and staff at this special sanctuary in a quiet corner of north London.
The value of kindness
I received kindness, gentle encouragement and compassion from the moment I spoke to the first volunteer on Monday 16th April, to the day I stood, suitcase in tow, anxiously ringing the doorbell the following Thursday. I was terrified at the thought of spending four nights in a strange house, sharing my fears with strangers trying to coax me out of my dark corner. But I was more terrified of what would happen if I didn’t go.
And I needn’t have been afraid. I met some incredible people during my stay, including an amazingly brave fellow guest who had faced unthinkable trauma, yet still found space to care about mine.
Everyone has their own story
I met volunteers from 23 to 73, from all corners of the world. People who gave hours of their time to sit with me, sometimes in silence, sometimes absorbing a torrent of thoughts that had been spiralling round my head, helping me to make sense of it all. Here are some of the most important things I’ll take away from my stay.
- I deserve to be helped. Being offered hours and hours of precious time with kind ears, who weren’t even being paid to listen, meant someone felt I deserved a helping hand. When you’ve spent months battling to get appointments, assessments, any kind of assistance, this fact alone can be overwhelmingly powerful. I matter.
- Mental illness isn’t picky. Just like physical illness, its grip can take anyone, it doesn’t care if you have a job, a partner, a circle of loyal friends. It’s not about whose mental illness is justified, it’s about accepting the situation and finding a way out.
- I can’t fix everything on my own. No matter how hard I try. I need people, support and time, and I can’t just wait until I’ve fallen into the bottom of the pit to ask for help.
- Being angry with myself is no help to anyone. I can have countless hours of therapy and support, but if I don’t care about myself, the treatment will never sink in.
- It’s ok not to be ok. It’s not ridiculous, I’m not ridiculous and it’s completely ok to think and feel the things that I do. What’s not ok, is saying that’s the only way I’ll ever be.
The final thought I’m determined to keep hold of is this one:
If I can learn to be even half as kind to myself as the amazing staff at this sanctuary, I’ll be on my way to winning this battle.
With thanks to all who make the Maytree possible.