“I would have once scorned this. I was so corporate, I was so controlling, I was so bitter. I’m ashamed to say I had no idea about anything to do with mental health, and it is due to that fact I am so determined to make a difference.”
I still have to catch myself sometimes and recognize just how different things are for me. It is surreal how quickly something new can become the norm, and one thing I am very aware of is that my new way of being is very different from any sort of normal. It is scary, wonderful, challenging, and rewarding; but definitely not “normal”. My past couple of days is a wonderful example of that.
Let’s rewind to Sunday…
I was in an unfamiliar car en route to an unfamiliar house, and I had absolutely no idea what to expect. I had never been there before, and had never met any of the people who were going to be there. This can be a scary enough prospect for anyone, but when you add a dash of severe anxiety into the mixture you have a recipe for complete terror. I had a strange security blanket though, I had communicated online with some of these people, and I knew I was going to a safe place – this is because I was heading to meet some of the faces behind the Depressed Cake Shop.
Clutching my empty suitcase (ready to be filled with DCS merchandise) and a box of cupcakes (naturally!) I rang the bell. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I convince myself to do something, only to then find that the second I have done it I want to run away - ideally before before anyone knows I have done whatever I pushed myself into doing.
This was one of those moments.
I had a complete blank as to what I should expect, but at the same time my anxiety had concocted a million different possibilities - each more terrifying than the last. Instead what followed was an evening containing laughter, inspiration, understanding and a real sense of belonging.
Don’t get me wrong, I can still recall vividly the moments when I could feel myself babbling. I can instantly revert back to the cringe-worthy fear that I was bumbling through conversations, or that people were just “being polite” as they smiled and nodded.
The beautiful thing is that I also remember feeling that it was all going to be ok. I can remember the tones of people's voices as they spoke about why they were so passionate in doing what they do, and I can feel that little ache that you get when you laugh harder than you can control. We had been looked after as guests so wonderfully, but it was more than that – we were also made to feel genuinely welcome, and that we could relax and be ourselves. It felt like we were all in it together, even though I'm not totally sure what "it" was.
When I arrived back at the hotel I parked up in the bar with a glass of wine, and I forced myself to reflect. I wanted to take a moment to really digest what had happened that evening. Not only the joy I had felt, but also the fact that I had been able to put myself into that position. It hadn’t been easy, and I still had those “argh, why did I say that?!” moments to contend with; but it had been entirely worth it. It had given me something that I couldn’t have bought, or whittled out from any other situation. It had to have been those exact people, in that exact setting.
Sometimes when we lose control of our minds, it can be scary to think about the future. We can worry about whether we will always feel this way, and we compare what we do now with what we could do before. Back in 2010 I didn’t think twice about jumping on a plane on my own to go to New York and meet some girlfriends for cocktails (true story!) - I had the finances to do it, I had the care-free attitude to do it, and I had the guts to do it. At the time I had no idea just how much I was taking those three things for granted. In comparison, going for dinner seems rather a small thing, and that is why I knew I needed to stop and give myself credit. It can be so easy to assume that because something was once easy we’d be silly to celebrate it, but it’s these little victories that make the difference. It is these victories that show we are not giving up, and that we won’t allow an illness to get the better of us.
I woke yesterday and was immediately looking forward to seeing these amazing people again. Not only that, but we were off to the awards!
told myself that it would be ok, and that the previous evening was proof of that fact. However, logic that we want to apply becomes as useful as a chocolate teapot when anxiety is in the mix. I found myself sitting in my hotel room, having to work hard to hold my nerve and not crawl back under the covers.
I made it out from my room, something you may have deduced if you have been paying attention - as you know that I ended up holding the talking stick (which incidentally was an Anxiety Blob. Mine is called Albie, but more about him in a moment).
I'm happy to report back that it was a great thing that I made it out; I can also report that the people I met last night were absolutely delightful, and further proof of the incredible people that DCS attracts.
As I type this I am (as usual) recalling the moments when I stumbled over words, stumbled over my own feet, and stumbled in general. I am also aware that those moments don't matter and are not the overriding memory I associate with the evening.
This is because I also have been left with a genuinely magical feeling from what has happened over the past two days.
Whats more, I am even more determined to keep trying to raise awareness and knowledge of mental health, and to fight that stigma associated with it. Besides, I’ve promised I will do so to the DCS crew, and I can’t break a promise – they’re family.
In the meantime, thank you for reading, thanks to the whole DCS family for letting me be a part of something so wonderful, and to the BBC and The Wellcome Collection for hosting the event, which promoted our relationships from being virtual to face-to-face.
Also, don't forget BuBakes is holding a Depressed Cake Shop popup on August 7th. More details here.
Bu (and Albie!) xx
BuBakes is committed to reducing the stigma attached to Mental Health, and personally donates 25p for every order received to MIND. This is kindly matched by three generous supporters, meaning a £1 donation is made per order. If you would like to find out more about MIND, or make a donation you can do so here.