Admitting the Struggle- Ally's Story Part 1
At present, there is a mental health epidemic, acute in the Western world. The very fact JCADE exists is testament to this. Commenting on ones purpose in the world in modernity, the 14th Dalai Lama made a plea for more ‘story-tellers’. “The world does not need more successful people”, he said, “but healers, peace-keepers and story tellers of all kinds”. The more stories and narratives we have of the world in it’s current state, the more empathetic and attuned to the suffering of others. The more loving we can be to one another. Stories have the ability to erode the barriers and prejudices that isolate and constrict us, and bring us closer together. JCADE is a platform for such narratives, and one that I am delighted and honoured to speak through.
Anxiety and depression are facts of life. They are, now, an entirely normal, evolutionary hangover - even necessary in given contexts - that we are confronted with day-to-day. However, when experienced acutely and chronically they are a vile beast. The beast rules your life. It sabotages your headspace. The beast shackles itself to the mind like a cancer, corroding reality. I use the phrase ‘corroding reality’ intentionally as to me, that is what it felt like at it’s worse - like looking at the world through grey-tinted glasses. "It feels like a light has gone out”, I remember saying to my Dad. Once an outgoing, energetic and extroverted boy; I was, for a time, a scared, paranoid and despondent young man. Crippled. Brought to my knees. I had my whole life ahead of me, and I was assuming the worst of it. I’d had, up to that point, a relatively unblemished past. Truthfully, I think I always cared what people thought about me, but not to a damaging degree. I thrived at school. A socially, emotionally and intellectually confident ‘self’ had been harboured; it made coming to terms with a new diseased reality all the more difficult. My acute anxiety that had robbed me of me induced a deep depression. The onslaught of this suffering is hard to pin down temporally - the beast is a complex one. No one persons struggle with there mental wellbeing is the same. It combines a variety of environmental, biological and spiritual factors in no equal measure. For my part, it was a mixture of several. Ostensibly, I had the rudiments of a happy life: health, wealth, family, friends. However, during my university years, I was, for the first time, confronted with bigger, existential questions of meaning and purpose in a world seemingly indifferent to our wellbeing. An existential crisis. Hedonism had been a philosophy lived out - a concoction of drugs, abused for years. Underscore this with higher levels of hereditary anxiety than normal passed on from my beloved parents, and you have a cauldron of neurosis that boiled over at 22 years old. It caused me, at my lowest, to flee University in the first term of my third year. I had to escape. I couldn’t bare to be around some of the people I considered to be closest to in my life. I sort sanctuary and solitude at home, a place I considered to be entirely judgement free. I am eternally grateful to my loving parents for this - they bore my burden with me with a courageousness I shall never forget. Beyond completing my university essays (I attended no lectures), I basically went to sleep for three months, waking from my stupor only to binge watch ‘The Wire’.