John Medway, Brighton, England

I was born in the 1960s in the South of England in a family that was fractured by the separation of my parents. Their separation initially provoked so much fear and dread in me that I withdrew my true feelings and hid them deep inside. I often felt lost and alone and unable to express my inner worries. I became out of touch with how I really felt in an attempt to cope with my loss and the abandonment I felt from my father leaving. For many years I denied my feelings and numbed my pain to cope with this traumatic situation. To the outside world I seemed happy and a lot of the time I was, but a part of me was scared of life and I hid my pain and fears behind my smile. As a child I found distraction from this pain in friendships, football and later in relationships with girls. As I grew older I found it more difficult to connect with others and started to make poor and unhealthy choices. My behaviours became obsessive and I started to drink alcohol, take drugs and gamble as an escape from the pain and discomfort I felt.

Throughout my adult life I have experienced occasions when my mental wellbeing has been severely challenged. Times such as the break-up of a relationship, the death of my parents and the loss of close friends have all provoked strong reactions inside of me and reawakened my feelings of loss and abandonment. At these times I struggled with severe anxiety and felt extremely low but rather than reach out to others for support I would isolate myself and try and manage this by myself.

For a three year period after the death of my father my life was riddled with anxiety and depression and it felt like it would never end. At points I felt so low I questioned whether life was worth living. However, by reaching out to others I started to change my life. By speaking about my challenges and sharing my deepest worries and concerns I began to see that the challenges that affected my mental wellbeing were not dis-similar to those of others.

Today I see a bright future that is full of opportunities for happiness, love and connection. I now understand that my choices have influence over my future and I am starting to make better choices that promote happiness in my life. I regularly exercise and meditate to support my physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing. I have good friendships and talk openly about my challenges with others. I am learning to love and respect myself and to treat myself with kindness and compassion. I am breaking free of my mind that is conditioned by the thoughts and opinions of others and I am finally starting to live my truth.

My message of hope to others who struggle with their mental wellbeing is to reach out and connect with like-minded people, to share your challenges and get the support you need and deserve. Hope is available to all. Hope is mine and hope is there for you.

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