You could claim that I’m a pretty recluse person. Not only am I an only child, all my hobbies are very much solo activities: writing and reading. I have only a handful of friends and usually avoid any sort of group activities. The easier way to make me jump ship is to put the word ‘group’ in anything: Group therapy? Group outing? Group sex?
Actually, let’s cross that last bridge when we get there.
I absolutely detested group assignments in school, mostly because I knew that I always fail to meet my own ridiculously high standards. Another person just didn’t stand a chance. Because I was really old for my age, I never really clicked with my classmates and failed to feel like I was part of a group. With no athletic abilities whatsoever, I was always the last kid picked into a sports team.
I’m very self-reliant. I only ask for help when it’s an absolute emergency. When I got out of hospital, my friend had to physically stop me from carrying the heaviest shopping bags myself. I’m not really the one to network or work as a team. I fly solo. I sort myself out, thank you very much.
So what am I doing taking part in Time to Change’s Young Champions training in Manchester tomorrow?
Because I’ve basically decided tough tits.
The difference between the Ida actively shutting herself off the world and the Ida taking part in an activity that is going to increase her exposure to the world as a person who has experienced ill mental health is that old Ida almost threw herself under a train.
I could’ve died. It’s just a matter of a whim that I didn’t. So why I wouldn’t use my experiences to possibly help another person in their struggle? I know I’ve got a unique perspective into something that’s pretty damn final: the thin red line between life and death.
If me being open about what happened to me helps even one person, possibly changing the course of events and stopping someone from getting as bad as I did by allowing them to see where this slippery slope could take them, just one, being labelled as mental for the rest of my life is totally worth it.
What have I got to lose?
The power of many is greater than the power of one and if I allow my voice to be heard out at a platform built by someone else, it’s going to echo further. What’s more important, my stubbornness about being self-made or increasing the possibility of someone who needs to hear that they are not alone hearing just that?
As a journalist you learn to let go of the ego. Nobody cares what Ida Väisänen thinks about the twenty car pile-up on the M6. You just tell what happened. That’s it. You’re merely a vessel.
That’s how I look at it. This isn’t about me. It’s about raising awareness and hopefully be involved in creating a society where mental illness is no longer stigmatised. I got a second chance in life, so I might as well speak for those who weren’t as lucky.
So watch this space, I’ll be telling you next week how I got on. Hopefully my poorly lungs will forgive me.