As well as this, I’ve learnt to follow a healthy diet, embraced physical fitness, breathing and relaxation – in short, I acknowledged the intimate connection that exists between body and mind. A healthy body helps cultivate a healthy mind and vice versa. Often the best way to fix the mess in my head has been to attend to my body instead.
But probably the best strategy of all has been to think of stumbling blocks as stepping stones. For a long time I was ashamed of having been mentally unwell. Initially I told very few. Ours is not a culture that encourages us to be open about perceived failures. We are embarrassed if we get things wrong. We worry we will be judged, and mocked. Many public figures, be they politicians, sportsmen, doctors or actors don’t want to be seen as vulnerable or human – and they especially don’t want to be seen as ‘crazy’.
However, if we are to truly beat the stigma that surrounds mental illness, we need to deconstruct the idea that you are only a success if you live a ‘perfect’ life free of challenges, pain or setbacks.
We need to adopt something of the positive attitude towards getting knocked down that is more commonplace in America than in my native Europe, a land where they hold workshops, seminars and conferences celebrating the art of making mistakes. Where they write books entitled Why Success Always Starts with Failure and have even coined the term ‘failing up’.