Today here in the UK it's Time to Change Day. A day for others to share their experiences around their mental health.
If you're reading this then you're already aware that I'm comfortable in talking and writing about my life - I also think it's important to talk about mental health in an open and honest way.
After all we all have a mental health status.
Not everyone has mental health issues, but it's probable that you know someone who has/had to overcome mental health issues. I know I have, and in sharing this article I'm hoping to help inspire others that they'll get better or at least see that they're not alone in having mental health issues.
My own mental health issues really stem from my being transgender.
I'm in a far better place now than I ever have been, but it's not always been an easy ride and at times I've honestly thought of giving up.
At 23 I was in a relationship with a woman 12 years my senior and we were in a difficult place; I had no real friends or people who I could rely on or talk to; I didn't have the confidence to transition and this was 1997 and so whilst it wasn't the dark ages - things for trans people were not as great then, as they are now. So feeling like I had nowhere else to go I attempted suicide.
Thankfully, I wasn't successful and after that I made the decision to try and forget anything to do with changing gender. I pushed it so far down that I didn't even contemplate it again for another 19 years!
I would rather be me, with all of the difficulties that brings - than be someone I'm not and live with the constant depression of not living a life aligned to who I really am.
I'd been living full time for 2 weeks when despite my best efforts I had no one who I clicked with. I was being heckled on a daily basis. I had a very obvious 5 o'clock shadow and it was also mid summer and I was having to wear wigs. To compound matters I was in a very stressful housing situation and as I had no comfort inside my home or outside in the real world I took to controlling the one thing I could. My eating.
I started gorging and throwing up and before long I was down to less than 10 stone (140 lbs) and at six foot tall that's not a healthy weight.
I looked like shit!
It was a really dark time and then 6 weeks into my transition I went out on a night out and met a woman who has stayed my friend since and she's been there for me as I have for her. I didn't know this at the time, but in talking to her about why struggles, my transition and about life in general I started the whole process of coming to terms with my transition.
Soon after that I sought out a local transgender support group and through 121 and group therapy in as little as 3 months I'd come far enough to leave 121 therapy and support others in their transition.
There's so many more experiences I've had through this transition - but this is not the time/article to share those (that's for my book), but the most valuable lesson I've learned in all of this is that we need to talk.
We need someone to listen to us. We need someone to not necessarily have the answers - but, we all need to feel like someone actually cares about us and our well being.
No matter who the person is. I try to give some of myself to everyone I interact with.
You see you never know how that person feels on the inside. How that person sees themselves or their self worth, and you really could be the difference to them giving up or keeping going.
Today's mental health hashtag is #timetotalk - I couldn't think of a better one!