It was a crispy cold, dark, Sunday night… Hannah and I arrived at the Point in Eastleigh around 6:30pm to set up for the evening’s Touch event.
Their Christmas decorations were already up and it looked beautiful, cosy, almost magical.
It was unusually quiet, probably because of the weather. It’s tough to find the motivation to get out of the house when you are already snuggled on your sofa on a Sunday but in the end it actually made the evening even more special, you’ll see in a minute.
Debs asked me to host again, it became second nature by now and I’m glad I did because last night’s stories I will always remember vividly. Every storytelling eve is amazing and inspiring, but last night’s? Last night’s was on another level.
First up was Lynda and by the end of her talk, there was not a single dry eye in the house. Lynda talked about how living with borderline personality disorder is for her, the struggles, the ups and downs, how she learned to live with her emotions affected by every day, to others normal events, her fears and phobias, the low lows and dangerous highs that come with borderline personality disorder and whilst doing that dealing with what ever life threw at her, from emotional abuse by her family, her first husband leaving her with her three boys, her second husband becoming aggressive, losing her job…
But every single time she picked up the pieces and tried again and again, for her boys who loves dearly and love her and two of them were there to cheer her on. As soon as she finished her talk her boys came up and hugged her. What a moment.
That’s why it’s so important to share our own experiences when it comes to mental health. The more we share the more others can understand that mental illness is as serious and debilitating as any other illness and the more we understand, the more we can help each other.
I had no idea what to say after this. It’s always incredible when someone shares their stories with others, but to share something so deeply personal, to bare all in front of strangers, it was just amazing. What an amazing woman Lynda is, superwoman.
Next up was Luke, who travelled all the way from Eastbourne to be with us last night. And oh my, what a talk he gave. Luke worked for years as a social care worker, helping people with complex, severe mental illnesses, from a man who would tear his own skin off to a lady that needed attention all the time otherwise she wouldn’t eat or sleep. He loved his job, he loved what he did and thinking back to his childhood and his values, the willow tree of his personal values-what a beautiful metaphor-, it all made sense, it all fit, everything he did could trace back to those values.
But he always struggled with having to follow the rules his role as a social care worker dictated, and he is now starting his own social enterprise helping vulnerable people. Another superhuman.
After a short break it was time for Theresa* (not real name) to share her story. I had a chat with Theresa at the break and I was already excited to hear her talk. We all expected to hear how her adorable canine partner, who was there with her and we all absolutely loved petting, has changed her life. But Theresa shared much more. Whilst working as a teacher with primary school children from neglected families, she decided to adopt two of them but her husband unexpectedly got arrested for fraud.
She had already been ill for a while, as she discovered she had lyme disease, which started affecting her quality of life and her job. So she moved back to her mum’s with the children for a while. Theresa, as the superwoman she is, managed to get back to work, she learned how to parent her little ones who she found out later have not only been neglected but their birth parents had mental health issues and with the help of her wheelchair and her canine friend, she didn’t let her condition affect her independence.
She is now happily married again, she legally adopted her children, she works for a charity and is also chairing a parenting group. Superwoman!
Last but not least was our own Debs, another superhuman who shared her story. Debs shared her personal story of dealing with depression many times since she founded Touch (you can watch her beautiful Southampton Tedx talk here), but last night she talked about her journey from a support worker, charity worker to a successful freelance project manager working in London.
But that wasn’t her, that didn’t put her talents, her social skills and love of talking to people and her creativity to best use. So she quit and took a leap of faith and did what she always wanted to do, help others first hand by starting a social enterprise, Touch where anyone can come and share their own personal story and inspire one another. See, that’s when humans flourish, doing what they love. You just need to get over the scary part of taking the risk and ask. If you won’t ask, you’ll never know.
I’ve heard this story of hers for the first time about a month ago but it still got me. What an amazing human.
Last night felt different than others. It felt extraordinarily inspiring, touching, really just magical.
Maybe it’s because as Theresa said ‘our own stories, makes us who we are, our stories is who we are’ and sharing who we are, talking in front of strangers about who you are, your most inner thoughts, fears, pain and not afraid to be vulnerable is completely different to any other talk.
And with a smaller than expected audience, made it even more intimate and touching.
I have missed many details and this is just a tiny taste of last night’s event, the feeling of being there, in front of these amazing humans can’t be replicated, but I hope you felt a little bit of the magic I felt.
Thank you Hannah, not only for giving me a lift, but for all the amazing work you do for every evening. Another superhuman!