Recently I was kindly invited to meet Annie and her family. Their warmth was evident from the outset, I felt humbled once again to meet such genuine, real people. Their home was a beautiful suburban home, full of colour, charm and memories. Having previously spoken with Annie I knew the current situation, but the reality and critically, the hardship I was about to encounter was difficult to gauge, even predict.
Annie herself has faced the implore-able task of dealing with some form of mental-illness from a very young age, and her diagnosis of Bi-polar once again came much later. It was evident that, behind this kind, sincere and ultimately loving mother, was not only a struggle for survival for herself, but also for her family, and her love and dedication to her sons could be described as unrivalled, again something which evoked empathy and admiration.
Annie has two sons, the elder of which, also struggling with an evidently genetic Bi-polar condition, currently resides in an adult Legal Institution, an unbearable, unimaginably terrifying place, especially for one so young, for one barely into adulthood. The details of which I shall not explore here, but as an objective onlooker, it was clear that he certainly shouldn’t be there, especially considering his own fight with his condition. My heart went out to him, and Annie, and all I will say is that I hope for all the family’s sake, that justice is served, and this young, extremely young, talented, artistic and passionate man will receive the outcome he and his family deserve. Nobody that young deserves to suffer for such trivial and petty reasons, especially one with a serious Mental-illness, and one with so much to offer the world, I am a huge advocate of reason and justice, especially when it comes to the young and vulnerable.
I was also fortunate enough to meet Annie’s younger son, again a charming, passionate, articulate, mature young man, with strides of talent and career ahead of him. He spoke in depth about his own view of the situation, and how it was growing up knowing not only that his brother was to be incarcerated, but coercively that he too may at some point feel the subjugation of a genetic disorder, I stress ‘may’.
There was so much love in this household, but unprecedented suffering on numerous levels, and yet there was an inspiring level of optimism from all involved, and all I can really say to that is:
‘Annie and family, keep fighting, justice will be served, there is happiness and good ahead of all of you, your spirit and unparalleled love will shine, your futures are uncertain, but from time to time I feel that supernatural air of fate, and in your case, fate will deliver truth, and more importantly, smiles.’
Keep fighting guys.There is always hope.
There are few people that walk into your life who offer an unrivalled cause for emotional overload, and fewer which can breathe such emphatic inspiration through this means at the same time.
Recently I met Steph and her Partner Lisa in their apartment in Brooklyn, NYC. Their kindness, hospitality and down to earth veneer was evident from the outset, and yet I knew behind these caring, talented, morally grounded pair there were stories of hardship, tales of discrimination and an overbearing struggle for survival, empathy and kindred spirit were the order of the day.
Steph’s story was fascinating, it was real, it was humbling, it was heart-wrenchingly raw, and yet through all of her battles, be it emotional or physical abuse, mental illness, neglect or financial well-being, there was a woman, who to me seemed to be at the strongest point of her adult life. Having overcome numerous unprecedented circumstances, including three suicide attempts, I met a beautiful person, full of passion and creativity, critical though and journalistic talent which gave me hope that even for me maybe, there is light somewhere to be found, and it seems that Steph has finally come to terms with her mortal existence, her risk factors, and the lifestyle which gives her the best opportunity for survival.
An avid activist for mental health, and queer rights for women (and men), she has a clear focus in life, a positive drive to change attitudes towards all minority or sub-culture taboo’s which quite frankly I support her with whole heartedly.
I thank you Steph, and Lisa for welcoming me into your home, sharing your stories with me, and I know that others will draw inspiration from this, as I have.
Yesterday I met Leo Howe from south Devon, a hugely talented songwriter and musician, who has struggled with Depression for years, and more recently a diagnosis of Temporal Lobe Epilepsy, something which has complicated his daily life even further. A fascinating guy, with an immense amount of talent, and yet a depth of sadness which seems to engulf his life periodically, and has done for many years now.
His story was one of episodic mania, depending on his surroundings and artistic involvement. Leo has a serious amount of kindness within him, and truly exudes sincerity, and yet I do feel for him, and certainly can identify with his suffering and especially the times he seeks solitude and his own company. Leo openly discussed with me a suicide attempt not 12 months ago, I wasn’t shocked at all, yet I could see the pain in his eyes, even through the jovial manner he maintained, the entire interview was frank, honest and I really do feel that his story could invoke some sort of hope into others, as there is much that is good and positive in Leo’s life, 12 months on from a time where this life had become too much for him.
Last weekend I filmed my first official interview, with fascinating couple from Bristol, Clare and Ben Searle. My main focus was Clare, however Ben, her husband also proved to be invaluable in shedding light on Clare’s illness from an outside perspective, from the perspective of one whom cares for and loves Clare, but has experienced vicariously Clare’s suffering.
Diagnosed with BDP, Social Anxiety and Depression, this has been Clare’s life since she was but a teenager. I learned a lot about her diagnosis, her struggles with daily life, but more importantly the constant fight against social acceptance and understanding she has faced for many years. In some areas I could identify wholly with her suffering, her desperation, and the inherently sickening misinterpretations she has faced, it was evident there was a kind, loving, normal young person just crying out for acceptance and a whiff of normality. Clare was and is a beautiful person, funny, intelligent and compassionate person who seems to have faced a lifetime of discrimination of some sort, not to mention mistreatment by numerous National Health so called ‘professionals’. My heart went out to Clare, and yet there were numerous positives which I identified with her current state, fore mostly her family. She has the love and support of a dedicated husband, and the magical road of motherhood laid before her with a young daughter, so it was evident that there were many positives in Clare’s life, and that her illnesses were not going to stop her in those arenas.
We went into great detail as to some more significant moments in Clare’s life, both heart-wrenching and informative. I am really pleased with the footage I have shot, and this first interview really has enthused me to kick-start the production phase of the film. It has shown me that I am not alone in the plight for acceptance, and the struggle against stigma. The support I have been shown really has been overwhelming, I just hope it continues. I am filming next weekend in South Devon with a 25 year old Man who suffers with Bi-Polar type 1, which again I am looking forward to meeting, he sounds enthusiastic and as genuine as they come. Thanks again to Clare and Ben, your kindness and hospitality was endearing, and your words were filled with realism and wisdom at the same time, you have helped get this film off the ground, and done your part in what I hope will be a collective effort to show the world, that Mental Illness is normal, and should be treated no differently, and free from stigma and prejudice. Its time to change.
Roll on interview 2, and then in a few weeks I depart for the US.
For now, be mindful.
So I have booked the route which I shall be taking. I leave the UK in may, and I head to the USA, here I shall travel from New York to LA in around just 6weeks. I will be looking for contributors along the way, details of exact route shall be released later. I would like to interview possibly half a dozen people in those six weeks, patients, doctors, Carers, anyone really who would happily share their story and their views on Mental Health stigma.
After the US, I shall stop in the pacific islands for a couple weeks, where if there is anyone travelling who has a story of Mental Health to share which coincides with my arrival then please let me know, even if its just an interview on the beach one afternoon.
I then leave for NZ, where I shall be for 3 months. Then in November I shall be in Australia for a month, on the east coast mainly. I then hop over to Indonesia and Bali for December, finally moving on to Thailand and SE Asia for around 2months, again, where I would love to meet anyone, even if they are simply travelling that would contribute their own stories, but also those who reside in these countries, as I think it is imperative to obtain perspectives from various cultures.
So this is a basic outline of my route, and once it is done I shall return to the UK and be looking for further contributors here in Blighty, so around march-may 2014 I will be looking for volunteers here.
I shall be posting my routes as I move, and then hopefully I can plan where and who I can meet to participate in an interview and further pickup shots. I shall release some more information on narrative content and style, and I shall also be releasing a video blog as I travel so those who are involved can keep up with the progress of the film, including the edit when back in the UK (the edit will be in progress whilst I’m on the road, I have a studio here in the UK with a professional editor who has volunteered to undertake the cutting of the film).