The Mindarium Journey
I have a diagnosed mental health condition, which is called Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), it’s also known as Emotionally Unstable Personality Disorder (EUPD).
Although there's no clear reason why some people develop this condition, it’s thought to stem from childhood trauma, which in my case could be attributed to my dad dying when I was 12 years old and moving away from my childhood home. It could also be down to genetics or learned behaviour as I’ve also had a few other diagnoses over the years including Bipolar, Eating Disorder, Depression, Nervous Debility, PMT, IBS, etc; the list goes on and is generally not that helpful to the on-going management of my daily life. I do take medication, albeit very few in consideration to what I could have had over the years and I try to aim for a balanced approach to my sleeping, eating and socialising habits. It’s not always easy, but the emotional rollercoaster and self-destructive behaviours aren’t quite the white-knuckle rides I’ve had in the past and I can actually say that I’m coping well (at the moment).
From my general experience of accessing the NHS mental health services over the last 30 years, I have benefitted from some invaluable support at times, but overall I have found it quite frustrating and inadequate, and in some circumstances, actually made me feel a lot worse and quite hopeless at times. I don’t particularly blame the service itself, as it’s clear that the whole NHS system is bursting at the seams thanks to breaking down the stigma and more recognition of mental health debility and illness, but I’ve found that taking responsibility for the management of my own mental health to be the best way forward for me. I have also accessed help through some of many third sector and individual services that are available that sometimes offer better options to give specific support and advice. I’m constantly surprised at how many resources there are available, yet not always communicated.
I’m also a massive fan of self-help books, which I was introduced to when I first accessed counselling aged 16; it was called Women Who Love Too Much by Robin Norwood and I still remember lines from it today, and that at the time, I felt very empowered by the advice therein. I’ve read a fair few over the years, including some really excellent books by Gael Lindenfield and even biographies of well-known people which can be very eye-opening of their ‘hidden’ issues. Essentially, I think we can learn a lot from other people’s experiences and by sharing our stories we can feel that we are not alone and can connect with others. My current favourite author is Ruby Wax whose writing is very funny and down to earth. Her Sane New World/Taming of the Mindbook really opened me up to the concept that we all have mental health, it’s not just the 1 in 4 statistic who access help for mental health illness or difficulties.
Despite leaving school with only a handful of CSE’s, I have always worked and found it to be both a source of therapy and, at times, addiction. Maybe I felt I had more to prove, but everything I’ve learned is through sheer enthusiasm and the desire to learn. I started working for the local paper in the advertising department when I was 19, which is where I learned to 'direct-input' and typeset. Little did I realise that me being good at this one skill would eventually carve myself a career in graphic design. Over the course of the next 30 years I worked in various jobs in the publishing and print sector learning all aspects of production, work such as desk top publishing, editorial, subscriptions, administration, and particularly enjoying the work on small-format magazines.
In 2005 my career changed radically by becoming a mum and though I welcomed my new bundle of much-wanted joy, it also challenged me mentally. I struggled to get back into full-time employment, so I took part-time work where I could, but I never lost the desire to work in publications. I’ve even got print quotations dating back to 2008 when I wanted to launch a local lifestyle publication and started researching the market and possible distribution streams, but someone else came up with a local advertising magazine shortly after that ended that idea.
Another couple of jobs later, and I eventually went self-employed as a graphic designer in 2011 which came with it’s own set of learning curves and challenges. In 2013, I was given an opportunity to work with a local business manager, aptly named ‘Completely Organised’, who found a way of getting me to write down what had been going around my head for quite a few years and how I was going to actually acheive it within a business plan.
Around 2014 I had been networking and I met a group of people who were passionate about promoting creativity for mental health wellbeing, and I became involved in setting up the Making Minds project for a short time. I then toyed with the idea of a mental health magazine, as there didn’t seem to be much around on the market. I was also freelancing one day a week as a graphic designer for the Big Issue Cymru, when I came up with an idea, that instead of distributing a magazine via vendors, ie individual people that had many issues and required a team of people to administer, that maybe it could be distributed by local community groups or charities to help boost their fundraising. I did try to collaborate with New Horizons NH2 project who were keen to support the business angle of development, but unfortunately their funding came to an end before we could take the magazine on to the next level, so the idea was shelved when I was offered regular part-time work in a local shop.
The magazine idea never left me, but it just didn’t feel like the right the time, until last year when things changed. My enthusiasm for the day job was dwindling and then in July 2017, my cousin who was living in the US, took his own life. The news took my breath away; I’d already lost my beloved niece, to suicide, and another family member some years ago, I just couldn’t stand the thought of another mother, sister, brother, child that I know having to come to terms with such a devastating loss. I knew I had to do something and it was time to un-shelve the idea.
It was hard to know where to start, but I sent out a ‘call for submissions’ to start the ball rolling for the editorial content. I wasn’t prepared for the amazing stories and articles that began to fill my inbox. The next thing was to look at how I was going to fund it, so selling advertising was a start, and then I launched a crowdfunding campaign. In the meantime, I was juggling all of these tasks while I was also networking with various organisations and business advisors and trying to keep on top of my actual day job to pay the bills.
The original plan with the magazine had been to go to print in the first week of October 2017 after the Crowdfunder ended, and then in time to launch at the mental-health week events I’d booked to attend the in following weeks. In hindsight, it was probably an unrealistic target and definitely didn’t allow for any setbacks. So when the Crowdfunder didn’t reach the printing target, I decided to get a handful of mini samples digitally printed, and bought some banners and marketing materials so that I could make a small impact at the events. The feedback was really positive and I knew I was heading in the right direction with the magazine.
Unfortunately, and perhaps not surprisingly, my own mental health was taking a battering and I knew something had to give. I broke down in work and my amazingly supportive doctor signed me off immediately. The next few months were a blur; unfortunately, things went from bad to worse with my employer, and I cancelled my much-planned 50th birthday party. I tried to apply for new sources of funding for the magazine, but I became really low and struggled to even to do the most basic of tasks, I was isolating myself and even day to day basics like getting in the bath was a major effort.
With the highs, always comes the lows, and there’s rarely any middle ground in between. I knew I had to get myself back up again so in the new year, I started volunteering at my local community centre. Just having a reason to get dressed and go out had an immensely positive effect and I could feel the black cloud starting to lift; I applied for another round of funding, and almost lost the plot when I was rejected again, but I kept telling myself it would happen when ‘the universe’ was ready.
And then it came: a message from God, well, sort of. Owen is a church pastor by day, and a psychologist by night (or something like that!), who I’d met during mental health week in October. He got in touch with me in March to see if I wanted to come on board with a community event he was planning called Wellfest, booked for the 12th of May 2018 in Pontypridd. I jumped at the chance for two main reasons (1) I wanted to offer my design skills to make the event look really professional, which I hoped would attract more interest, and (2) I knew I needed a deadline to work to if I was ever going to get the pilot magazine finished. So we made a collaborative pact to help each other out. It didn’t give either of us much time to waste as the event was only 5 weeks away and I needed to work out finishing the page designs, getting it all proofed and getting it to print.
In typical creative mania, which included some procrastination, a bit of Netflix distraction, a few sneaky bars of Ripple and umpteen bottles of Coke Zero, peppered with a quite a few late nights and massive push to a minute-within-the-print-deadline, and somehow all the bits of this scattered project came together in what is now the pilot issue of Mindarium Magazine.
I actually feel as if I’ve given birth! There’s such a huge sense of relief that came with finally going to print, but now I think the real work begins. And to that extent, this is where you, the reader, the vendor, the supporter, comes in. However much of this magazine has been my creation, it’s only got a future if people want to read it – at the end of the day it’s not about me and my journey, it’s about sharing lots of journeys, expressions and experiences, so that we can feel a little less alone, and maybe find a way of dealing with our own demons or understanding that we can choose better paths to live a better life.
Let’s give our mental health a voice, together.