Sarah's Health Notes: A Safe Space To Share Your Story
After Lockdown 1, there was a phase when people asked ‘have you had a good lockdown?’ That seems pretty unlikely for anyone suffering with poor mental health but for one person with a diagnosed anxiety disorder, lockdown actually proved to be a boon.
‘In all honesty I was a little overjoyed and relieved that I wouldn't have to endure the daily battle to leave the house [because] the constant tirade of “what if” questions [in my brain] were alleviated as I settled into a life at home.’
After that first lockdown lifted, this person (I don't know name or gender) found something strange but wonderful had happened: ‘I did start leaving the house and those what-ifs miraculously disappeared.’
Another curious result was that, ‘wearing a face covering makes me feel safe. Not just from the virus, but from the over-the-top, often catastrophising, anxiety-driven thoughts themselves.’ [NB The photo above has no relation to the identity of the writer I mention.]
This story is published on Minds Anonymous, a new online initiative that offers people who are struggling with mental health problems a safe, non-judgmental and, of course, anonymous place to share their feelings and read about others’ experiences.
When you feel down, bottling up your feelings is a pretty sure way to make you feel worse. Whereas – cliché alert – a problem shared with like minds is a problem if not halved at least made somewhat better. Reading about other people’s experiences is often a real help too.
The seed of Minds Anonymous was sown when 31-year old Louisa Magnussen, known as Wizzi, was interviewed about her experience of being bipolar. She found ‘the process of telling my story incredibly therapeutic’ and wanted to give others a similar chance. Wizzi realised, however, that most would be terrified of going on the record because ‘there is still so much stigma surrounding mental health issues’.
Then, in early autumn 2020, Wizzi was put on furlough and her creative brain started, well, whizzing. ‘The name Minds Anonymous came to me and, 24 hours later, I launched the website to give others the chance of telling their stories in a judgment-free space, where people can be honest without feeling ashamed’. (If you’re wondering how Wizzi created a website in 24 hours, the answer is that her company Wiz Media specialises in website design and digital marketing.)
Since then, Wizzi has linked up with supporting partners including Time4Recovery (the South of England early intervention in psychosis programme), the Richmond Fellowship (a national mental health charity), GSJ Counselling, and Way to Wellbeing, which provides training and consulting services for workplaces. Experts from these organisations regularly contribute helpful articles to illuminate the range of negative feelings and clarify areas that can be confusing: ‘Sadness or Depression?’ is one topic, ‘Anxiety or Worry?’ another.
In addition, NHS-approved mental health app MyCognitionPRO – a leading cognitive health company, described as ‘physiotherapy for the brain’ – has partnered with Minds Anonymous to give free access to the app for everyone whose story is published on the site.
Keiron Sparrowhawk, neuroscientist and founder of MyCognition, says ‘Minds Anonymous is a wonderful website that will undoubtedly help many individuals currently suffering in silence. Many people learn to manage their conditions and recover but only if given the tools and understanding they need. Minds Anonymous will help to improve that understanding – both of the individual going through a mental health problem and those who are trying to help them.’
The stories will resonate with everyone who spends some, much or all of the time in a world that offers only shades of grey or black. Interestingly, the several stories I read all contained some positivity. If you want to Share a Story, read ones by other people or learn more about the nature of this beast, I recommend visiting Minds Anonymous.