The best mental health advice I’ve been given

“It’s not your fault, Jonny.”

These are words which my therapist said that I will never forget. Ever since I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder, a combination of schizophrenia and bipolar, at the age of 20, I had tormented myself for suffering from this illness ever since. But now, at the age of 32, I was being told to stop beating myself up and start forgiving myself instead. It was a truly liberating moment for me. It was also a terrifying prospect.

I had become accustomed to self-loathing. Breaking out of this pattern felt like an impossible task. Thankfully, my therapist specialises in a form of therapy called CFT (Compassion Focussed Therapy). I came to it after reading a book called ‘Self-Compassion’ by Kristen Neff. The book had made me realise how incredibly cruel and unkind I had been to myself ever since my diagnosis. I felt so unworthy I couldn’t even bear to hear someone say my name. But the book forced me to reevaluate how I’d treated myself, as has CFT. Unlike CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy), which I had had several times previously, CFT is much more about focusing on the whole self, rather than only addressing your thoughts.

Looking at myself holistically was challenging, but over the last couple of years I have managed to transform the relationship I have with myself. I actually enjoy my own company now. Last summer I even went on holiday by myself, something I had never thought possible before.

Because of my ongoing mental health issues, life can be tumultuous. Just four months ago I was admitted back into a psychiatric hospital for the seventh time. But I recently turned a corner and began to feel better again. I am determined to be kind to myself and to teach others to be kind to themselves too as part of my work. In society, we are constantly told of the necessity to be kind to others. Now, more than ever before, it really is time we returned some of that kindness towards ourselves.

Jonny’s  mental health festival for schools which launches in February

‘You are enough’

John Whaite, former Bake Off winner

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