Emma's TEDx talk
I was lucky enough to talk about my experience of mental illness and the birth of It Gets Brighter at an Oxford TEDx event in 2017. It was the first time I spoke about my experience of mental illness to such a crowd of thousands of people! It was very scary but I was so lucky to have wonderful friends there to support me. And it felt great to share how such care and support - the power of love and connection - had helped me live with mental illness and ultimately recover.
When I was first diagnosed with OCD I was only 14 and felt totally alone, and that there was no cause for hope. I didn't know anyone who had been through something like this, it was a huge shock to my identity, and I was told I would never fully recover. It was hard enough to live with OCD, but the stigma and not knowing what it meant for the rest of my life made it even worse.
In the years to come, I was lucky enough to find mental health support that helped me in my recovery, including counselling and medication. It was far from easy, and involved many setbacks and times when I found it hard to remain hopeful. Not knowing anyone who had gone through something like this, nor having access to any role models or similar stories, made it harder to see how things could work out. It also made it harder to talk to others about it, and therefore access support from my peers. However, it was really the love and kindness of others that made a huge difference in my recovery. The enduring support of my family, and the friends who treated me the same no matter what, and who helped me hold onto myself with and beyond OCD.
In the years since I have had my ups and downs, though holding onto hope even in the hardest times that things can and will get brighter has made a big difference. My mental health is stronger for the wonderful people in my life, and I strongly believe in the value of connection and community. Often people don't know how they can help someone who is experiencing mental illness, but from my experience, just simply being there, being yourself, and showing acceptance, support and kindness can mean more than you know.
Being able to share the birth of It Gets Brighter and the value of human connection and kindness to support those with mental illness - and indeed all of us - was a real privilege, and another step towards being open about my experience to show others they are not alone, and there is genuine cause for hope.