I Don’t Know Where to Start
So, in the time-honoured tradition of writers everywhere and everywhen (well, it makes structural sense, does it not?), let’s start at the very beginning (/ A very good place to start / When you read, you begin with A-B-C / When you sing you begin with doh-ray-me / etc etc etc. It’s kind of hard not to break into song when something like this has just happened to you).
As you know, I found out that I had been short-listed for this prestigious (to use Mind’s parlance) award back in September. That was astonishing; I know I’ve won awards before, but – at the risk of sounding arrogant, and I really don’t mean to – winning something online, however wonderful (and it is wonderful, and I’ve been truly delighted and grateful for every one) is different to being nominated for a full-blown ceremonial thing like this, complete with short-listers, judging panels, large presentations with hosts and actual, real, tangible trophies. But you must understand, because this is just a personal blog – how many millions of the things are out there by now? – I was utterly stunned to have made it into a shortlist, and truly never thought I could ever win something so huge. Why would I have thought that even possible?
Between learning of the nomination and going to the awards, I had time to look at the other nominees in my category. I already knew Dawn Willis – the fabulous author of News and Views of the Mentally Wealthy, which is not only an excellent blog, but a truly invaluable news aggregation resource in relation to mental health – and seeing her blog alone convinced me that I couldn’t win, because what she does is of much more value than me barking on about taking tablets and ceaselessly moaning about how crap my life is.
Men are three times more at risk of suicide than young women – in 2010 75% of suicides were men. But while smoking and knife crime make the headlines, suicide is the biggest killer. Most men who take their own lives aren’t in contact with any other agency, and don’t identify with much out there. When asked, what they indicated they wanted was practical, anonymous, confidential help from professionals. Which is why CALM was formed.
Not only does CALM run the website, but they also offer a helpline and ‘zones’ where they work with local authorities to give access to the project to vulnerable young men. According to the above link, they have been in Merseryside for 10 years – and in that time, suicides amongst the targeted demographic have reduced by 55%. That’s compared to a general UK decline of about 20% across the same period. How awesome is that? How and why would or could anyone deem me – a unpaid but nonetheless professional whinger – able to compete with that?!
Next up was the YouTube video on trichotillomania that had been short-listed…and I was bowled over. Wow. Go and watch it. Now. It’s quite long by YouTube standards – but once you’ve been watching it for a minute or two, you’ll no longer realise that, because you’ll be mesmerised under its spell. Go on, off you go. This dirge of mine will still be here for you to peruse when you’re finished.
Beckie0, as video-maker Rebecca Brown is known online, was only 16 (she’s now 18) when she made this short film about a relatively little known mental health issue. That in itself is remarkable – it takes a fuckload of courage to speak out so openly in the way that she has done, especially with the potential demon of peer pressure lurking snake-like around a young person affected by a mental health condition. Plus she has the insight and wisdom of someone so much older – which sounds like a patronising load of bollocks, but I do mean it in good faith. She is also charismatic and intelligent, and the video is technically brilliant.
So, I had three truly heavy-weight competitors. The judging panel was, in A’s view especially, made up of quite a few individuals whose primary expertise lay in televisual media, and to that end he and I both believed that Beckie would win the New Media category – especially considering her entry was so deserving of winning by virtue of its own merits.
I genuinely didn’t mind. I thought, “well, I’ll go to this event, and I’ll meet some cool people, maybe meet some contacts and get my name ‘out there’, blah blah blah”. As I’ve already discussed, it was an absolute honour to even receive the nomination, especially in memory of Mark Hanson.
Mark was a social and new media strategist for, amongst others, the UK Labour party. I’ll admit that I hadn’t been aware of him before I received the nomination for the award in his name, but after that I did look into his work – and it was extremely impressive and wide-ranging. Yet beneath what by all accounts was confident exterior, Mark suffered from anxiety and severe depression, and tragically killed himself in early March.
After his death, his widow Clare Francis and Money Supermarket, for whom she works, ran half-marathons for Mind, raising about £10,000. She wrote movingly about this on Mind’s blog, and I was struck by the strength she exuded in her writing, and that she’d also evidently been exhibiting over what must have been an unimaginable nine months.
Although I didn’t think for any more than half a second that I could win the award, had I done so, I would not have considered myself even remotely worthy of receiving something sponsored by such a remarkable and courageous woman in memory such of a talented and popular man. I still don’t see myself as thus meritorious – but that being said, I feel humbled and privileged that I did get it. It’s a privilege beyond anything I could ever have expected.
This is getting rather long (what a surprise that is). As you can see, in short – I genuinely, honestly did not think I would win. And neither did A – not, he opined, because he thought I was unworthy, but because to him I probably just wasn’t what the judges would be looking for. We also concurred that the amount of
cunting fucking swearing on this shittery fuckwipe of a twatting blog found here was likely to preclude me from any real chance of claiming a prize.
A was so confident in these beliefs that he said he’d give me £100 if I did win.
I jokingly replied, “make it a thousand and we’re on.”
“OK,” he replied.
I paused for a second, waiting for him to laugh in confirmation that he knew I hadn’t been serious. However, the expected cachinnation did not duly transpire.
“I was taking the piss,” I explained. “I do not expect you to give me £1,000.”
He shrugged. “I’m not going to, because you’re not going to win it. And if, in the 99.9999999999th percentile chance that you do, then I will give you £1,000. But, again, it’s moot. You won’t get it.”
Believing utterly that he was right, I chuckled and moved on.
That is how much I didn’t expect to win this thing.
Monday – D-Day
I didn’t sleep well in London at all, even though we were staying in a perfectly reasonable and quiet hotel (albeit basic); I was waking about 3.30 to 4am each morning, and Monday was no exception.
So, in that morning’s early hours, I woke to the bleak blackness that only the sun’s downtime can bring. A was asleep, so I couldn’t comfort myself with the television (not that there’s anything comforting about BBC News 24, which is the channel I would have turned to, in this day and age anyway), and for reasons I don’t recall I didn’t check my phone until a few hours later.
When I did look at it, I decided to start my own personal hashtag on Twitter (the more general one being #mindawards) to discuss the awards ceremony; my intention had been to use it for ease of reference when writing a post about the event. It was to be comprised of the intended compendium of live, as-it-happened tweets, rather than this usual tired, ballbag-eric prose. Sadly, that idea fucked up in the end, but I’ll get to that later.
As I lay there staring at nothing, I could feel my muscles tighten, my stomach churn, my breath quicken. I willed fate or providence or the arbiters of bloody space-time to just make it Tuesday morning. Despite ramblings about 10 days ago which described how I was looking forward to the ceremony, I knew I’d be shitting myself come the day itself – but ‘shitting myself’ turned into a full blown oh fucking hell, I’m going to die right here, right now, in a dank underground room in an anonymous London hotel panic attack.
I got up and took a Diazepam. It didn’t work. I got up and took a second Diazepam. It didn’t work. Eventually, A woke up and, duly noting my restless agitation, advised me to take a Diazepam. I advised A that I had already consumed two of the aforementioned
sweets pills. A shrugged (presumably knowing that I only take the things in times of great stress, his resultant opinion being that an occasional 15mg isn’t a huge deal) and advised me to take it anyway. I did.
And…lo and be-fucking-hold, it granted me some mercy and actually bloody worked. I don’t remember if I went back to sleep or not – I might have done – but either way, the next clear recollection I have was of going round the corner to get a pub lunch, and being pretty much entirely fine.
Away We Go
I could detail the ridiculous palaver I went through whilst I was getting ready, but if you’re not bored already, then the tale of my struggles to adequately attire myself would surely fucking kill you. So instead, after I had clad myself in my preposterous disguise, off we trotted to the tube. I kept glancing about me, fearfully expecting half the world to be watching the weird woman with the bizarre curly read hair and hat in bemused repulsion – but no one seemed to give a flying duck’s arse. Sometimes I love London – it’s such a diverse city that no one really has time nor inclination to care about someone looking ‘alternative’. If I wore what I wore that day here – and actually, I’d like to, because I was quite pleased with it – then I’d be subjected not only to stares, but to abuse by groups of teenage males who’d be much more amenable to me if they were peripatetic NPCs in Saints Row: The Third.
We took the tube to Borough and headed to a pub close to the Cross Bones graveyard, where Zarathustra (Z) of The Not So Big Society fame was due to meet us. Perhaps this is a good point at which to note that I was able to bring five guests. These were A (obviously!); Z (as noted); Carrie Holroyd, an activist with Young Minds and a freelance mental health writer that I’ve known online for some time; and my wonderful best friend Daniel and his lovely partner Craig.
To cut a long story short(er), eventually all of us – Carrie excepted, as she met us just before we all went into the auditorium – ended up in the National Theatre for a pre-ceremony drink.
Z asked me if I had crafted an acceptance speech. I looked conspiratorially at A, then turned back to Z and laughed in his face.
“Why the fuck would I?” I asked him, in all sincerity. “I’m not going to win the thing.”
Z furrowed his brow slightly. “I think you have a chance,” he replied.
I scoffed, and if memory serves me correctly, I might even have accused him of being somewhat delusional. Not anything of which to be ashamed, clearly, but still not cognisant of reality ;)
When Daniel arrived, he almost immediately stated that I seemed really nervous. Curiously though, by that point, I wasn’t – or, at least, not consciously. That said, after a 15 minute fight in the woman’s bogs with the fucking high heels that I’d been idiotic enough to think I could wear for an entire bloody evening, off we trotted (stumbled in my case) next door to the awards venue, the Southbank BFI. Here anxiety threatened, briefly, to paralyse me (or catalyse me into fleeing – not that the heels would have permitted that, the evil bastards) – but in the end, I managed far better than I ever thought I would. I was a bit rambly at points, I know, and I’m pretty certain I made a tit of myself, but it could have been a lot worse.
Dan, having detected that perhaps now I was slightly struggling (I’ve known him for over half my life – other than A, I don’t think anyone knows me better), grabbed an angelic glass of red wine as it floated by, and thrust it into my hand. I sipped at it with relieved gladness, and felt myself gravitating towards a table where – although I couldn’t sit – I could at least stand with support and not topple over. Fucking Shoes. Anyway, I’d just stuck some crisp thing or other into my fat gob when a tall gentleman approached me, and asked if I was the person responsible for the Serial Insomniac blog. Trying my hardest – and failing – to swallow the stupid, calorie-laden piece of nourishment I’d just lifted, I responded in the affirmative, apologising to the man for eating with my mouth full. He introduced himself as Matt [Wilkinson], one of the judges, and told me – to my stunned delight – that he wanted to let me know how “brilliant” my blog was. I was really touched that he’d specifically taken the time to come over and tell me that.
Unfortunately, at that point the BFI staff were asking us to move into the auditorium, so I didn’t get long to chat to Matt, but he did tell me that the New Media category had been particularly strong (a statement with which I obviously entirely agreed).
Having found Carrie somewhere along the way, all six of us strode forth into the classy auditorium (or, more accurately, five of us did. I tiptoed, wobbled and tripped my way in. As I did so, I seriously pondered whether I should take off the Fucking Shoes and throw them into the close-by Thames – but I swear the things are malevolently alive. They would have crawled out of their watery non-grave and come to avenge themselves by embarrassing me in front of all the assembled attendees at the ceremony). As we chose our seats, Z suggested I sit on the outside, “just in case” I had to get out to the stage. I rolled my eyes, but acquiesced.
As I said somewhere way, way up above, in the figurative Gods of this post, I had intended to live tweet from the event, but the reception was abysmal inside the plush and comfortable auditorium. I managed to send a few text messages to Twitter – one about the introduction given by Paul Farmer, Mind’s Chief Executive, another about the opening speech from Rebecca Front, the actress and comedian hosting the presentation. By some miracle of telecommunications, I even managed a few messages about the winners of both the journalism and student journalism awards. At that juncture, though, the telecommunication gods decided to withdraw their support. My phone decided it would absolutely not work at all any more, and as I was trying to piss about with the settings in the hope that I could force its co-operation, I dropped the fucker. Predictably enough, it was not good enough for the phone to fall merely in front of me – oh no, it fucking richocheted off the row in front of me and made its merry way off to Temporary Phone Oblivion. So ended my spurious attempts at live tweeting.
I can’t remember the exact order of the ceremony, because it wasn’t in the chronology listed in either the programme for the evening nor the online short-list pages. So, before I move on to discussion of the New Media presentation, let me say a few words (as if!) on some of the entries that I especially liked. Z has written a great post on this over at The Not So Big Society, and I agree with nearly all of what he said (the exception being the bits about me!), but I’ll offer a few views anyway.
Josh Jackson, who won the Student Journalist category, had made a remarkably touching and brave film about his experiences of depression entitled Suffering in Silence (which is now available here – go and watch it! I’ll still be here when you get back – we’re only 3,000 words in, after all ;)). The other two nominees in this category did seem excellent, but the very personal nature of Josh’s piece really struck a chord with me, and I was delighted when it was his name read out as winner. A few whoops from the audience confirmed that I was far from alone in seeing him as an extremely worthy recipient.
Victoria Derbyshire’s Radio 5 Alcoholic GP won the News and Current Affairs gong. As the clip of her show was played, I found even my cynical self genuinely moved by the content, and the implications thereof. Granted, the GP did most of the talking in that particular segment, with Ms Derbyshire only speaking at certain points – but to me that was the entire point. She knew exactly when it was appropriate to ask questions or add sensitive comments, and seemed to have an innate appreciation of how she should handle her words and tone. In her acceptance speech, she said that the team behind the show were still in touch with the GP, and that she was “working very hard.” I’m sure neither of them will ever read this, but just in case, I wish them both all the very best.
The Speech Radio winner was, again, a Radio 5 programme, this time looking at the life of Robert Enke, the German footballer who sadly killed himself two years ago. This too was a poignant and eloquent documentary, and it felt all the more tragically appropriate in the immediate aftermath of the awful news of Gary Speed‘s death. A Life Too Short highlighted the strains inherent in sporting professions, and how living in such a ‘macho’ world make it difficult for those affected to speak out.
And speaking of…well, of speaking out. There was a non-categorised, special award for doing just that, and I think we were all thrilled and delighted when we learnt that it was Beckie0’s superlative YouTube video that won that award. I had actually felt guilty about winning the New Media category in lieu of her, such was the candour and courage she displayed. So this was really well deserved, and I was thrilled for her.
I have no idea if Beckie ever did face any form of intolerance due to her condition – but if she did, I think we can rather definitively say that she had the last laugh.
So You Won It?
Yes. Weren’t you reading the other day?!
The very worst part of the evening, which in a perverse, adrenaline-ODing sort of way was also the most thrilling, was when Rebecca Front said, “…and now to the Mark Hanson New Media Award…”
I felt as if I’d been stabbed with a live wire encumbered with a form anxiety that would cripple even a wooly fucking mammoth. My pulse quickened, my mouth went dry and I could scarcely breathe.
Why? Who the hell knows? It doesn’t make any sense to me, as – as was extensively discussed above – I thought I knew I wouldn’t win. So why would I be so nervous? It doesn’t make any sense whatsoever, especially given that until that point, save for the incident in the early morning, I’d felt surprisingly OK about the whole thing.
Anyway, Rebecca invited Donna Franceschild, one of the judges of the awards and a BAFTA-winning TV writer, to the stage to present the award. As Donna reached the podium, she advised – poignantly, and to my personal smiles – that Clare Francis, Mark Hanson’s wife, was in situ. She was asked to also come up on stage.
Donna then proceeded to read out descriptions of the short-listed entries.
My heart stopped beating.
I heard the terms “beautifully written”, “by turns heart-breaking and hilarious” and “essays” (I loved that one) bouncing about the room without really being sure that they were being levied at Confessions. Of course, there was a giant screenshot of this blog behind the stage, so I don’t really know where my confusion came from; perhaps it was some weird form of dissociative mechanism for dealing with the surge of adrenaline pumping through and suffocating every capillary of my body.
[Amusing aside: Mind’s PR company, Keystone, had asked me to send them screenshots several weeks ago. I sent them the profile image from the top right of the sidebar, which was published in the programme – but I also sent them a copy of the header, in which I had removed the myriad instances of words like ‘fuck’, ‘cunt’, ‘twatbags’ etc. However, when it came to the bit, they had taken a more recent screenshot themselves; although I didn’t examine it closely – I didn’t think to look at the time and anyway, I was hardly thinking straight – it seems likely that the ‘dirtiest’ words in the English language were visually blared out to the great and the good of the British media. How pathetic is it that I find this amusing? At 28, I’m still the most puerile person I know].
Donna read out the names of the rest of the nominees and their descriptions. I have to be honest here and admit that I don’t remember a word of what she said; my head was somewhere in a cloud-cuckoo land of waaaaghhh! The next thing I do remember, though, is watching – as if in slow motion – her picking that envelope up from the lectern. Time stopped as she opened it, and took a breath in readiness to speak.
“And the anonymous winner…” [my emphasis].
Anonymous. Who else was anonymous, Pan? It must have been someone…
“…of the Mark Hanson New Media Award…”
Maybe one of the others uses a pseudonym and I mistook it for a real name? You stupid cow, how could you have missed that?
“…Confessions of a Serial Insomniac.”
And time stopped standing still, and everything came into focus, yet simultaneously spinned around me and the world suddenly had colours, bright, vibrant colours, and applause, and people on my left-hand side (A and my friends, despite the former just having lost £1,000!) grabbing my arm and grinning madly and speaking words of excited congratulation. Some automated version of me through her hands over her mouth in a gesture of utter shock as soon as the words had left Donna Franceschild’s lips. I turned to my friends, my eyes wide with delight, with disbelief, with oh my God, did you just hear that, with appeals to their ears in case I had misunderstood what had been announced in some sort of warped narcissistic delusional hallucination.
Somehow, I clambered up from my seat and cautiously made my way down the stairs, towards the stage. Curiously, the only thoughts I recall going through my head at the time were along the lines of, “don’t fall, Pan. Don’t fucking fall.” Which I nearly did on the ramp up to the stage, thanks to the Fucking Shoes. But I balanced myself, and eventually found myself in front of Rebecca Front, Donna Franceschild and Clare Francis.
I don’t remember much about that; I remember that I was asked in whispers if, in recognition of my anonymity, I wanted to make a speech; I confirmed that I did, even though I had absolutely nothing prepared. Sorry for not listening to you, Z – you and Dan were right, you told me so, yeah yeah yeah, I get it. I remember slight confusion over whether or not to take the award and certificate or make the speech first. I remember standing at the lectern, seeing a mass of faces in front of me and shaking – but shaking because of the Fucking Shoes trying to murder me, rather than out of the terror one might surely have expected in such a circumstance (incidentally, I did a lot of public speaking at school, and was one of those rare people that enjoyed talking in front of an audience. I know I’m ridden with social anxiety these days, so it would seem odd if I were still thus comfortable, but strangely, I think I was).
I opened my mouth to speak…
It’s Just a Silly Blog
A videoed my speech. The sound on the camera is shit, but insofar as I could hear it, the following is an exact transcript of what I said.
Um, I have nothing prepared – I genuinely didn’t think I would win this but, um, first of all, thank you, and I must say that it’s a great honour to win this in honour* of Mark Hanson – I know [that] Mark was very well known in the social media world and, er, it’s particularly wonderful to see Clare here as well. Um…yeah. I don’t know why people read it – it’s just a silly blog [audience: polite laughter] – but I would like to dedicate the award to them [my readers] and I’d like to thank my friends, some of whom are in the audience here, and particularly my partner who[m] I love very much and who’s been wonderfully supportive during this rollercoaster [me: nervous laughter at the use of a world I loathe in this context] I’ve experienced…so, thank you all very much.
* I used the word ‘honour’ twice in quick succession, which displeases me. In the second instance, it would have been more appropriate to have used ‘memory’.
Nevertheless, for having prepared nothing – literally nothing – beforehand, it could have been a lot worse. Someone on stage – I think it was Rebecca Front – said that it had been a good speech. A number of others reiterated the sentiment afterwards. A later told me that he thought I spoke well, content-wise, but that I sounded nervous (I blame the Fucking Shoes for that). However, he claims – as he claimed of Beckie Brown’s speech also – that our surprise and justified nerves made our acceptances all the more endearing.
As I left the podium, an award and a tube containing my certificate were thrust into my hands. The award is incredible. Bright, shiny, reflective metal, heavy, perfectly engraved with Mind’s logo and font – and my details. MY details. Wow. Just…wow.
The immediate aftermath of the ceremony was a whirlwind. Daniel, who was in tears, flung his arms around me and waxed lyrical about how wonderful he thinks I am which – even though I already knew that he’s sweet enough to think that, it’s still so lovely to hear. We stood and hugged for ages, before he had to dash off (thanks to the Budget the following day, on which he was up to 2am working. Fuck you, Gideon). I remember hugging Craig too before he left. It was only the second time I’d met him – the first only being the day before – but I like him. He and Dan seem to ‘work’ together, and I really hope their relationship lasts.
People, so many people, they came to offer congratulations, to offer interest in what I write, to chat, to be wonderful. I had to wait around in the auditorium for a few official pictures, and gave what were probably waffly, nervous answers to a number of questions the photographer, along with Clare, Donna and Rebecca, had been kind enough to ask. In my defence, the Fucking Shoes were conspiring to plot my (literal and metaphorical) downfall, and I was still on a nervy-adrenaline high, so if any of the four of you are reading this, sorry if I seemed like a twat!
Back in the lobby, I was advised by someone – I’m not sure who, sorry – that there had been a minor Twitter storm about my win. I felt dreadful that I’d not been able to announce it there myself as I would have liked, and I know that one or two of you noticed that omission ;) I believe that the madness started when Mind themselves tweeted about the result of the New Media Award and, subsequently, about my acceptance speech. As he’d left the auditorium, I know Z intended to announce it too, so even though I failed you, at least you knew :)
I’ve apologised for this on Twitter, but lest you missed it: when I had a chance to check my client, I was completely overwhelmed with @mentions. Seriously, there was something like 100 of them. I know if you’re a celebrity that must seem like an infinitesimal amount even by the standards of fuck all squared, but for me? That was a lot. There was no way I could respond to them all individually so my only viable option was to send a more general tweet thanking everyone, in the hope that said everyone would see it.
I met Dawn, who was lovely, gracious, flattering, and so wonderfully enthusiastic about social media, and the quiet revolution in mental health that blogging and Twitter are making. I met Beckie, who is every bit as smart and charming in reality as she is on YouTube. I met Dan from CALM, who was a really friendly and truly interesting guy, really (and rightly!) positive about the great work he’s doing. Watch this space for news of a potential guest post for the CALM site :)
I met Taryn, Mind’s Digital Officer, who’ve I’ve known on Twitter since I reviewed Wendy Perriam’s Broken Pieces for them. She was great – bubbly, charismatic, full of good conversation. I met her colleagues Matt and Eve too – and guess what? They were lovely! I met several more of her colleagues later when I did a voxpop for them – more on that shortly – but I can’t remember their names and I feel awful about that because…yep, that’s right: they were lovely.
I properly spoke to Carrie, who was a delight, for the first time, mainly about the excellence that is Babylon 5 – however, our conversation was cut all too short by something or other, so I suppose I’ll just have to meet her again soon to make up for that ;) I met @YouMustBeMental, who had bravely come to the occasion on her own, but who was easy-going, great to chat to and all-round good craic. I met Mark Brown from One in Four (look out for my article rounding up blogs in its next issue), who was a gentleman. I met Liz Main, one of the judges who, by random coincidence, is married to a (relatively) local bloke that A and I have known on Twitter for months. Small world! I met Paul Farmer, Mind’s Chief Executive, who is nothing like the stereotypical stuck-up Executive type – he was, instead, friendly, congratulatory and thoroughly down-to-Earth. And I met so, so many more – and I haven’t a single negative word to say about any of them. I was convinced that there would be a few pricks who were a bit up their own arses, but seriously, if there were any such people there, I did not encounter any of them.
Perhaps most intriguingly, I also met one of the short-listers – I’m so sorry, but if you’re reading this, I never did catch your name…*blushes*…maybe you can give us a wave?! :) – and learnt some of the inside story.
It turns out that A and I had been partially correct that the language used on Confessions could have been detrimental to the possibility of me winning the award. The (guess what?) lovely girl to whom I was talking said it was actually a bit of a challenge to get the blog onto the shortlist for this reason. However, it wasn’t so much the multitude of ‘fuck’s and ‘cunt’s that were the problem – but more my penchant for what could be considered stigmatic nomenclature. For example, “batshit”. “Doolally” (Paul always liked that one, though). The self-directed commonality of “mental freak” and similar accolades. References to “catching the bus” or “topping oneself”. For the avoidance of doubt, my informant did not give me any specific examples of that to which was objected, but I think it was mainly that kind of thing. It seems that I ultimately got away with it because the references were frequently tongue-in-cheek, used satirically, or were self-, rather than widely-, directed. Also, I address the matter directly in my ‘About‘ page, stating that I can be rather crass at times, but that I do aim to break barriers and fight stigma. In a way, there is part of me that wants to reclaim these terms for the mentalist lexicon; the LGBTQ community admirably did it with, for instance, ‘queer’, so why not those of us that are mad?
As noted briefly above, at one point Taryn asked me to do a voxpop for Mind’s website, a proposition to which I agreed. This may seem like the most monumentally moronic thing in which an anonymous blogger could partake – but honestly, the disguise was goooooooood. I really looked nothing like my real self at all, so I’m confident that the video taken will not lead to my identification. After all, _why the lucky stiff got away with parading himself publicly for ages whilst maintaining his anonymity, and he wasn’t even trying to hide his real looks. [/gratuitous geek reference].
I felt that I muddled myself quite a bit in the first two questions of the voxpop, although the lady conducting the interview – yet another lovely person whose name I have, to my disgusted regret, forgotten – seemed appreciative of my answers. The third though, as verified by the observing A, went better. The question was something about the profundity of social media in the lives of people with mental illness, and I proffered my sincerely-held view that were it not for Twitter, and to a lesser extent blogging, I would be dead today. Fuck you, Nadine Dorries (not that I said that on tape, of course ;)). I know I wax lyrical about this all the time, but it does merit reiteration; Twitter is the best support group – and, by dent of that, therapy – that I’ve ever come across. Words fail here, so I’ll offer an inadequate but sincere ‘thank you’ once again.
Things started wrapping up towards 10.30pm or so, and off back to the hotel headed A and I, saying our farewells to Z at Waterloo Station.
We got back, drained and exhausted, but thrilled and elated at the same time.
Knowing that I had won this thing, this thing that I didn’t feel I really deserved but about which I was nonetheless genuinely thrilled, was surreal. So surreal, in fact, that I started packing (even though we didn’t leave until Wednesday) and then went to bed, rather than gawking in awe at the beautiful trophy. It was only the next day, whilst sitting in a pub waiting for a brief but welcome meet-up with Dan, that I really felt it. As I said to A, I couldn’t stop thinking about the award and how unutterably and stunningly humbling it was that people actually like this nonsense and somehow see it as being valuable.
Because, Thank God, It Has to End Somewhere
So it ends – almost – here. In conclusion – what an incredible night, and what incredible people I was both fortunate enough to meet, and am fortunate enough to know.
So, as I leave this preposterously-even-by-my-standards post, let me do one more raft of thanks. I’d especially like to thank Clare, Donna and Rebecca for presenting me with the award. Thanks to Keystone – and, in particular, Jenny – for their organisation of the event, and especially for their efforts in maintaining my anonymity. Thanks to Taryn and the other digital folks at Mind for all their hard and valuable work, and to the BFI staff for running around with booze and food for us ;)
Zarathustra, Carrie and Craig – it was an honour to have you there with me, and your support and congratulations were immeasurable to me. Phil Groom – not only are you a gentleman of the…er…gentlest proportions, I know that you were one of the people that nominated me for this honour, and I appreciate that more than you know. I appreciate you more than you know. @bourach – meeting you on Saturday was absolutely brilliant, and when I said this blog would not have existed in the first place but for you, I meant it. You won’t believe me, but I don’t care; I think you’re strong, smart, witty, and just generally terrific. And to all of my wonderful, supportive, passionate, intelligent and ever-entertaining readers – all the superlatives in this post and the award itself are completely dedicated to you. Thank you again. You really are teh absolute r0ck0rz.
If you’re eagle-eyed, or if you’re one of the personnel concerned, you’ll notice some glaring omissions here. Firstly, Daniel. I’ve known him for over half my life now, and although the Irish Sea has nefariously separated us for 10 years, the mark and strength of a friendship – a proper, loving, symmetrical friendship – is its enduring longevity and ability to ‘pick up where you left off’. That could not be more accurate in this case. Daniel, you’ve been a constant in my life for so long, and you have never once let me down. Also, you’re an idiot. A puerile, irreverent, off-the-wall idiot – and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I love you, you daft sod, and thank you for everything, always.
My mother will probably – by turns hopefully and sadly – never read this, but of course none of it would be possible without her. That she doesn’t know that I’ve achieved this makes me feel full of nauseated regret and woe – but I’d rather that than ruin her life, or even possibly endanger her very existence, what with the dark revelations that so frequently inhabit this blog. But lest she ever does read it, and lest anyone else be in any doubt, I love her very, very much and without her I would not only not be writing, but I would be dead.
And you, A. Thanks for the grand, Mister! (Yes, he really did pay up on the back of my ridiculous joke! Such an action truly makes me look sane). It’ll come in handy ;)
Seriously. There’s no doubt that I’d be six feet under (or lying at the bottom of Beachy Head or something) without you and your unwavering support, companionship, private sentimentality and profound love. Maybe I don’t always show it, and fuck knows I don’t say it often enough – but I know I’m so, so lucky to have you in my life, and I love you to the ends of the Earth.
Over and out. (Finally. Well done to anyone that got this far. What kind of sad life you must lead to have read all of this. Similar to the kind of sad life I lead by having written it all. OK. Enough. Really. Gone now. Vanished. Bye.).