Hope seems like the sun
Hope. It is such a small but important word, and one we use a lot when we discuss the journeys we travel when managing mental illness. As 2015 draws to a close, we asked some of our friends to explore their ideas of hope and what it means to them. This is what 'Hope' means to actress and performer Juliette Burton:
I will not be sad to say farewell to 2015. This year has been difficult for many reasons. But there is always hope. And if hope ever fades then at least there’s curiosity.
In my life I have been diagnosed with anorexia, OCD, depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, bulimia and compulsive overeating disorder. When I was 17 and 18 I had a psychosis involving visual and audible hallucinations.
After multiple hospital admissions and being sectioned under the mental health act aged 17, a lot of people may have lost hope in me. My mother never did. She had continued faith at times when others effectively washed their hands of me. She had the courage to remain hopeful.
It takes courage to have hope, not naivety or ignorance. Hope is often a choice. My mother told me recently that I’m stronger now than I’ve ever been.
I only got to this stage thanks to her not giving up on me. Beneath all my illnesses, I was always there. It just takes courage sometimes to see the person, not the condition, and therefore pull the person through.
Now I write and perform docu-comedy shows that aim to break down stigma surrounding mental health and more. I try to make people laugh about the times when I only felt like crying; I want to help people feel uplifted. I want to give them hope.
I have at various points in my life struggled with suicidal thoughts. I have made plans to end my life, more than once. At those times hope was lost. But curiosity remained. What pulled me back from the brink wasn’t hope, but inquisitiveness. Who was I to know that things wouldn’t get better? Maybe I would go on to do something to help others and make a positive impact. Maybe hope would return. Maybe.
All my shows are inquisitive; they pose and explore universal questions in fun, comedic ways. My last show asked “Is what we appear to be who we are?” and my brand new show which I’m writing now asks “Can one choice change a life?”
The choice to keep fighting my conditions this year has been very hard. At certain moments, due to certain pressures, I relapsed in my conditions. My depression and anxiety have both been acute. My paranoid thoughts have at times felt suffocating and inescapable. I once again have thought to myself “Things aren’t going to get better. I’ll never be rid of this way of thinking. I cannot go on living with these illnesses. It’s too hard.” At certain dark times I have felt, in the darkest way, hopeless.
But I haven’t been alone. I’ve had a trusting relationship with a therapist. I have dear friends who surround me, holding me up when I haven’t the strength to go on, a best friend who catches me when I fall. This year has been wrought with challenges but it’s also been a chance for me to recognise how much I have to be grateful for.
From Twitter pals to friends I see in person, chums at charities to colleagues I count as companions, I’m no longer alone. It’s only when I’m alone that I lose all hope. My friends help me find it again.
Hope seems to me to be like the sun; it is always there, but sometimes the clouds get in the way and block its light from us. We’re convinced the sun has vanished, although it has not. That’s when friends and family can lift us up above the clouds, showing us the brightness has not gone.
Juliette is an award-winning actress, writer and comedy performer. Visit her website to read more about her work.
If you like what you read here and want to support Rethink Mental Illness - Text BLOG to 70300 to give £1. Click here to read the T&Cs.