I don’t generally believe in role models, as I have often found the idea to not be one that appeals to me. The whole idea of having a role model is very personal and I’ve never really been the kind of person who looks up to others and holds them on a pedestal. People are flawed which is fine for me and until very recently while I admired people, I would never claim to have a role model.
However, I have started to see the appeal as I have started to connect with people both online and in person, who have got similar mental health problems to me and are overcoming the same issues in life as me. This has led me to find people I can really connect with, see myself in and even look up to as an example of what I can do. It may be the case that I call this a ‘person I look up to and admire’ rather than a role model, but I am going to embrace the term because I have accepted that role models don’t have to be perfect, they just have to be someone you admire.
The person who I thought of immediately when thinking about who I admire, who has helped me personally and who I relate to a lot is Claire Eastham. Claire is a writer, blogger and public speaker whose book ‘We’re all mad here’ changed my life. Her story was one of the first I had read after getting an official diagnosis of both depression and anxiety. Having found myself lost and struggling to both concentrate properly on books and come to terms with my new diagnosis; I discovered Claire’s story online and just had to read her book.
Reading her story was like having a light shone on myself as I finally felt like someone was expressing exactly what I went through on a daily basis with anxiety. It was amazing to discover that someone else went through the same pitfalls of overthinking, mind-reading and catastrophising that I did. Later, when I went through cognitive behavioural therapy, I found myself better equipped to tell my therapist what I thought and how my body reacted in anxious situations, partly because Claire helped me feel ‘normal’, like I wasn’t alone and like I had the words to say how I was feeling.
I have since had the pleasure of meeting Claire twice at mental health events with the campaign Time to Change and both times she was a brilliant speaker and very lovely and down to earth after speaking. The fact that Claire goes through anxiety like mine and is able to stand up in front of audiences sharing her story, has sold thousands of copies of her book on anxiety and is an amazingly lovely person too, gave me hope that I could do the very same. Having then gone on to speak to audiences about my mental health and been able to write in blogs (including Claire’s own one), I have found the strength to be able to successfully share my story and inspire others like she does.
Claire is exactly what a role model should be in my opinion. I am not looking for someone to be absolutely perfect and someone who I can emulate completely; rather I’m just looking for people who give me hope that I can live and succeed in life alongside my anxiety. Her philosophy is that your brain deserves the same treatment as your physical body, something I completely agree with. Rather than being afraid of talking, she has gone on TV, podcasts and attended conferences sharing her story of anxiety, while never once being afraid to talk about the tougher aspects of anxiety. Again, I completely agree with her. Making people understand that issues like anxiety affect a lot of people (and don’t make us abnormal) is so important for reducing stigma around anxiety and other mental health problems.
If you’re interested in reading more about Claire and learning about her experience of anxiety, you can visit her website: www.allmadhere.co.uk