I am never comfortable with talking about my depression and the orange-coloured way it weirdly manifests itself. I’ve written about it many times but never publically spoken of it. So when I gave a talk for the New Leaf Celebration at Jodrell Bank yesterday I was uncharacteristically nervous. My workshops are normally fun, high-energy and participatory and I’m comfortable in that zone, but here I was trying to convey how it feels to have a career blighted by incredibly damaging mental illness, ultimately ending in homelessness.
Every speaker on the day was brilliant in their frank and brave description of their own addiction or mental health, and genuinely heartfelt in their gratitude to New Leaf, which is a wonderful organisation fully-deserving of this celebration and our eulogies.
As ever when I give a talk, I came away feeling good that I’d told my story, and I’d made the 200-strong audience chuckle with a tale from my Adventures in the Ottermobile. But I also couldn’t help berating myself for being so nervous, so unnaturally uncomfortable with the microphone. I knew I was being unfair on myself but couldn’t help it, because I am a perfectionist and this is the curse of the strong. And yet, when I sat down and reflected, with the unfailing support of my girlfriend Miranda, we reached the conclusion that it was because I was in a strange environment…
… I’d never been to Jodrell Bank before, I’d passed it on the train a thousand times in my commute to Manchester while working on Coronation Street, but never actually been. So it was alien to me, like it was alien to tell an audience of strangers that I am a man living with and fighting depression, who sometimes feels he’s losing his fight and in turn he feels like ending it.
But as I talked for some twenty minutes, and when I heard the spontaneous laughter at my story, I grew in confidence and knew I’d win. Just like I will win this latest of my many battles with depression. I am turning over another new leaf and the future is bright but not orange.