Personal stories of reclaiming life from mental ill health

Gwen: Mind-forged manacles

You are a grey person, you’re not in colour.

I agreed to take part in this project out of curiosity. I also wanted to open myself up to new things. Sometimes I do an avoidance thing – you say no to things because you think you can’t or you just don’t have the courage. Just being able to say yes to something I wouldn’t normally do or consider is…good.  I don’t know in what way yet, or how the outcome will be, but just by saying yes, it’s a step in the right direction.

I’d mainly like to see myself through someone else’s eyes. You get trapped in your own head with depression/anxiety stuff – Blake puts it well in a poem, ‘ Mind- forg’d manacles‘ – you are manacled in your own head. Being able to perceive myself from a different light might be helpful.

Gwen 2013_21_02-4


You find analogies for depression. I watched [the film]  Warm Bodies, it’s really good. That is almost like an extended metaphor for depression. It’s when the zombies start interacting with people and connecting with people on an emotional level that they de-zombify and become human again. When I was watching that with my condition, I was like “Oh, that’s sort of me!”  Because you know zombies are kind of disconnected from society at large, in the way they are shown in the film, that’s how I read it, from my point of view.  You are a grey person, you’re not in colour.


Gwen in her local swimming pool (1)


I used to run but I had plantar faciitis, so then I switched to swimming. Initially I used to alternate between front crawl and back stroke, but now it’s more front crawl. I swim on Fridays after work. It’s a purge for the week and I swim more quickly if I’ve had a bad day.

At the start there is agitation, then that disappears and I concentrate on breathing and technique. I look at the clock to see how fast I can compete against myself. I usually do about 70 lengths, I can do more but I find it boring


Gwen in her local swimming pool (2)


I find joy in words, reading and writing. I also enjoy physical challenges. I like to do better each time. Aside from swimming I’ve also run marathons and done the Tough Guy challenge twice. I used to shy away from new experiences but I don’t now, they help.

Laughter is also important… making others – friends and pupils – laugh and feel good about themselves. Humour helps me to be the me that I know and like. I go to a local stand-up comedy venue every other month with friends, and it’s been suggested that I should even try stand-up myself!



Gwen: Mind-forged manacles