After a warm greeting, I found myself sitting at a table, chatting to those who had come to these events before, and some who just like me found themselves here for the first time. It was clear however, that people had come to be open. It was a safe space. Everyone had come to listen to stories about overcoming. To relax. To take something away with them, and to know that we aren’t alone.
We pass so many people every day, but we have no idea about the struggles they are going through or the battles they have won, however big or small. Therefore, we fall into a mindset. One where we begin to question how everyone seamlessly go through their lives, and why we find ourselves at hurdles. It was visible to me that these events tackle this preconception head on.
After having grabbed a coffee, the event began.
Ian started with his story. It was meant to be an interview. But as soon as his story began, both Ian and the audience forgot that it was one. The clarity in his message could not have been better. No matter how high you work your way up the career ladder, your wellbeing comes first. It was a story that really got me thinking. A lot of those who are my age find themselves wanting to go on to high-flying careers, but how often do we check that we aren’t carrying a heavy baggage on our shoulders? Go with your heart, and you’ll never feel the weight.
Sarah’s story on her recent diagnosis with autism, took a unique form. With her she had a set of labels. Labels that had been given to her throughout her life, but now made much more sense given her recent diagnosis. It was truly inspiring to see how this has led her to become more accepting of herself. Something which many members of society struggle to do.
Following on, we found ourselves having a reflective break. Speaking to those around me, there was truly a feeling of being humbled, but at the same time I could not help noticing an almost uplifting atmosphere too. And so, the event continued.
Charlie’s story was powerful. He provided an insight into Boarding School Syndrome. A topic which is not often touched upon but is something that many must live with and overcome. From being cared by those who didn’t really care, to living a life where the symptoms of the syndrome had to constantly be hurdled. He really did show his resilience in overcoming day-to-day struggles, including depression, anxiety and a sense of not belonging.
And finally, Lizzie brought us back to how we started with Ian. A reminder that what we see externally may not always match up internally. Her story was definitely a high to end on. She described how she brought herself out of a period of feeling low, and the importance her family played in directing her through that journey.
After the host had wrapped up, I started to get ready to leave. But I was leaving more inspired than when I came in. I was amazed by the power that the event had to challenge mental health stigmas directly. But ultimately, I left with a sense of hope and satisfaction that support structures like Touch are out there to remind us that we aren’t alone.