The story that sees me start on my journey to a career in the field of mental health takes place when I am 23, and four years into my medical studies in London. It is March 2003 and I am studying Philosophy & Medical Science, due to return to my clinical studies to become a doctor in the summer, and graduate medical school, as I go on to do completing the final 2 years of my studies and graduating in July 2005.

 

Over a few months preceding March 2003 whilst trying to make sense of life, the universe and my place in it, my internal world had begun to take on unfamiliar and frightening hues. I would shortly be diagnosed with an episode of severe depression. I didn’t know this at the time of course. At the time, I just thought I needed to think harder, think for longer, think better, all the while having a sense that I was sinking deeper into a place I would eventually feel unable to escape from.

 

Over several extremely painful weeks, in the run up to experiencing full blown depression, the future I was struggling to visualise and grapple with began to recede from view. The world, that had changed around me and challenged me, as it can do, particularly during early adult life, now seemed to be carrying on behind a thick impenetrable wall of glass, which I could not break through. My mind felt like it was disintegrating and in the place of all that had been familiar and comforting I found myself submerged in wave after wave of sheer panic, and then finally in the saddest and most painful place I have ever experienced.

 

Those last several days are a blur of dark thoughts, and pain such as I have never felt before or since. Fortunately for me I managed to share what I was going through with my family. I began medication which helped ease me away from that dark place and I recovered a lot over a month, more so over the next six months and felt on gradually more solid ground over the next couple of years.

 

Those first several days on medication felt like being in an entirely different world to the one I had known. I could barely eat, I could barely move and the waves of panic attacks continued.

 

This life of mine after March 2003 feels like my second life. In March 2003 something of me died – my philosophical cerebral self who wanted to understand everything – and it would take a few years to begin to form a new solid sense of self. In those moments of deep despair, the thought of slipping away was both painful and comforting. I was trying to square life, to understand life, to understand truth and it struck me that this experience we have called life, should not see me end my life as a response to trying to live its truth. My cerebral philosophical quest for truth had led me to a painful place. I needed to find a way to be in a world that was not perfect and to embrace this truth.

 

After lying in my bed on my own in the middle of an intense, seemingly never-ending panic attack, my chest in vice like pain, I managed to reflect as the pain subsided that perhaps there was a purpose to this. That perhaps this experience would help me help others. Framing this difficult experience in this way in that moment gave me hope and this is where I began my journey into the field of mental health.

 

On the road to recovery I initially began to write. The novel I worked on, tried to answer this question: How does one live a life of truth, in a world that is far from perfect. The half-finished novel that saw me recover over a few years and start to feel alive again, gathers dust in a drawer in my house, with multiple more drafts stored in long forgotten files on my computer. The core experience I had writing it, directing events with my pen, creating a set of circumstances with the power of my imagination have never left me. I had been brought up with the idea that there is purpose to life; that to emulate and connect with the divine was to emulate divine justice and mercy. To this I add that to emulate the divine is to emulate the divine as creator, to emulate the process of creation and creating. Writing the novel, and bringing realities to life on the page empowered me. I learnt that to live is to create.

 

We are thrust into the world a blank canvas. Soon paragraphs and pictures, weave their way into the white fibres around our core being. There are the stories we are told by others that we experience ourselves in. There are the scripts we follow. There are chapters that come unasked for; pages or mere sentences that bind us in pain, and sometimes just a few words, a little punctuation or even the space between the words, that see us soar and set us free. The future I realised has not been written yet. The future is our blank canvas and this is where we can create. If we can imagine something beautiful and truthful in our minds eye then we can project that image onto the future and walk towards it.

 

As I beheld the vision of a purposeful future, I began to feel stronger. To be alive is to dream of a better future, to look at the future and ask; How should this future be? What should it feel like? What should it achieve? ….and only then – How can I contribute to making this happen?

 

The story I began to visualise, was the story of a place where people could experience respite and reassurance, validation, nurture and support. I imagined a clinic that wasn’t built in a day but one that would gradually grow into something very special over many years. It would be a place where frightening difficult experiences could be spoken of and understood, where wholesome care from good people was available, and accessible. Where people who were experiencing what I had experienced – and there are so many of us – could reach out, feel connected and have hope. Where staff, clinicians, patients and their families felt cared for and nurtured. I called this story Psymplicity, registering the name in 2011.

I have been writing this story ever since. In 2014 the clinic opened its doors. I now have the joy of writing the story with many other co-authors, our team, clinicians, our patients and their families, whom I am privileged to work alongside each day.