Tuesday 21 April 2020

A love letter to Bryony Gordon

Monday 20th April, day who-even-knows-anymore of lockdown, I'm sitting in my parent's garden with clear blue skies above me and a strong coastal wind knocking the oxygen I so desperately needed today into my lungs, while reading a book I have fallen in love with; Mad Girl, by Bryony Gordon.

I'm 210 in of the 294 pages, and so far can only describe it as incredibly raw and brutally honest page turner, printed with its in so many ways painful words that have sparked a familiarity in me.

For those who do not know Bryony's story, I urge you to pick up a copy of this book and lose yourself in it. Whilst personally I cannot relate to the drugs and alcohol addiction that captured her in their fake promise of happiness, I felt every word of her written journey as she regaled her past and the stories of love and heartbreak defined by the cruelty, and the unkindness weak men can unveil unto women resonated with me on a level I'm saddened to understand as well as I do.

Today's particular chapter began at page 177, titled 'I think I might need to do something different'. I don't want to issue any spoilers as I really do mean it when I say you must read this book, but I found myself weeping with joy in tandem with Bryony's words. A sense of 'finding the light' spread like the warm gentle glow of wildfire in the realisation that it does get better. There will be a turning point, when the stars align and you wake up to know in yourself, I don't want to feel like this anymore. I do not want to put myself through this anymore. And you welcome change like and old friend. I am 6 weeks into making that change in myself after deciding to seek help in managing diagnosed PTSD from a recent trauma in my personal life that I may never speak of outside of therapy or with those closest to me who already know (so please never ask me about it, writing this is hard enough).

I vey briefly met Bryony last year after running 10k through central London in my underwear, an event she had arranged with Vitality in a bid to inspire body acceptance. I'd never run in my life and in all fairness I certainly let myself down when it came to training, with all the best intentions when I signed up - I did absolutely fuck all. Despite waking up filled with total dread and a lingering anxiety that almost stopped me from boarding the tube, the day was actually filled with so many highs, each kilometre bringing me closer to the finish line so I could rest my knees which were screaming at me in agony.

I ran with women of every shape, size, colour and age and for the first time felt a part of something amazing. I cried as I crossed the finishing line, admittedly with joy at completing the race but mostly in sheer agony and vowing to never again put myself through that torture, all while simultaneously brimming with pride and sense of accomplishment. I had carried myself across that finishing line initially for no other reason than to prove to myself that I was capable of finishing something in my life for once. Though running the actual race itself felt so much more than that.

Having since donned my running shoes again on the odd occasion - I've found there's something freeing in feeling physical pain when I'm struggling so much with my mental pain, as though overcoming a physical hurdle gives me a power in taming the mental demons - however the recent 5K for the Run 5, Donate 5 and Tag 5 campaign absolutely wrote me off, I won't lie. Apparently running 10k once (carried only by the high gifted to me by adrenaline) does not mean you'll be able to do it again with no training or warm up, who knew?

After that May Bank Holiday 10k, I sat in Queen Liz's back garden, St James' Park, with two friends sipping Marks and Sparks' canned cocktails and scranning crisps when my friend and fellow race companion (who abandoned me at 4k by the way to keep up with Loose Women's Andrea McLean as I lagged behind gasping for air - I've not forgotten that Sophie!) spotted Bryony. We ran over to her, suddenly the pain in my knees forgotten, to thank her for an incredible day; to tell her what I meant to us and to tell her what an inspiration she is. It was a bit of a fan girl moment if I'm completely honest with you, but to meet someone IRL who you idolise is incredible.

Left to right: Half of me, Bryony Gordon, Sophie

There are a select few people whom I have never met yet would like to think I'm friends with, and Bryony is one of them:

- Bryony Gordon
- Lewis Capaldi
- Fearne Cotton
- Chloe Plumstead
- Greg James
- Ant and Dec
- Clara Amfo
- Bridget Jones

It's no secret that I struggle with anxiety, and I'm forever grateful to people like Bryony who challenge the Stigma of mental health and fight to normalise it. They keep me going and give me the momentum to keep on living. Serving as a living reminder to be kind to ourselves on the days we struggle, and to let ourselves enjoy the days we don't without living in fear of the next time we spiral and plummet. To get back up, and keep fucking going, even when it's damn hard to. That love is important but most importantly we must love ourselves.

I'm on a long journey to get there, but one day I will. And on that day I'll write it all in a book of my own. And if that book helps one person like Bryony's books help me, then I reckon that's a win.


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