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Lessons from Will Young: Losing my twin Rupert – Mental Health Awareness Week

Will Young - losing my twin - mental health awareness

Will Young, in his powerful documentary, Losing My Twin Rupert, did an incredible job of sharing what it is like to be a carer for someone you love who is struggling with their mental health. The film highlighted the fact that the mental health stats we hear of are actually much higher, because for every one person struggling with issues such as addiction, five others are impacted.  We can’t forget the damaging impact on close friends and family. Carers are often the unsung heroes.  They need love too.  They need a break.  They need loads of self compassion. They may need therapy and time to heal.  They also need to remember that it is not their fault and that, whilst they can be an incredible support, they can’t save a person.  We all have to save ourselves.

I think back to the time I helped to care for loved ones and felt a sense of guilt, could I have done more?  Acceptance is so important.  I remember times I have taken the mental health of others personally down to a lack of understanding.  I also remember the time I experienced my first acute mental health scare in January 2020 and the impact it had on those closest to me.  Now that I have healed from that horrendous time and come out the other side, I think about how difficult it was for those watching and at times how helpless they must have felt.  I cringe at some of the things I said, I don’t like that person at all.  Well sometimes she was great fun, the dancing levels were taken up a notch!  But on reflection, I would want to run a mile from the ‘manic’ Jojo.  But as Will says, it’s not the person, it is the illness.  We must separate the two.

A deep, unconditional love came across so clearly last night and whilst it was heartbreaking to watch, it was also beautiful.  Love can move mountains but the key when it comes to mental health struggles is learning to love ourselves.

Whilst we all have mental health which will fluctuate over the years, there are of course different levels and timescales that it can go on for.  Rupert had sadly battled with depression and addiction for many years.  I feel very thankful that my illness was only at a serious level for a couple of months.  I will never take my health for granted again and work hard to look after it.

Often when it comes to depression, anxiety disorder and addiction, we want answers.  You will often hear:

‘But they had/have a great life.  It doesn’t make sense’.

Whilst the family couldn’t think of one specific trigger, Will spoke openly about childhood trauma and abusive behaviour by teachers at their boarding school.  Sadly not so long ago, smacking with slippers and belts and being encouraged to hide emotions was considered more than acceptable.  I still remember a teacher belting me across the face in primary school, because I failed to put numbers in the right margin.  Did I tell my parents?  No, because I felt ashamed and terrified.  It took me a while to find my voice and have the courage to speak out about things that are wrong.  On one occasion, Will says a teacher threw Rupert against the library bookshelf by his throat, but this was swept under the rug.  Sadly, some levels of trauma that are not processed can come up to haunt us in later years.  It is important to remember that we all have different triggers and what can be viewed as traumatic to one person may not be as big a deal to someone else.  I was chatting on a podcast earlier and we spoke about how our memories can give us an idea of the triggers we face.  There will of course be so much we forget over the years.  But I am curious when it comes to the memories of trauma and pain, of why we hold onto certain memories and why we forget others.  Research tells us that sometimes the brain blocks out harmful experiences to protect us.  We also know that sometimes these memories can come back whilst people are in a transformational breathwork session or perhaps a CBT session.

Will talks openly about paying for regular rehab stays that were £50,000 a time.  Of course, access to the best healthcare sadly sometimes isn’t enough. Mental health is so complex and personal and I have been researching for years, trying to work out why some appear to heal more easily than others.  Is it our values?  How open minded we are?  Is it our ability to pour love and compassion into the mix?  Is it our support system?  Our personality?  The extent of the trauma?  How deeply we feel?  Is it our feelings around shame and stigma?  It is so complex.

As I write in my book in chapter 2:

‘Acceptance is a very special part of our toolkit.  Accepting that sometimes bad things happen.  Accepting that life can be a bitch.  Accepting that there are some things we can change and some we can’t.  Acceptance of yourself. That this is where you are at right now but it’s not where you are going to be forever. ‘

Acceptance is so important.  Will comes back to the idea that he did everything he could for his brother, but it still doesn’t feel like enough.  It took him a while to make peace with that.  He also spoke openly about pain. He shared that a year ago he would have felt too much pain to have made the film.  But in time, he has felt strong enough.  We can’t rush the healing process, even if we try to.  When I experienced trauma back in early 2020, I was determined that I would rush the healing process.  I had a lot of toolkits up my sleeve from over 7 years of research.  However, the words from a friend stick:

‘Be watchful, it’s a long time after you feel ok before you really are in my experience’.

We can’t rush it.  I am so inspired to see people like Will put their neck on the line with the purpose of creating real change and chipping away at stigma.  I feel thankful he was ready to do so because it’s important.

Jojo Fraser - motivational speaker and wellness author/podcaster

Jojo Fraser is an award-winning mental health researcher, author, podcaster and keynote speaker, dubbed as ‘the Queen of positivity and a kindness advocate.   She is a Tedx speaker and a regular contributor on BBC radio.  Jojo is known for normalising discussions around our mental and spiritual health, making it accessible and relatable to all.  She has quickly grown a reputation for having a huge impact even on the most sceptical of people.

Connect with her across social @jojofrasermojo

Listen to her Tedx talk about the power of removing our masks.

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