Ahh the dreaded about section. As a Brit I find it very difficult to talk about myself or ‘big myself up’ as it were, so writing this has been somewhat akin to dancing on hot coals or walking barefoot on Lego while trying to get to the fridge. It’s essential that I get to the fridge (that’s where the food lives after all), but I have to endure some pain and discomfort on the way unfortunately. Well, into the breach I go!
So who am I?
I’m Gemma and I am passionate about all things mental health and wellbeing. I believe that it’s something many people are still ashamed to admit to or talk about and I find that just, sad, on so many levels. When your mental health is at its lowest that’s when you need the most help but is also when you’re least likely to ask for it. My aim is to spread the word, to make it a topic of conversation that people aren’t embarrassed to be in and to create a safe space for people to come and look around, maybe get a little bit of information and ultimately, to realise that they aren’t in this alone.
How did I get here?
That is a very good question and it’s not really a short answer. I’ll do my very best to be brief (as much as I possibly can!) and give you the abbreviated version!
My journey to becoming a self-employed writer has taken me around the world (literally) and through a myriad of jobs none of which I particularly enjoyed. It wasn’t until I went to university at the ripe old age of 27 that I knew, without a doubt, that psychology and mental health was where I was meant to be and started working towards becoming a Forensic Psychologist.
Alas, life can be cruel and throw things in your path, completely altering your course and sending you spinning off with no control. In 2010 I was diagnosed with M.E. (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis) also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) and while I initially didn’t take it seriously (I was young, what did I know?), it came back to bite me in the ass big style! I ended up having a massive relapse a few years later and had to quit my job, move back home and basically didn’t get out of bed for about six months. You can read more about that here if you’re interested.
After two and a half years I realised that the only way to get back into any kind of paid work was to become self-employed, so I turned to the only thing I was confident of at the time, which was my ability to do admin. I styled myself Office Gem (a Virtual Assistant Extraordinaire) and went merrily on my way to find clients. I managed quite successfully for around two years but I never really loved it and ended up having a mental breakdown in 2019. This forced me to look at my situation and ask myself why I was doing something I didn’t like and what I could do instead. If I was going to have a breakdown, I wanted it to be over something that I actually cared about!
Where am I now?
I’m here. Wherever that may be. On a precipice, poised to make a big leap into the relative unknown.
So what am I actually doing?
While I may not have enjoyed being a VA, I did learn a lot of useful skills that are most definitely transferrable. Office Gem rekindled my love for writing and being creative. The Art to Survival gives me the opportunity to use those skills to talk about a subject that I’m truly, truly passionate about. Becoming a copywriter and content creator while being an advocate for mental health is as close to my dream job as I can get!
Some of you reading this may not want to know my qualifications or may not think it important, which is fine. I certainly don’t think you HAVE to have qualifications to talk about mental health but I’ve spent a lot of time learning whatever I can and I want you, my reader or potential client, to know that I have both the lived experience of mental health struggles and education to help you tell your stories. So without further ado, I have:
- BSc (Hons) Psychology & Criminology
- HEFC Psychology
- Mental Health First Aid (Level 3 RQF)
- Introduction to Counselling
- Experience of CBT (Cognitive Behavioural Therapy)
This list will change as I’m currently using this time during the pandemic lockdown (2020, yeah baby!) to take courses on:
- DBT (Dialectical Behaviour Therapy)
- Mental Health Counselling
- Counselling for Depression
- Health and Wellbeing
- Health and Mindfulness
- Aromatherapy (holistic healing counts too!)
- Music Therapy
I also have experience of working with Barnardos for five years as a volunteer. I began by working in the Circles of Support and Accountability (CoSA) and when that programme ended, I moved to the Domestic Violence Perpetrator Programme (DVPP). Within the DVPP I was one of two or three facilitators who would run group sessions over the course of 6 months for perpetrators of domestic violence, leading them through activities and providing a space to talk about what they did and why. I always say that it’s not teaching, it’s giving them another point of view that they can take on board or not. You can’t force someone to think the way you want them to but you can provide a damn good argument!
I don’t think you should ever stop learning. There’s always something new and the more I know, the better I can help you.
What am I offering?
So after all that waffle, perhaps you want to know exactly what it is I offer. In a nutshell, I offer a copywriting service for small businesses, sole traders, charities or any business that wants to promote mental health and wellbeing and either aren’t confident of doing it themselves or simply don’t have the time. This could be by writing blogs or articles for you or helping you with your social media content. Currently I provide copywriting services to This is Me, a supported employment agency for people with disabilities and chronic illnesses and The Frame House. I’ve also previously provided social media support and blog writing for Tyneside and Northumberland Mind, which I loved doing.
What do I hope to achieve?
I want to get people talking about mental health and take away the shame. I want people to know that having a mental illness isn’t just about being sad or taking pills and I want to make them aware that there are so many different therapies out there. Talking therapies may not work for you or you may not be ready for it, but perhaps exercise or music therapy or art therapy could work.
Most importantly, I want people who are suffering from mental health problems to know that they are not alone. There is someone out there who is feeling the same way as you and there is someone out there who is willing to help you in any way they can.
We can only stop the stigma if we’re willing to spread the word so let’s shine a light! As the Cheshire Cat in Alice in Wonderland said,
“We’re all mad here. I’m mad, you’re mad.”
and it’s true, everyone has a little bit of madness in them. So let’s all be mad together because after all, all the best people are.