Award-winning mental health campaigner Jonny Benjamin MBE, and writer, literary consultant, and editor Britt Pflüger have teamed up once again to produce an inspiring and uplifting book about something we all need right now: hope
Now, more than ever, we could all do with a little hope. And to answer that call, the duo behind the book The Stranger on the Bridge – which recounts Jonny Benjamin’s own experience of mental illness, and the moment a stranger saved his life – have brought another offering for our time of need. Jonny and Britt have curated stories from 101 people who share their experiences and reasons to find hope.
The idea of The Book of Hope is like a pick and mix. Readers can dip into it to take what they need, and come back for more. There’s a huge variety of stories to choose from, including Jonny’s own list of 101 things that give him hope, life coach and presenter Anna Williamson on living with anxiety, and athlete Dame Kelly Holmes outlining her hope for mental health discussions in the future.
The following extract from The Book of Hope features actor and magician Joe Tracini’s personal letter to future readers...
I can’t see you, but I know you’re there. I hope you’re OK.
So, you’re reading a book about hope. Without knowing who, where or how you are, the fact that you’re reading a book about hope tells me three things about you.
Thing I Know about You Because You’re Reading a Book about Hope – Number One:
You need some. If you’ve ended up here, wherever you are, reading this, it’s because you need some hope.
I hate talking about me, but if I’m going to talk a bit about you, it’s only fair I tell you a bit more about me.
Here are eight things that are true:
- My name’s Joe.
- I’m 31 years old.
- I can talk to somebody for hours and not say a single thing about me without them noticing.
- I was a drug addict and I’m seven years clean.
- I was an alcoholic and I’m four years sober.
- I live with daily suicidal thoughts that are always there. Some days they’re just louder than they were the day before.
- I’ve done more good things than bad things, but I never remember the good ones because I only feel the bad ones.
- I’ve got something called emotionally unstable personality disorder, also known as BPD which is essentially a Pound Shop bipolar; it does most of the same stuff but some of it’s a bit sh*tter.
Ugh. There. Done.
Thing I Know about You Because You’re Reading a Book about Hope – Number Two:
You are not hopeless. You might feel like you are, because if you’re looking for hope it means you had some at one point but you lost it.
You might have less hope now than you’ve had in the past, but you’re not hopeless. You’re only ever hopeless when you’re dead. Which you’re not. Yay. Hi.
I should point out that there isn’t a single thing on my list about me that you can see. They are all invisible. Things you can’t see are difficult to explain to somebody who doesn’t have any experience of that kind of thing, and this is made even more difficult if you know the words but don’t know which order to put them in to explain what you’re feeling. And even if you can, you’re probably scared to tell anybody else in case they don’t believe you. Arguments occur more frequently when they’re about something you can’t see, because if somebody can’t see something, it can be denied.
Unfortunately, mental health problems fall into this category. If something is invisible and you don’t understand it, you have a choice. Accept that it’s definitely there, because other people who know what they’re talking about are telling you it is and talking about it. So trust them, listen to them, and learn from them. Or be a d**k.
‘Nope. Not real. Can’t see it. Prove it.’
I’m not saying I don’t understand that thought process, because I do. How can you believe in something you can’t see and know nothing about? I get it. Mental illness is invisible, a bit like air, Nobody’s having a row about air, though. I can’t see air. I don’t know anything about air, but I know it’s real. I’m sure people have tried to explain it to me in the past, but I didn’t pay attention because I don’t care about air.
If I don’t listen, will it affect my life or the lives of others?
No? Great. Carry on then.
I know that air’s everywhere without understanding it because my whole life, I’ve heard people talking about it. I accept air is a thing even though I can’t see it, and I’m comfortable trusting these people because they know what they’re on about.
"You might have less hope now than you’ve had in the past, but you’re not hopeless"
But you know what you I’m not doing? Kicking off at Professor Brian Cox on Twitter, telling him that I don’t believe his whiny opinions because I can’t see what he’s talking about so he’s an attention-seeker whose career is essentially a tapestry of desperate and unsubstantiated air lies. Pics or it didn’t happen.
That would, obviously, fall into the ‘being a d**k’ category.
I can’t see air, but I know it’s there. I can’t see a relationship, but I know they’re a thing. I even have some. I’m a son, a brother, an uncle, a cousin, and a friend. A relationship is something independent, that lives between the two people that made it. Relationships start to corrode and collapse when they stop being cared for by both people. If they are not equal, they won’t work.
Relationships are invisible, but they are still real.
Mental illness is real.
Nowadays, when I wake up in the morning, the only goal I set myself is to finish that day the same way I started it – in a bed, knowing I’ll see tomorrow. Even if today isn’t what I needed or wanted or expected, if I can just get through today, tonight I’ll have another chance at tomorrow.
Thank you for listening to me. I hope one day I get to find out more than three things about you.
Oh sh*t, nearly forgot.
Thing I Know about You Because You’re Reading a Book about Hope – Number Three:
I know you deserve it. Just like the air, I know you can’t see it, but I promise it’s there. Hope.
‘The Book of Hope’ is a collection of 101 stories that illustrate human strength and resilience, compiled by Jonny Benjamin and Britt Pflüger (bluebird books for life, £14.99). Listen to Jonny Benjamin discuss hope on Happiful’s podcast, ‘I am. I have’.
To speak to, or connect with, a counsellor to discuss feelings of hopelessness, visit www.counselling-directory.org.uk