To mark the beginning of Mental Health Awareness Week, we’d love to introduce our May Woman of Spirit, Bryony Gordon. Author of six incredibly honest books. Host of the phenomenally successful Mad World podcast. And good mental health champion. We could have chatted for hours thanks to Bryony’s warm and unfiltered style.
Throughout 2021, we’re celebrating women who are working to make a real difference in the world: the leaders, the freethinkers and the voices for change that inspire us every day at Radley London. For too long society has stayed silent about mental health struggles despite many of us facing them at some point in our lives. Bryony is aware of the damage this can do. She’s speaking up so that others can find the strength to do the same.
Tell us about your own personal struggles, and why you are so passionate
about de-stigmatising mental health?
“From a young age, I suffered from OCD. I know that if I had received proper support back when I was a child, that it could have been managed and it might not have spiralled into so many other things: depression, eating disorders, addiction. So, I speak out to let others know that they are not weird – they are just humans with brains, and sometimes brains misfire.”
How did the idea for setting up Mental Health Mates come to you?
“I set up Mental Health Mates five years ago so I could connect with other people like me who suffer from mental illness – we organise walks where you can get out, get moving, and talk with peers without fear of judgement. It’s peer support, not therapy, but I needed to know that there were others out there like me before I could get to the therapy bit properly.”
You released your book ‘No Such Thing As Normal’ earlier this year, what do you
hope readers will take from it?
“It’s all the things I have learnt about being mentally well from being mentally ill – I just wanted to put everything in one place because I get asked for advice all the time, and I thought it might be helpful to have it in a book that is more of a guide than my other ones. But also, it’s a reminder to myself of what I need to do on a daily basis!”
You also have a book called ‘Mad Girl: A Happy Life with a Mixed-Up Mind’ – if you could share one piece of advice for living happily while managing your own mental health, what would it be?
We know running has become a tool you use to help your mental health. How would you advise others to find their own outlet?
“I love running because of the way it makes me feel, rather than the way it makes me look. I think that’s the key to good mental health outlets. Don’t do it as punishment, but as nourishment.”
Have you faced any new challenges in the past year and how have you overcome them?
“Hoo boy, hasn’t everybody? My biggest challenge has been not isolating myself, as it’s then that I go into things like my OCD or depression. I force myself to get out there and connect even when I don’t want to. In fact, ESPECIALLY when I don’t want to.”
How does stepping outside of your comfort zone help you?
“Because it reminds you that you are capable of more than you think you are. I think running my first marathon was the first time I really did this. It’s no coincidence that soon after, I went to rehab.”
What has been the highlight of your career so far?
“I think I’m most proud of getting to interview Prince Harry about his mental health, because it felt like a real moment for the country. Personally, the thing I am most proud of is getting sober.”
How do you deal with the pressure of interviewing high-profile people?
“I remember that they are just people like the rest of us.”
As a society, what do you think our biggest challenge is in de-stigmatising mental health?
“Well, mental illnesses are very self-stigmatising, and I think it’s letting people know that the shame they feel is a symptom of the illness itself. But I think an increase in mental health provision on the NHS would be a huge step in the right direction – it would be good to see the government throw some serious funding behind mental health provision.”
With the rise of social media, what effects have you seen on mental health? How do you manage this personally?
“I deleted Twitter the other week. I only do Instagram now. I try and minimise my time on it, because while social media can be fantastic in connecting us with like-minded people, it’s also important to remember that there is SO much more out there away from our screens.”
How can we best support a loved one who we think may be suffering from a mental health issue?
“Love them unconditionally. Listen. Don’t try and fix them. Just be there for them.”
How can we seek help and advice if we are worried about our own mental health?
What three things do you remind yourself of every day?
“I am allowed to screw up, I am always learning, I am doing my best.”
If you could talk to your younger self, what piece of advice would you give?
“My advice to my younger self would be; I promise you, it’s all going to be okay. Even when it isn’t, it’s going to be okay.”
As a mum, what change would you like to see in the world as your daughter grows up?
“I hope she can grow up without having to mould or shape herself to other people’s expectations. I hope she is just allowed to be.”
If you had to choose one quote or mantra to live by, what would it be?
“Just for today.”
What brings you the most joy in your life?
“My sobriety and my family.”
What three Instagram handles do you recommend to put a positive spin on our newsfeed?
How would you define a Woman of Spirit?
“All women are women of spirit – it’s just a question of realising it.”
Which Women of Spirit have inspired you most in your life?
“Every single woman who has written to me to talk about their mental health struggles.”
What an absolute pleasure it was to speak with Bryony. We’ll be sharing more content from her on our social media throughout Mental Health Awareness Week, make sure you’re following us on Facebook and Instagram.
If you’re feeling inspired by Bryony’s words, why not read more from our Woman of Spirit for April, Abigail Ahern.