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The Mental Heath Foundation launched an event 21 years ago to help society overcome the stigma associated with mental health illness by encouraging experienced individuals to share their stories of help and advice to others.
This year, Edinburgh Evening News spoke with Angela McCrimmon, a West Lothian writer and mental health activist who was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and is now beginning to publish poetry that reflects her experience with the disease.
Angela explained that she had known from a young age that something was not quite right, but because she had achieved good grades and had been involved in several extracurricular activities, many of her symptoms were not noticed by the teachers at school.
“I didn’t understand what was going on, but I knew it was more than just adolescent hormones, I knew it was very extreme,” Angela said.
“I had weeks when I couldn’t get out of bed and my family just thought I was a teenager. When I look back on this in my life, I see that the bipolar state existed at the time, but it was written off and overlooked.
“I remember looking at my report card and my days of absence outweighed my current days, but no one challenged me.”
After graduating from school, Angela began working as a singer, traveling the United Kingdom and being booked for international events for 15 years – which she said was very challenging.
“I absolutely hid my mental health from the agents I was dealing with.” If I ever had to cancel, I would always come up with a physical apology. It never occurred to me to tell them that it was actually my mental health. For me, it was an unwritten rule they should never have learned. At the time, I was not open about my mental health.
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“Although I liked it, it was also the worst job for me backwards, because the adrenaline was going through me to get on stage and go through the show, and then I collapsed after it.”
Angela stopped singing in 2011 and now works as a poet and writer and also volunteers for several mental health charities.
Her first book was published in 2016, and Angela encourages others to use creative writing as a therapeutic tool.
“I recognized relaxation and relief, I felt it.” It showed me how much I couldn’t say. I always write like nobody reads it.
“I know how much it would help me if I could read and think, that’s exactly how I feel. I thought I wanted to do it for someone else.
“If you’re not ready to open up and talk about it, I think it’s only powerful to be able to read and identify with it.
“Some people say they can’t write, but they all can.” You don’t have to share your writing with anyone. Just take a pencil and paper and write what you think.
“As long as it makes sense to you, that’s all that matters.”