This seems like a very balanced letter. I have experienced many years of mental health issues. Whilst I think there may be varying levels of genetic disposition, I have no doubt the stuff of life was the trigger of much of my own depression, kookiness, madness, whatever you want to call it. In other words, whilst a sensitive nature makes a person prone to mental health conditions, outside influences – relationship troubles, family problems, money worries, abuse and more widely, societal issues – tip the boat. I have long believed one of the greatest expressions of a society in trouble is in those of us afflicted by more extreme mental health issues. We are the markers by which to gauge a troubled place. But whilst some of us are more sensitive than others, very few of us will go through life without experiencing some level of mental health pain. Often we use this to teach us, teach us to slow down, love more, care less, eat better, sleep more, exercise, save money, spend money, holiday and on and on… Sometimes we don’t know what to do and reach out for help. Sometimes we can reach out to family and friends and it is enough. Sometimes it is not. When counselling is available readily and is affordable (often not the case), we may talk about it with this specialist, beginning a typically very long (and perhaps enlightening) journey of recovery. Or else we may go to the doctor. The doctor, pushed for time and with huge waiting lists to see mental health teams, may give us a pill – often the allure of a magic pill is what takes us to the doctor (it did me). It may work – and for some of us, right now, at this juncture in human history it seems medication is necessary. For me, after trying many different kinds over a number of years, I found it was not the answer. And I am not alone. Not knowing what to do, I self-medicated. I drank, amongst other things (many other things). I wanted a quick fix. This is one of the ways I feel I am reflection of my environment. And in the same way a quick fix seems like it’s never the answer – spending money aimlessly, voting in, voting out, declaring war, eradicating enemies – I found it made the war all the more powerful and far reaching. And so began the journey of addiction – a journey I share with millions of people around the world. Millions of people fixing a problem, making a problem, fixing a problem, making a problem, fixing a problem… until the problem needs an answer or the body dies. If we begin to recover from the addiction, if we can access the support around us, we then have to contend with life and the stuff of life, just as we had to all those years ago as sensitive souls more prone to mental health issues – gentle markers gauging the sickness of the world around us. Only now, if we are lucky, if we live in a society which readily offers it (often not the case – I am lucky), we have the support around us to try to accept the world and so we begin to see it. If there is anything I have learned in these last few years free from self-medication, supported and accessing and trying to give that support in return, it is that addiction, like all mental health issues is on a spectrum. Most of us have an addictive nature, only it varies in degrees. Most of us need it, because often unconsciously it has sprung up in an act of self-medication, a blindfold to a society with problems, to difficult relationships, to money troubles. We eat addictively, drink addictively, obsess over work, hide in the gym, watch our soaps, our shows, gamble and dream. And there is nothing wrong in this. It is a coping strategy and a lot of us struggle to function if we remove it, especially if we do not have or do not access support, the support to accept things for the way they are: being treated badly by family, friends and lovers, bosses, work colleagues; having very little money, being in debt, wanting a better job; being grossly overweight, being ill; the crime around us, having a crime committed against us or else committing a crime; watching people hurt each other, kill each other. Of course it seems to me the only way to overcome this is to see it for how it is, is to try to remove the blindfold, to take the pain of it and learn from it and move on – something I have seen many people do, and I try to do it and aspire to it, even if I slip back into addictive patterns, most often with food or work things – I am lucky to even recognise this, to have the support around me to be able to recognise it. In our society we are always looking for bandages to heal the wounds. In the case of mental health sometimes we spend too much time looking for the wound so we can come up with another miraculous bandage – but it is a bandage nevertheless, a temporary solution. We spend too much time killing the pain, rather than getting to the root of it. In my own experience, it doesn’t mean blaming parents for a broken down marriage and a violent household, all my parents were doing is what I spent a lot of time doing: fixing pain… The wound is deeper than my pain and my parents’ pain. The wound is deeper than our pain, be it sadness, depression, addiction, bi-polar illnesses, schizophrenia (and the many schizo- illnesses): the pain is just the marker, we are just the markers of the troubles around us. The solution is in the pain and the understanding of it, but you’ve got to feel it to see it.