They let me into Shoreditch House yesterday. There I was amongst the coolest people in London, listening to a talk called Hacking Happiness. Nobody threw me out for wearing Primark jeans or being the oldest person in the room and I even grabbed the mic to give my interpretation of what happiness is – I blame it on the gin & tonic.
It was a most inspiring, uplifting evening. I found myself talking to complete strangers about topics ranging from Marie Kondo to the pitfalls of online dating and I left the building thinking that anything is possible.
The talk had been organised by Daniele Fiandaca who runs a company called Utopia, which has a mission to change company culture i.e. make them more people friendly. He introduced Hilary Gallo who has written a book called Hacking Fear, Jo Carnegie, a vibrant and funny journalist/author who talked about her experience of loneliness and Michelle Morgan, who revealed that her business Pjoys, was born out of a bout of depression and anxiety.
Michelle sells designer PJs and part of the proceeds from sales goes to mental health charities. She revealed that when she mentioned her mental illness to old work colleagues, they found it deeply uncomfortable.
Why do we think that keeping our vulnerability under wraps is ‘strong’? It isn’t. It takes courage to admit to others that you feel depressed and anxious. But it shouldn’t feel shameful. We are not machines and I believe that every single one of us faces some kind of mental health issue in our lifetime.
I wanted to kiss all four of the panellists for standing up there and speaking up about stuff that many of us find difficult to share. Bravo! They were engaging, amusing and offered some fabulous life hacks. Hilary explained that when you feel anxious, the first thing you should do is focus on your breathing. Jo urged us to listen to people and resist the urge to offer up advice and Michelle admitted that the most powerful thing she has ever done is ask for help.
I left wondering if I could inspire people like that. I discovered my love of hogging the stage with a microphone when I did a stand-up comedy course last year and I don’t mind telling anyone who’ll listen about the extent of my fucked-upness. But I don’t have any special training, I haven’t written any books and I’m seriously uncool. Does it matter? I don’t think it does.
Last night, I realised that cool people are scared too. We’re all the same and I am no better or worse than any of those on last night’s panel. I think the best thing I can do is go off and put together some kind of talk/sketch/comedy routine and try it out on some willing friends. There, I’ve said it now, so there’s no getting out of it…