‘It all started with a plaster’: By Emma McGarvey

Wdoes not define mehat went from a normal university day, attending the psychology of mental health lecture, ended up being a day that I will always remember and it all started with a plaster!  However, this was no ordinary plaster, this was a plaster with a label on and we were asked to introduce ourselves (just to the person sat next to us) using that label.  Mine went “Hi, I’m Emma and I am psychotic”.  That was it, a short simple sentence that wasn’t really me but that got me thinking about the labels we all have.  It felt very strange to say that I was a label, as in my mind people are not just one thing, they are a number of things and a label is just a part of that person and not them as whole!

This stuck with me throughout my lecture, so much so that I kept the plaster on purposely, although by the end of the lecture I had totally forgotten about it and my ‘label’.  You see, in that particular lecture we were introduced to two men who are two of the most inspirational men I have ever had the privilege of hearing speak.  These two men were there to talk about their lived experiences of mental health issues and caring for people with mental ill health (in the lecture we were learning about Schizophrenia, so it fit nicely) and of the care services from the view point of a care user.  What unfolded was not what I expected, in all honesty I don’t know what I was expecting, but the emotional rollercoaster that ensued wasn’t it.

These two men unpacked their lives in such a way that by the end you felt like you knew them and that you wanted to go for a pint with them to continue talking and learning from them.  I am not going to tell you their lives, as it is their lives, and in truth I doubt I could do it justice.  But most importantly I would like to encourage you to follow them on twitter and find where they are speaking and go listen to them.  This is the only way that you will get the full benefit; where one minute you are laughing at childhood pictures, the next you are admiring their friendship and the genuine connection that just oozes off them, to then nearly being in tears as you learn about the things they have had to deal with.

These two men were Russel Hogarth and Nigel Farnworth, and while the majority of the content of their life stories was sad they did not tell us this as ‘sob’ story or to make you feel sorry for them.  No.  They did this to show the other side of conditions we learn about, and to show that even in the very darkest of tunnels you are able to get out of it and back into the light.  That’s why they call it ‘towards a better tomorrow’!  They have both been through different situations, although somehow their lives seem to fit and compliment the story telling perfectly, and whilst they have not always in a good place they are now.  Their message is one of empowerment and of a desire to live life to the fullest; that no matter what life throws at you, you can always work towards a better tomorrow.

At the end of the day, whilst sitting on my couch typing up my ethics form, I took my plaster and ‘label’ off.  Yes, there are many times during the day where I could have taken it off and just thrown it in a bin but these two men I had heard today had a profound effect on me and when I took my label off I wanted to be mindful while I did it.  I slowly took it off, not feeling any pain as I has no cut, but feeling a sense of a weight lifting as I was no longer just a label.  That label was not a true part of my life but I did think of all the labels I am – a mother, partner, friend, daughter, step sister, employee, student and all the things in my past that have made me who I am today – these are all part of me and these labels combine to make one big label.  And that label is… Emma McGarvey.

If you want to find out more please go and follow @RussHogarth, @Nigelfarnworth and @ccg_uk on twitter.  Not forgetting of course Dr Linda Dubrow-Marshall who made this possible @DrLindaDM.  Oh, and I’m also on twitter @Emma_Mcgarvey87.