Will Young talks candidly about PTSD, anxiety and psychotherapy: ‘Shame doesn’t help anything’
There was a wonderful article in The Guardian on Monday in which Will Young talked openly and honestly about all sorts of mental health related topics.
I’m always so thrilled to see celebrities opening up about their struggles because it gives other people so much hope as well as the confidence to be honest about their own problems.
This article particularly resonates with me because of the many parallels between Will’s mental health battle and my own. The coincidences are almost uncanny because not only are we both battling mental health problems and practicing philanthropists, but we are exactly the same age and have also both discovered a recent passion for gardening!
I wrote a post about Will a couple of months ago after the inquest into his twin brother Rupert’s tragic suicide. I was impressed that Will was brave enough to speak out and question the factors that led to his brother’s death, because it must have been especially hard to come to terms with when there were obvious failings in his care.
But despite all of this recent trauma, Will reports that he is managing well, saying in the article that, considering the circumstances, his mental health ‘has been really OK.’
In the interview, Will talks about all sorts of things including his career, anxiety, prep school trauma and PTSD, all with brutal honesty and candour, but it is the way he talks about his addiction problems that I agree with so wholly.
According to Will, the key when it comes to dealing with addiction, is to tackle the shame that it brings with it. He says:
“You don’t have to be shamed, and don’t let other people shame you for it. My approach is just to be open because it certainly takes away the shame for me to own it. Shame doesn’t help anything. It just piles shit on to something that’s already shit.”
I think the point he makes here really applies to all types of mental health problems and it’s something I immediately remind myself of when I am ill because being open does help enormously, and not attaching shame is often critical to survival.
Unfortunately, it's not quite as easy as it sounds because the stigma that still goes with mental illness brings a shame and guilt for feeling like that, and there is also a shame that the illness itself burdens you with because the mind is so completely distorted.
I tell people to be the ‘experts of themselves’ and not to add any shame to the hell that they are already experiencing because that just amplifies the guilt and self-loathing.
As Will points out, it is important not to allow others the right to make you feel guilty or shameful for your legitimate feelings so, as I have said before - only talk to those who are empathetic when you are suffering, and pick up the others when you are feeling stronger. Alternatively you can ditch the unfeeling ones for good as I have, because I know that I don’t need unhelpful and unsupportive people in my life!
Interestingly, Will also seems to have been able to benefit from lockdown in a similar way as I have by taking the time for reflection and self-development. I found that I was able to work on rebuilding my confidence without the added pressures of having to socialise, and Will identifies that the restrictions reduced his agoraphobia and anxiety. He said:
“I’m mildly agoraphobic, so being given permission to stay at home: hallelujah! I don’t miss the social pressures. I’ve completely recalibrated and given myself permission to act how I want to act. It’s actually been amazing for someone who suffers from anxiety.”
The final similarity between Will and I is that we are both philanthropic with our outlook towards mental health, both of us helping and mentoring others without expecting anything in return. I particularly identify with Will’s closing comment which made me smile, he said:
“I wish my old therapist was like that. She used to tell me that our sessions paid for her Tiffany earrings.”
If you would like to read the full article in The Guardian then you can find it here.
Thanks for reading,
Speak to you soon,