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Why I decided to brave the shave

By Antony Butcher, fundraiser for The Cellar Trust

I was a confident, ambitious and sociable twenty something who had raised £15,000 for charity and was in two different comedy groups. I was a rock for many people. But three months of working on my own after joining a charity that had planned to relocate to the UK but didn’t left me isolated and depressed with a side order of anxious tendencies. On good days I felt a bit rubbish. On bad days I lost control of my thoughts and ended up in some dark places. I felt like I was lost, and I didn’t know how to get back to who I was.

It was when my wife told me that I needed to speak to a doctor that I knew something was seriously wrong.

I’m lucky to have some great friends and family. My wife has social anxiety, and so we are very positive about mental health. There were lots of people willing to pick up the phone when I needed to speak. I couldn’t have had a better support network. And yet, there were mornings where I couldn’t leave the house because I’d be sure to bump into someone – I couldn’t bear to be honest about how I was feeling, and I couldn’t cope with lying again. I was surrounded by love, and yet I hated myself. I set my expectations for how I would handle this too high, and every time I failed (which was often) I just froze.

Dozens of people have shared their mental health journey with me.

I’ve always been keen that we should be able to talk about mental health without judgement or prejudice. So when things started going off the rails I started blogging my experience. The reaction was overwhelming. So many people told me they wished they could share their stories, but didn’t want to do it publicly. So I started posting their stories and experiences anonymously on my blog. Their tales are raw, honest, and help us know that we aren’t alone. Dozens of people have shared their mental health journey with me – from teacher friends coping with anxiety in the classroom to at least four people who had tried to take their own life.

Talking is good – so let’s beat the stigma!

Sharing stories helps, but we also need access to high-quality professional support. This is where the Cellar Trust comes in. They help people who have a mental health problem get into work, and provide a crisis service to keep people out of A&E. I’ve been lucky enough to have a behind the scenes tour and the work they do is just incredible. So, I decided to do a little something to help; and that little something was shaving off my ferocious ginger beard, and potentially going bald as well, for the first time in my life (apparently I was born with a full head of hair!).

What I’ve experienced this year has been horrible – I wouldn’t recommend depression to anyone, and quitting your job makes paying the mortgage and feeding the cats challenging. But I’d like to think two positive things have come out this. Firstly, I’ve been able to help friends give a voice to their mental health experiences. I’ve got enough blogs to keep going until the new year and more keep coming in (if you’d like to share a story please do get in touch via my blog). Secondly, we raised some serious money for a great local charity serving an area with a serious need for mental health support (and manage to make me look silly at the same time).

It’s not too late to donate to this great cause – just head to my donation page.