My Story of Battling Mental Illness and Finding a New Calling in Life

Everyone has a story. Mine just happens to involve a battle with mental illness and how I thought something that would ruin my life has reshaped it.

After personally struggling with severe anxiety and OCD for most of my life, having been diagnosed at the age of 16; now at the age of 31, I can reflect back on the choices I have made and how my mental illness has given something back to me.

I never intended on starting a business focused on mental health. Although it was always an interest, I was resentful over how much of my life it had stolen from me, and how much time I’d already spent trying to get better. At times I didn’t want to pursue my curiosity because of that anger. How wrong I was.

In 2020 I launched Discovery Journal. Initially I only designed one journal for a friend who I saw was struggling with anxiety and depression. I didn’t want to interfere with his life, start making assumptions about his mental state but after years of trial and error with different methods myself, I wanted to save him the time and money. Journalling was a method that helped me consistently and I strongly believe the art of self-reflection and self-communication can help acknowledge when something isn’t right but after suggesting it as an aid I was faced with “I don’t have time for that” or “I don’t know what I’d say” this seemed like a widespread opinion. In this day we are used to instant gratification or popping to the doctors for a fix, we have become used to the approach of “fixing” something that is wrong and mental illness just doesn’t work like that.

I approached my mental illness with logic, thought of it as something that affected me but didn’t make me who I was, a process that took years of practice, understanding and unravelling, but I knew that way of thinking could be adapted.

Design is my bread and butter, it’s what I went to university to do and it’s what I enjoy. Taking a problem and finding a solution through design is where I thrive, so creating the journal using my own lived experience and the tools and skills I’d built over the years was the easy part.

What I didn’t expect to happen was the outpouring of other people who thought like I did, who found the journal useful and suddenly something that started as a passion project, demanded more of my time as demand creeped up.

I wasn’t prepared for the personal stories and the connections. Having run a business before I knew the basics but there was always a sense of detachment. Not with the Discovery Journal. There was a huge emotional draw and tie. Anxiety and mental illness as a whole can feel very isolating but what I was doing was connecting people with a common problem. It reignited the passion I had when I was at my worst and locked in my bedroom, desperate for a solution, some sort of direction and understanding. Suddenly I was looking back at that time was a gift of experience instead of trauma that set me back. Putting myself back in that place inspired me.

It's refreshing as time has gone on to see the attention that mental illness is getting and see more people like me coming forward, creating, designing and inspiring people to communicate. I am humble to be able to contribute to the landscape that is being shaped by lived experience and I am grateful for the ability to express them freely. It’s important to recognise the accomplishments of every person in this “new” field trying to do something to help someone and learn that disability, disadvantage, trauma and pain are recognised and can be utilised.