This week on Stylist’s Nobody Told Me… author, journalist and mental health advocate Bryony Gordon discusses how she learnt to sit with feelings of sadness.
This year, however, things feel significantly different. The past year has been challenging, and for many, painful and traumatic. As the echo chambers of social media abound with messages of reinvention, it can be especially hard to reckon with a low mood.
Contrary to popular perception, though, it’s perfectly normal to experience a range of emotions. The only reason we feel as though something is wrong when we feel sad, angry, lonely or afraid is because society constantly promotes positive thinking, and categorises those emotions as “negative”.
When processed in a healthy way, however, these emotions can help us grow into more evolved versions of ourselves. One person who has plenty of personal experience navigating that process is Bryony Gordon.
Gordon began her career in journalism at 18, building up a name for herself as a successful columnist and features writer for publications including The Sunday Express and The Telegraph, winning Young Journalist of The Year in 2007. She married her husband Harry, a financial journalist in 2013, and together, they have a daughter.
Alongside an incredibly successful professional life, Gordon’s battle with mental illness has plagued her since childhood. She has suffered from OCD since the age of 12, and struggled with bulimia, depression and anxiety since her 20s. She went to rehab in 2017 to tackle her alcoholism, and has been sober for over three years.
In 2014, she began sharing her struggles with her readers and social media followers, and has since written four bestselling books, interviewed Prince Harry about his own mental health struggles on her podcast, Bryony Gordon’s Mad World, and started Mental Health Mates, a support group which encourages people with mental health issues to walk and talk without judgement.
In the latest episode of Nobody Told Me…, Stylist’s podcast exploring the personal life lessons from extraordinary women who overcame the toughest of challenges, Gordon discusses her mental health journey, the challenges facing people suffering with mental health issues, and how we can all work to promote a more kind, tolerant society.
“We have this quite narrow definition of people with mental health illnesses, and we expect them to be that person clutching their head that you always see in newspapers and magazines accompanying the latest research on depression,” she explains in the podcast.
“Whenever I felt sad or depressed or any other emotion that wasn’t happy, I felt like a failure. I felt like I wasn’t doing life right, I felt like it was some intrinsic sign that I was a faulty human being,” she continues.
“I look back now and I realise that those weren’t failures, they weren’t flaws; they were just human neurological responses to what was going on in my life. But I was too programmed into the cult of “happy” to be able to even feel those feelings.”
Listen to the latest episode of Nobody Told Me… here:
If you, or someone you know, is struggling with their mental health, you can find support and resources on mental health charity Mind’s website or see the NHS’s list of mental health helplines and organisations here.
For confidential support, you can also call the Samaritans in the UK on 116 123 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Christobel Hastings is a London-based journalist covering pop culture, feminism, LGBTQ and lore.