Easy as ABCD?

ABCDYesterday I spoke at the Christian New Media conference, looking at the after effects of writing hopeful depression, the church and mental health and being the Archbishop of Canterbury’s daughter. A few people have asked me for a transcript of the talk so here it is! It has not been edited at all, so imagine it being spoken.

I am not one to ‘look before I leap’

I am fairly impulsive, like to be silly, pretty loud on occasion and very excitable!

So, obviously, on the occasion of my father – ridiculously becoming the ABC, I got a little silly. The thing is, it was such a surprise, we didn’t see it coming, so I tweeted.

DadTea CosyI didn’t really know what to expect. September 17th 2012 (the date my niece was born, I don’t memorise my follower count each day!) I had 40 followers on twitter – it wasn’t like I was known. Naively thinking a couple, but not many  might follow me – I mean, I am just me. My father was the one with the fancy hat, I just threw myself in. Didn’t hesitate, think to delete a certain picture of me also wearing a slightly interesting piece of headwear.

Why would I?

I realised quickly though – I had to consider that some think I AM my dad, because I am his daughter. I was confronted with the questions, who am I speaking for? Am I entitled to speak for myself anymore? Am I now a spokesperson for the office of the ABC, and therefore should really tone down the silliness, or could I just continue as I had previously?

My answer is, I am most certainly NOT my dad. I will pick up a giant tea cosy and put it on my head – because I am that way inclined. I potentially might not post it on a public forum though, as now my follower count has broken 4000.

However, and here we get to quote both Spiderman’s uncle AND the Bible – ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ also said as ‘“I am allowed to do anything” but not everything is good for us’ 1 Corinthians 6:12 NLT

A voice – whether chosen or not, needs to be used with care and consideration.

CorruptionI didn’t stop the stupid jokes – dad’s election is corrupt being a fine example, (it was a valid point, it being a ceremonial occasion aside, no where else in the world could have 1 candidate it was illegal to vote against without it being called corruption, it was ceremonial though so blah blah) Anyway, instead of stopping the jokes I run by them by dad first. Fortunately our sense of humour is fairly well matched!

I am me, I speak for myself, but my words still have power.

I cannot just say whatever, I must be cautious and not reckless. A real challenge for a leap pre thinker like myself.

I enjoy writing, it has always been a hobby. I used to write an embarrassingly poor blog, reviewing films. But I started again, and wrote about my depression.Obviously I wanted to start off gently, don’t want to go in too hard. That would be mad.

My father informed me it ‘might get picked up’ so obviously I figured it would be like that first tweet, not news, in tomorrow’s bin.

It didn’t really work out that way.

I felt overwhelmed, encouraged and terrified. I was no longer the ABCD I was the ABCDD (depressed daughter). People knew me, they assumed knowledge. I got advice aplenty, all meant with love and kindness, but frightening in it’s volume. I was out of my depth.

There was huge encouragement, warmth and kindness in the response too, and with 1 in 4 of us having a mental health problem at some point in our lives, it shouldn’t have been as surprising as it was in just how many came forward to say thank you.

Depression is the ‘second biggest cause of disability in the world’ today. What does this mean to us? I am now a part time worker, not because I want it, although I do quite like the extra sleep time! But because I cannot physically manage a full time week. I struggle to make it to church and home group every week, although I try, serving is sporadic at best. I am however present. I am a part of my church and I love it. I WANT to be able to give more, at this point in time I can’t. How many of those that we encounter day to day will be struggling in a similar way. How do we make sure that they feel included.

And this, I guess, is my point – have we changed? If I did not have that all valuable surname of Welby would the blog have been seen?

You have read me and seen me, but have you heard me? If I couldn’t communicate my illness with an apparent ease, was just another person who was always sad and struggling, hadn’t washed in a few days and showed up in church, would anyone have heard me?

At this point the risk is to slip into that accusatory ‘YOU’, however it is we that need to look out.

I am not the spokesperson for depression, I am someone with depression and I have a position from which I am able to speak. I guess the challenge for us all is to pay attention to what the person is saying, as well as who the person is.

We will always have a situation where certain people are given the opportunity at different times in their life to ‘speak’. Our challenge is to look beyond the title they have given themselves. To see the message and the learning that we can take.

In a boxI am not the ABCD, nor the ABCDD, I am Katharine Welby, soon to be Roberts, I have depression and am slightly eccentric, I have so much to say beyond mental health and I don’t want to be put in a box, all dusty and repetitive.

Two things that you could take away from here and do –

1. spend some time talking to someone you know who has a mental health problem, find out their experience, what they need, what helps.

2. spend 20 minutes writing down your own attitude toward mental illness, be entirely honest and then read it back and reflect – does something need to change?

There are many questions I could end with, will we look beyond the labels? Will we listen to, or even seek out voices which don’t come with a platform? Will we look to change when necessary according to what we have heard? being just some of them.

My main point though? Taking it one step at a time, how do we ensure that we are not only willing to listen and sympathise, but that we are willing to change when a failing on our part comes to light.

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  • Thank you, I think that you use your position as someone with an opportunity to speak and have people listen really well. As someone who struggles with words and that darkness of depression reading your words makes me feel there’s someone else who understands.
    The battle to believe again in God is too much in the battle to survive, perhaps one day but for now I just have to keep doing this on my own.
    Take care x

  • Well done for getting up and talking and thank you for speaking up. I struggle with my place in the church, when there’s such an emphasis on doing, if you can’t do?
    With all this stuff happening after you wrote about depression, maybe it is part of God bringing something good out of something bad? you are blessing people, though the hard stuff is still hard. I will try to remember to pray for you

  • Such a thought provoking piece Katherine. And so human. Glad you are not an ABCDD any longer. Not depressed myself, but know many who are. Thank you for writing it. Steve. Oxfordshire

  • Dear Catherine it was so great to read your comments and hear your interview on premier radio . I am a volunteer in Mental Health Chaplaincy and visit people with very different problems with in their mental illness and as they are able to feel valued and loved and see them able to move forward . In our visits we are able to meet in either a room or lounge area depending on the type of unit /ward that we are able to use we sing both secular and Christian Hymns more often than not the hymn singing is preferred and it’s amazing to see God move , open hearts , and bring healing . Thank you for your openness and perseverance . Blessings to you Julie

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