2 March 2022

Hi, my name is James, I’m the new digital marketing apprentice for YMCA, happy world book day! Books have played an important part in my life and have helped me in more ways than one. They are more than just a hobby, there’s a lot more to reading than passing the time. Books are an escape, they’re an adventure, a way to meet incredible people and visit amazing places. They can also be a way to discover more about ourselves, with many of us seeing pieces of ourselves in the characters on the page.

Here at YMCA Newcastle we value mental health and mental health awareness. We’ve all struggled and continue to struggle with mental health, myself included, but one of the things I have found has helped, is reading. Being able to lose myself in a book helps, but more importantly, many of the obstacles characters face in these books I find I have also faced, and the strength they find to overcome these obstacles inspires me. They may be fictional, but knowing that someone understands the difficulty of poor mental health well enough to write about it in such detail and include as an obstacle for their characters lets me know that other people out there understand struggling with mental health.

One book that has helped me more than any other is Brandon Sanderson’s The Stormlight Archive. It may be a fantasy fiction novel but Sanderson clearly understands suffering with mental health issues including depression, imposter syndrome and PTSD to name a few. The characters in his books all have incredible powers but suffer with their mental health, which is never portrayed as an easy challenge for them to overcome. The way he writes about depression spoke to me on a personal level: it is not as simple as being unhappy, it is like a shadow that lingers making everything seem bleak, even when you know what you’re feeling is illogical you can’t stop that feeling from returning. He understands that such feelings aren’t something you can just “get over”, that they take a great deal of time and effort to overcome and even then they do not simply disappear.

One particular quote from the book helps me more than any other when I am struggling most: “A journey will have pain and failure. It is not only the steps forward that we must accept. It is the stumbles. The trials. The knowledge that we will fail. That we will hurt those around us. But if we stop, if we accept the person we are when we fall, the journey ends. That failure becomes our destination. To love the journey is to accept no such end. I have found, through painful experience, that the most important step a person can take is always the next one.” It helps me find the strength to keep going, to take the next step and understand that how I am feeling in the moment is not final, it is just part of the journey.

One of YMCA’s goals is to spread mental health awareness and help those suffering with their own mental health. We encourage you to share with us any books that have helped you when you have had similar feelings and maybe share your favourite quote as well.