Hello everyone! Shelby here. Earlier this year we received a lovely email from a man named Reverend Mark who is a survivor of childhood trauma, was sectioned under the Mental Health Act, and has since battled depression and anxiety his entire life.
However, despite his troubled past, Mark is living proof that no matter your circumstances and how hopeless you may feel about your life; there is always light at the end of the tunnel, happiness to be embraced, and most certainly beauty to be found from ashes.
Rev Mark had heard Lily-Jo speaking on TBN UK, and he was so moved by her story and thoughts on mental health that he reached out to us at The Lily-Jo Project and generously sent us a copy of his book, “Life After Care: From Lost Cause to MBE”.
Intrigued by his story and the fact that it’s not every day we get to hear from a published author, vicar, and MBE (how exciting!), we really took Mark’s email to heart and once ‘Life After Care’ arrived, I couldn’t wait to delve right in and learn more about his story.
I will admit to you; parts of this book are heavy. I had made a commitment to myself, the LJP team, and Mark that I would finish this book. Not only finish it; but write a blog article about it so that our readers could learn of Mark’s story and benefit from his wisdom. And I did finish it. However, it was by no means easy to get through. Mark’s story covers sensitive subjects that may be too much for some; but his story is real – and to be honest with you, that was the most refreshing thing about this wonderful read.
Mark Edwards: husband, father, grandfather, MBE, vicar, volunteer Community First Responder, and if that doesn’t impress you enough, to top it off he is a survivor of mental illness and suicide.
I tucked into this book on most days while on my lunch break in my garden. Reading small bits of Mark’s story at a time, it was almost as if I was able to “check in” with him daily, and each day I hoped for something positive to happen in his life.
The book is written from Mark’s perspective and details his journey through the foster care system, a children’s home, and psychiatric asylum. Having also endured a period of homelessness, he eventually met the love of his life while working in a soup kitchen and the rest is history. I won’t give away too much about his story, but Mark is now ordained, was a chaplain to the Northumbria Police for 5 years, and has a loving, supportive family.
Throughout the book, Mark shares with readers in great detail his experiences with abuse and trauma, anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts and attempts, panic attacks, failed counselling sessions, and struggles with his personal relationships. The middle section of the book is particularly compelling as it is his diary entries from the five-month period of time where he was admitted to a psychiatric hospital.
Considering his tumultuous past, any reasonable onlooker could consider Mark as a “lost cause”, however I can assure you he is actually quite the opposite. Awarded with an MBE in 2010, Mark’s story of triumph is truly remarkable.
Here’s some reasons why we love this book and recommend it as a resource.
- Something for everyone
This book is not just for someone struggling with their mental health – it is an insightful read with lessons to be learned by everyone. Mark’s story invites you inside his mind to experience what it’s actually like to suffer from real, daily battles with mental health; providing solace and companionship for those struggling.
If you have a loved one who is struggling, read this book. It will help you understand what they are going through and can help you learn how to be there for them. If you’re not personally experiencing any mental health difficulties but just want to learn more about it, this book will definitely help you gain perspective and insight about the mental health movement and why it’s so important.
- Mental Health is a journey
Another thing I really loved about this book is how Mark shared his entire journey. Sometimes books on mental health can seem so linear. They’re bundled up in nice, perfect little packages – the story starts with the problem, a solution is found, and everyone lives happily ever after.
Mark’s story is different. Even later in life after what should have been moments of “peace”, Mark still struggled with transitions, relationships, and mental triggers from his past.
Mark’s story is such an important reminder that, like our physical health, mental health is something we have to work on daily. It’s not a destination or something we obtain by reading a book, going to counselling, or taking medicine; we have to actively work towards good mental health and integrate good practices into our daily lives.
Mark’s recovery didn’t happen overnight. Comparing it to an Olympic athlete crossing a finish line, Mark explains that it’s what happens behind the scenes that count. While it may seem easy on the surface, it takes hours of dedication and commitment over time to be able to accomplish what we set our minds to. It is a journey taken with daily steps.
Another brilliant piece of wisdom from Mark in this book is his ability to find acceptance. Sometimes it can seem impossible to come to terms with our circumstances, accept what we have endured, and embrace it as part of our stories.
However, if we ever want to grow, we first have to find acceptance. Mark says, “I began to accept that the things that had happened to me were not my fault nor were they a reflection of my true worth”.
Experiencing difficulties with mental health – whether that be triggered by abuse, trauma, or any other disorder – does not make us unworthy of living healthy, peaceful, unstoppable lives. We just have to accept our story and find peace with things from our past that are out of our control.
- Beauty from ashes
This may bother some people, but I am a huge fan of highlighting parts in books that I don’t want to forget and this sentence really spoke to me.
After receiving his MBE, Mark reflects on his life and says, “nobody, no matter how bad things have been, is ever a lost cause”.
I think this is so beautiful because it represents everything that we are about at The Lily-Jo Project. No matter how bad your circumstances are or how low you feel, there is always hope; and there is always a way to get better. Our minds are very powerful, and it is so important we remember that we are never a lost cause. We can get better.
- Importance of self-help
Another great part of this book is when Mark recognises the role of self-help in his recovery. He was at a certain point in his life where his prior experience with counselling was not positive, he had no time to go to a counsellor even if he wanted to, and he really couldn’t afford one either. But, he knew something needed to be done and he had to take control of his environment and overcome his unhealthy thinking patterns.
Mark says in the book, “The only way I could really think about tackling my depression, anxiety, and unhelpful thinking was through self-help.”
If professional counselling is out of reach for your budget and schedule, never underestimate the power of self-help. There are loads of resources out there, on www.thelilyjoproject.com and other websites like sane and mind, that can help you with whatever you are going through. There are changes you can make, today, that can have a positive impact on your future. You just have to go out and find them and stay committed to your recovery.
While self-help can be successful, there are obviously some cases where you need to seek professional help. Our LJP contributor and mental health nurse, Bethany, recommends calling the Samaritans helpline at 116 123 if you are in need of an immediate confidential chat. If you need face to face support, she recommends attending your GP and in emergencies attending an A&E centre.
We would like to sincerely thank Mark for reaching out to us here at The Lily-Jo Project and sharing with us his story. We highly recommend his book, ‘Life After Care: From Lost Cause to MBE”, and above all else it was great getting to know him through his written work.
“Life After Care: From Lost Cause to MBE”, written by Mark Edwards (pictured above)
If you would like to purchase Mark’s book, you can find it here at Trigger Publishing.
If you want to hear Mark speak about his story, you can listen to his episode on the Mental podcast.
Stay updated with Mark’s story on twitter here.
As always, take care this week!
Shelby, Blog Editor at The Lily-Jo Project