How John and Charlie are turning mental health trauma into personal success – Manchester Evening News

Posted: June 5, 2020 at 4:47 pm

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Twenty years ago, John Junior was looking through the mirror at their reflection as they put on their mum's makeup and clothes.

When she caught John in the act and asked them what was happening, they simply told her that it felt normal to them.

John, who is genderfluid and uses the pronouns they/them, says that memories like these can now be looked back on as crucial stepping stones in their life journey but they didnt see it that way at the time.

Ive been confused about my gender identity since I was eleven, John tells the Manchester Evening News.

I wanted a sex change when I was an early teenager. I felt like I was living in the wrong body, and I still to this day feel more female than male inside.

John, 31, has Klinefelter syndrome, which means they were born with an extra X female chromosome, while they were also diagnosed with borderline personality disorder in August last year.

They say they have been bullied and suffered emotional, physical and sexual abuse since a young age.

On one occasion, they said they had a boiling hot kettle poured on them when they came home late.

I was constantly being put down and told nobody wanted me, John recalls.

I was told everyone hated me, and I was punched and kicked about a lot. I kept that to myself for a very long time.

I found it was just easier to lock up how I really felt and pretend my life was fine, but I eventually realised that locking up how I felt only added more stress and made my mental health worse.

In March 2018, John's dad passed away. John attempted to take their own life three days later after feeling they no longer had anyone to turn to.

At the time, John also weighed 27 stone and had severe depression and anxiety.

Being overweight was so damaging to my mental state, John says.

My dad was the one who helped me start to lose weight. All of a sudden, he wasnt there to help me with that.

Having already joined a Slimming World group in Wilmslow, John decided to keep at it to ensure their dads efforts werent in vain. Theyve since lost five stone.

It was during this time that John decided they needed to seriously consider how to turn their life around.

Despite feeling so low and upset, they came up with the idea of a project called John and Charlie's Journey.

Joined by a fluffy sidekick in the form of a cuddly duck called Charlie, John felt more comfortable with talking about their mental health and realised it could be used in a positive way to help others.

The aim is to raise awareness and to end the stigma surrounding mental health problems, John explains.

I want to get people talking about how they feel without feeling worried, judged or stigmatised.

Since November, John and Charlie have travelled across the country and share their personal experiences with mental health in order to help and inspire others.

They recently joined an abuse survivor to deliver a powerful message on domestic violence during the lockdown.

"Charlie sparks curiosity for people to come and talk to me, they say.

We take photos and do funny videos to lighten the mood, it's a great feeling to be able to lift someone's spirits when they're feeling low or alone.

I dont want others to experience what I did where I had nobody to turn to, felt all alone, scared and worried.

People have hope because me and Charlie are going to move mountains, we are bringing change to end the stigma.

Its going to be a challenge but I have passion and nothing beats that.

They have also been joined on their journey with some very special friends.

They were recently invited to the Boyzlife tour by Keith Duffy from Boyzone and Brian Mcfadden from Westlife.

Halfway through one of the shows, they were invited on stage and asked to share their story with the audience.

John and Charlie have also been working with Real Housewives of Cheshire star Tanya Bardsley at her Wellness Hub & Boutique.

I feel like I have a second chance in life, John says.

I have purpose and passion. We want to end the silence and we will.

But, John admits that recent events have been tough for them to cope with.

They have not left the house in over 55 days due to their OCD and fears over germ contamination.

I see people going out and I wish I could but, for me, its not as simple as just putting gloves on or wearing a mask, they say.

I am physically petrified of going out, my anxiety is very high and I have been having trouble sleeping.

However, John says they have been able to find some focus through using the Samaritans latest self-help app.

It features a mood tracker and recommends coping methods based on how the user is feeling.

It can just help you empty those thoughts that are clogging up your brain, John says of the app.

Its a relief to see them written down and on the page and helps take some of the weight off your shoulders.

John says the ultimate goal is to open centres across the UK, with the first one being in his hometown of Wilmslow.

They say the centres would provide mental health support, alongside therapy services and mental health awareness courses.

I used to believe it was just me with problems, they say.

But I realised people hide how they feel because they dont want to be judged.

I discovered that when one person talks, others will usually follow.

Its okay to not be okay, so lets end the silence together and talk.

You can follow John and Charlie's Journey on their website here.

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How John and Charlie are turning mental health trauma into personal success - Manchester Evening News

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June 5th, 2020 at 4:47 pm

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