- Film & TV
- 01 Oct 19
We invited a chorus of artists, writers, musicians, broadcasters, sports stars and more to contribute to Now We’re Talking, a mental health campaign, run in partnership with Lyons Tea and Pieta House.
There was a time in my life when I could have scared H. Norman Schwarzkopf. Remember him? An absolute bull of a man, he was the four-star US Army General who served as Supreme Commander of the Coalition forces in the first Gulf War and the kind of person you'd imagine wouldn't be scared of very much at all. So his response was all the more surprising when he replied to an interview question on how he chose his most trusted aides by saying, "Frankly, any man that doesn't cry scares me. I don't think I would like a man who was incapable of enough emotion to get tears in his eyes every now and again."
I don't remember crying once during my teenage years, despite having enough to cry about. This was one symptom of a degree of emotional isolation that showed no signs of changing as I went into my twenties. Whatever was in there did come out in other ways, however, including on occasion some very self-destructive behaviour. By the time I reached 25, that behaviour had reached such a point that I needed to seek help, despite my long-held notion that there was something wrong in not being completely self-reliant, and that the worst thing I could ever do would be to show any vulnerability.
Things didn't all change overnight. The most insidious form of self-destructive behaviour, which was also the most difficult to let go of, was to keep listening to whatever it was in me that kept whispering that, despite all the evidence to the contrary, I just wasn't good enough. I had to keep working on that, and one of the things that really helped was the realisation that I wasn't alone - if anything, that whisper seems to have become a lot louder for a lot of people since the advent of social media, and I don't know if I've ever met anyone who doesn't suffer from it to some extent. I've also come to realise that the whisper won't ever leave me completely, it's a part of life and the creative process, but understanding where it comes from has made it a lot easier for me to work with.
A lot of the work I've done has involved being vulnerable, which was initially quite a challenge. But as time passed, I discovered that accepting my vulnerability has not only been hugely helpful in my personal life, it's also helped me be better at my job. You might think that a film director / photographer's work is to be like the general who takes charge and tells everyone what to do, and there is some truth in that. But in order to really connect with the person in front of the camera, who is often having their own moment of vulnerability, there's nothing more human and helpful than showing real empathy, which is only ever really found by being in touch with your own vulnerabilities. And you need to trust yourself that it's okay to do that.
Ultimately, I think that's what General Schwarzkopf was really talking about - not fear, but trust. How could he trust someone who wouldn't let themselves be vulnerable? And without that trust, how can we ever truly connect? Which is what I think life is really all about - connecting with others. Whatever it takes.
Now We're Talking 2019
A partnership between Lyons Tea, Pieta House & Hot Press.
Let’s break the stigma and take the dialogue about mental health issues onto a new level
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