Words by MindJournal founder, Ollie Aplin.
Tuesday 22nd November 2005, a date that will forever be a scar in my mind. Like my very own Harry Potter lightning bolt burned onto my forehead. The day I found out that my mum had finally succeeded in ending her life.
I always knew it was going to happen. It was inevitable. I could never picture her being old or ever truly happy. And because of this, I was always prepared for her death. At least I thought I was.
Me and Mum in 1986, the year I was born.
As the police informed me on the steps of what was once our home, reality kicked in and the pain of losing her became all too real. My amazing mum was gone.
For the months that followed I slipped into auto-pilot. Identifying her body whilst begging her to wake up, making the funeral arrangements and hugging her coffin goodbye, selling her belongings and scattering her ashes.
I was just 19.
2008: The Breakthrough
In the 2 years that followed I decided to deal with what had happened by ignoring it. Telling myself that I was okay and that the only thing to do was to bury my head in work and get on with it.
I graduated from University in 2007 and within a few months landed my first job. I had my own car, a girlfriend and a home. I was safe. I had made it. I had survived.
But something wasn't right, I could feel it. A restlessness. An uncomfortable pain in my head that wouldn’t shift, a creeping sense of anxiety and an increase in panic attacks.
So I did what I always did, used my proven tactic of trying to ignore it, taking painkillers and sleeping to try and numb it. I vaguely remember giving therapy a try but I wasn't ready so decided it wasn't for me.
But my mind had other ideas.
On Saturday 16th February 2008 at 3am I woke up with a jolt. Not from a dream but from a panic attack. Out of nowhere, I felt an overwhelming sense of fear. And this feeling grew, consuming me and forcing me deeper and deeper into a black hole I couldn’t escape from.
"Every emotion, feeling and memory coursed through me like a tsunami."
And it didn't go away. After 3 months of not eating, sleeping or functioning as a human being I finally discovered what was happening to me.
My mind was forcing me to deal with everything that had ever happened to me, all at once. Every emotion, feeling, and memory coursed through me like a tsunami.
At this point, I knew I needed help. So I booked in a session with a therapist.
From my initial session, it became clear that talking was not going to be easy for me. My mum was a very private person and I’d grown up being told that I couldn’t talk about what was going on at home, with anyone, especially not my dad.
Sitting in that room being asked to share everything that had ever happened wasn't just uncomfortable, I just physically didn’t know how to do it. I didn’t know how to connect with the emotions that I felt. The only thing I could do was recite milestones and state the facts.
My therapist recommended I try journaling as a way to get my feelings out. If I couldn't talk, then I could try to write. This realisation was life-changing. Not only did journaling help me to get all my thoughts out of my head, but it helped me express how I was feeling, eventually leading to conversations with those around me.
It had worked, after 18 months of both therapy and journaling, I felt like I could function again. The pain was still there, but I was okay.
2015: The Lightbulb Moment
Fast forward to 2015 and the months leading up to my 30th birthday. I felt tired, burnt out and in need of a change.
I decided I wanted to help people, to make a difference. I wanted something positive to come out of everything I had been through. A lasting legacy in memory of my mum.
As a designer, I was used to problem-solving. But getting guys to journal? That was by far my toughest yet.
Finally, after months of designing, prototyping, and testing, MindJournal was born. And I was ready to tell my story.
2016: The Kickstarter
Full of apprehension, we launched MindJournal on Kickstarter on Monday 29th February 2016. But I couldn't have prepared myself for what happened next.
MindJournal received major press coverage from publications such as The Telegraph, Uncrate, Gear Patrol, Huff Post and LadBible. I was stunned, we were changing the conversation.
But more overwhelming than that were the messages we received, from guys all over the world. And the thing they had in common? Hope. Hope that there might be another way to cope with life. The possibility that there might be something that could help them to feel better, something that could make life that little bit easier.
"25 days later we had raised over £45,000 from over 1,400 backers. I pushed print on 1,500 journals and cried."
The MindJournal Family. From left to right — me, my Girlfriend Natasha, Dad Neil, Sister Kelly and Nephew Jay.
2017: The Book Deal
Not long after the first edition of MindJournal shipped, I was approached by a publishing agent. And it soon emerged that the next step in the journey for me and MindJournal was to write a book.After agreeing on a book deal with Penguin Random House, I locked myself away for 6 months and on Thursday 4th May 2017, my mum's birthday, it launched. I couldn't believe it, I took it as a sign from her that I had made it, I had conquered the mountain and defeated my demons. It felt like the book was the closing of a chapter, and I could finally move on.
Me and Mum on top of a mountain in Switzerland
2018: The Next Chapter Begins
But with so much more to do — we got back to work.
We set out to make a new edition for our guys, not for my journey but for theirs. We listened, and after months of research, testing and feedback we finally launched our third edition on Wednesday 16th May 2018 — and the reaction since then has been incredible.
It’s been an amazing journey and one which has only been possible because of our amazing community — guys that are changing the conversation and showing that it's okay to want to look after yourself.
But this is still just the beginning.