I've been expecting the worst to happen for about thirty-four years. Those of you that struggle with anxiety will know what I mean. It can swallow up the most glorious day in a binge of self-inflicted doom. Every exit in your mind leads to the most terrible scenario your psyche can puke up. Sometimes in my life that worst thing has happened – not being able to cope, being admitted to the psychiatric ward, Ace of Base getting to number one. I've got through it all because I'm built for a crisis. I'm always ready for the fightback. Total failure and derision are motivating. What helped me finish the London Marathon in 2006 when I was openly weeping and had lost 2 toenails at mile eleven wasn't the cheering crowds, it was the thought of sticking my V's up at all the people who said that I never would. Part of me is always waiting for it to go all wrong so I can come back fighting. One of life’s survivors and all that.
Bizarrely what I find quite difficult is when everything goes right. When everything just comes together, the stars align, and life just works. That’s been my experience with the TV adaptation of my books into My Mad Fat Diary.
From start to finish the show has attracted the sweetest and most talented people. From the production staff, to the writers - Tom Bidwell and George Kay have turned my writing into such brilliant screenplays for our fabulous cast. They are not only very skilled but also very lovely people. And then of course there's Sharon. What a delight it has been to watch this actress go from strength to strength and become one of the most exciting acting talents of a generation. And she's a joy to be with in real life.
What I wasn't prepared for, and what none of us could have expected, is the love tsunami that has come from the My Mad Fat Diary fandom.
For those of you who fancy Nico I would like to intensify your love for him by telling you he is also adorable in real life. I can't think of anyone I don't like. Seriously. But my Mum and I both agree that Darren Evans - who plays Danny Two Hats - is our absolute favourite. We can't help it. We just want to adopt him.
Anyway, it’s all just flowed perfectly. You can imagine that entrusting your teenage life to a bunch of strangers would be a nerve wracking experience, but adolescent Rae was in safe hands. I got to watch the show on DVD before it aired and I loved it from moment one. The real Rae is far more Jarvis Cocker mad than Liam Gallagher obsessed (I’m on Noel’s side anyway), but apart from that I can't fault it. It’s wonderful.
And then you came along.
I'm used to getting audience feedback. I worked in radio for many years before I became an author (have you read all my books yet? Please do). People want to tell you how they feel about your work. And that's fine. Sometimes it’s good. Sometimes it’s bad. And sometimes it’s a complete character assassination. That's what you expect - it goes with the territory.
What I wasn't prepared for, and what none of us could have expected, is the love tsunami that has come from the My Mad Fat Diary fandom. On Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook your reaction to the show has blown me away. There’s magnificent fan fiction (Rae in Hogwarts is a particular highlight), and fan art that I have compiled into several albums, with a huge collage of pictures on my study wall. There are blogs that detail with such candor the struggles people have with mental health and body image. Your honesty has absolutely allowed other people to see that they are not alone in their struggles. It's wonderful.
YOU have made this into a life affirming experience not just for me but for many, many others. The reaction to the show has confirmed in my mind what I long believed: that most of us are largely lovely with occasional bits of arse, but who are REALLY trying. We are trying to be the best versions of ourselves we can be. And anyone who doesn't accept us for that, and for what we are, well they can fuck off. To quote Kester.
I told you that sometimes I haven’t always been able to enjoy this experience as much as I’d like… because I kept wondering what would go wrong. Old anxieties, old problems, a bit of imposter syndrome all came back to bite me on the backside. What did I do about that? Well as soon as I realised I was being a complete cock, I found a hypnotherapist who helped me with it. If there is one thing I would love the show to stand for, it’s that it’s fine to stick our hands up and say ‘I’m struggling here,’ and to seek help to get better.
The great news is there are lots of ways to improve how we feel. Taking responsibility for your head is the single biggest thing we can do for ourselves and others. There is no shame in wanting to pursue your own mental health with the same vigour that you would do with your physical health. I’d like to open head gyms everywhere – the world would be a better place.
Anyway, it’s time to say goodbye to teenage Rae on screen. But from adult Rae I want to thank you very, very much for all your love and support.Rae Earl
Want to read more from Rae? Buy the My Mad Fat Diary books here.