It’s not every day you get a phone call like that, but that’s exactly what happened to me in 1998 when I was just 17 years old.
I had just been introduced to an amazing woman who was an amazing speaker and who would give me the chance to be a part of something I never thought I’d get to do.
When she started speaking to me and teaching me how to get the best out of myself, it was all right there in front of my eyes.
I was in my parents’ basement in the back of a house in north London.
I’d been reading about the benefits of meditation for a while but had never been able to put them into practice.
I was living with a couple of other people in a tiny house with two other people, one of whom was the girl I was dating at the time.
We were all very, very isolated.
My mum and dad had left us for a few months and I was in the basement with the other girls, with my mum in a wheelchair, and my dad in a backpack.
One night, I’d gone to bed around midnight.
When I woke up, I just thought, “Oh, I’ve got to get out of here”.
I just sat on the sofa in the house and just sat there, watching the television, and just listened to what was going on.
My dad came out and we sat down on the kitchen floor and started to talk.
We just had a conversation and then mum said, “You’re going to be my assistant.”
So I went up there and we did that for about two weeks and then I just sort of got the hang of it and just kind of did what she wanted me to do for her.
And so I got into this little world that I was into and that she wanted.
And that’s how it started.
I ended up getting a job in a hospital, a mental health centre, and then later, at university, I got an MSc.
It was quite a strange experience.
The idea of going into medicine and working with people who were doing something so different from me, and being surrounded by people who had such different ideas and approaches, was quite hard to take.
But at the same time, I didn’t know that there was a big audience for me.
It was only when I got my first job in the NHS that I really understood how important it was that I get this experience.
I had no idea that people would be so interested in this kind of stuff.
There were some very early days of the internet and I remember just being shocked.
There was a woman who I was with at the hospital, she was a nurse and she was in charge of mental health at the centre.
I remember thinking, “She’s the one who’s going to see me and take me seriously.”
I went and saw her and she said, [to me] “You have to keep working.”
She was very encouraging and said, I’m very good at this and I’m good at it and I just needed to work at it.
And then I did.
It’s a very, kind of, very different experience than what I had with my dad and mum.
I went into a mental hospital and I got in.
It turned out I was pretty good.
I started out as a consultant and then moved into the mental health unit and was eventually made the head of mental healthcare at a different hospital.
And I was so surprised to see how much work I did in terms of what I was doing.
I did have a lot of people who actually had no clue how to deal with people in the mental care units, or what they were supposed to do or what was expected of them.
And there were a lot more people who could actually help me out with this.
I mean, they didn’t even know how to handle me.
So I had a lot to learn.
I got to see the difference between my dad’s and mum’s approaches to mental health, and I found it to be incredibly helpful.
I’m really lucky.
My mum’s mental health is now so well managed, she has a lot less issues than I did when I first came to London.
But I’m not exactly the best person to answer people’s questions.
She’d say, “Well, you’re just an idiot and you’re in a bad place”.
But she’d tell me, “It’s just a matter of time”.
And I’d say to her, “I’m not stupid.”
She just goes, “No, you are!”
I’ve been very lucky to have this experience in my life, and to be able to get to where I am today, where I have a job, where my family are all really happy and where I’m doing well.
So I think it’s a privilege that I’m able to be here.