In Jamie’s shoes

Mental Health

Jamie Windust has recently published their first book In Their Shoes, and shares their writing thought process with Happiful, as well as exciting new collaborations with I Weigh and Gay Times

Cultural commentator, author and model Jamie Windust and I last spoke in December 2019. We were in a central London studio recording a special episode of Happiful’s podcast I am. I have, the day before the UK’s general election and we were both feeling trepidatious about what was to come in the following hours, day and weeks.

Less than a year later and life is very different in ways we could never have expected back then. However, there was a vague sense of déjà vu as we chatted on the eve of Jamie’s book release recently. A sense of change and new beginnings – this time specifically for Jamie – as their book begins to hit shelves and doormats across the world.

In Their Shoes, is now officially ‘out there’. The reception has been no less than magnificent and rightfully so for the book described as: ‘Frank, funny and brilliantly feisty, this must-read book is a call to arms for non-binary self acceptance, self appreciation and self celebration.” One online review simply sums up its impact with: “Honestly, the best book I have received all year. I feel seen. I feel represented. And I am in awe.”

Here, Jamie shares their writing process, the need for change in the mental and physical health provisions, and the sheer joy of working with I Weigh and Gay Times.

How has the process of writing and launching In Their Shoes been for you, Jamie?

The concept of the book was quite broad initially, and started as a guide almost. I felt uncomfortable about writing that way, while advice is important for people, a guide can be seen like a manual and for me there’s no one way to express any one gender identity.

So I just started writing stories, experiences that I’d had that I wanted to share, and then I started forming chapters around those stories. It’s quite a broad look at lots of different aspects of my life, from fashion to relationships, career and mental health.

I’m really happy that it’s out now and wouldn’t change a thing. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do as a writer.

I wanted it to be relatable, so there was that pressure, but I talk really openly and naturally about these subjects in my day-to-day work, so it felt natural for me to take that tone into my book.

I’m really happy that it’s out now and wouldn’t change a thing. It’s something I’ve always wanted to do as a writer.

You have a chapter dedicated to mental health. How was it for you to write about that?

Writing about mental health is something that I’ve done before, but not in the way that I’ve done here. It’s interesting because part of this book is about offering elements of advice, but it’s difficult to offer direction around mental health because everyone’s situation is so different.

I feel what I ended up sharing about mental health is very universal, tips for people of all gender identities. I’d say that’s a theme throughout the entire book, while it’s about my experiences as a non-binary person, there are takeaways for people of all genders.

You share nationwide that initiatives such as mental health awareness week do not take into account the full range of challenges and life experiences of all gender identities. Tell us more.

People who talk about mental health aren’t always fully-intentioned. It doesn’t come from a lack of care, it comes from a lack of knowledge of different inter-communal experiences. I also share experiences with the NHS that have been tough, and need to be rectified and changed. There needs to be more people on the inside of these organisations, thinking about every person’s experiences and challenging the way their organisations respond.

You’ve been doing some phenomenal work in addition to releasing your book this year, including an In Their Shoes YouTube content collaboration with I Weigh. Are you enjoying this?

Absolutely! The work with I Weigh is a direct extension of my book and an opportunity for me to show more of who I really am. I’ve always loved interviewing people, and find the dynamics of interviewing on camera fascinating.

It’s about serious conversations, but it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and is done in a way that is accessible.

The filmed content is a mixture of all of my favourite things about my jobs all in one. I get to wear something outrageous, speak to other people and find out about their stories, I get to show more of my personality and use my journalistic skills… and I get to have fun!

That’s what this whole series is about, it’s about serious conversations, but it doesn’t take itself too seriously, and is done in a way that is accessible.

I’m so grateful to I Weigh and Jameela for giving me the platform to do this.

You’re writing and working with Gay Times too now. How is that going?

It’s an absolute privilege to join the team as Contributing Editor. It’s a great space for me to explore the different ways I can tell stories. I recently published and produced a photo series for them about trans couples and the love and romance they have, and the different sides to trans stories that aren’t often shown.

It’s great for me creatively and I can boost voices that I’ve always shared, on the Gay Times platform. It’s an absolute dream role.

So what does the rest of 2020 hold for you?

It’s been a tough year for everyone and a shitty year in many ways for me personally. In terms of mental health, I’ve realised that there are always new lows that you can hit, and new ways mental ill health can manifest itself in your life.

When your mental health is low, you can often forget that you are ill and you need to recuperate and get better.

I’m in a much better place now though, I’m going for very specific therapy which has been really helpful and I’ve been able to process a lot. In the next few months, I’ll be able to feel more comfortable moving forwards, focusing back on me again and making sure I’m well. I think when your mental health is low, you can often forget that you are ill and you need to recuperate and get better.

The way I’m making it all feel a bit easier is to ensure that I’m having fun again, in my life and in my work. I’m making a concerted effort to recognise that my job is a creative one, and not just someone who speaks on social issues. I’m doing the wonderful things that I want to do – that I love to do – and I’m reclaiming space for that.

In Their Shoes: Navigating Non-Binary Life by Jamie Windust
Jessica Kingsley Publishers.

Follow Jamie’s iweigh series.

Find professional support online and near you on Counselling Directory.

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