Steve Hill Photography

Mental illness exposed with Stripped Bare

Mental illness is exposed within ‘Stripped Bare,’ but should someone be classed as extremely courageous, plain stupid, or both when considering letting the world know about their innermost fears, weaknesses and imperfections? Going public with regard to mental health issues, past mistakes and life errors that most people would probably choose to closet, rather than use as examples in a book to help others was a huge gamble to take, but for me it was a venture worth the risk.

Stripping myself bare for my upcoming book wasn’t taken lightly and it took careful consideration and deliberation before I opened the folder in my laptop’s document files, where the diary of notes lay hidden. Composed during my most difficult days, each paragraph seemed to knit together. I remember my fingers vigorously typing a multitude of words steered by turbulent emotions at the time. The laptop’s keyboard being used as a release mechanism, perhaps initially a cry for help, probably a therapeutic exercise, but most definitely an aid to my recovery.

Looking back through the content I came to the conclusion that if I was to share my experiences through a book, this could inspire others who are suffering from mental health illnesses, or who had faced similar dilemmas and are still feeling alone, racked with guilt or shame. Better still, I hoped it would help to crack open what I believed to be some of the root causes behind both mental and physical health issues, which can be sustained from long periods of low self-esteem and bottled up anxieties.

We live in a society fixated by status, competition and consumerism

“We live in a society fixated by status, competition and consumerism, yet it’s through this type of thinking we can so easily become attached to a particular person, situation or object, believing this will open the door to a more fulfilling and happier life. The bigger house, the faster car, the next job promotion, or relationship – whatever external entity we perceive to be the conveyor of instantaneous happiness is merely a distraction, unless we are at peace with ourselves.”

The society we live in doesn’t help the human mind and is quite often the root cause behind many of our insecurities. This is largely because we are encouraged from an early age to focus on competition, rather than creativity, whilst dominance and power over others can so often be depicted as the means to a successful and wealthy life.

Of course an element of competition is healthy. To win medals sportingly and fairly in such events as the Olympics must be the ultimate prize for any athlete, who for years has probably sacrificed so much and been self-disciplined to achieve their goal. But even sport is now tainted with the corruption of a few, who prefer to achieve their successes in a dishonourable manner, rather than through an unwavering passion, determination and honesty.

“If there are to be any positive changes in this world, young minds must also learn about difference, whether it is the colour of someone’s skin, a disability, religious belief, or even an extraordinary talent. We need to understand at an early age that contrast shapes the planet we all share and no life is any less, or any more important than another. Lessons should include mindfulness, meditation, how to handle finance, health in body and mind, all key ingredients to our well-being and each of paramount importance for a stable, more fulfilling, happier life. Most significant of all, schools must encourage compassion and kindness, not only towards other living beings, but with regard to ourselves too.”


© Picture by Steve Hill. 9.2.14. PICTURE FOR WOMANÕS OWN MAGAZINE PICTURE DESK. Sharon Bull, 53 pictured at home in Chesterfield, Derbyshire today.

Steve Hill Photography

We also live in a world plagued by identity labels – he’s British, she’s European, Asian, immigrant, black, white, addict, young, old, fat, thin, rich, poor, loser, thug, upper class, lower class, disabled, insane. Endless identity labels used to categorise fellow human beings, so we can slot them into society’s specific boxes. Sometimes labelling people we don’t even know, based on our own perceptions, or perhaps worse still, what we have heard from other sources.

A world plagued by identity labels

Labelling and putting people into categories may be great for the marketing departments of companies to identify their customer base, but used in judgement, or blame only fuels negative emotions, which ultimately drives a wedge throughout our neighbourhoods, country and the world. A divide in humanity causing ill feeling – spurring anger, distrust, envy and hatred towards others. Despair, loneliness, bullying, and sadly sometimes suicide – all casualties of labelling too.

Many also strife to be labelled within the western world’s ideology of perfection, tagged as either beautiful, intelligent, prosperous, successful or affluent. Pressure to look and be a certain way can lead to a severe lack of love for ourselves and ‘Stripped Bare’ discloses how I endeavoured for almost thirty years to reflect society’s perfect image. That is, until 2010 when I was finally catapulted into my worst months of shame and self-destruction. Mental health issues had plagued me since my youth, with depression and anxiety following me around, triggering a spending addiction that incurred £50,000 debt.

Stripped Bare – available 28th August 2017

Stripped Bare is available on August 28th 2017, accompanied by a series of talks across the UK in September. This gives everyone the opportunity, not only to read about Sharon’s inspirational story, but to also come along to one of her events and hear from the author’s lips, how she believes we can all turn our lives around, no matter how difficult it may seem. For further information please visit 

Extracts from Stripped Bare in italics

Sharon Bull
Inspirational speaker, author and poet