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Opinion

Selling The Big Issue has boosted my income and my wellbeing

Selling The Big Issue isn’t just about making money, it can improve your wellbeing, says Simone Gill, who sells the magazine in Plymouth.

I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder when I was 22 or 23 and it was a life-changing moment for me. I’d thought I just had depression but that was when they told me I had bipolar as well.

Living with it is awful. Your moods go up and down and you cry at silly things.

Then the things people say to you can affect you in such a bad way and make your day go horrible. Sometimes I can’t face the day and I have to push myself to go out. Most of the time I can feel it coming on and I want to hide away, but it’s difficult when you have to be out in public. That’s why selling The Big Issue is quite hard for me sometimes.

When I’m having a bad day but I need to go out I drink lots of coffee and give myself a pep talk. I say, “It should be all right today.”

Even if I had a bad day the day before I say, “It should be all right today.”

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Then the first sale of the day makes things easier. It’s brilliant. It feels like such an achievement. You think, at least I’ve sold something, and it chips away at the negative feelings.

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People don’t just buy The Big Issue – they bring me coffee and things like that, and in a small way it’s like a kind of treatment for what I’m going through.

I also have sciatica and arthritis and with the arthritis I can’t stand for too long but I also can’t sit down for that long either.

So I have to get up and move about sometimes. I was injured in a car accident when I was 10 so I still have a bad back from that and that’s why I need a walker.

‘We need more understanding to help people with disabilities and mental health problems’

But my walker broke recently and without it I can’t sell the magazine.

My friend Michael, another Big Issue vendor, heard about what had happened. He managed to get a new one for me – a lady donated it and that meant I could keep earning.

This community we have is lovely. It cheers me up, as do the other vendors. We encourage each other and wish each other the best for the day.

They look after me in all different ways. And there’s a great community feeling between us vendors. I’ve had it the other way as well though. People don’t appreciate what it takes to do this. Some of them look at you like they think you should go and get a job. They don’t realise that I am working!

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We need more understanding to help people with disabilities and mental health problems. Just more information about some of the conditions that people have and explaining how they make people feel… that would be handy.

For me, I look after my mental health with art.

I like to look at art and I also draw and paint. I used to do tattooing as well but I don’t do so much of that any more. But maybe once a month I sit down and do some drawing or painting.

It gives me a lift and it relaxes me. But you have to be in the right frame of mind to sit down and be able to do it. Well, I do anyway, I don’t know about other people with bipolar. If I produce something I’m pleased with, though, that’s what makes me happy.

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My advice to others with bipolar is to decide what works for you and stick with it – even if it’s just small things like a little pep talk.

I take medication and it’s helpful. I wouldn’t be able to do anything without it. And I keep going one day at a time. When you’ve got mental health problems sometimes it can be one hour at a time. But be positive – there’s a light at the end of the tunnel eventually.

Today for me, it’s not too bad. It’s quite good, actually. Just be positive.

Simone Gill sells The Big Issue outside Tesco in Plymouth City Centre

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