Its 6.30am on Saturday morning, I am sitting in bed with a hot cup of coffee, a morning ritual. It’s the 9th of May today – I spent some time this morning looking at Instagram and all of the people who got up before dawn and did a 5km walk or run in isolation for Pieta House.
Darkness into light is a stark reminder every year of lost loved ones, some years I take part, some I don’t, but I always donate to this worthy cause. This year is a little different. I sat in my bed this morning thinking about this time last year, and remember the utter despair I was in. For the longest time I have kept what I experienced tightly within a small circle of family, colleagues and friends. During my darkest days, I found an article on line where a woman described a similar experience to mine and how it had so severely affected her mentally and physically and as I read that article it was the first time in a long time I had hope. I had resigned myself to the fact that I was indeed completely mental and any day now the fella’s in the white coats would turn up with a straight jacket just for me. So as my Mum says, if I can help just one person it will be worth it.
This time last year my personal and professional life was completely turned upside down, due to certain events. I knew my family were concerned for me, and I tried to do my best to seem okay but it was almost impossible. My Mum insisted we register for the Darkness into light walk. Although I had no interest and could barely get out of bed, I agreed because I could see the worry in my Mum and I felt so guilty, it added to my heart break. We arrived at the start of the walk and as we set off my aunt tried to speak to me but I could not speak. I walked with my head down the whole way sobbing. I could not control the emotion. I never thought I would get to the end and get home. But I did it and I got through another day.
The day a friend passed away was the day I realised I was not okay, in a serious way. He had been terminally ill and I had been keeping busy by visiting him in hospital and continued to be brave for him. I was holding on to the edge of the cliff with my fingertips. When the news came, I let go and I was so uncontrollably distraught it didn’t make sense to me. I’m usually a great person in a crisis. I will hurt later, others are hurting more now, do what you can for them. But not this time. It was not only his death but the trauma of everything that year, the inability to sleep or eat had caught up with me. So I finally went to the doctor and got help. Help I should have sought months before.
Every article, book, website, healthcare professional will tell you what to do to protect your well-being and mental health. I am writing this to tell you what not to do. We all know by now, that sleeping well, having a good balanced diet, getting exercise, keeping connected with family and friends, avoiding alcohol are all things we should do to keep our mental health in check. But what do you do when you can’t do these things?
Firstly, do not ignore it. This was the single biggest mistake I made. I believed every day, that the next day would be better. Keep pushing on, be busy. I began to work harder, and longer. I even started a course. You won’t notice that you can’t eat. Busy busy busy! In my experience I was almost the last person to recognise how unwell I was. Your family and friends may notice before you do. So it’s vital to stop and recognise how you are feeling and why.
As I sit here writing this and reflecting on how I feel now. Am I cured, absolutely not! Am I better, absolutely! But I am now aware of how to manage the bad days. I am less afraid every day to ask for help if I need it. It’s still not easy, don’t get me wrong, but if I don’t I will go down the dark hole again. You carry the impact your illness has on those around you like a bowling ball around your neck and you will avoid calling friends to talk, but try if you can to put this feeling aside and recognise our friends are important.
So the moral of the tale is, don’t be me. Don’t wait for it to get better by itself. Go to the doctor. Don’t wait for months like I did. You are never alone.
Even in my saddest days, I have always been able to have a laugh and humour gets me through a lot, I think it’s inherent in Irish people. Find what will help you through your dark days too, laughter is a cure-all! Even if just for a moment.
As difficult as it is for me to share such a personal experience – Hazel and I created Vet Space for this reason, as a safe place for everyone to interact and to share and promote positivity.
If you haven’t already done so, you can donate to Pieta house here.
Have a lovely day.