I have been sat here staring at a blank page trying to think about something to write about world mental health day. Not because I don’t have anything to say, but because I have too much. Mental health is something that has hugely affected me. I don’t want to write ‘my story’, because it is still too soon, for me and the people who supported me through it. I also don’t want to write a general piece on how the silence and stigma needs to change either, because how ever much I try to distance myself from it, I can’t.
So I am, instead, going to write about how, at the darkest and worst times of my life, when I couldn’t see a reason for living, because it was too painful, there were people who stuck by me no matter what. Who loved me, despite the hell I was going through and bring them along with me.
It’s a massive cliche, but I am still here in no part thanks to the mental health services in ireland. Individually, I have had the fortune to have met some lovely health care practicioners, nurses and doctors who despite working in a terrible system still managed to make a difference.
I could spend all day talking about the terrible things that renowned doctors said to me, and my parents. The times when I was in desperate need but the waiting list to see anybody was a year long, the general insensitivity that seems to be prevalent and the sheer ignorance of mental health in this country, and the world in general. But this is not what got me here today.
What got me here today was my mum and dad, who let me drop out of school. Who understood that I couldn’t get out of bed and didn’t make me feel bad about it, because they knew how much pressure I put myself under. Who drove me to appointment after appointment even when nothing seemed to be working and never, ever complained.
My sisters and brother. For forgiving me for taking up all my parents energy and attention, and never once made me feel ashamed for it. Who even when I was at my sickest still treated me as normal.
My friends. Aoife and Jean,at the earlier stages, Emma and Emsie and Katie, later on. The people who listened to me and loved me even though nobody really understood what was going on, least of all me. People think they have best friends, and I guess they kind of do, but not like that. Aoife and jean basically kept me alive when I honestly felt like the real caoimhe had died and there was an empty shell left. They were there through the worst days of my life. They understand my need to make horrible jokes about it all and they laugh. Even though they had awful stuff going on too they still let a massive centre stage light shine on me for years. I am becoming incoherent because I am blinded by love. These are the people that helped me recover.
The girls I met in hospital also get a special mention. I won’t name you, but you know who you are. Somebody that can make you laugh when you feel so bad that you can’t even shower is somebody that deserves a medal, especially because they feel bad too. You were the people who really helped me through hospital.
My boyfriend, for not caring. And for letting me cry. And for understanding that it is physically impossible for me to cry while watching TLC and not caring that he has sat through far more reality TV then I have ever sat through foot ball matches. Even though he didn’t know what he was really getting into, he never cared. And he always calls me to ask if I’m ok. And know when I’m lying.
All the teachers, and lectures, and tutors that made sure I could continue with my education. That made me feel ok about walking into a class not having gone for weeks. That extended my deadlines, and understood that I get anxious about answering emails. That spent time helping me to catch up. I may have not always said it, but thank you from the bottom of my heart. You made being sick and having some sort of normal life happen. You made sure I was able to continue my education, the most important thing to me.
The people who knew I was unwell, and asked was I ok. That were nice and understanding about me missing a lot of time in college and didn’t make me feel bad or weird about it. All you people are in halls, in college, in school… The fact I could be having a shitty time and someone would be nice and understanding has made me feel so much better so many times. You might not even know that you are doing it. But thank you.
So I guess what I am trying to say is, thank you. I don’t always say it. I feel awkward. All these people were not trained doctors, or nurses, or psychiatrists, or psychologists or therapists but you helped me get to where I am today. You have made such a huge difference to my life and I am so grateful to have all of you.
So, if you’re struggling, look around. You might not be able to see it but there are people that love you and are trying to help you as best they know how. Mental illness is just as serious as physical illness. It’s not just in your head. Your health is the most important thing. Don’t be ashamed to suffer from mental illness.
I guess I’m living proof that it does get better. Even if getting better seems the most impossible thing in the world.