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Let's talk about mental health

Image result for mental health quotesI must admit I am a little bit nervous about writing this blog today.
I am afraid that I will get a little too emotional when writing about a topic that is very close to my heart.
I will apologise now for if I ramble or get lost in a stream of consciousness. I hope you can make sense of what I am about to write.

This week, another life was lost to the tragedy that is suicide. I should correct myself, a famous life was lost to suicide. I have no doubt that this week, many families around the world are grieving and trying to figure out why one of their own has taken their own life.

The reason that I want to write this post is simply down to the number of horrible and ignorant comments that I have read on social media about Chester Bennington's death. For me, it highlighted the lack of understanding of mental health in this day and age.

I'm going to take you back on a wee journey with me and tell you why this is such a personal topic and why I feel that it needs to be spoken about more as normal conversation.

13 years ago this coming November, my sister was killed as a result of poor mental health. She was 17 years old when she died. My brother suffers from a mental disorder that we were unaware of and as a result of a seizure, my sister lost her life. It is not a new story, it was tabloid fodder for quite a long time. It was a very dark time for us all. I had to not only watch my brother be analysed by psychiatrists from around Europe, I had to deal with the grief that had been laid at my feet, while in my final year at university which was quite stressful as well.

It was a difficult task diagnosing his disorder simply because of how little is truly known about mental health. Thankfully, we got there and we got an answer and one of life's questions was answered for us even if the other ten thousand were not. It was difficult to fathom how in the 21st century it could take so long to find the answers we were looking for. Had it been a physical illness it would not have taken nearly as long. It was eye opening.

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This poem has kept me sane on numerous occasions
This story is not about my siblings. This story is about me so I shall park that there. I went back to university a month after she passed away. I didn't want to stay and drown in the sorrow that surrounded me. I didn't deal with things very well (I ballooned up to a size 24!) but I put my head down and I tried to get through the year. My summer exams came up, and I was very well prepped. As I walked down the concourse to my exam hall, I suddenly burst into tears, and fell onto the floor. My legs stopped moving. It was frightening. I was brought to the chaplin's office, and it was decided that even though I was consciously ready to take my exams,  my sub-conscious had noted that my summer exam timetable was identical to my winter one which had been the week of my sisters funeral. Even though I thought everything was ok, an untapped part of my brain said no, and I had a break down. Not something that every 21 year old can boast about.

I was lucky, I had a lot of support in my friends and my family. They expected me to crack, they had thought I was too strong. People understood why I had something to be upset or depressed about. It was obvious because of my circumstances. My old English teacher gave me a notebook and pen and told me to write my heart out. That is actually how this blog came about a few years later! Once the court case was over, I needed to escape. I wasn't running away from my problems. I needed time and space to deal with them. I needed to find who I was again and stop being shadowed by my family history. Being anonymous saved my sanity. I found who I was again. I met people who only knew me for me, and not for the story back in Ireland. It was liberating and it gave me the strength to keep fighting.

Image result for mental health quotesOther things happened along the way that tried to knock me down, I had my heart broken, I found out  that I probably won't ever have children and my parents separated. All within 18 months of my sister passing. It was tough.I was so young but you know what, I was lucky. Not once in that time, a very dark time, did suicide seem like my only option. I will rephrase that. Not once did I ever consider it to be an option. That is because somewhere deep down in my very shattered heart, I had hope. I had the hope that it could only get better. That some day I would look back on what happened and see it as part of my story and not make it my life.

I met a wonderful man and we were together for 6 years. He built me back up. He gave me the strength that I needed. He filled my life with laughter, with love and not once did he every judge me for my family's past. When we broke up it was hard but I knew I would be ok. He had taught me in our time together how to be strong again. I think we just stopped needing each other if I am honest. Again, I had hope that the new chapter in my life would be worth living.

I am lucky, I have managed to embrace the new chapter, in fact I'm about four chapters in to the new story. That doesn't mean that I don't have dark days. From November 10th (my sisters birthday) to November 29th (her anniversary), I struggle. I cry a lot over those three weeks. My friends know about this and I get a lot of catch ups and coffees, hugs and stories and I get through it. It doesn't get easier as the years go by but it changes. When I am on my own I torment myself even though I know it doesn't do anything positive for me. I can't help it. I know I can't change anything.  It just happens.

Image result for mental health quotesMy dad and I have spoken about mental health a lot. Poor mental health exists in our family and we know about it now. It is important to speak about it. The one thing that we have both said, is that it is unimaginable, despite everything we have gone through, to be in a place where there is no hope. To be in a place where you can't see it ever improving, to be in a place where you can only see one option and that is suicide. Without sounding mushy, I think in a weird way we are each others hope. I could never imagine putting him through the loss of another daughter, nor would he want to put me through such pain again.

Online today, I read ridiculous comments about selfishness, about how Chester Bennington had it all, and money and fame etc..., how he had a family that he has let down.  It makes my blood boil to read comments like that. Our minds don't care how much money we have or if we are famous. Our minds have the ability to twist and turn the most innocent thoughts into pits of despair and anguish. The fact that he felt leaving his family behind was the only option highlights just how the mind can distort our most private thoughts.

Everyone is effected in some shape or form by poor mental health. We may have a relative with dementia, we may or may know someone who suffers from depression, we may know someone who has needed to spend some time in hospital because of their mental health. Some of us have anxiety attacks, others suffer from stress. It is nothing to be embarrassed about. Your health is your health whether it is physical or mental.

My dad said something at my sisters funeral that has stuck with me for years. I can't remember his words verbatim but the sentiment is the same. He said that we can accept that people can have their leg broken, we can accept that people can have their heart broken, we need to accept that people can have their mind broken.

I don't think I have ever heard the sentiment spoken so well. We need to talk to each other. We need to listen to each other.  It is so important that we listen to each other, listen to what people are saying but hear how they are feeling. The stigma around mental health has to go. It has been around for far, far too long.

This was a very heavy post, but one I felt compelled to write.
If just one person reads this and realises that it is going to be ok, or that they can talk to someone about their problems, then it will be worth my while writing it. I'm not really sure how to end it so I will give you this sentiment...
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Happy weekend folks,

Lu xx


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