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On World Mental Health Day I was delighted to see my news feed filled to the brim with men and women shouting from the rooftops…it’s okay to talk.
It really is!
I would have been one of those people years ago who associated ‘mental health’ with being ‘mental’.
I would never have judged anyone for needing help, but the minute you heard the words “he has mental health problems,” the stigma attached to that would have had us thinking something wasn’t quite right with them.
Awful isn’t it?!
But wow, how far we’ve come – to change such a huge perception and turn it into something not only acceptable, but something that is absolutely normal.
I always say to people if you had a toothache, you’d go to the dentist, so if you have a ‘mindache’, speak to someone.
It could be difficult to open up, you might feel like you’re on your own in feeling that way, but I promise you, you’re not.
Something terrifying happened to me when Ivy was a baby.
I struggled to talk about it for a long time because I felt so ashamed.
I thought people would try to take Ivy from me, that I wasn’t safe to be around her.
I was in the midst of chemo, feeling utterly horrific, my sister was over from Australia and I was walking across the room with Ivy.
I slipped and almost dropped her – and that was it.
I absolutely spiralled out of control. I freaked out, said to Michael what if I trip again and I land on her and I hurt her, or worse?
Then I became convinced it was going to happen, that I shouldn’t carry her or be around her because I felt I was going to hurt her.
Can you imagine how terrifying that is?
The complete opposite of everything you are goes running through your mind.
My sister was in tears because I was so out of my mind with fear.
I had to call my mum and dad and tell them something was wrong with me, I couldn’t be around Ivy or something bad would happen.
I asked Michael to call me an ambulance and have me sectioned.
I remember him rubbing my arms and my back and telling me to breathe.
It was one of the most frightening experiences of my life.
I didn’t sleep that night and I had chemo the morning after.
I remember the nurses being surprised how low I was when I sat in the familiar chemo chair.
They asked was I OK and I told them ‘no, I’m really not’.
I thought I needed to speak to someone, thought that there was something wrong with me.
They were, as always, incredible.
I was lucky enough to speak with the oncology psychologist the day after and she incredibly managed to calm me down.
She told me it was absolutely normal, ohhh that lovely, lovely word – normal.
The fact that I was so terrified of my thoughts proved how much of a loving mummy I was.
A thought is just a thought, it’s not an action, just a silly thought. Let it pass through.
She gave me a really helpful technique which was to have five minutes a day where I think of all the negative things that could happen, rationalise them and then tell them to bugger off and fill the rest of my day with good thoughts.
That way, the scary thoughts have been gone and I don’t have to wait for them to spring up on me uninvited.
I couldn’t even tell my friends about what had happened.
I honestly thought they wouldn’t want me near their children, they’d think I’d ‘lost it’ and not want to spend time with me, or they’d speak to me like I was ‘mental’.
But one day about a year later, I was talking in the car with one of my friends who has a baby the same age as Ivy.
She told me about really struggling with awful thoughts when her baby was new.
She’d confided in her health visitor who had told her that she speaks to women in the exact same shoes many times a week.
I then told her what had happened to me and we both cried with relief in the car.
Even up until this very day, writing this, most people don’t know about what happened.
I wish so much I had felt brave enough to tell people without fear of being judged.
Just to know, it is normal – YOU are normal, highs and lows, ups and downs, hysteria and depression. It’s real life.
Everyone is not as hunky dory as they seem and the minute we start letting the pretence down, the sooner we will feel a sense of ease with talking about things that are sometimes judged and sometimes difficult.
Talk it out, write it down if you can’t talk and send it to someone.
Your life is in your hands, you will be okay…..now is not forever.
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The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Evewoman.co.ke