Often I get asked how I originally decided to share my story and the reasons why. I do not have a straight forward answer as such. I remember the first time the words Schizophrenia and Bi-polar were thrown into the mix. Sitting in a clinic hearing how these were possibilities for me. I did my research, looked up symptoms, causes, treatments but when it came to personal experiences, I found it hard to relate to most of these. I am not saying there are not any girls my age with mental health blogs, there are plenty – but at that time, not so much. I read endless accounts of people’s struggles with depression and anxiety but I struggled to find other people with Schizophrenia.
For years I every time someone said the “S-word” in front of me, my whole body would turn cold
I got used to hearing the derogatory terms like schizo. So many conversations come to mind; his mood changes constantly I think he might be a schizophrenic, yeah they had multiple personalities like schizophrenia, you’ll never guess what that psychotic bitch has done now or that person is crazy they need to be locked up and on and on and on. The really annoying part is obviously the lack of education and understanding. Even being aware that the person has no clue that I had a schizophrenia diagnoses and that it was not a personal attack did not help me. People who are unaffected can use poor choice of language without being aware. But on top of that would always be me trying to explain how this is wrong without actually revealing my own secret;
How would you know?
I know about this stuff
But I saw a film once-
BECAUSE I HAVE SCHIZOPHRENIA MYSELF THAT’S HOW I KNOW NOW SIT HELL DOWN WHILE I EDUCATE YOU
Awkward silence at best. So usually I would say nothing and get upset about it later. This naturally led to a whole world of frustration for me. So one night I came home from work and without an actual thought about it, literally out of nowhere I typed out my story on the laptop and saved it. I imagined a world where everyone who knows me knew about what I have and what I have been through. Would that be so terrible? It had always been a secret and if I am honest, not exactly by my own choosing. It was just this taboo subject. I wanted people to know the real me. I thought back to a twenty one year old me, searching for people who had been through what I was about to experience and seeing that there is hope. I decided that I could be that person for someone else, anyone else. If this was to help just one person it would be worth it.
I had my YOLO moment (did I really just type that) and sent the piece into a popular website. I thought it would be forgotten about. I went to bed and woke up the next morning to an email that changed everything. I hummed and hawed over using my name and picture like the publisher wanted. I rang my Mam who told me to go for it and thus began the twenty-four wait for the article to go live. I was bricking it. I will never forget the moment I shared it on Facebook. I put my phone down and about ten minutes later, it started. The notifications, texts, messages, phone calls, I could not keep up. The reaction was so positive, I received so much support from friends, family, acquaintances and complete strangers. I have never felt so accepted. I can still say it was probably the happiest day of my life. Every single person that contacted me just meant so much and the kind messages meant the absolute world. I still look back at them now in dark times. It used to annoy me that all I could say was “thanks, I really appreciate the support” it just seemed so little compared to how I felt. I was just unbelievably grateful that people took the time out to read my story and give me well wishes.
People who I have not seen in years got in contact. I got some apologies from people in the past who had treated me badly and now had a better understanding of what was going on in my head. I feel more and more people around me treat me differently now but in a positive way. I got a few “I always knew there was something wrong with you, you never seemed right” but I honestly was not offended. There have been people in my life that would have known what I was suffering from but they always shot me down whenever I tried to talk about it. It is hard for some to have any kind of conversation around mental health and feel ignoring it is the best way to go, most broke contact when I went public.
Radio stations began contacting me for interviews. Then one evening I got received an email with an invite to a meeting in Dublin and shortly afterwards I become an ambassador for See Change Ireland. For those of you not familiar with them, See Change is an alliance of organisations working together through the National Stigma Reduction Partnership. See Change are amazing and the Green Ribbon campaign runs every May which raises awareness and to bring a positive change towards how we see and understand mental health. I cannot really put into words how special See Change are. My fellow ambassadors are a truly inspiring bunch of people and we are like a little family in a way.
Since going public with my story I have been contacted by countless people who have told me how my articles have helped them. I would love to be able to describe what that feels like but I honestly just cannot find the right words. I used to think I was useless and there was nothing I was good at, perhaps I was wrong. Writing has become a form of constructive therapy for me and is incredibly helpful for my mental well being. I have appeared on the Tubridy Show (nicest guy ever), The Matt Cooper Show, Sean Moncrieff, Will Faulkner, Near FM, 96FM, The Sunday Grill with Orla Rapple and the Pat Kenny Show. I have written for her.ie, the Journal and The Irish Independent among others. I began doing motivational speaking and gained confidence I never knew I could have.
I know there are people who may see it as attention seeking, I feel that I have said enough to explain why it is not. There is a lot more to my story than I have chosen to share, there are still important things that I have left out. I like to keep some parts personal and there are things that have happened to me that I will never feel comfortable to speak publicly or openly about. I started this with the goal that I would help at least one person or make one family understand.
Some people may feel that they have heard my story over and over again As far as I am concerned, every time I speak publicly about my mental health; someone could be hearing my story for the first time and it could help them. That for me is enough to keep going
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