This will be the fourth – maybe even the fifth – attempt at writing a blog about how I’m feeling.
It’s really strange because from 2011 (when I first revealed that I suffered with mental health issues), I’ve freely shared my experiences, and talked and written openly about how I have been, and still am affected by a form of chronic depression. Giving away feelings that in some cases I’d kept hidden for decades was so difficult, but I wanted to raise awareness and realistically, it was an unavoidable means towards that particular end.
Since the start of 2014, I have completed 115 “challenges”, as well as writing a book, and there have been times when all the arrangements, preparations, training, typing, driving et al have provided positive distractions from the daily anxieties that occasionally threaten to engulf me.
Equally, there have been moments when the effort (be it mental or physical) has left me drained and vulnerable to a condition that is only too happy to exploit any sign of weakness.
That said these past five years have enabled me to understand more about the way I am … the way I think; and hopefully others will have a greater awareness of something that (in whatever form and to whatever degree) affects one in every four people. Relationships with many of those who mean the most have deepened. I have challenged my lifelong fear of failure, achieved things that I would have assumed were way beyond my capabilities, and met some truly remarkable and inspiring people - some of whom I am now able to call friends…
All of which makes me incredibly fortunate and grateful.
Over the past three months however, I have become much more introspective and increasingly retrospective. It’s something I’m fairly used to, but what started out as a wish to “take a step back” has now developed into an overwhelming need; and the protective shield that I suppose could be called my “work face” has become increasingly difficult to maintain. There doesn’t need to be a reason for how I’m feeling… and I won’t be spending time trying to find one, because I will only waste the emotional energy that I need just to get through each day.
I’ve genuinely done all I can over these past five years to make people aware of the effects of mental illness; and to show that it’s fine to talk or ask for help. I have five “challenges” left; and I’m looking forward to trying to complete them. After that though, there will be no more challenges, no more books … the time will be right to disappear as completely as I can into the actual and metaphorical arms of my family and close friends.
I owe it to myself to fight to stay strong, but I owe it even more to Elaine, the person with whom I am blessed to share my life and who makes a difference every single day.
Time to post before I change my mind again…
Just under two years ago, I wrote about how the Ireland Netball squad had moved up one place in the world rankings from 26 to 25. Over the intervening months, that climb has continued, and now, all the hard work on court and behind the scenes has seen the Ireland squad break into the top twenty for the first time in its history.
It is hard to put into words just what an amazing achievement this is. Netball in Ireland is a minority sport, that is not routinely played in schools (certainly not outside Dublin), and everything the girls have accomplished has been without any central funding or significant sponsorship.
So basically, whenever Ireland travel to take part in the Nations Cup in Singapore, or the annual Euros, the players actually pay for the privilege of representing their country. The commitment extends way beyond the tournaments though – the training, the fitness, the nutrition, the dedication, the determination … all done against the backdrop of full time work, or study, and occasionally even parenthood.
Of course I am biased. I follow teams in a few sports, but this is a very special group of athletes, and the fact that two of them (Katie Walton and Genevieve Slater) are about to taste National Prem 1 for the first time with their club side, Grangetown, adds a strong sense of local pride to what has been achieved across the Irish Sea.
A lot of recent netball coverage has centred on the England Roses, and quite rightly so following their dramatic gold medal performance in the Commonwealth Games; Ireland reaching the top twenty might not make the headlines, but in its own way, this is every bit as inspiring a story … and I can’t wait for the next chapter.