A part of me doesn’t want to write this because I’m scared of exposing myself. Or exposing myself more than I already have. I haven’t exactly been conservative about how much of my life I’m sharing on the internet. But a part of me feels this goes one step further than before.
A part of me just wants to go another year without mentioning it in the hope that maybe this time next year I’ll feel strong enough to do it. Maybe next year I won’t feel embarrassed or ashamed that it’s part of my history.
But I realise that this hesitation is part of the reason that I should write this piece. Because if I don’t, then I continue to contribute to the cloud of silence that hangs over this issue. I’m just hiding away from the truth because it’s difficult to revisit.
Today is an important day for the mental health community. And we have some awesome warriors fighting for the cause. Some I am lucky to call my friends.
This mental health community is a strong one. We are a determined and passionate bunch. We are slowly but surely breaking down barriers. We are having awkward and uncomfortable conversations. I am proud to be a part of this community more so than ever.
Today is an important day not because of the day itself but because of what it represents. R U OK Day in its purest form represents kindness: something we desperately need in this world today. It reminds us that we don’t exist in a vacuum and that everything we do effects the people around us.
Today is my reminder that the blog I created two years ago has helped people because I have aired my dirty laundry. Because I have been vulnerable and honest. Which is why I feel compelled to write this. Not pressured. But compelled. I feel that it is my duty to shed light where there is very little.
When I was 14 my parents stood across from an emergency nurse and were told to expect the worst. They had to face the possibility that their only daughter may not come home to them. That they would have to explain to their son who was barely out of primary school that his sister wasn’t going to be there anymore.
I am ashamed of this. As much as I know that I was very sick, I know that I hurt them deeply forever.
The details of that day in the middle of March 2013 aren’t necessary right now. I don’t think they ever will be. I was very young. I was very sick. And I was very alone.
Not many people knew I was ill. I looked like any normal adolescent girl. I shopped at Jay Jays. I loved Ryan Gosling. Etc etc.
But I wasn’t any normal adolescent girl. I was a young woman who couldn’t understand the weight that overwhelmed her at night. Why she was crying but there was no anger or bitterness. Just emptiness.
I was a young woman who made a life changing mistake.
I was one of the lucky ones. I was saved. I don’t know why. But I was. And I am grateful for that second chance. I want to use that second chance to do good things that are bigger than just me.
But some people aren’t so lucky. And we lose people to mental illness every day which is a horrific, painful and preventable tragedy.
We lose mothers who cradle their newborns and don’t feel anything. We lose young men in regional and rural Australia because they are expected to uphold this outdated notion of masculinity when their brains are in chaos. We lose LGBTQ youth who are now receiving pamphlets in the mail from the ‘No’ campaign that make them feel even more alienated in an already staunchly heteronormative society.
I wish I could tell you there is a simple fix to this mental health crisis, but that would be a lie. It doesn’t take a day of turning to your neighbour and asking: “R U OK?”
It takes a concerted effort to change our collective behaviour. Being kinder to each other every single day. Checking in with someone struggling. A text or a call. And investing more money into mental health services.
I was given a second chance at life. In the years since that day in March 2013, I fell in love with the most wonderful man I know. We’ve been together five years in December.
In that time I’ve met new people who have changed my life. One of whom is the sister I never had, Bella, who makes me laugh until I wee myself and has more faith in my writing than I do.
I’ve loved, I’ve smiled, I’ve laughed and I’ve lived.
I see now how much I had to live for and how much I would have missed out on if that March day had turned out differently.
I believed, in my clouded and irrational state, that things wouldn’t get better. Here comes the cliche, right?
The “things get better” chestnut.
Cliches are cliches for a reason. The grass is always greener. Never judge a book by its cover. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
And things do actually get better. It may not feel like it now or next week.
But it does. And it will.
I hope this encourages you to call or text a loved one. Maybe your Mum or your dad. Your best friend. A colleague. Just for a chat. Just to check in. Because one conversation and one moment can change everything. For you or for them. Or both.
Knowing someone cares can mean everything and that can be enough to save a life