Monday, 1 January 2018

My Victories of 2017



Saturday 4th February

I woke up in Dublin on my Birthday. We spent the day exploring our favourite parts of Dublin. My boyfriend and I went to the beautiful Italian restaurant, ‘Il Posto’  for dinner. This is where we went for our first date, 3 years prior. We intended to ‘go out’ after dinner, but our mutual love for all things cosy and comfortable led us straight back to our hotel. I turned 28. 

My mind feels decades older. Mental Health illness will do that do you. 

Friday 3rd March

For the first time, I visited Edinburgh. We stayed in a quirky Airbnb. In those freezing days in March I saw the iconic architecture of a city that proudly cherishes both its past and future.

As an old soul, and that ancient mind of mine, you could see why I found the archaic ascending path to Edinburgh castle absolutely captivating. I walked through the dark passageways as if I was cautiously navigating the through the mind of Robert Lewis Stevenson himself, unaware if the shadows of the people who passed were like that of Dr Jekyll, or more a sinister Mr Hyde; reminding me of the duality of my own mind. I had tea in quaint tea rooms, bought authentic Tartan scarves, visited The Writers' Museum, and celebrated the 1st Birthday of my boyfriend’s Niece.  




Thursday 14th April

For Easter I went to Tegernsee in Germany, just an hour from where my boyfriend lives in Bavaria. We stayed in a Spa/Boutique hotel which was very quaint. We walked around the town which seemed to still be in hibernation, but we loved it nonetheless. I find a strange comfort in stillness, it brings calm to an otherwise un-still mind.

April 20th- 28th

Within these dates I did a makeup demonstration in Debenhams for Lancome, launched my mental health organisation ‘Replenish’ , did two mental health talks, did session 1 of 6 of the first Replenish ‘Tackling Anxiety’ workshops and had my little dog of 17 years euthanized. 


The Day he Left...
Whenever I would play piano or put on any classical music my dog, Rico would always sit in a trance. He loved music. The day he died he was on the sofa as the vet injected him with what would be his end. Pavarotti played on the radio. After he (Rico, not Pavarotti) had been wrapped up in his favourite blanket and given to the vet for cremation I closed the door, entered the living room again where he had just been alive, 10 mins earlier, and suddenly from the radio came a triumphant ‘Hallelujah’. It was as if Rico, my best friend since I was 11 until I was 28, was telling me that he was happy he was no longer in pain. Despite the devastation I was experiencing,I felt content. 
The following week I continued on with the rest of the Replenish workshops. 


For the following weeks I did numerous mental health talks, workshops and felt completely and utterly in awe of the response and demand of Replenish. I felt I was serving my purpose in this life. There’s nothing like that feeling of fulfillment. Nothing at all. 








Saturday 27th May

A dream came true this day. 
For years, since I can remember, I have been listening to Guns ‘n’ Roses. They soothed me as I would slide down my bedroom wall in the midst of a panic attack, and became the soundtrack to the best summers of my life. So, I hoped, for equal amount of years of listening to them, that they would reunite despite having broken up long before I was born. 

On that Saturday, I saw them reunited and play in Slane. I paid over €300 to stand right under the guitar riffs of Slash and the swaying hair of Axl Rose. I went on my own. Like, I didn’t know of anyone else who would pay that money. I didn’t know anyone on that same level as me. So, I stood, on my own, completely immersed in the dream that was now a reality. I was paying homage to my ultimate therapist. The therapist who was there long before anyone else was. 

 I’ll never forget that day for as long as I live. Some of the best moments are spent alone, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. 



Sunday 18th June

I was in Bombachsee, Germany in the lake and ‘Supping’ (Stand Up Paddling). Germany, in its reliable nature, gives the most beautiful summers. The Sun almost melts away my mental health 'errors', like a brand new anti-virus on a backed-up computer with corrupted files. 



Tuesday 27th June


By this time Replenish was on its third cycle of workshops in Derry and just started its first cycle of ‘Tackling Anxiety & Depression’ in Letterkenny, Donegal. From here I would gain the greatest of friends who would come to be integral to the success of Replenish. It was like realising that the isolated island that you'd be on all your life was actually full of people, just like you. Glorious!

Tuesday 13th July

For two weeks I went to the Portuguese sun. Had a dose of the anti-virus again, you could say.  I spent every second restoring my levels of Vitamin D and letting the Sun doctor my mental health. Eating well, swimming in the waves that inspired the birth of Replenish and lying on the sand, a lifestyle I hope to cultivate on a more permanent basis.  A paradise of sorts. 










Thursday 27th July

I held the first session of the Replenish workshops in Sligo. I travelled to Sligo every week, some days a little anxious than others simply for no reason at all; to be expected of course when living with an somewhat unstable mind.  In the Sligo workshops I gained what I can only describe as a sisterhood. A sisterhood I’m very, very grateful for and in constant awe of. 


Monday 21st August

Replenish was in full throttle and I had given over 10 talks to schools, workplaces, events and this Monday marked the day Replenish had its first meeting with a company that it would later result in a fruition of collaboration. I could hardly recognise myself. I was exceeding my own expectations, surprising myself with strength I didn't even know I had and becoming more and more unapologetic about my authenticity. Replenish too, at this point, surpassed all my objectives, targets and expectations. 









Saturday 9th September


I was standing at a podium in Dublin speaking at the Endometriosis Association of Ireland. I didn’t consider this as another ‘talk’. It was so much more. It was a divine privilege to be invited to speak to women, dealing with a crippling condition, from a mental health standpoint.  
I was also preparing for the biggest event in the Mental Health Calendar, World Mental Health Day (October 10th).  Among having University Students, private clients, workshops running in Derry and Sligo, I went to Madrid. Naturally! 
You see, being in a long-distance relationships means committing to meeting up. For Stephen and I, we meet every three or four weeks either at home in Derry, Germany or somewhere we’ve never been. So I was making sure I was still making time for my relationship. Stephen was working in Madrid that weekend, so I met him there and sat under the Madrid sun and worked on Replenish’s first ‘World Mental Health Day’.  I enjoyed the sites of Madrid too of course when work got somewhat all-consuming. Regular breaks are needed to keep the stress levels at a minimum. Pre-existing mental health issues and stress are a poisonous mix.


When I arrived back to Ireland I began filming for our short film ‘Unfiltered Water’ that would be screened on the day of our World Mental Health Day event.










Tuesday 10th October

We had an event where many professionals came together to give talks, presentations and advice on how mental health can be managed. We had Yasmin our Occupational Therapist, Riadh our Nutritionist, Michelle our Pharmacist. We then had Counsellor Natasha, Financial expert Emma and Trainee Mental Health Nurse, Dee on a very interesting panel. We also enjoyed Yoga with Sophie, Exercise with George, Complementary Therapy with Megan and Massage with Foshie.


Tuesday 17th October 

I started the Replenish workshops in Limavady on Tuesday evening. The following day I was in Antrim giving a talk to a hall full of business owners in the construction industry on Mental Health in the Workplace. That evening I was back in Derry beginning the 5th cycle of Derry workshops. These workshops were different this time because they now involved ALL of the professionals who were involved in the Replenish 'World Mental Health Day'.

Wednesday 8th November 

By now I had just come back from my 4th trip of the year to Germany and was straight into giving another talk for the Donegal Youth Service on 'Body Image Initiative'. I used to work with youth in my previous jobs and so it's always a territory I feel natural in, and of course honoured. 

Friday 24th November

I was on my way to Dublin to meet my boyfriend who'd be flying in from Germany. This would be the last time I'd see him before he'd come home for three weeks on December 19th. During this weekend we explored Dublin in a different way, this time through the eyes of Jame Joyce. We then enjoyed a vintage cinematic experience in the beautiful Stella theatre in Rathmines. Of course, I met The Makeup Fairy, who'd become a good friend. Finding friendship in people who you'd think would never want a friendship with you soothes all the insecurities of the inner 12 year old who always thought she was incompatible with everyone because she was a little peculiar. 


December 

As you can imagine December lived up to its reputation of overindulging, dinners, sweets, open fires, presents and visits. I had a lovely December. Minimal stress.It marked the 8th month since I had become vegetarian. I had the most beautiful vegetarian Christmas dinner too, in case you were wondering. On the evening before New Year's Eve I felt that old familiar pang of fear, leeching anxiety and drowning mood. Why? Well, I don't know. Like I said, mental health illness will do that to you, simply remind you that it's there, watching. 

I allowed myself to feel like this. Not fighting it and not judging myself for feeling like that takes the emphasis and importance off it; less attention. When you consciously refuse to give something attention and focus on something else, it eventually pipes down. I got up, even though I wanted to lie in a heap, drove to my friend Natasha to have my brows done and came away yes, with beautiful brows, but also a lifted mood, invigorated feelings and concentrated gratefulness for having a my tribe; A tribe that I wouldn't know unless I had 'acted' on my mental health. 

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January 1 2018

And now I sit, in present time. Nothing has changed much since we welcomed in 2018 with close friends.  I don't believe in a 'New Year, New Me'. I believe in a New Year a more mentally strong me, a more emotionally intelligent me, a stronger me. I wouldn't change who I am, I've worked too hard on becoming who I am. However, I do want to tell you that I will embark on 2018 with a little bit more appetite for victories. 

So, why do I consider my 2017 victorious when there will be people reading these dates and thinking "what is so 'victorious' about all of this?"

So here's why:

I did ALL of 2017 whilst living with a mental health disorder.
Those days started with me taking my usual three tablets along with a few vitamins for what the 'World Health Organisation' considers the "tenth most debilitating disorder in the world."

During the dark days, the days where I didn't want to get out of bed, or when my hormones made my O.C.D spike and more unbearable than usual, I still made my dream a reality. 

I felt fulfilled in my work, my friends and my entire existence.
I disciplined myself. Exercised, ate well, took time to myself regularly, introverted, became more unapologetic in my authenticity. I grew in all aspects of mind.  I acted on my mental health, the tagline of 'Replenish'. 

I also took a lot of self-care. A LOT! If I didn't then I wouldn't be able to work in the way I wanted to. 


If you read all those diary extracts again, but this time imagined yourself doing all that I've done with a huge stone in your shoe whilst doing it, then you'll have a new found appreciation for the lives I, and others in similar situations, live despite the mental pain we endure. 


In my work in Replenish I endeavour to become an example of how mental health doesn’t define or acts as an obstacle.The people within Replenish are my tribe because they do walk their daily lives with that same stone in their shoe. Somedays it wears us down more than other days, but we keep going because it's  exactly those kind of harsh days that condition us to become more compassionate about the people we want to work with. It drives us to go into 2018 with a great force to break the mental health stigma. We don't come from a place of business, but from a place of passion and that has made all the difference.


Act on your Mental Health in 2018 with Replenish and join 'Steps to Self-Care' Workshops

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