Coming to terms with painful memories

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Posted on 13/05/2015 |

Louise blogs about the overwhelming emotions triggered by a visit to Rwanda which she left as a child and what taking part in the Mind 3000s trek means to her.

I've followed the work of Mind closely for several years and been inspired by both the charity and all the people who support it. Even more so since I returned from a very emotional trip to Rwanda back in 2013. I was just 3 years old when I left Rwanda and this trip was my first since leaving in 1993, just before the genocide. I was only there for two weeks, but so many difficult memories surfaced during that time… I’m still suffering the after-effects a year later.
It was on Mind’s website that I first read about post-traumatic stress disorder and made the connection. Until that moment I thought there was something wrong with me, as I found myself crying every day. I know personally how much of a lifeline Mind can be and that’s why I’m taking on the Mind 3000s fundraising trek.
I’ve experienced depression and anxiety from my early teens, but my mental health really deteriorated when I graduated and started work in a high-pressure environment. I struggled to cope with managing my mental health as well as the very stressful workload. I wasn’t sleeping and would break down in the office. It got to a point that I felt that I couldn't manage anymore, and was ready to hand in my resignation.
Thankfully, once I opened up about my mental health problems, my manager was really understanding and persuaded me not to quit. My job made a few adjustments to help ease some of the stress, which made a huge difference. Seeking help and support was so important to me… the feeling that you’re facing a mental health problem alone and having to put on a brave face can be hard. But the combination of seeing a therapist and taking antidepressants helped make me feel better.
Then in 2013 I returned to my home country, Rwanda, to volunteer at an orphanage and visited the Genocide Memorial Centre. My birth parents passed away during the civil war in 1993, which is something I've always struggled to come to terms with. So many difficult memories surfaced during the trip. I was only there for two weeks, but I was still suffering the effects a year later.

I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t back to normal and why I wasn’t functioning properly. I was crying all the time and I found it really difficult to socialise with anyone without getting upset. During the first few months, all I wanted to do was isolate myself. To make things worse my parents moved abroad and soon after I changed town to pursue a new career, so suddenly my entire support network was gone.
After ongoing therapy I’m feeling much stronger now and training for the Mind 3000s has helped, too. I've found exercise to be really incredible for relieving stress, and now go to the gym 3-4 times a week. On some occasions, I even squeeze in a 5k run before work!

I really wasn’t up to the challenge fitness-wise, but with a goal to work towards I’ve really surprised myself by how motivated I’ve been. The training has really changed me. The thought of achieving something so amazing is keeping me going.

If you’d like to help Louise reach the top, donate online to her fundraising page

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