Why I'm doing the Mind 3000s
For someone who once felt so defeated and broken I’ve found faith and strength in myself, and my fundraising shows that other people believe in me, too.
When I read about the Mind 3000s challenge on Facebook I knew it was for me. I’ve fundraised for mental health before. I’ve climbed Snowdonia once (it's hard going!) The challenge of taking on 15 Welsh peaks fills me with dread and utter excitement. The fact that I get to take part and raise money for Mind is just amazing.
The trek means a lot to me. For someone who once felt so defeated and broken I’ve found faith and strength in myself, and my fundraising shows that other people believe in me, too. I want people to understand that having a mental health problem doesn’t define you, or determine your future. I should know. At 16 I tried to take my own life. Later, I struggled with depression around the birth of my son.
As I sit here typing this blog my heart is literally racing, but I believe it’s important for me to be wholeheartedly honest so you understand why I’ve chosen to re-live one of the most frightening experiences of my life.
When I reached crisis point as a teenager, I had to cope not only with the depression itself, but also the stigma and fear that all too often accompany mental health problems, isolating myself from my friends and family. After I tried to take my own life, I just wanted to get out of the hospital – I was embarrassed and ashamed. There was no follow-up or support. As a student mental health nurse, I feel angry about that.
I’ve listened to friends and families of those left behind after someone has taken their own life and the same questions and feelings crop up. Why didn’t they ask for help? Anger!
I wrestle with the idea that suicide is a selfish act - those left behind are left to pick up the pieces while those who’ve gone have simply 'checked-out'. When I committed to an act of self-destruction there was an internal voice telling me that all the pain I had been suffering would soon be over. I would no longer be a nuisance to my friends and family and society as a whole.
There wasn’t one person or thing to blame, just a multitude of life events, wild hormones and self-sabotage leading me to this drastic option.
Suicide should not be romanticised as it all too often is in popular culture. It’s not glamorous and it most certainly isn’t an easy way out. In my experience those who choose to end life have a skewed belief that they have in some way become a burden on others and, coupled with their own internal pain, see this as a way of relieving stress for everyone. They do not consider the reality of being truly missed. It's difficult not to be angry when you lose someone this way, but holding onto anger is destructive - like shutting out the sun and expecting flowers to grow.
Suicide is not the cause of death, the illness is.
I’m now married, have a beautiful son and I’m a student mental health nurse working towards my degree and helping others who have difficulties with their mental health. Along with the support of my husband, learning has been an important part of my recovery. Three years ago, a counsellor suggested that I consider going back to education. I haven’t been ill for about two and a half years, despite losing my dad, and other family members in that time, which I wouldn’t have been able to cope with before.
I’m quite resilient now; I know how to help myself and when to ask for help from others. My life has worth, it always did - I just lost sight of that for a moment. No matter how terrible things may seem at present I’m living proof that circumstances can change, your life is important and there is always hope.
If you’re struggling with your mental health, please don't feel you have to deal with it alone, talk to someone.
Taking part in the Mind 3000s is my latest way of raising money and awareness for a cause that is close to my heart. I just ran the Cardiff Bay 5-mile run, on 9 May I’m doing a 26-mile hike, the Rhondda Rollercoaster, and in June the Swansea Half-Marathon.
I’ve been training hard, and to be honest I'm a much nicer person after a good run! Exercise has been therapeutic for me. Sometimes I run alone with my thoughts and sometimes we train as a family, going on walking adventures which my son loves.
I’m dedicating my Mind 3,000s challenge on 16 May to Jim Frankgate, “how I wish you were here...”
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Blogs and stories can show that people with mental health problems are cared about, understood and listened to. We can use it to challenge the status quo and change attitudes.