Ode To Opening Up: World Mental Health Day 2018

So far in my blog I’ve chatted about how being a wrestler wife impacts my everyday life. Shits & giggles & all that jazz & I hope you’ve enjoyed the insight. But today I want to put my serious voice on in aid of World Mental Health Day & I’d be most obliged if you would read my whole post. The lot of it. And my god is there a lot of it.

For those who know me “in real life” or have followed my story for a while, you will already be aware that I am not backward in coming forward with regards to mental health & this is one of few things I can genuinely pride myself on; I may be overtaken by depression from time to time but I have always had it in me to speak up, be open about my feelings & ask for help.

For My Unpaid Therapist by Cheeky Zebra

Sometimes when I’m wearing my Depression Activist hat I can all too easily forget that a lot of people – too many people – still struggle every day with the pent up emotions of mental illness, just screaming to get out. So, with that said, I feel I must issue a mild trigger warning should my waffle (particularly about suicide) become overwhelming.

So The Story Goes…

I have struggled with depression & anxiety since the age of 13, for over half of my life. The struggle is real! During this time I’ve been on & off medication of varying names & strengths & have seen more counsellors & therapists than I care to admit, but overall I’d bumbled along til my mid-twenties, relatively carefree & always with depression in my back pocket.

Occasionally it pounced on me as a reminder of what a pessimistic, over-thinking emotional wreck my chemical imbalance can make me for no real reason, such as when I missed a lot of my GCSE education & university socialising out of paranoia incase people who “didn’t understand” found out I was “a mental”.

Ignore the Shit Heads by Cheeky Zebra

But I needn’t have worried because I’ve since discovered that the more people I chose to confide in, the more open I was in what I felt in my head & my heart, the more I admitted & said aloud, the more people cared about my situation & the bigger my support network became. Hindsight can be a beautiful bastard, right?

It’s Good To Talk

I found true strength in being able to wear my heart on my sleeve & pour out the contents of my mind & I believe that that was, is & will continue to be my coping strategy through my darker days. It helped me be me & helped others understand me; their understanding brought me support, care, comfort, love, hope.

It wasn’t til my 26th year that I really learnt the true importance of that when my world just, using my best description, “went wrong” & I lost my power to speak up & therefore my support network. Naturally, because life’s a bitch, I learnt this the hard way. Like, harder than the crust of leftover garlic bread hard!

You Can Do This by Cheeky Zebra

The stone that was thrown to get my pool rippling was abuse from a customer at my then job as a petrol station forecourt cashier, which caused me crazy panic attacks not just while I was at work but over the mere thought of going to work.

Needless to say, this required a swift visit to good old Dr Wrightson who, for the first time in my life, gave me a sick note for work. I was medically too screwed up to work!

It Never Rains But It Pours

What kept that bitterly cold pool of panic rippling was the following months’ onslaught of family issues that well & truly broke me; my Grandad went into heart failure but was too weak to undertake the surgery he desperately needed, my Nanna needed emergency spinal surgery that could’ve left her paralysed, & my Mother-in-Law was taken to hospital with what we now know was terminal cancer.

This was the time I needed my support network more than ever. But my blabbermouth super power failed me. For the first time in my battle against mental illness, I couldn’t ask for help. I was the one who needed to help others.

Of course, it wasn’t expected of me but by unfortunate circumstance it just fell on me as the only one who could drive a car to help, the closest member of family geographically to help &, due to my own struggle that I now had to put to one side, the one who had all the free time off work to help.

I wouldn’t have changed a thing about what turned into months of caring for my beloved family &, despite the stress of it all, I enjoyed being the one who helped them & share those magical moments that not a single soul – other than my unspeakably strong wrestler, without who I literally would not have survived this – would ever be able to cherish.

You Got This by Cheeky Zebra

My Grandad’s strength returned & he had his life-saving heart operation, my Nanna had her spinal surgery & is still as mobile as a 75 year old can be, & although my beautiful Mother-in-Law sadly lost her fight, we were able to enjoy some truly special memories with her as just the three of us that I know I will never forget.

All three of them were eternally grateful for what me & my wrestlerman had done for them & none of them knew how badly I was struggling inside. And things were getting worse.

I decided to reach out to my Mum for support but, for a too-long-winded-for-writing reason, I was temporarily disowned by her. As soon as my Brother was told her (side of the) story, he formed an opinion. And other than sporadic visits from my bestie, friends were few & far between too.

Tipping Point

No amount of pills, counselling, happy memories, cake or puggle snuggles were shifting this any time soon & that evenly rippling pool became a torrential current that dragged me under when, after a petty telephone disagreement with my Grandad ended in the words “forget everything we’ve ever done for – we’re done”, I broke.

Forgive the cliche but I remember every detail of what happened next like it was only yesterday. It was early December 2014 & we drove over the Pennines from a Christmas craft fair in Goole in Yorkshire to Stockport in Manchester, where I dropped the wrestlerman off for a Futureshock wrestling show before heading to his childhood home in Swinton to have a cuppa & catch up with his lovely Mum.

You Are More Than Your Diagnosis by Cheeky Zebra

It all ran smoothly til I parked up outside my Mother-in-Law’s, getting ready to go in, & I found I had a missed call & voicemail from my Grandad – I called him back. It was that call that ended as above.

My Grandad had always been my hero & me his little princess, so to hear those words at such a low time in my life was just too much.

I put my phone away, turned the ignition back on & drove to the petrol station nearby, where I bought two packets of paracetamol & a bottle of Coke Zero. I already had a packet of paracetamol in my handbag & demolished all of them, one right after the other til all 46 had been swallowed.

I wasn’t sure what affect I hope they’d take before “the finale” but what I did know is that I just couldn’t carry on.

I received a not-too-polite call from my Brother following the disagreement with my Grandad & I told him what I’d done, almost as my side of the argument, said in anger so he couldn’t win an argument against me because my overdose was the ultimate put down that he couldn’t come back from.

I threw my phone & put my foot down. I didn’t know where to go or what to do & just ended up driving aimlessly up & down the M62, crying hysterically, shaking uncontrollably, vomiting violently all over myself with no care whatsoever of the night time traffic around me.

Calls & texts were coming through endlessly from my Brother & now from my Mum but I didn’t care. I didn’t think. I didn’t feel.

They were asking where I was so they could send help but I didn’t want help. I just didn’t want to be. I wanted whatever damage was being done to my body to just hurry up & let me go.

Will Somebody Think of The Children!

Covered in puke & mascara stains, I parked up at Ferrybridge service station as I’d got a strange, overpowering feeling that I needed to lie down on the floor, followed by overwhelming guilt that when I went, who would look after my precious dog, Betsy?

Without a care for anybody or anything anymore, I couldn’t get over mental images of her being left alone & it became too much. It sounds ridiculous but that dog. That dog!

Always Have Your Back by Cheeky Zebra

I phoned my wrestlerman. He was clueless to everything that had happened up until now, merrily wrestling the night away til I was due to pick him up afterwards.

I left him a horrific voicemail that I’ll never fully be able to forgive myself for so selfishly & impersonally leaving for the love of my life, not once mentioning him but telling him so factually what I’d done & that when I’m gone I wanted him to look after Betsy for me.

I can’t imagine what he must’ve felt when he picked up that message but he phoned me as soon as he’d picked up, telling me to go home to Goole & he would find a way to get there as soon as he could.

Reality hit home. Shit hit the fan. The knife hit my heart. What the fuck had I done?

The Warm Welcome

I went home to be greeted by police & an ambulance (& curtain-twitching neighbours from the flat upstairs) waiting outside for me. My Brother had called them. As I was now “safely” home, the police were able to leave me be after a bit of questioning & I refused any medical assistance from the paramedics, repeatedly telling them I just wanted it all to stop. They came inside with me & started with blood pressure monitors & a million questions just as wrestlerman came in.

From there, he took over while I just helplessly wept. The paramedics left. The calls & texts from the family began. He became the fearless, emotionless man of steel who looked after me like I’d needed doing all along for all these months.

That was my absolute rock bottom (please, now is not the time for wrestling puns!). I don’t know what happened to make me feel bad enough to get that low nor do I know what my superhero did to pick me back up from there but I’ve lived to tell the tale. And Betsy is being looked after by her Mum & Dad together!

Happily Ever After

It took two whole years off work for me to go through & recover from all of that &, although I’ve had another recent blip resulting in eight weeks off work from my current job, I’m in a far better place; all family relationships have been rekindled, wrestlerman & me married & moved to Greater Manchester, I have a great job in insurance, & I will never bottle up my feelings again. Because that’s where it may lead.

I Promise by Cheeky Zebra

So, thank you for reading my essay of emotions – I know I’ve gone on forever & I know it’s quite selfish of me to have gone into such detail but I truly hope that, if nothing else, this has taught you the importance of speaking up if you’re suffering.

It might be easier said than done. You might not be able to find the words to say. You might not know who to tell. But please do not let anybody else’s troubles stand in the way of seeking help.

There’s help in medicine, help in therapists, help in counselling, help in charities (I personally recommend Depression Alliance, Mind & Blurt Foundation), help in alternative therapies, help in friendship, help in love, & if nothing else there’s help in me at the bottom of an inbox.

Here For You by Cheeky Zebra

Love To Pat x

My last thought before I sign off with a quirky attempt of ending on a light-hearted note goes to my wonderful Mother-in-Law. Thank you for caring for me in your own dark days & even more so raising the most perfect son for me to marry. I know you’re proud of everything he has become. Rest in Peace.

Mrs Walmsley | The Unseasoned Wag x

Image Credits to Cheeky Zebra & her inspirational, motivational, adorable & ever-so-slightly sarcastic greetings cards, available now.

( “Ode To Opening Up: World Mental Health Day 2018” was first published by Mrs Dani Walmsley on “The Unseasoned Wag” blog)

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