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‘Just go and talk to someone’ is such a simple advice and sounds so easy. I mean if you have the flu you make sure everybody around you knows, just to hear some cries of sympathy. Even more so if you have the deadly man-flu! However if it comes to mental health, talking about it becomes difficult. It takes courage and strength to move from your standard reply ‘Ah sure I’m grand’ to ‘I’m actually not feeling great’.

I think there is a deep rooted fear of letting someone know how you really feel. It makes us vulnerable. It’s so much easier to get hurt if people know how to hurt you. So we protect ourselves. Learn to wear a mask, hide, pretend. Whatever it takes really. And not to mention what people might think of us. Our family, friends, co-workers. And worst of all – our neighbours!

The image of mental health is slowly changing which is great news. More and more people are starting to open up and talk about their depression, anxiety, panic attacks. What it means to lose someone to suicide. How helpless they might feel and scared and broken. And slowly people are starting to see that they are not alone in this. That help is possible and that there is hope. That it is not a weakness.

Well, I guess it would be weird to tell you it’s important to open up and then smile and leave it at that. So here it goes.

A few years back I was at the point where I found it hard to cope with daily life. I didn’t like my job; I had no friends living close by; my family lived on the other side of the ocean (ok, admittedly a small ocean); I was stressed and depressed. Everything seemed difficult and pointless. Thankfully I have great friends, who despite the distance made sure to be there for me. I then decided to become a therapist.That makes it sound, like I woke up some day and knew what I wanted to do. It wasn’t like that. It was more like going over it back and forth and back and forth. And would I be able? And should I? Could I? Maybe. Yes, absolutely! What if I fail though? The money! The time! What will the neighbours say! It would be worth it though… That’s a short version of the months I spend on this decision. I’m a woman after all. It ended with a ‘Yes, I’ll do it.’ So far that’s been the most life altering decision I made (well that and emigrating). Not only was there so much to learn, it forced me (yes, I had to be forced at that stage) to go and see a therapist myself. And suddenly I changed. Not the things around me, but myself. The way I looked at things. It focused me to think about what I wanted in life, what I didn’t want. It gave me purpose and confidence. It didn’t make me a better person, just more aware of the person I am and helped me to be happy with myself. I’m still cynical and still not a fan of even numbers (they are evil after all), but I’m ok with that now. It’s a few years on and I’m working with ‘It’s good 2 talk’, a low cost counselling service in Wexford as a volunteer. I feel very privileged to be there when someone takes the first step on a sometimes very long journey and be able to listen and help. To give them a safe space to start telling their story and more importantly give them a place to learn how to be themselves. And I do feel incredibly lucky and grateful in those moments when they take off their mask and say ‘That’s me. What do you think?’ So, that’s my story. Not sure if it’s particular interesting, sad or funny. It’s my story though. And if it helps someone to decide to go and talk to someone, all the better.