On the road for Cycle Against Suicide
Vicky, just back from a whirlwind tour with Cycle Against Suicide, writes about the experience of telling her story and hearing many others from the amazing team involved.
In the last two weeks, I’ve been to more places in Ireland than I thought I would travel to in 14 months, never mind 14 days. I also travelled to metaphysical places; some old and familiar and some completely new.
Advocating positive mental health
When I agreed to speak about my personal experience with depression and suicide for Cycle Against Suicide, I didn’t think about the repercussions involved.
In my own way over the last number of years, I’ve tried to be an advocate for positive mental health and to encourage each of us to be open in our discussion of the topic. A topic I believe is still too often shrouded in secrecy when it affects us all, in one way or another.
In at the deep end
Armed with a speech and shaky hands in which to hold it, I headed off to my first pit stop in Cork on Day Three of the cycle. I just knew I was speaking in Cork, not Cork City Hall, which I didn’t discover until the day before. Talk about jumping in at the deep end!
Although I’ve given a few speeches in my life, I had never spoken publically about my personal story with suicide. A story which isn’t just mine, it’s my family’s. When I was 16-years-old, my mum was diagnosed with severe depression and within a few weeks of that diagnosis, she made her first attempt to end her life, in a cycle which would continue for the next seven years.
It took me a long time to fully deal with the difficulties that arose from the pain my family was going through. Thankfully, my mum is in recovery today and is very much alive and happy. But it would be a fair question to ask, why would I put myself in a situation to share the intimate details of a painful experience for my family?
Simple. My family’s story is not just ours. The theme of it has touched too many people for comfort. Over the course of the cycle, I met mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, friends and loved ones whose stories didn’t have as happy ending as my family’s did. Their lives have not only been touched by the devastation and pain of suicide, they’ve been irrevocably changed as a result.
In this way, my family was lucky. My mum believes she’s lucky she didn’t succeed in any of her suicide attempts; because the road to recovery is there for the taking.
Creating the memories
She’s not a memory that we recall on special occasions with sadness and regret. She’s a part of the memories. She’s shaping them – taking the photographs and joining in with the simple joys of day-to-day life. I always felt blessed that my mum is still alive. But my experience on the cycle over the last two weeks compounded this feeling. The experience also brought up a lot of other feelings for me.
Reliving the feelings
At times, reliving those seven years put me right back into the position I used to occupy. Being a frightened teenage girl, terrified of what was going to happen to her mum and being equally terrified of sharing her family’s situation in case people would be judgemental. Frightened that they wouldn’t understand my mum wasn’t crazy, she was ill and needed help.
Ok not to be OK
But it was this mixture of feelings that gave me the strength to give speech after speech about my experience. To do my best to get a message out to people that it’s OK not to feel OK and it’s more than OK to ask for help.
We all go through rough and tough times in our lives, most of the time, they happen when we least expect them. But we don’t talk about them enough. We don’t share our stresses and feelings of being overwhelmed enough. You only have to look at the rate of suicide in Ireland to see that.
Someone to help
People in a suicidal state make permanent decisions based on non-permanent feelings. That’s what everyone one of us needs to remember; that when we’re in a dark place, there is always light. When you feel alone, there is always someone there to help.
The feelings you have at that moment in time will pass. Think of depression as a war that you have to fight – nobody on this planet can fight a war on their own. You need reinforcements, weapons, and backup. The people you talk to, the moment you ask for help is when you begin your journey to recovery.
Learn to take good care of your mental health
Cycle Against Suicide is an incredible initiative to raise awareness. But it’s not a journey that ends because the wheels on the bikes have stopped turning. Taking care of your mental health is a continuous effort. Sharing our tough times with each other is an on-going process. My mum and I battled against the worst beast imaginable – and you can too. Never forget that.