Two steps forward, one step back.

When I was in severe crisis one month ago today I contacted three  people who I knew could help me. I knew these people were my lifeline. I spoke , at length , to all three over the first weekend I was released from a psychiatric unit. I begged them to help me to be understood and to help my family and friends to find answers.Although I am a keen writer, I was in so much crisis that I asked one friend to help me explain myself. I felt nobody was listening. I am and will be forever grateful to Maria, she has helped me face my beast.

The lady who wrote this piece below is Maria Dillon, someone who has some understanding of me but also someone who has walked the walk. She has a great self awareness, and she also is very much aware of others. She is so in tune with life that I aspire to be like her. ,

“Sometimes in life we find ourselves day to day just doing the best we can to get by, and trying also to convince the world we have everything under control. As a partner, parent, sibling, child, colleague or friend, we attempt to reassure others all is well. However, underneath bubbling away is a rising tide of impending doom, anxiety and the darkness rising slowly.

Only we feel it and often we ourselves deny it happening. It rises slowly within over time as we learn to mask it to the outside world but when it finally floods us, our cry for help is like a tidal wave suddenly hitting others. A moment comes when it simply feels we can let go, a relief in thinking we can finally be free of this demonic weight that drags us continually down. We take our moment and nothing else matters… Yet here in this moment. for those of us lucky enough to gain a quick awareness, we instinctively scream out for help. That basic desire to keep living gains super strength, and we do what it takes to shout out, to escape the stranglehold of death.

Everything after becomes a blur…all energies are poured into us to revive us, we’re bombarded with 101 questions, we see the horror on our loved one’s faces. Shock is all around. We’re in a spotlight, stuck trying to not only answer others but answer to ourselves. All the why’s, how’s, how long, what happened?

Yes, what did happen? For many that answer may take years to work out and maybe never come. For others being there before, it begins to feel like a shuffled dance. Two steps forward, one step back. We’ve been here before, we know this scene only too well. Strangely, unlike that first time, there’s a gained ability to bounce back quicker. The haze begins to lift and a new clarity gives us an insight into just where we’ve been lately. When you’ve danced in the darkness and made a deal to cross to the other side, only then can you understand just how precious life is. How thin the line that keeps us connected can be, how precariously easy it can be to break. Within a shorter time is a rush, a great need to let others know just how delicate that cord that keeps us alive is. So here you stand loudly with a message for others…no matter what, choose life.  Reach out, shout, scream, kick, whatever it takes…just fight to hold on.

Problems we face suddenly can dissipitate when the enormity of life within us is threatened. Am I a victim?? Do I play that role?? Yes, but only because I have endured the trauma of facing no longer being alive. There’s a heavy mixture of both shock and elation and now I face a new chapter once again in life, of self discovery and healing. Can I help others??  Always, even if my story only helps one other person then my experience will have had a positive outcome. I am living proof that there is always hope, even at our lowest point. I reached out, so can you. “



This letter is my opinion, and it is your opinion what you think of it. I have respect for your opinion.If you understand it then the message is loud, and very emotive and clear. I am trying to save my life after trying hard recently to take it . If you don’t understand or believe it, then say it to me and I will help you understand me. If you care , that can happen. I need help please.

Sometimes, as humans, we can underestimate the power that our mental health has over us. We also do this with our physical health and in doing so we pay an ultimate price. The price varies according to the strength of the underestimation and as importantly, our understanding of it.

Physically the price could be a twisted ankle because we underestimated a height, an infection because we underestimated a cut, an abscess because again of underestimation of toothache.  Mentally too there is a price, because we can underestimate the strength of our mental health, and the mental health of those around us. We all misunderstand and estimate badly at times.

I did and I paid the price, and so too did those who have had to try and come to terms with me. I understand the emotions that can be stirred up by the smallest of misunderstanding, the pain, anger, the disbelief, because I am going through it with you. I too have those emotions. We all have, we are human.

We all have a part to play in helping each other, if you want to have good relationships with family and friends especially, this is important to know and understand if you want to reach out. We can support each other. We ALL need to reach out, some to save and some to be rescued.

It is difficult to know when the right time is to reach out, when you are in crisis especially, therefore fear prevents from asking. A fear like no other, a fear that those in crisis, can  understand. We then make a decision based on irrational thought and fear combined.

The reason most of us stand back when a fast car is coming down the road, even though the shop we want is on the other side, is made subconsciously. There is a lot happening so in milliseconds we make a decision that prevents us taking that step. We don’t put that foot out because we have a good idea that we will be hurt or even killed. We do this because whatever is on the other side, will still be there when the car passes. Which is why so many pedestrians are killed on our roads. They, or the driver, underestimated and misunderstood, and paid the ultimate price. A major traumatic event happens to family, friends and local communities are traumatised by this and it takes a long time to overcome such a trauma but support is there in many guises. A life crisis awakens lots of emotions, magnifying them at times. As a community we rally around the family of those who have had a loss or injury and we make their lives as comfortable as possible.

This too happens to those who are suicidal; they see the gap and the car but still take that step because the only thing that is in our minds is to cross. We want to cross because we are tired, in pain and we feel that the other side of the road offers us a release from our mental health. It is the best possible cure over there I have to get it no matter the cost. We don’t have the strength to do anything else, even though warning bells are ringing, people are calling us back, hands come out to grab us, and underestimation does not play a part, so we ultimately pay the price. At that moment everyone is in crisis.

Then we start to question and try to come to a better understanding of events that ultimately we, as family, friends and a community have paid the price for.

Did we not shout loud enough?  My arm was outstretched; did we put it out far enough? What if I was on the other side of the road, would they have listened to me? What if I went to the shop instead that day? Why? What? If only? How did it happen? I would have rathered it was me! All this comes with the journey we have now begun, the grief and the loss of a loved one. This is a difficult journey now that you have begun, it can be as difficult as the journey that has brought you here.

You must go forward now but with supports, we are still on a journey, our final destination is there. We might have to revisit the past at times, but the future is where the answers can be found. You need to find the right answers and gain an understanding of each other in order to survive as a person, a family and a community. If you don’t understand, for whatever reason, then you ultimately pay a much larger price.

I write this to those living in crisis, because I am there, I have seen both sides and I am paying a price, as you are. I know now what to do; I now recognise the hands and recognise the voices that were always there. I know where the best and safest place to cross, so too do many others but we must make people more aware. We have to make sure that those in crisis have supports; even a simple hello can make a difference. If you are walking with another then make sure you understand each other, if you are walking alone then know that there are many who will walk by your side.

Remember too that some people cannot read, write or understand problems, due to physical or intellectual illness. If I was blind you would offer your elbow and tell me that you are doing so, if I was deaf you would ensure that you talk face to face, otherwise communication or understanding cannot take place.

Try to understand those that walk by your side, daily, weekly of always. If you do then we will be on the right direction to coping with crisis.

I write this, my last piece for a while, as I now embark on a private and personal journey with my family and friends, of understanding and estimation. I will meet lots of people on that journey and if you really care, then reach out in some way, shape or form. Open the power of understanding that is innate in all of us. It’s ok too if you do not understand, but it will just keep a crisis alight while others are desperately trying to help. It’s not easy but we can do it together.

I have many letters after my name, not educational in the sense of State examinations, but because of people’s estimation of my mental health. I live with my mental illness every day and need supports, please help. Do not underestimate my cry for help, I am shouting from the rooftop. You all have so much to offer me and each other.


Gerard Collins

Out of the blues.

I had 16 years without a suicide attempt and used many interventions in that time to lead as normal a life a I possibly could. Life was good for me, even though I deal with manic depression daily. Last Monday week I took an overdose with the intent of dying and was only released from hospital last night, mentally well but drained physically.

I write this short piece to warn you that it can happen anytime, it can sneak up unawares on you and disable you quickly.I am very grateful that I cried for help and was answered, some don’t get that chance. Look after yourself, remember you are not alone but may need supports. I am using those supports .

Waiting to live

Have a read of this emotive account by a young man in Kerry, who has chosen to narrate his life in approximately 1700 words. I personally could relate a lot to his story, and I thank him for sharing it with Pen Relief. There is a lot of solid advice on how to try to cope with life, its trials and tribulations.

Take 5 minutes to read a modern story about survival.

I spent a lot of time wondering how to start this, although the unnerving

persistent thoughts of how other people would think about me are not as

dominant as they once were, I know they are an inherent part of me.

So I thought what better way to start then to be honest and say I care what

other people think of me. This very statement and the power I gave it in my life

shaped many years from as early as I can remember.

From a very young age I thought there was something wrong with me, I

was the newest member of a family that contained two older brothers and a

mother whom I shared no blood relation with, as my father had left my

biological mother and began to build a new family with them.

I have no memory of my biological mother and to this day have never seen her

face, but I now know that just because I consciously cannot remember her, it

does not mean that bond between mother and child didn’t exist in the first 3

years of my life I spent with her.

My step mother and I (who I will call my mother for the rest of this piece and

my life) always were at logger heads, I believe now that we were both trying to

punish each other, me punishing her for not being my real mother and her

punishing me for being a child from my father’s previous relationship.

I just cannot remember my life without fear, I was afraid of everything, yet I

learnt from a very young age the art of the smile that would serve me in

concealing my pain for many years to come.

I never really made real friends, I wondered around between the fringes of

groups and remained solitary for a lot of my child and teenage years.

I spent years wishing I could be someone else and the scariest part of looking

back on those times was that I had felt this way from my first memory so I

could never tell there was something wrong as I had nothing to contrast it


I also learnt that negative attention was still a form of attention, and from my

very first memory I recalled being screamed at, this pattern would follow suit

until I was 18 years of age, and although the law and society would have

deemed me of age for a lot of things, because of my fractured self-worth and

sheltered upbringing which consisted of weeks at a time in a room with no

stimulation as punishment for the likes of lying, stealing and repetitive


Although therapists of all types had tried to sit me down in these 15

years and ask the question why, every time replied I don’t know it made my

parents angry, I now look back and see a 10 year old in an 18 year olds body.

It became too much and the very fact that I was in the house was in my

opinion destroying the lives of my brothers and parents. So I left the family

home, I was free of them, free of rules and finally able to do what I want,

finally free to be happy.

My life struggle to fit in, but not to show too much of myself to get hurt,

continued as soon as I left home. I changed my English accent and began

talking in an Irish one as to not stand out.

I immediately looked for the people who looked grownup and did the things

that I considered to be grown up. I fell into the drink and drugs scene very fast

and for someone as immature and fragile of mind as I was, this as a very bad


I finally felt part of something, I felt these guys were my friends and that they

would stand by me, my naivety would serve to crush me on many occasions

over the next 10 turbulent years.

I don’t know exactly when it happened but I do know at some point I just could

not stand to be myself anymore, so any escape that drink or drugs could offer

no matter the cost I took.

This meant being homeless, mixing with dangerous people, blacking out, but

worse that all of these is what was happening inside of my head.

All those years in that room looking at the walls at home, I befriended myself,

my thoughts became my best and only friend, now that I was poisoning my

mind, these thoughts were turning on me and because I had been kept

company for so long by my mind, it was a part of me I was not willing to let go

of, so I suffered more and more as if betrayed by myself.

My mind fooled me for many years into thinking that I was happy, that I had

my life under control when really things were worse than ever.

It got to the point where I was sitting outside train stations begging at 6 in the

morning with no shoes, conning people so I could get my next fix.All the while I sat there I cried a lot as a child gave me a euro which sent my

emotions into over load just knowing the innocent place that kind gesture

from and how I would transform it by the evenings end.

‘I hate my life’ and ‘I want to die’ were thoughts that now rang through my head on a minute by minute basis, the drink and drugs now became the flammable substance that fuelled these dark thoughts I had.

The more I had thoughts of hurting myself, or others ,the more I hated myself

for and it and subsequently, the more I thought self-medicating would help.

I moved back home in the Christmas of 2014 and reverted to smoking joints

and drinking pints, I was once again fooling myself.

My last night ever poisoning my body started as a normal one. I played indoor

soccer with my brother and then went to the local quiz night for a few drinks.

About an hour into it I remember feeling this absolute pit of loneliness even

though I was surrounded by crowds of people.

I left the pub and began to cry, and the thoughts of ‘kill yourself’ really took over.

I went home, sat at the kitchen table and wrote a note to my family, then tried

to hang myself in the upstairs bedroom. It wasn’t working so decided to try the

shed, as I walked outside my brother called me and showed me something

funny on the TV and for a moment I forgot about what I was about to do. I fell

asleep that night mocking myself for not having the courage to kill myself. My

brother doesn’t know but he saved my life that night.

The next morning I woke up I knew although a happenstance circumstance had

saved me the previous night, it was up to me now to save myself.

I rang the local doctor and explained everything. He referred me to the local

hospital where I tried to have myself signed in. I was afraid of what I might do

but more than I feel I was afraid of facing my problems, of facing my reality

without the crutch I had relied on for so many years.

They denied my request to be committed and suggested AA meetings.

I went to my first AA meeting the following night with two members of my

own age. I shook, sweated, and looked at the floor for the entire session.

Although the thoughts were still there and the rawness had not left, I felt a

tiny bit of hope when I left that meeting.

Over the next year I began to cope, I was taught how to cope, I had never in

my life been taught how to cope emotionally with any situation.

I went from feeling like no one else in the world knew what I was going

through, to being in a room where everyone knew and never judged.

It was tough facing myself and to this day I still have a lot to confront but I am

in the best shape of my life emotionally to face any problem.

Since I changed my life I can now enter my family home and feel no

atmosphere, I can hug my mother and feel no fear. The most important thing I

have gained from learning how to cope with life is I can sit in a room with

myself and my thoughts and know I am a good person, know that like every

person will have doubts, I will feel fear over the smallest, and biggest, of

situations, I will sweat, and there will be times where I think that it is all too


Now I have a solution, to cope better now I am doing what I failed to do for 28 years

of life, I will talk about.  I will tell another person that I fear, that I sweat, that I

feel anxious, that I’m worried; and in doing that I’m confronting those feelings.

Coupled with the skills I have learnt with how to cope, my life is 1000 times better than what it was.

I changed my life because I didn’t want to die. I continue to work on it because

I want to have a life. I know now being alive and having a life, are two

different things altogether.

I am today comforted in the belief that no matter what I am going through,

there are countless others out there feeling the very same, and until we find each other, I must keep giving away what I have found, like a door to door salesman selling sanity.

I am one of the luckiest people in the world because I am alive, I am well and I have the power to pass this tremendous gift on to those in need, those who are in thesame shoes as me, the only difference is that I am a small bit further down the road.

I started by saying ‘I care what people think of me’ and today that has not


What has changed though, is that the first and most important opinion in my life today is what I think of myself, and do you know what?  I’m alright!!

A Mothers Tale by Tammi McLaughlin

Sometimes thinking and writing about a deep sadness will help bring it to the light—where we can feel it and accept its reality.

Exposing our deep feelings can be a way to remove the sting, to accept what is and hopefully diminish the most extreme aspects of our sadness and gain a new perspective.

When I made the decision to talk about my son, Daniel, I did so with these hopes and expectations. I was not disappointed and I can report I am glad I took the risk.

Daniel is my sixth child in a line of seven. As a little girl I longed for two things—to become a Registered Nurse and to be a mom to many children.

I accomplished both of these goals, although it didn’t happen in an always sane, linear fashion!

My career had many starts and stops and my childbearing spanned seventeen years.

But this story is about Daniel. How I got him and how I lost him.

He was born 31 years ago, I knew he was a wondrous and special baby. Close to all my children I had an intuition that Daniel would one day pose a life changing challenge to my skills as a mother.

I named him Daniel after the Elton John song “Daniel.” I remember thinking the lyrics “your eyes have died but you see more than I” were especially prophetic but with no idea why.

Daniel was a gentle stubborn little boy, loving but often fearful, sometimes clinging to me, as though the world was not a comfortable place and he was afraid of losing me. By kindergarten, I realized Daniel was quietly dealing with a world I could not see, a place where I did not exist. As he got older, grew bigger, so this world got bigger too.

School was not a happy experience and in his later teen years Daniel sometimes soothed himself with drugs. I put him in treatment which helped some but nothing slowed his tendency to disappear into a hidden land, one I was not allowed to visit. I could do nothing but watch as he struggled in the grip and midst of this “strange land.”

He graduated high school and worked a labor job, but his real job, his real labor was his ongoing struggle to remain in the “real” world.

Witnessing this was devastating to me.

We tried medication, he tried drinking.

And then! He seemed to stabilize, he got a job in a bank. He wore a suit and tie, he bought a Lexus! But, a man emerged, a man who didn’t resemble the boy I had raised.

I thought, maybe this is okay. It wasn’t.

I soon witnessed the disintegration of my son, my baby. And then I knew. I knew what this was. I watched as he danced to songs I couldn’t hear, listened as he sang to people I couldn’t see. I took him to the doctors, to the hospitals.

At twenty six Daniel left my reality as surely as he left my body at his birth.

I miss him so much, left behind as he lives out his life in the world of Schizophrenia. I love you Daniel John.

Although advances have been made in the diagnosis and treatment of Schizophrenia, it remains a devastating illness that robs the lives of many young people. Daniel was diagnosed as a young adult but younger children can also develop Schizophrenia and be diagnosed. The average age for development is the early twenties and seems to be more prevalent in males.

As for me, I still grieve but life goes on and the decision to write about Daniel has afforded me a measure of peace.

Stage Fright



Recently I stood before a large crowd, at a book launch in Castleisland, Co Kerry. I spoke of the benefits that writing had brought to my life, it was a nerve-wracking experience but the feedback has been great .

I spoke in front of published writers, a historian and poet, some local dignatories and members of the public. I was supported and joined at the podium by Julett Culloty, the newly crowned Kerry Rose, who too writes as an aid.

I give them a glimpse into my life, living with manic depression and anxiety. What a buzz, what a relief to openly speak to people. The shame has gone, although there was little left.The anxiety almost immediately lifted and I now know what friends have been telling me for years, we all have a story to tell.

Tell it I say to you all, tell them how you cope, tell them how you don’t cope. It does not matter which it is, have a go. It is a similar feeling to running barefoot in early morning dew. Its a different buzz to alcohol and drugs, but stronger.

Start simply, write a few lines about what makes you happy or sad, what you use to solve problems. How you have built, or lost some resilience in your life. you can do so anonymously. Nobody will know who you are at all.

Try it you will like it.

Special mention to Bean an Ti, Bridie Garvey. a woman who has always had some faith in me. Many thanks.

Feedback tells me that more people would be interested in listening to my story and hopefully some of them will pick up a pen and jot things down. Start anywhere, three times a week for two weeks to start. You do not have to be a writer, or ever have written before.


I haven’t been able to listen to one of my favourite songs for a while… “Heal” by Tom Odell. When I listened to this song over the past couple of weeks, I would turn it off half way through, because it would make me feel sad and I would start to cry… Probably because of its lyrics and everything that has happened to me over the past couple of months! I met with someone today, who I haven’t known for a very long, for a cuppa and a chat in a cafe.
Genuinely, I wasn’t expecting much, and I certainly wasn’t expecting to feel as great as I am feeling now. Definitely one of my best days in a long long time, and it’s because I spoke with someone who I felt I could trust and in some way, relate to…talking about things I didn’t even realise were going on for me, talking about things that had built up inside of me since finding out about my cancer last April at the age of 24, talking about how it all began, how angry I felt about my misdiagnosis, how robbed I felt because I now cannot have my own children and how confused I felt, being faced with decisions about taking medication that could make my life a little better but could also potentially be seriously harmful to my body. Most importantly, we spoke about how important it was for me to talk, to get my feelings and what was going on for me out there. I guess, trying to not think about Cancer and it’s repercussions, wasn’t doing me any favours, it’s facing up to it and dealing with life now it what I have to do to make sure I get the best from life.
I came home today and listened to “Heal” and felt happy.

Thanks to Pen Relief for listening

Coming soon

Hi all,

I have two ladies writing and their stories will be published soon. If any of you are considering to write a piece but are not sure about the process then contact me and I will help you out.

2014 in review

The stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.

Here's an excerpt:

A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,700 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 28 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Thank you for helping the site reach 10000 views. It was my aim to help people and I have achieved this. Keep writing and visiting my site, tell me what you want to see on this page and also visit my Facebook page Pen Relief. Happy New Year to you all, wherever you may be.

Physically sick again

Hey there,

Physical illness, although the least of my problems, really brings me down. I have pneumonia and was told by my Doctor to take a good seven days rest. “Hang your boots up”, he said to me. Easier said than done,to someone with a head like me!! I need to be active and cannot lie down all day, or rest I mean. I can for awhile but I get bored quickly. My mind then starts to wander and I could end up anywhere, mentally that is.
I have my near 3 year old daughter for company, although she also has pneumonia!!
She is coping better than me though at the moment, its just a pity that she cannot reach that kettle. Grow up kid!!
I did not have a lot of energy today and the new meds played havoc on my stomach so I am feeling sorry for myself tonight. I am on my own now, everyone else in the house is gone to bed. I am just in the opening chapter of a book I have always wanted to write, not looking for a bestseller but something that may help my kids understand me and the illness I have. ” So”!!! I am hoping they will say that a lot when reading it.
Remember exercise , diet and me time will help improve your quality of life.
Be good

Who am I ?

I am a 50 year old woman.
I do not mind if this is published and I can get advice as long as my name is not used.Not sure how to write this as I have never tried to explain 50 years of hurt before.

To start with I feel I have no identity. I know this sounds silly but I have no idea who I am.
I am adopted, and the people who adopted me were not the nicest of people and I suppose in this day and age would never be allowed to adopt. Well one hopes.

The mental cruelty they put me through has plagued me for my whole life. That is not to mention the physical and sexual abuse I suffered at their hands.
I constantly feel like a target for people to hurt me.
I have had two attempted rapes, even though these were many years ago I still feel like I should have been able to prevent them.
I married a man who bullied me for over 25 years. He was extremely abusive especially after he had a drink. In the end he drank every night and the constant threats to my life got too much.
I attempted suicide 12 years ago and although I swore to myself that no one would ever get me to that point again, i found myself recently having dark thoughts.
I moved out 18 months ago to escape and now live in a beautiful place. My problem here is since moving here I lost my job and for the first time in my life I am unemployed, I know nobody here so have no friends. I do not make friends easily as i do not trust people enough to let them in.
It was my 50th recently I did not receive one card, but what makes it worse is most people did not even realise. Don’t get me wrong I did not want parties or gifts, just an acknowledgement of the day.
I am proud of the fact that i have managed to survive 50 years. but even my own daughters did not remember. I know they are busy but I would have liked a phone call.
Maybe i am just having a moan here as I am not a talker. I was raised not to show emotion so i suppose people even those close to me have no idea how I feel inside.
I am not a talker so i could never say all this to a counsellor.
So not really sure why i am writing this. i suppose just for once to get some of it off my chest.