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


How it works

I have found that talking about issues that bother people can be daunting to some, which inevitably leads them not to seek help at all. This can have a detrimental effect on their health. This is why I came up with this idea.
Pen Relief allows anybody to write, anonymously if chosen, about any issue that may be bothering them. You can ask for help, seek advice or simply write to me. If you write then you have two options, one is to get an e mail back or the second is to post it on our page where several people may wish to advise you.
All comments and posts are moderated by me and will not be posted without your permission.
Try it, it may be an asset to you.

Christmas is coming.

Christmas!! The time of joy and happiness, excited children and adults, turkey dinner and lots of TV and sweets. That’s for the lucky few I feel, normally it’s a time of stress and anxiety. We have money to spend on food and presents, we have people to call to (some we do not see all year), so Christmas for a lot of people is a highly stressful and anxious time of the year. Of course this year in Ireland we have water meters being installed outside our front doors, which will charge us for our fresh fluoride laced water. That’s another worry for another day though.

To cope with stress and anxiety you need to plan things properly, allocate your time and other resources in a manageable way. The last thing any of us need is to get a bad bout of depression on top of all this.

Get help with the cooking and cleaning, we all know that there is a lot of it at this time. If you are inviting family over then ask them to provide a cooked course, this will be one less task for you and can be an olive branch for those family members with whom relationships may be strained. A chat over the sink after dinner can be beneficial to you all.

Money is an issue for all of us, now that austerity measures are taking every spare penny that we have. Buy what you can afford, try not to borrow money. Be selective with your presents; don’t buy what gets put in a cupboard for the rest of the year. Small children love unwrapping things, whether they cost a Euro or many Euros, the excitement will be the same.

It is also a time when we remember those that we have lost. It’s natural for our emotions to be magnified so learn how to control them, if you need a cry then cry. It’s good to get it out. Never force yourself to be happy if you are sad, it will make the problem worse. Its important to remember that alcohol will compound things so take it in moderation.

Make time out for yourself, away from the madness that can be Christmas. Go for a walk, take a bath, paint a picture, write a book if it relaxes you. Personally I will spend as much time as I can in my garden.

Try your best to enjoy this time of year, it can’t be easy at times.

How to defeat the enemy.

Worry, do you do it? Of course you do, we all worry but there are some people that overload and find it difficult to cope. This is the stage where worry becomes anxiety and the mind is overwhelmed with thoughts that most of us can/cannot. cope with on different levels. What am I doing today? What’s for dinner? Will they eat it? Have I money to buy it? Will there be many people down the town when I go out? Will I meet someone? Should I stay in and get takeaway? The kids love takeaways, but it’s not really healthy, will they get sick? Is the dinner really nice or are you just saying that to please me? Confident? Of course I am, well not really, well no then not at all.

When the eyes open in the morning, the worry begins. Will I have time to do this task, it’s a menial one yet it seems monumental. Panic sets in, some jobs are half done, others not done at all. What about the washing? Will it rain? The clothes will be ruined and I will have to wash them again. Now I am tense and angry. I did not sleep well last night; I was worried so how could I? I haven’t had a good night’s sleep in years!!

My little one needs changing, but I have lots to do, where is the time? I am manic at this stage of the day and I have not even had my coffee. I am inefficient and a poor parent. Will they be better off without me? Oh Christ, life is tough. Is it like this for others or is it just me? This is what life is like for me some days and this is a good day. Here is what I consider a bad day…..

I don’t get up at all; the blackness prevents me from doing so. It’s because I did not sleep well, I worried too much about today last night. I will get things done tomorrow, the laundry can wait. It’s safer under the duvet; no one can see me here. Why are they staring at me when I go out? I won’t go out, that’s the answer!! I found it, it’s a Eureka moment. I will feel better if I lock myself in, away from others who might see that I am sick. I am an unsocialite! Is that a word? Can I use it? I will do it anyway as I am sure someone will critique it.

The only thing being fed here properly is my anxiety; the menu is above clear to see. I therefore seek professional help when it gets too much to bear. Although I am not an advocate of medication I can see its importance in the short/medium term. We must have an honest outlook of our problems and ask those we feel can offer the best advice; it’s unusual to be able to defeat these feelings on your own.

When help arrives in the shape of a Doctor or psychologist/professional, do not fear the labelling system and language that they use, labels often confuse and /or destroy the peace of mind that we are always seeking. Get to know that language, learn how to speak it. It is wise to educate yourself fully about your condition and the fact that it may re- occur. I feel that it is only then that the real magic occurs, the self- awareness needed for you to step up and be able to relate your story to others in order to help them cope better and build resilience. We have got to know our enemy. More of us need to do this if we are to help remove stigma, it is our duty I feel.

Bullying is a problem

This is the first time that I have written to anyone about myself and I hope that you will keep your promise and not print my name.  A lot of experts say that people bully others because they are looking for acceptance, and without it, they try to cause pain to others. Thats all well and good but they have never come to me looking for acceptance, they just make life miserable for me. For what? Their pleasure? 

Why me? I do not stick out by wearing tattoos, outrageous make up or clothes. I dress like any other teenager. I am being picked on for no other reason other than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. 

I remember the day it began even, I turned a corner and three of the bullies were just hanging around, laughing and joking like normal teenagers do, and they stopped as I came into view. I was chosen at this moment. They said nothing initially as I passed but a comment , which I ignored, was shouted from a distance. I heard it, it hurt.

All this was 2 years ago and although I have since left the area, it continues to hurt. I was mentally abused by my tormentors for the two years, on the street and in social media. My phone would ring at all hours, deliveries came to my door without being ordered by me. All for nothing. Bad rumours were spread around about me and my family, none of which were true. They would snigger as they passed me and encourage others to do the same. 

I could not leave the house really as I feared my tormentors. Of course I told the school, my parents and their parents. Nothing happened for it to stop. I even wrote to them asking for it to stop but this made it worse. I was treated for stress and anxiety at 16. It took a huge toll on my physical health too. My grades suffered, not that I was a Grade A, but I began to miss certain classes.

It stopped because I moved, my mother got a job in another area, thankfully. I really don’t know whether it would have otherwise. I now have picked up some of the pieces but some remain broken. 

I think that schools should implement anti bullying programmes into the curriculum at schools and social media be monitored if a person complains of bullying. Bullying not only changes lives but can end them too as we all know. 

Thanks for the space to write about it.

Catch 22

Catch 22.

I am a man who was diagnosed with mental health issues and have attempted suicide on several occasions. I want these feelings of doom to stop and lead a normal life but I cannot afford the help. Counselling and medications are beyond what I can afford so I fight it alone. It is difficult at times. Is there anyone else out there that feels like this, has anybody any advice that they could give me?

This is a great idea and I will follow what you are doing although I admit it has taken me months to write.

My family  offer no support at all so I have nowhere to turn.

Catch 22

Catch 22.

I am a man who was diagnosed with mental health issues and have attempted suicide on several occasions. I want these feelings of doom to stop and lead a normal life but I cannot afford the help. Counselling and medications are beyond what I can afford so I fight it alone. It is difficult at times. Is there anyone else out there that feels like this, has anybody any advice that they could give me?

This is a great idea and I will follow what you are doing although I admit it has taken me months to write.

My family  offer no support at all so I have nowhere to turn.

A familiar tale (final part)

I resolved nothing , I drank heavily but did take less recreational drugs. I picked up a plastering job and was working about 6 months when I met a girl, in a pub of course and once again I met the girl of my dreams! She was supportive and seemed to understand my ways, my highs and lows. We got engaged the year after and everything was good until I woke up one morning black, I could not get out of the bed such was my pain. I felt extremely low and suicidal, I knew that if I stayed in bed until my girl came home she might pull me out quicker.I was wrong. I did not hear her coming in that evening until she was at the bedside turning on the lamp, I put my hand out to turn it off and it smashed on the floor, she left and never came back. I pleaded with her over the coming weeks but to no avail. My father died some weeks later, she came to the funeral but left without a word to me, I was gutted really. I overdosed 2 days later and ended up in a psychiatric unit for 3 weeks.I do not remember much about that time, when I left the hospital I went home to find that my family had cleaned the house, filled the fridge and I cried. I cried for days, only stopping to go to the off license after dark.

This continued for a month until one morning I woke up and I felt better, not physically but mentally. I rang my sister and told her I was off the drink and I was heading for Australia, she was shocked but knew I would do it so she called and gave me £500, she wept as she felt that this would be the last time she would ever see me alive, although she did not say that at the time.

I got off the plane and lit a cigarette, there was a line of buses outside the airport and I picked the third one. I got on and asked the driver to take me to the nearest Irish pub. I ate an Irish breakfast(of sorts), and secured some digs and a few phone numbers for work contacts. I gave the girl a 10 dollar tip and told her I would be back, she was Irish.

I got work, the pay was good and the craic was great. I missed the drink though and was struggling with this at work one morning when I packed my tools up and walked out, heading for the first pub. I went in and asked for a beer and sat for a half an hour looking at it until I got up and walked out, I was shaking. I sat in a park for a few hours until I got the urge for another pint and repeated what  I had done earlier. I was about to walk out when in walked the Irish barmaid who I had met over breakfast, on her day off and she joined me. She said later that I had looked sad so that’s why she joined me.We had something to eat and I had a cup of coffee. I told her my story, she understood as her brother was in a similar situation. She said she would help me so the next day I went back to work, and met her every night for coffee.

We began a relationship and I got a foremans job, partly because I did not drink and therefore they knew I would open up every morning on time. We moved in together and were doing really well, earning money and enjoying the lifestyle. We were really happy until she got a call and it meant that she would have to go back to a sick relative in Ireland immediately. We were torn as it meant that she may be home for months so I decided to go back with her. She tried to get me to stay but in the end I won over and we arrived back in Ireland, with the intention of staying for 8 weeks.

We are still in Ireland, we have two sons now and are married over 4 years and life is better. I have a lot of control over my illness now thanks to meds, meditation and writing. This has been a great chance for me to tell people about myself and tell them that there is hope and the despair can withdraw at any time. It is easy for those with a mental illness to take meds until they feel”cured” and then stop taking them. My advice is to get your Dr to make the decisions with this, get a second opinion too if you feel the need. I still get my dark days but I am that bit more confident with them now, my children play a large part in this.Suicidal thoughts , lack of self- esteem and anxiety still visit me regularly but I can now keep them at arms- length.

Thanks Pen Relief and all of you out there that may be reading this, I feel better now.




Light at the end of the tunnel.

Hi when I heard about Pen Relief today, I knew I had to write my story to show people there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Looking back I could see my depression started at about 11 years of age, it is hereditary in the family so I guess I did not stand a chance.My father was in the health sector and my mother a teacher.  She was an incredibly cold person and very abusive, physically and mentally.  A neighbour wanted to foster me and it was because of that I got my worst beating, it was then I knew I didn’t want to carry on.  I was 14 and did not want to bring shame on the family and so because my father worked in the health sector I could easily get my hands on tablets, so took ones that would cause heart failure with long use, nothing happened after a few weeks so then decided to take the whole lot and for some miracle it did not kill me only coughed up blood for weeks after.

I became obsessed then with the church and graveyards, obviously a way of diverting away from the depression.My depression peaked in my early twenties and plagued me throughout my twenties.  I became a recluse for a year and could not go out as I would get panic attacks; I was literally rotting away in a dirty old bedsit and surviving on a packet of biscuits a day.

My twenties were a blur, I turned to alcohol, had two hospital stays in the psychiatric ward, few suicide attempts more of a cry for help though.  I was a complete mess.  Then married a man who was like my mother and the horrible abuse started all over again.Got to my thirties and went for serious counselling to help me with the trauma I had suffered as a child but there was one mental block from the ages of 8-12 I had no recollection and when I was put under, seemingly, I was hysterical.

I have been on medication for years and years and have now finally have a lot of control over my illness, I can catch the signs when I am going down and therefore increase my medication,and if I had known years ago the 3 things that could improve my mental health substantially, things would have been different, these are:

 1       A GOOD COUNSELLOR, someone you can bond with and trust

 2       DIET, omegas, fruit, less fatty foods, crisps

 3       EXERCISE might not want to get out of the bed but force yourself to do it.

 SUICIDE is permanent, these feelings of despair do pass, it does not feel like it will but believe me I have had plenty of them to know.

I have found personal development groups and mindfulness meditation a godsend, I have grown stronger knowing I will not leave this illness run my life anymore, it is a part of me and now will be my neutral acquaintance, neither good nor bad.

  A few months ago my mind was finally able to reveal what happened in those blocked years, I had been sexually abused by a neighbour, and you know what, I could cope with it.

I will always be on medication, and need weekly counselling, I will always face depression but the difference now is I can cope better and I now know it will pass.

 The funny thing is only close family, and one close friend, know I am on medication and suffer from depression and if I can hide it how many more out there can do the same but are not getting the suitable help.


A familiar tale ( Part 1)

May I just say, at this point, that this is a wonderful idea for people who may find it easier to write, like I do, than talk about issues that have had, or still have in my case, a detrimental effect on a person’s life? I will not go into fine detail as to beatings or any abuse I suffered from an early age but the whole idea of me writing is to hopefully encourage others to do likewise.

How many times I have heard people say “you should write a book”, well, I took that some of that advice and began writing some 10 years ago, not a book  but just about my life and the issues that I face daily and those of my past. You may not find it interesting as a whole, but there are funny stories in there, and sad ones too like there are in everybody’s life. The thing is I have a found a new outlook on life since I began writing. I was a suicidal alcoholic wreck at one time quite recently, now I am a wreck but alcohol free and not as suicidal, as in, I have not attempted in several years but the ideation can be strong some days. Doesn’t everyone feel suicidal at some time in their lives? Maybe not everyone but quite a few will understand this ideation.

Years 0-9

I am a 60’s child, an era of great change in relation to social issues across the world, but I don’t remember a great deal of it, not that I have a bad memory but because I was born with a manic depressive gene, which I feel has caused me to forget a lot of my history because of the highs and lows associated with it. If I was on the extreme of either, I would not recall some of my actions; I blamed alcohol in my later life for this. A mixture of anxiety and depression has always played a major role in my life although I did not realise this for a long time. The blackouts did not come into my mind’s eye until later in life, and as I drank from an early age, alcohol was always my problem and never mental health issues or so I thought. It had to be the drink because nobody talked about mental health; back then I heard people being described as “bad with their nerves”.

I was” bad with my nerves” from an early age and my father played a major role in that. I was frightened of him, simple as that, he could be an aggressive man with little tolerance for anything. He was not a drinker as such, he might drink 4/5 times a year, and I cannot say I ever saw him drunk until I was in my late teens after the sudden death of my mother. The kids in the street where I grew up always thought he was great, full of fun and comments when he passed, maybe the odd playful jibe at the man up the road who would keep the ball if it went into his garden. He would always have a cheery hello to neighbours but I used to dread when he came in the front door.

It did not matter if he came in whistling, I knew that he could change the tune in an instant and the cause could be anything. Looking back I now know that he was depressed a lot of the time and he had very poor coping skills and parenting skills. Those times you had babies and you fed them, there was no such thing as the child’s voice. T shirts in the street proclaimed that “Children should be seen and not heard”, beatings in my house were a regular occurrence, and cold dinners were on the menu if you did not like them, as they would at times be put in front of you the following day.

The back garden was your world outside of school, it was rare that you left it or if you did you would have to be within the parameters of his voice. It was a similar story for my siblings as I can recall except one, of course there was always one. Tensions in the house were always there so arguments were inevitable and you learned to argue quietly, seething through your teeth, as raised voices raised my father from his chair. You knew what was coming when he got up to you! I still use this gritted teeth method of argument now, rarely raising my voice in public .Little of the abuse he showed us was public, the neighbours were important even though many were aware of it. It is fair to say that our house was no different from many at that time and even now, all I am doing is just relating the effect that it had on me over time.

As working class people ends were tough to meet, but we always had food on the table, some nights without meat, and our mother always made sure that our clothes were of a reasonable state. Some of the older boys in the neighbourhood would hunt and fish and we always got whatever was caught, if they had surplus. You could come home to rabbit or pigeon dishes at times, nowadays a delicacy in some finer restaurants, back then you would not tell people that you had it. My mother had a tough job, cooking, cleaning and always supplemented my father’s wage with a part time job. She always tried to be a go between, and knew when to tell us to leave the house as danger lurked, although we always thought she wanted us out in the back garden., this was one of her ways of protecting us. She was always looking out for us but we never knew at the time. My attitude to my mother was totally different to my father; she was soft but still could give you a slap around the head.

The village I grew up in was one of few cars and telephones, the local pub had a telephone so emergencies/ personal calls were always carried out in full earshot of those in the bar at the time. I will refer back to the inconvenience of that later in this piece.

School was in a local town about 6 miles from my house, ran by the Church and the nuns played a big part in this. I knew later in life after watching the film Sister Act that I was in the wrong school. They could be heavy handed to say the least, although I will not go into any fine detail about the severity of an abuse I went through, at home or in school, there is no need only to say what happened, happened, but it was physical, emotional and several forms of neglect. This was my life as it was; I am no different to thousands of others in countries all over the world.

I attended school regularly and was quite a bright child, full of wild ideas, and this showed at an early stage in my homework, more so my essays of course. I loved to read too and it is fair to say that math was always problematic. My English teacher at that time felt that I would write a book someday, that I had the wherewithal to do it anyway. Maybe I should have listened to her and taken that route, although my mood swings may have made my writings somewhat unusual.

My daily school routine involved going to school, and coming home on the bus straight after, you dare not miss the bus for fear of a beating. You came in, changed and done your homework. Then you had your dinner and went up to bed for 8pm, summer holidays included. TV was watched with permission and invariably it was my father’s choice of programmes. Some nights he may not turn it on at all, so you sat playing with your siblings in whispered tones, crossword puzzles demanded attention and my father done these on a regular basis. You went to bed when he said, no ifs nor buts. Lights went out straight away and if a noise was heard he would come up roaring, threatening and slapping. The bedwetting began at an early age.

The first life changing event in my life happened at a very young age, I was 8 years old and plodding away in life as any normal child would be. I heard the arguments and whispers whenever something was amiss; we lived in an end of terrace house which had 3 bedrooms, a living room, bathroom and a small extension scullery kitchen. Noise travelled in that house. We always knew when something was up. We were sent to bed or out to the garden. This time it was bed, I remember that Tuesday night vividly and the reason will become clearly in a few lines. I can pinpoint the following 24 hours as one of the pivotal points in my life.

I came home from school the next day and found my brother asleep in bed, the  radio was on and I crept in, my eldest brother could have a temper at times so I was loathe to wake him with a start, so I called his name, nothing happened. I shook him and still nothing so I went downstairs to where my mother was and said that I cannot do my homework as my brother was asleep and I could not wake him, the next few hours were a blur and my house was invaded by neighbours, who normally only came as far as the door, but I do remember the sound of my mother screaming, a sound I only ever heard once in my years.

My sister was first to arrive after getting a call at work and I remember that there was 2 locals in my front yard who reeked of drink, they had been in the bar when the ambulance was called, and had come running to see what the commotion was about. They gave me money to go to the bar to buy chocolate and I was gone like a bat out of hell, I rarely had money so the most important thing was to get a bar of chocolate, a very rare treat, and even more so as I had not even had my dinner yet.

The ambulance passed me as I sat on the wall eating and talking to a neighbour , I had very little idea as to what was happening in my house.

My brother as it transpired had taken an overdose and was successful in ending his own life, he was 17. (To be continued)