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.

It works!

Over 20 people have now improved their lives as a direct result of writing to Pen Relief. They have received requested advice and suggestions from us which has had a positive effect on their mindset. 14 others have told us that they have done likewise just by reading the pieces on the page. Have you got an issue that is bothering you? If so write to us at penrelief@gmail.com. You can remain anonymous if you choose and your piece does not have to be displayed, the choice is yours. Have a good day!!

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.

Alternatives to medication.

I am an ordinary man, nothing special nothing grand…says Christy Moore in the song Ordinary Man. Christy is a singer I have admired for years , he is someone that you can sing along with, and I love singing out loud but I will come to that later. Firstly I will talk to you about what helps defeat depression or at least keeps it at bay. I am not a therapist or Doctor but I have researched mental health issues for years now in my battle against depression and anxiety and I will tell you of some of the things that you can do to help improve your mind-set. I am not an advocate of medication although I appreciate that sometimes in the short term it can work wonders.

There are a myriad of reasons that one can feel depressed, loss is a big one. Not just death but any loss in general. Losses of a job, limb, pet, place on a team, favourite charm…get my drift? The majority of us get depressed at some stage in our lives, some more so than others. It affects us all in different ways; but there are some  measures that you can take, according to research and my personal experience, to improve things.

  1. Get help.It is a brave thing to admit that you have problems that you cannot deal with, it is a sign of strength and not weakness to do so. A problem shared is a problem halved and all that. Just by talking about it can improve your general outlook. Even if it is bending the ear of a friend, just getting it off your chest will help. Professional advice is a better route though so try that.
  2.  Write it down. If you cannot face talking to someone then write it down. It helps to see it in print in front of you, it means you are facing your issue. Some people do this and burn it as a way of cleansing. I like to keep my writings, after all it might have taken me a long time to write a piece I am hardly going to destroy it!! To each their own though, whatever helps you.
  3. Exercise: just getting out for a walk will help. Do some gardening, something I took up a few years ago and I reckon has improved my life big-time. I won’t go into the chemicals released when exercising but it’s all good chemicals and not those bad ones that you see on cereal boxes and tinned foods which leads me into my next point.
  4. Diet. You are what you eat as the old saying goes. We need to eat properly because if our body is not getting the right nutrients to help us physically then it affects us mentally.  Vegetables, fruits, and whole grains as well as lean meats and low-fat dairy products are all good for us ( remember your mother telling you to eat your veg!!). Processed foods and foods with added sugar should be removed from your diet. Take supplements too, such as some oils and vitamins although a walk in the sun, eating an orange will raise vitamins D and C respectively.
  5.  Educate yourself. There is so much research done and available to you with the introduction of the internet that this is easier to do. Go to your local library for access if you don’t have broadband. Find out what ails you and what improves things for you.
  6. Substance abuse. Avoid over use of everything. Everything in moderation of course. This applies to not just alcohol and drugs of course. Drink especially was the bane of my life. I felt that if I got drunk I could forget about my problems. Problem there was, I forgot about everything and everyone too.
  7. .Get out more. Don’t become a recluse, which can become the norm. Call some friends, go out for dinner and have some fun. Laughing a lot helps improve the mind. Find a person whose company you enjoy and who you can trust, and have a ball. Follow Peppa pig’s line and jump in muddy puddles together if it makes you feel good.
  8.  Sing. Sing loud at the top of your voice ( not recommended if you live in council estates). I do this to Christy Moore songs. Try it with friends when you go out. Whether it’s a candle-lit carol service or a  raucous evening of karaoke , many people will enjoy a good old singsong this Christmas. Singing releases chemicals too which make you feel better.


I hope that you found this helpful and that you might try some, if not all of the above. It will work if you keep it going, believe me you. At the end of the day a lot of it will be down to you and your attitude towards your mental health issues, that can make all the difference in your life.


Dandelion Day

dandelionHi Pen Relief, I made a start on this as I have been promising myself to do for months, thanks for taking the time to read this, and for Pen Relief, it is a wonderful platform to be able to say it as it is without being judged, and for sharing your own story, I don’t want my name to be published, if you don’t mind xx

I am not sure how best to go about this but I am going to just write and see where it takes me. Writing is always something that I found helped a lot but the last number of years with the pace of life; it has become harder to do so.

Anyway, to start at the start, I am a young woman (at least I consider myself to be lol) in my thirties. I am married and I have 4 children. When I was a toddler my parents died in a car accident and I was reared by family members. I was lucky; I was brought up in a loving home. When I look back at my life I can see that even as a child, I was a lost lonely soul that others through their own pain and suffering, were unable to see! I can relate back to watching an episode of Highway to Heaven when I was about 4 years old, and sobbing my heart out, at the end when he had to return to heaven, I can still palpate that emptiness, it feels cold!

I was a bright, diligent child, always wanting to please everyone, and this is something that has become a firm trait, to my detriment at times. The first time that I wanted to be dead, or taken out of my misery ,was when I was about 11, my grandfather had died and I was broken hearted, alone, and in pain. I reckon I was very good at hiding it because nobody seemed to notice.

It was at this time that I started to make myself sick!  Stuffing all my feelings down, and then purging my body of it! This went on, unnoticed, until I was 14, when I hit a particularly dark period in my life.

I can remember swallowing too many paracetamol in an effort to end it all, it didn’t work!!!  I couldn’t understand it, there was mixed feelings around that, glad in one way, pissed off in another. Again this went unnoticed! It wasn’t until a parent teacher meeting in school that it was brought up that I wasn’t myself and was withdrawn, at this they started to ask questions at home, and I confessed about the “bulimia”.

Before I knew it I was landed in front of a psychologist, where I attended every week for 5 years. In session with her I had to sit in front of her for 15 mins, get weighed and let her look at my food diary! After 5 years of this shite(sic) I made a decision, that all she was doing was keeping my food disorder very much alive by weighing me and spending 15 minutes talking about food. In fairness, if you were treating a drug addict or an alcoholic would you spend the session reminding them about the demons that they crave every day!!!

Now this was a great turning point in my life, I moved out of home, I sat my Leaving Certificate examination in a different school. I had  found myself, and so that year I learned to grapple with my eating disorder and leave it behind for the most part of my life so far, except for the occasional minor relapse which has thankfully never amounted to more than one episode at a time,

So now, life should be fantastic, I had beaten the demons that had plagued me for so many years!!! Well that wasn’t the case. I think beating the eating disorder was a testament to my logic and determination and realising that it wasn’t going to make me feel better if I were to continue self-harming in that way!! I still felt bad at times, still wished I wasn’t here, still felt like I didn’t fit in, anywhere.

Yet I managed to function, I went to college, got my career off the ground, had a baby, bought a house, got married, had more babies. To look from the outside in, it was a perfect life, but I was still up and down, and suffering in silence. At times just existing. I dipped my toe in and out of counselling down through the years, and I have managed to find a wonderful lady, who waited for me to be ready, who was always there for me, and someone that I have learned to trust more than anyone in my life. I find it very hard to allow people to get close to me, and can push those close to me away when I am low.

The lows, well how do I describe these? Its dark, it’s like a hole, it’s painful, and at times numb! It’s all of the horrors you can imagine! Its guilt, its self-hate, its fear, it’s the place where I feel like a failure as a wife, mother, friend, colleague. It’s the place where I wake at night and I think about going to the sea, taking an overdose, running away! The pain of feeling that your family would be a better place without you. and the place where I beg God, to take me, to reach out a hand to me.

There have been other painful things in my life that I would rather not go into here, maybe because it’s too hard, but in a nut shell, its everything  in my life all wrapped tightly around me until I can hardly breathe..

This year has been particularly tough, I am trying to figure out why still, but there have been more down periods that up .Right now I am feeling ok, I managed to drag myself out of bed today, its Sunday, it’s usually the day that I don’t want to face anyone. Maybe because I have to every other day of the week!! Looking at myself in the mirror, my hair needs to be done, I look, ragged, tired, unkempt,

Last week was all tears. I have started to talk to my husband and tell him how I feel, tell him that I feel that I want to die. These moments pass, and I guess it’s not that I am going to do anything, but I wish God would just take me at times… I worry that I am affecting my kids, I keep going for them. I give them all my love and attention, and even during my bad days, I find solace sitting down with a storybook or a colouring book.

I’m in constant pain, in my heart if I am honest! I have tried antidepressants, they have just made me feel worse, either spaced out, or more anxious. I gravitate towards holistic healing, it helps, every day I try to find one good thing to make me smile, and focus on that during the sad moments. Today it’s the dandelion that my son gave me with my breakfast. Not every day is bad.

Thanks Pen Relief, for the opportunity to say my bit. xx

Older and wiser.

People from the outside looking in at me may think that I have what seems a really good life: a lovely family and some good friends, a nice home, volunteering with agencies I like, and what looks like good physical health.

So where is it, in my life, that things are going wrong? Upstairs I have issues. Not in the bedroom but in my head.

I have battled mental health issues for over 30 years and it’s been a battle that I have made gains and losses.

If you look a bit closer then you will see the signs that most experts feel are there. Even the physical ones are there to see if you know what you are looking for. The weight loss, the unkempt look, and the faint smell of sweat from lack of interest in myself. I also lose interest in everything really, family and friends, eating, sleeping and general life participation go out the window as I fight this illness.

“Surely you should have found a cure by now?” Well I have, and lost them again as depression can envelop you like no other illness, in my opinion. It is a debilitating illness and rationality is lost at the best of times. Suicidal ideation can be a daily occurrence, albeit I tried 3 times and failed.

Talking about failure brings me to relationships, jobs, education. These are all things I have been in the middle of only to suddenly stop caring and walking away from them. I then go back some time later to try and retrieve what I had started only to fail in a lot of them again mostly because people have lost faith and trust in me. This then puts me into a depressive episode. I try to explain about my issues but I have offended/ hurt them. Why wasn’t I honest with people from day one? I was with some and got burnt by those who felt I was mad!

You see, it is mostly in recent years that the stigma of mental health is slowly being lifted, so all those mistakes I made at a time when you could not tell anybody have become learning curves for me. Those whose toes I have trodden on now get to know me again through my recent openness about my illness. I am middle age and going through a crisis all my life not just now so it’s not just my hormone level. Please do not ask me to snap out of it, this offends me.

Now I encourage those in a similar situation to talk about it. It is why teachers teach, because they know about a subject. I am a teacher of sorts and I can tell you where my depression has taken me through life. It has taken me all over the world in a search for a cure; at least I think that’s why I ended up in these places. So if you have a question I will do my best to answer it based on my life experience.

Experts on drugs, for instance, base their ideation on research; they research those who have walked the walk. So is it better to get it second hand or from those that have walked the walk? It’s both! Listen to everyone and then decide. The experts get things wrong too.

I am not looking for sympathy, I am looking for understanding and empathy. I want you to understand why I am high and low. Why I did not turn up for the appointment. Why I did not shave today. Why I do not care. Why I am the life and soul of the party. Why I am emptying my bank account t( again) on stuff I do not need.

I indulge in several interventions to find answers and I find writing a great therapy. It’s great to see my problems in front of me, in black and white (or any colour you like).

Like millions of others who are manic depressive I find that I write a lot when I am in the ‘high’ stage and of course not at all when I am low.

Since I began Pen Relief (www.penrelief.com), lots of people have told me of the benefits in their lives from writing to it. Why don’t you try? Don’t worry if you have never written a piece, I will help you do so. Get it off your chest and down on paper. It’s much easier to see. E mail penrelief@gmail.com with your story..


Together we can help each other!!Image

Depression makes me do this!

Depression is the bane of my life. I am constantly looking at ways to defeat it once and for all. I am a person who will try menus from all over the world, I admit I have eaten some strange concoctions and parts of animals I will not talk about on here, and I compare this to the different supports I have sought in my long battle.

Counselling does help, but you have to have a good relationship with your counsellor, in my opinion, for this. The fella who kept snorting and sniffling across from me was of no great help to me, in fact he only helped me form a barrier against certain other counsellors. The pretty woman counsellor was a major distraction to me and at one stage I asked her out on a date. She declined.

Medication also helps, to a degree. I have been on meds that put me in a coma, of sorts, for days. This helped as it took my mind off my problems for the period, but they also took my mind off every other thing too.

Psychotherapy was a great help at times but it costs money, like all interventions, so I could not afford to keep it up.

Mediation, I find, is difficult as my mind races a lot.

Writing it down is a major help as it costs little, time only, you can do it when you like, 2a.m. is a good time for me as sleep fails me again. The feedback I get from it, from strangers mostly makes me feel as if I too am having a positive effect on others. It’s nice to know that I am not alone at 2a.m.!

Pen Relief I will visit again as I have a lot to get off my chest. Congrats on a great initiative.Image

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.

Next time

Am going to try my best, to get it off my chest

Pen Relief, I will share my grief

And let you do the rest.

OCD is killing me, depression gets me down

Although I try to smile a bit, I end up with a frown.

My partner is in denial, so I’m sentenced without a trial

The judge says it will be grand, I say its out of hand.

No one listens to what I say

They hope tomorrow is a brighter day.

As bright as it gets, everyone forgets, that I wear a frown

I take all advice and so now I write it down.

The cures not there, the pain still aches

My family say “For Gods sakes”.

She says “ The problem is all inside your head”

I say “ No kidding, can I hear something else instead”.

I will write some more, it’s not a chore

It has made me somewhat better

Poetry is not for me, next time it may be a letter!!


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.




Are you there God? It’s me, Megan!

For my friend.  You know who you are.

Sometimes, we all lose our way.  Sometimes, we put up a facade and pretend to be someone we’re not.  It’s not that we’re fake people.  We’re fearful people.  We’re afraid that we will be judged by others, on any number of topics about our lives.  I will not list my fears here, but I will tell you I have faced them recently.  I realized that all the perceived judgment by others and the self-induced guilt and shame I carried around was done by me.  And me alone.  Everyone looking from the outside in was getting a small representation of who I am on the inside.  Last week, a part of my past (when I was in my early 20s) came rushing from the back of my brain and slapping me in the forehead.  Out of nowhere I began to cry and get upset.  The day was beautiful.  It was 60 degrees, more or less, and it was a bright fall Saturday.  I didn’t have any plans, but I can definitely say it was not on my agenda to sit and dwell on a part of my life that’s been over for more than 10 years now.

Instead of trying to force feed myself some happy-go-lucky mantra, I decided to be brave and to give into the feeling and ride that wave of emotion instead.  Fortunately, I had my trusty notebook by my side, so I started writing down everything I was thinking and feeling as it came into my brain.  It may shock some people to know that there were some dark thoughts inside of me that have been swimming around for a very long time.  (Though, I have come to learn that we all carry that dark side within us every day of our lives.  It’s just that we’re masters at tuning it out, pushing it away or distorting it.) I started to sink into a quick depression, and then I heard a little voice somewhere inside of me say, “This is not real.  You’re letting it all go, but you have to let it out first.  Just hang on, feel it, write it down and then it will pass and be gone forever.  Trust me.”

For the first time in my life, I completely gave over control to that higher voice.  I trusted her (it?  him? who?).  I wrote down 6 pages in my notebook and held nothing back.  Nothing.  I was shocked that everything that took shape there on the page was all the old experiences, mean feelings, judgmental thoughts and cruel lies about myself that I have been carrying around all of these years.  My emotional baggage was now in the form of words on a page.  Although I have been writing my thoughts down for a very long time, for reasons only known by me, this particular experience that happened to me when I was a young woman at the beginning of her path to adulthood never has come up in discussion.  Ever.  Not even in my own personal writings.  I figured I would just have to live with it and deal with it and pretend that it was behind me.  I was afraid to get real even with myself when I was by myself.  Yet, once I leaned into that wise voice inside of my head that promised me that it would all go away once I opened up, I felt free.  I felt like a healed bird whose wings had once been wounded by a cruel predator.  I was ready to walk away from it all and realize that I am more than my facade I have created over the years.

Then, I did the next healing thing I could think of.  I went to the park and I walked the mile long trail with my body and face in the sunshine.  When I got back to my car, I heard that little voice again tell me, “Grab your yoga mat and go up on that  hill.  You’ll thank me later.”  I opened up the back door, reached in for my purple, junky mat that I’ve had for almost 10 years, and traipsed up the hill as joggers and walkers watched me go off the beaten path and roll out my mat on top of a hill situated in an open space.  I practiced a little bit of yoga, and then I sat facing the sun.  I closed my eyes and I drank in my newfound freedom.