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Let’s talk about mental health

You may have noticed that my podcast and blog for August were cancelled and that is because a couple of weeks before it was due to be released, my long term relationship ended and then two days prior, I got a call to say that my Brother was in palliative care. The last two months for me have been two of the toughest months of my life. I was really struggling to cope with my relationship breakdown when I received the call about my Brother. That being said, I had to be by his side because it was important to me that he spent his last days surrounded with love and support.

My Brother Daniel, or Dan as I like to call him, is my second oldest Brother and is my half-Brother which means that we have the same Mother but a different Father. Dan was born with cerebral palsy and spina bifida. This means that he spent his life confined to a wheelchair, but boy, that never stopped him. Dan was 12 years older than me and that meant I didn’t get to spend much of my life growing up with him. However, when I got older, I got to go and visit him. We would go down to the local sports club, have a meal, a beer and play some pool or go bowling  –  which was one of his favourite things to do, and he was so good at it too. Dan always had the biggest smile on his face, cracking cheeky jokes and making everyone laugh. He really was just a larger than life person who lived every day to the fullest. He is my biggest inspiration  –  I saw him constantly push himself to do the things he wanted even though his body tried to hold him back. Dan made such an impact on everyone around him and everyone who got to know him was better for it.

I have never lost someone in my adult life. My Paternal Grandparents passed away when I was a baby and I have been lucky not to experience the loss of any family members or friends since. Witnessing Dan’s decline was the single hardest thing I have ever done in my life. And to be honest, I am not certain I really had the strength in me to be by his side when I wasn’t in the greatest place, but I wouldn’t have had it any other way. The moments I got to share with him over those few days, are moments that I will cherish forever.

Dan passed away on the 3rd August. My admission was on the 5th August. I pushed myself through those couple of days and showed up to my admission with a brave face. I told Dan that when I stood up on that Monday at my admission, it was for him and that I knew he would be there with me. I got through my admission day but the next day, everything hit me like a tonne of bricks. I had been keeping my head above water for the previous couple of weeks in order to make it to my admission day. But that day had come and gone and I felt very much like  – now what? I was kind to myself, tried to practice self-care  –  lots of water, good food, light exercise and sleep. However, by Friday of that week I was really struggling. I decided to book a Doctor’s appointment in order to get a mental health care plan and access counselling services. I have been seeing a counsellor fairly regularly and it definitely helps me.

I’m sharing this because I think it is really important to share the things in our lives which aren’t sunshine and rainbows, so that we are all reminded that it is completely normal not to be happy and positive all the time. I have struggled a lot in my life with people assuming I am okay because I am generally a happy and bubbly person. I have also been through a number of difficult things in my life, and I have always pulled myself through  – so those who know me often say, oh Megan’s a strong cookie, she will be okay. That is something that I feel needs to change  –  the assumption that strong people who pull it together and put on a brave face are always okay. I think that we all need to be reminded that not everyone who is struggling shows this to the world and that is why it is important to check in regularly with your loved ones and friends and make sure that they know if they need you, they can reach out and you will be there to support them.

At the moment, I am taking it day by day. Some days it is easier than others. Some days I feel very alone and hopeless. I don’t have a huge support network, but from my experience, you only need one person who you can count on. Someone you can reach out to on those bad days, and not because they can fix your problems, but so they can listen and offer you love and support. I am focusing on what I can do, listening to my body, going to counselling, spending time with friends, embracing the days where I feel strong and looking after myself on the days I don’t. It can be really hard and it does take courage to stand up and say that you aren’t okay and you need support   but there is no shame in admitting that you aren’t okay. I am here, sharing a part of my life with you in the hope that sharing things like this and speaking up when you are struggling  will become something that isn’t hidden away behind a brave face, but instead spoken about to normalise how hard life can sometimes be. So, if you are having a hard time  –  tell someone. It can be a friend, a family member, your Doctor, a counsellor or someone on a helpline. You are not alone, you are loved and there is help available.

Below are some links to some resources if you need to speak to someone:

Beyond Blue – 1300 22 4636
Beyond Blue also have an online chat service, forum and resources at www.beyondblue.org.au

Lifeline –  13 11 14
Lifeline also has an online crisis support chat and resources at www.lifeline.org.au

If you want to learn about the best way to start a conversation about mental health, check out the resources on R U OK? at www.ruok.org.au