AS PRINTED TODAY DECEMBER 21ST IN THE EVENING HERALD

CHRISTMAS…That single word conjures up a lot of different emotions. For some it means food, fun, family and all good things beginning with the letter F. But for some it means failure and feeling foolish.
By this I mean that it’s a time that almost forces us to look at ourselves. If we’ve had a bad year or lost loved ones, through grieving we can feel like we have or we are failing people and if we’ve made mistakes that can’t be fixed we feel foolish.
I’m a glass half full person but I’m also no stranger to dark days. We can never become complacent about our mental health and Christmas is a time where each and every one of us has a responsibility to look out for one another.
I’m not talking about the fluffy cloud nonsense of air kissing and asking how someone is but more about actually taking time to think about others and watch for serious signs of sadness, loneliness, for someone who may drops hints and needs help. It’s incredibly hard dealing with depression with loved ones around. That said the feeling of loneliness and isolation even when surrounded by those you love pales in comparison to having those feelings and actually being alone.
Having suffered depression I know how easy it can be to forget when you haven’t suffered for a while. You want to forget about those feelings of low self-worth and pain. When you’re happy and can’t physically see someone’s pain it can be difficult to feel it. When you pass a car crash on the road it’s upsetting and you feel a pang in your heart and stomach. That pain is exactly how someone feels with depression all the time. Just because you can’t see it doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. If you broke your arm would you walk around with it hanging off?
Mental illness needs to be normalised and treated like any other physical illness. It breaks my heart to read of high suicide numbers in this country . As a nation we find it very hard to talk about real feelings. I suppose it makes us vulnerable and that’s the last thing any of us need at the moment but in truth talking about these things normalises them.
Depression is a lack of expression.
Generations of being told to move on and let things go or ‘don’t mention that in front of your mother now or she’ll get upset’ has done nothing but add to the dangerous levels of mental health problems in Ireland today. I’m not saying we need ask people personal and hard hitting questions when we meet them in the supermarket.
It’s not about extremes but more about simplifying things for people. We need to give them real tangible information about depression, and real achievable goals to help overcome it.
Trying not to overmedicate especially in children is also important. Antidepressants helped me through a necessary short period but hard work and intense therapy did far more.
I talked about fears that had been buried since childhood. I cried from a place so deep within my body I heaved in pain. I never knew that place existed before. I woke up days later lighter and with a genuine feeling of contentment that I’m not sure I’ve ever felt before.
I had everything external even materialistic you might say but I was missing the most important part of any journey through life- true happiness. This comes from within. No one or nothing can give this to you. You can’t buy it or give birth to it. You can’t swap it, trade it, lie for it or blackmail someone for it.
It’s about finding peace with who you are and knowing that although you’re not perfect you’re doing your best.
Giving birth to my son was the best day of my life. He makes me the happiest person on earth but he made me realise what happiness is through watching him learn about everything we take for granted. We need to look at what we have rather than focusing on what we don’t have. We also need to get back to being a community, showing strength in numbers, loving our neighbours and take care of those less fortunate.
It sounds corny but there’s just some things that will never change with time!

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