Fiona Kennedy, NUIG staff
Some of you might know me from my other life as blogger Sunny Spells and Scattered Showers. Some of you might know me as Fiona from HR who works on the bike to work scheme. Most of you probably don't know me at all. In a nutshell, I'm married, have two kids, work half time here in NUIG and took a notion to get involved with the Please Talk campaign. I also have clinical depression and borderline personality disorder, although thankfully both are in hand at the moment and I'm well.
So why am I telling you this? I came across the Please Talk campaign a few months back, and thought it would be something really interesting to bring to NUI Galway, because of all the things I've tried over the years to manage those two epic labels, talking is the one that has helped most of all. For a long time, I didn't tell anyone, because I didn't realise there was anything wrong. Then when I did start talking, it was in really tiny increments. First my GP. Then several months later, a therapist. Fast forward another couple of years to a particularly bad episode, and I started seeing a psychiatrist. But still, outside of my immediate family, almost no one else knew. The absolute hardest part of all this secrecy was trying to maintain the facade of being a fully functioning member of society, when really, for quite a lot of the time I wasn't.
The turning point came two years ago, after spending 5 weeks in the psychiatric unit in UHG. I couldn't hide it any more. I didn't know how to explain to people where I had been, and I hadn't the energy or wherewithal to keep up the pretence. So I started talking. And then I started blogging. And what happened then was quite amazing - the more I talked, the more other people talked back. They recognised what I was describing, and saw themselves in it. It gave them relief to know that they weren't alone in what they were felling, and it gave me huge encouragement to know that people could identify with my situation.
My hope for Please Talk is that this site, and this campaign, will allow others in the NUI community who may be struggling, to find their voice. Taking that first step, admitting there's a problem - it's not easy, and there's no point in pretending it is. I still, after all this time, really resent having to admit to not doing too well. But the alternative is so much harder. In being honest about what's going on for me, I'm allowing people to help. I'm also helping them to understand why my behaviour may seem off, or why I may seem more distant than usual. There's great relief in not having to hide any more, and not having to make excuses, because it eliminates the weight of expectation.
So where to next? Keep talking I guess! I hope that some of you reading this will feel able to share your own experience, because the more we talk, the more we realise that struggling with our mental health is as common as struggling with our physical health. We just don't like to talk about it. Someday, I hope that will change. I hope this campaign will help to bring about that change.