I needed to let go. I couldn’t let my feelings stay hidden any longer. I wanted to be free. I wanted to tell my raw story, and to let others know that when you feel the moment is right, use it. Use it and embrace it. Embrace what you feel and tell someone.
I didn’t tell just someone. I was standing in a room full of students, about to give a talk about my volunteering story, and how influential sport was in my journey. Yet, I felt I needed to do something. I needed to do something I’ve never done before.
For 12 years, I kept my suicidal thoughts to myself. Life got the best of me in my early teens. Life was too much. Too many death and illnesses, left me feeling isolated. I was in my own dark cave. I was in a cave with no entrance or exit, and the feelings of ending my life smothered my every day.
I didn’t go to school, I wouldn’t hang out with my friends, and I definitely didn’t share what was going on with my family. I was on my own. I didn’t want people to look down on me, so I kept things to myself.
The moments I were on my own were full of…”Is this the moment?” “Do I have enough time?” “How do I do it?” “Do I overdose?” “Do I grab a knife?” “What do I do?”
Nothing happened. Someone stopped me. He didn’t speak, just smiled. He smiled with love radiating from his paws, and he let me know he was there. The love he showed is the reason I’m still here.
I was never down when we was there. The hugs/cuddles he’d give me (yes, I taught his to cuddle!), a cheeky wink here and there, and just his presence alone made me feel better.
Flash, was my 13 year old Springer Spaniel. He passed away last year, after suffering a stroke, and the moment I said goodbye, I had to honour his life. I was with him the moment he died, and the heartbreak I felt, nothing has compared. Nothing has compared losing the one person who kept me alive, just by being there. By him being there, I felt loved. I felt I had a friend. He didn’t judge me, neither did he question.
Since then, I’ve never questioned my suicidal thoughts. I’ve just used them for greater good.
When I was standing in the room, ready to talk to Southampton Solent University students, my heart pounded. My heart pounded, a little bit of sweat appeared on my forehead, and I felt ready. In March of this year, when I was invited back to the university for a second year to share my story, I wanted to share the untold story. The story I felt needed to be told, as people I knew were suffering. People I knew confided in me with their worries, so I had to do the unthinkable. I had to share my mental health story.
I couldn’t let anyone else feel the way I felt. I couldn’t leave the lecture room, knowing I wasn’t completely honest. I needed to tell of the time I wanted to end everything, because I knew 1 person in the room would relate. I knew 1 person would relate in some way, and that gave me motivation.
I remember saying to all in the room, I didn’t know how I was going to react. I thought I’d cry. I didn’t, but others did. As words were said, tears appeared, and I felt relief. I felt relief the moment I shared my teenager years, as it was over. The worry, the judgement, the self-critic within was let free. The feelings I kept for 12 years were finally gone.
It was a life-changing moment for me. I had never considered sharing my mental story until then, and I’m proud I did. I’m now talking about that part of my story with every new person I meet. When someone asks about my life, suicide is a priority. It needs to be a priority. Not just with men, young people, but everyone. We need to feel comfortable sharing dark thoughts, as there’s a movement calling our name. There’s a stigma waiting to change, and it’s down to us to make the movement happen.
I didn’t just leave that day knowing someone was helped, I left knowing someone would hopefully feel more confident in sharing their story. I left there with the confidence to tell the world. I wrote a blog post that evening, told my family for the first time about my thoughts, and people reacted. People I know publicly shared their mental health stories for the first time online, to friends and with their families, and to me that was the icing on the cake.
When the time is right, don’t be afraid. Once you speak, know it was for you. The moment you understand how you want to tell it, who you want to tell it to, do it. The opportunity to open up is a choice we all have, and it’ll take time. It took me 12 years to share my story, but now I shared it, I’m now helping more people to share theirs.
Be part of the movement. Be confident in yourselves. Know that one word, one line, one chat, could not only help you, but also the person/s listening.
*This piece was written for World Mental Health day*