You never expect that someone you love could be struggling alone with their mental health. And you can never predict that one day, you’ll wake up, and your loved one will be gone.
January 29th 2014, was the last time I saw my father. He said to me “turn down your music, I’ve got an important day tomorrow”. I didn’t think much of it at the time, so I did what he asked and I went to bed. I was awoken in the morning by my frantic mother who told me that my father had tried to end his life last month and she was worried he was trying to again. It didn’t register at first, I loved my father so much - how could he be missing? It just didn’t make sense. Soon after, I got this image of my father ending his life… I knew then that it was too late but I did what I could to hold on and hope.
Today I’ve found peace with my father’s death, and I can now live a life that’s relatively comfortable. Sometimes I even feel happy, although not having my father around to share my joy can make me sad from time-to-time. I can’t help but ask myself questions: What if my dad had tried to talk to me? What If I’d talked to him? If we’d had an open conversation with each other? Or if he’d just spoken to someone? Would he still be here?
These days, we’re all so busy that we forget to check-in on our loved ones. I suppose we live in a bubble expecting no harm to come their way, just expecting them to always be there… The sad reality is that suicide can affect anyone; and anyone can fall victim to mental health.
I do a lot to raise awareness around mental health on Twitter and also through my writing. I want to get people talking about mental health and by doing so, encourage those with suicidal thoughts to confide in someone. That's why I always keep my messages open as I never want someone to feel alone.
I’ve learnt that it’s impossible to change the past. I can’t bring my father back and it doesn’t help me to dwell on it. However, that’s not to say that I can’t use my experiences to speak out and hopefully prevent future suicide victims. I find that helping others to talk is therapeutic for me, and doubly rewarding.
My biggest goal has always been to help people speak up about their mental health. In the past, I’ve struggled to talk to people about my feelings. In fact, I’d become so angry and confused with my emotions that it made me ill, and I abused substances and self-harmed to deal with how overwhelmed I felt. At one point, I even tried to end my life (something my father never knew). But I didn’t have to go through all that pain alone. And I didn’t have to damage my body… It might not seem like it, but there’s always someone out there who will listen and help you through the tough times.
Following my father’s death, a vital part of my recovery from the grief i felt I found through opening up. I now allow myself to be honest - because frankly there’s no need to be ashamed. I am who I am and it’s pretty amazing that I am still standing strong. This is the message I try to send to others who are suffering the same. Just waking up in the morning is an amazing thing - and we should always to remember that.
When I spoke to a therapist in the midst of a crisis, she told me that all this physical pain and my heavy emotions are just a natural response to what I have been through. I found this realisation calming and it made me think, did my father ever get told this? Sadly, we both shared troubled childhoods and yet we both kept it quiet and suffered alone. The difference being that I was able to talk about it, and I’m not sure he ever did.
On that same day, another therapist told me, “We all have mental health, we just deal with it differently”- and that makes so much sense to me. We’re all honest about having a cold or a broken leg, so why wouldn’t we speak up when our mind is hurting? The truth is, no one is a problem, and likewise no thought is invalid. We just process our lives in different ways and we need to be able to talk about it. In fact, feeling all these emotions is at the very foundation of what it means to be human.
I’m still standing here because I was able to find the help I needed when I wanted to end my life. I here writing this post, and living a life better than I could have imagined. Of course, talking won’t solve all of your problems… Mental health is more complicated than that. But it will relieve some of the pressure and stress, and even releasing tears can leave you feeling a stone lighter.
I can’t express how much stronger I feel for just talking about what goes in on my head. It wasn’t easy - it never is easy - but I just took it very slowly, and the more people I spoke to, the more easily these feelings flowed out. Now I write and talk about mental health almost daily and it’s like a tap that won’t stop leaking, in the best possible way.
If you think about a balloon, a bit of pressure will allow the balloon to grow but too much and it will pop, just like humans. Yet if you take it slow and let a little air out, you end up with a balloon that always puts a smile on everyone’s face.
Charlotte is a growing mental health advocate on Twitter. Charlotte blogs and writes often to try to raise awareness of mental health and suicide. Her sole goal is to end the stigma and to give hope to those in need. You can learn more about Charlotte's story on her blog and by following her on Twitter.
If you're struggling to come to terms with the loss of a loved one, connecting with a good therapist can provide support, insight and tools to help you work through the grieving process and live a meaningful, happy life again. Speak to one of our team to get help to find a therapist today.