It’s ok not to be ok

Fresh out of hospital after another major operation. Pedro was so beautiful that day. So gentle and loving. I think he missed me. Recovering from a double whammy with both my right breast mastectomy and my leg being used for the reconstruction. A good ten hour operation. I look at this image and I feel such mixture of emotions.

I am so proud of that person in the photo. She was a trooper. So brave and courageous taking it all in her stride. The mulitiple phone calls, meetings, consultations, procedures, needles, traveling to hospital, physio, recuperation, weeks of recovery that had to be endured. It can be easily forgotten or become a distant memory. Except it’s there. I remember everything. Every little detail.

Little did I know that being so strong could only last so long. Deep down I was petrified. Scared. Traumatised.

I soldiered on and used adventure, challenges, fundraising, family, friends and my dogs as therapy. What I didn’t do was get help to deal with the catastrophic impact of that recurrence. I didn’t address the trauma and I didn’t address the unbelievable grief that came with it. I thought I had but all I did was I suppress it because all I wanted to be was ‘me’ again. I wanted to focus on living. In the moment and the future.

I realise now, after seeing certain things in my life snowball that I should have got help sooner. The trauma and the grief is suffocating. Trying to carry on with everything in life like all is alright has been draining and exhausting. My mental health took a real battering the day I was re-diagnosed and typical me I dealt with it with positivity and hope.

Looking back I felt like I was in a nightmare. I floated through all the treatment. Yet the warning signs were there. I was not the same. The recurrence changed me forever. I knew that I was not going to be able to have children as a result. The most horrendous and agonising pain that I have to carry with me every single day. My dreams and hopes of a family I’d longed for ripped away. The changes to my body. The flashbacks to hearing that news. Crying as I fell to sleep from the anaesthetic. Seeing my leg after the operation was horrific. The vertigo. The panic attacks. The anxiety. The overwhelming emotions. Yet at that moment I didn’t think I needed help. Right through to recently. I just cracked on with life.

Fast forward to now and I’m shattered. Totally and utterly exhausted from it all. The knock on affects to life can be so detrimental if you don’t face the fact you need help. Or, in my case, not realising that I even needed help. I have survivors guilt. Now I am now getting help. Lots of it from different sources. I’ve stopped drinking alcohol. I’m taking anti depressents. I’m on supplements to help with low blood counts on a couple of things which has drained me. I’ve got some sessions booked with a psychotherapist too. As soon as I have more energy I will be cycling and running again as that it such a crucial part of my recovery.

Why am I telling you all this? Because there is still such a taboo around mental health. We hide it like it shouldn’t be talked about. We are afraid what people will think. With our family, friends, colleagues. We don’t want to let people down. I hate letting people down. We don’t want to be judged. We think people might think we’re weak
We talk about our physical health but rarely our mental health. Yet facing up to these things and talking openly is one of the most powerful things we can do. It makes us strong.

We need to talk about our trauma and grief. It is part of our makeup. It doesn’t need to define us but it is part of us. Self-compassion and self-love is pivotal to recovery and our wellbeing. Wanting to get better. Addressing the need for help is crucial. Being open and honest to those you care about can be liberating. I am proud to talk about it. I’m not ashamed.

Six years ago I sat on that sofa. Couldn’t use or lift my arm. Couldn’t hardly walk. Hours, days, months of getting stronger and fitter. I am drawing on the strength that I had back then. That inner-strength and lust for life is very much there still. I hope that if any of you are suffering, finding life hard or things are just too much, that you feel you can talk to someone. Seek advice, support and love from as many people as you can. I am very fortunate in that I am surrounded by the most beautiful people. In my private life and at work. Who have helped immensely without even realising it.

Do speak up. Recognise the signs that things aren’t OK. Trust your instincts. Believe in you. Don’t suffer in silence. You will be ok. You are loved. You are enough.

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