How are you? Is there anything you would like to say? I will listen. So many people will listen. It doesn’t matter if it seems minor or silly. You can say it to me. You can say it to your friends, to your family or, if it helps, to a complete stranger.
I talked last week. I did something which terrified me. I stood up in front of a room full of people and talked about the toughest and most emotional part of my life so far. The reason I put myself there is because I want you to talk.
I was speaking at the ManMade conference. A conference which bought together people from many areas who all had one thing in common; they were passionate about mental health. They are passionate about survival and giving men a chance to survive times in their life when they feel suicidal.
If you have ever read any of my blog posts before you will know that I have lost someone I loved to suicide. However, I was still unsure whether I was qualified to speak at this conference. I had experienced suicide loss but could I really make a difference to other people?
I had known would be speaking at ManMade for many months but managed to keep putting off writing my talk. It is how I have always been. If something stresses me e.g. studying for exams, I will ignore it until the last possible minute before finally panicking and getting my head down.
I knew that in order to write about all I had been through after February 4th 2014 I would have to re-visit a lot of pain. I would have to re-read things which I had written and then never read back. Each time I blogged for the first few months after Bob died I would blurt out all that was in my head and heart, publish and walk away. I would reply to comments on my blog and interact with those who reacted to it but I rarely went back to it myself. Those were my raw emotions in print – I had expelled them from me, why would I want to look back at them?
Eventually, two weeks before ManMade (yes, I’m sorry Terry, I left it that late), I started to read and write. Even then it was just two days before the conference when I actually wrote the bulk of my talk. One day before I re-wrote it and on the day I wrote it once more.
Re-reading the blog bought about all the anxiety I thought it would, as well as a massive cringe fest at some of the spelling mistakes which had gone unedited. My fear of loss and lack of control came to the fore. With Jamie working away all week he had to field tearful phone calls in which I expressed my fear of him dying. The idea of having to cope with such deep grief a second time felt totally overwhelming.
On the actual day of the conference, my stress levels dropped. I was still nervous but, as the day went on, I listened to so many amazing people telling their stories that I couldn’t help but start to feel enthused by what the day was achieving.
My fellow speakers all had their own tales to tell. They were people who had been on the brink of suicide, people who campaigned to change the way mental health is handled by the police and parliament, people who dedicated their lives, one way or another, to reducing suicide. But most of all they were people who talked. And finally I could see where I fitted in.
I stood up and told my story. A story of how suicide grief affects your life. A story of how I have used sport, social media and an absorption of others love and positivity. For twenty minutes stood and did what I had always done in my blog; I blurted out all the pain, the progress and even the laughs I have had along my journey. My talk became a part of the journey. It was a whole new stage.
I am so glad I did it. I am so glad I met all the people I met that day. As soon as I sat down people started to come to me. One lady told me that she had gone through the same thing 25 years before and many others came to tell me fragments of their stories. People talked.
I particularly enjoyed talking to others who use sport and exercise to help others deal with various issues in their life. Having heard me speak about the ultra run which I am running soon (in just 11 days time to be precise, eek!), one lady, Lisa Thompson, came to tell me about her 100 mile ultra and also about the running group which she started up for women who had been victims of abuse or sexual violence. She explained that it helps the women to build up their confidence both physically and mentally.
I was also interested to meet a gentleman who has very recently started a charity which seeks to help people living with depression by teaching a triangle of healthy living through sleep, exercise and healthy eating/drinking. The Mindset Triangle is born from its founder, Stu’s, own experiences of living with depression. Having spoken to Stu I am hoping to spend more time learning about this new charity.
ManMade has bought about many great connections for my self and others. It does not stop there. People are still dying of suicide at an alarming rate in the UK. We need to talk about it.
Talk to me. Talk to anyone. Let’s talk.
If you want to discover more about the other people who stood up and told their stories at the conference please do follow these links (believe me, they are fascinating people!): Terry Rigby, Jonny Benjamin, Chief Inspector Sean Russell, Jamie Harrington, Pete Trainor, Rohan Kallicharan and Hector’s House Charity.
I now mainly write on my new blog; An Adventurous Girl. I would love it if you would join me there by clicking here.