This year, Investigo are proud to be supporting a small charity called Centre for Mental Health. We are raising money to fund a research project, which we hope will help make progress in achieving a zero-suicide rate within the UK.
With this in mind, and as someone who has gone through a significant life-changing event and the personal pain associated with that, I’ve decided to write a blog about my experiences to help raise awareness and share the support streams that I received.
15 years ago, whilst attending the University of Portsmouth, I received a call from my Dad which I will never forget.
My mum had been killed in a car accident and had died at the scene.
I was very close to my mum and as the third son of seven children, she was very much a central pillar to our family. It goes without saying that the loss was unfathomable to my entire family, not least my youngest sister, who was five at the time.
Like many parents, Mum had done an enormous amount for me in my life and particularly my formative years. This included searching high and low to choose schools that she felt suited me, transporting me around the UK to rugby games, but most importantly nurturing, supporting and giving me the courage to develop from a shy and introverted child to a young and confident adult.
Like many others who have had similar upbringings, I came from a family where you were encouraged to go to school despite feeling like you were on deaths’ door with a cold. I also played Rugby, where you were taught not to complain. Despite this, I will be the first to admit this hit me like a train - I cried my eyes out for hours. I simply couldn’t comprehend what I had been told or get to a stage where there was any light at the end of the tunnel.
I would say that there were two parts to my grief; firstly, the initial shock, anger, and the constant questioning “why?”. Mum had driven on that road about 1,000 times and I was trying to work out in my head how this could have happened to her.
The second part was the funeral, I look back at this now and it feels like it was the full stop. This wasn’t a nightmare, mum wasn’t going to re-appear, this was now reality.
There are several reasons that helped me get through the pain, despite there being many times when I had terrible thoughts: If she is gone, then why is life worth living? I was unable to sleep and would wake in the night, not knowing how I could continue, and knowing that life would never be the same again. Whilst it would never be the same again, there are many people who got me through these dark times and ultimately are the reason I’m here to tell the tale.
My biggest recommendation to anyone who is unfortunate enough to undergo something painful like this, or who may suffer from a mental illness of any kind, is to TALK. For me it is was incredibly hard, I felt both unable to talk, and had no desire to do so, but believe me it is essential. Letting things stay in your head is not the right approach for anyone who is struggling
I know a lot of people find it hard to get in a position where they feel comfortable talking about personal matters or even having the courage to open up to someone. I understand that if you feel you are incapable of thinking ‘normally’, then your natural instinct is to feel like you may be burdening someone. I also felt and that I should be able to sort this out myself but I can’t emphasise enough how important it was for me to overcome this through talking to my support network.
In that regard, I was lucky. I had some fantastic support. My family was instrumental in giving me the time to talk through our shared pain together. Similarly, my close friends went out of their way to give up time and listen to my ramblings. I remember vividly a time when I felt I desperately needed to talk to someone, as I was struggling with a bad moment of reflection. I contacted a friend late at night and he encouraged me to go over to his house where I spoke to him for several hours. At times, I’m not sure I made any sense, but I needed to get everything that was in my head out into the open. I felt a lot better for doing it and it is times like this that you really value your friends.
I work in the sales industry and as such the industry attracts extroverts. It is often believed in this industry that you shouldn’t show emotions that may be perceived as a weakness, however we are all human and in this age we shouldn’t be ashamed of how we feel or be scared of a situation we may have got in to. Everyone in this world should feel confident enough to talk about issues without people questioning their motivations or judging them for it.
Talking doesn’t necessarily need to be with someone that you know. Some people prefer talking to someone they don’t, or perhaps don’t have a network they can call upon. If this is the case, there is still support available to you. Look into what your workplace has on offer, many businesses these days will have an Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), which provides confidential assistance in dealing with personal concerns that may affect your work or home life. If not, then there is an array of fantastic charities – both national and local, who offer helplines and counselling services for free.
I wanted to write this blog to raise awareness for mental health as it is such an important topic, and one that touches so many people often much more than me. If writing about my experience can help just one person to see the light, or encourage someone to go and get the support they need, it will all be worthwhile.
I for one will offer my time, in abundance and offer support to friends, family or complete strangers when they say let’s catch up. They might want to catch up over a coffee or a drink but you never know the real reason behind what they want to talk about until you meet them. In the world of social media these days, you often feel like you are talking to people all the time but there is simply no substitute for actually talking to someone in person.
I don’t want people to read this and feel sorry for me, I would like people to read this and ensure that they recognize that what is going on externally is not always what is going on inside. Whether this is family, friend, colleague or stranger, I encourage you to just make the effort to stop, sit down and speak to someone.