Next week is Mental Health Awareness Week. A little while ago this would barely have registered with me if I'm honest. If asked then I would have agreed that mental health was something that should be discussed openly, not kept hidden and seen as something shameful. Indeed I've tried to reassure online friends suffering with depression that they're not weak, bad parents or failures and have no more reason to feel guilty than somebody afflicted with cancer.
However, it wasn't something I thought affected me directly, and so I may have retweeted a link but doubt I'd have spared long thinking about what mental health actually means and how all of us need to look after our mental health and wellbeing.
Now though it's something I think about often. Simon never told me he was depressed and that probably makes me sadder than anything. I question why he never felt he could share that with me. Was he ashamed? Was I not approachable? He was a drug addict with a prison record and I'm a married mother of three daughters. Did he feel that in comparison to my socially acceptable lifestyle he was a failure and so I wouldn't want to know?
Last weekend was a difficult one for me. It started well, I went to see my middle daughter sing at the Albert Hall with her school choir and spent the day in London with my dad, step-mother, brother and his girlfriend. It was a really good day so I'm not sure why that night I had a vivid nightmare about my father being diagnosed with a terminal illness. And I'm not sure why that meant I was about as low as I have been for a long time for the next few days. For some reason thinking of Dad's mortality was enough to push me back down into that abyss of grief and for a while there it was really hard again. I retreated into myself and cried tears for myself, for Simon and for my family.
The cloud passed though and I could breathe again. It was a reminder that grieving isn't a linear process and the lows can strike without warning. I sometimes wonder if I should seek some sort of counselling? Is dealing with the unexpected suicide of a loved one something you can deal with on your own? I think I'm mostly doing ok but it's something I've become open to. If the lows become more frequent and last longer then I think it's something I would seriously consider.
Simon never spoke of his mental health issues until it was too late and then we only found out through his suicide note. I wish I could have told him that he had nothing to be ashamed of and nothing to fear from telling me. I would always have been there for him. I wasn't able to do that but perhaps this blog will just help raise awareness of how important it is that mental health is discussed openly.
More about Mental Health Awareness Week can be found here; http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/our-work/mentalhealthawarenessweek/get-involved/ This year the theme is the importance of physical activity and how it can enhance our quality of life.