written by See Change Ambassador Lorraine Cooke
If you were to look at me in public now you would more than likely see a positive, bubbly, happy person. For the most part this is true. What would you say then if I said that one of the roles that I volunteer in is as a mental health ambassador with See Change
You see, if you were to take a closer look at me you may see that I cannot make eye contact with you despite having a sense that you are there but I cannot see you or anything else for that matter. There are times that this is easier to explain than other times and once you don’t assume that I am happy to be wrapped in cotton wool or to be talked about to your partner in front of me I am happy to confront the issue or tell you nicely that I would prefer not to talk about it at this time.
Are you OK?
I was fortunate that my family asked me the question; was I OK? When they seen me take my anxiety out on myself in the summer time of 2002, it was clear to them that I wasn’t, which is why I was taken to my GP and then referred to a counsellor for a number of sessions. I continued to see another counsellor when I moved back to Dublin a few years later until I felt that I had a handle of being able to put the coping tools into action.
There are still some days where I am not OK but when I am I have decided to link in with my community for opportunities that I can access that interest me in the areas of work and leisure. This is why I reacted to a tweet that was looking for mental health ambassadors to join See Change in February 2015. As I am also a voluntary disability rights activist, I have used my experience of becoming an ambassador with See Change to my advantage when sharing my story with the Irish Examiner and The Herald about seeking equality to employment – my story was published in these papers in October 2015 as they related to the budget.
Why do I do what I do?
The answers for me are straightforward as I have a strong support network of friends around me who I link in with regularly both via social media and in person through the different circles that I am in since I began living independently with the aid of a personal assistant and local taxi firms plus I wish to contribute equally to society in the way that my family and friends do.
What is the one message that I wish to leave you with?
My message is that it is honestly ok not to feel ok as there are people out there who do care, make contact to them through a helpline, your GP or by talking to a family member or friend.
Find out more about what See Change does and looking after your own mental health by visiting the See Change website seechange.ie