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'I just didn't want to be in my world and I was so grateful for the option of going to St Pat's'

There is a good structure to the day in place and going there gave me reason to get out of bed every morning, writes Christina Broderick.

Christina Broderick Aware support group facilitator

UP TO THE age of 18, the toughest decision of my life was when I was in transition year in school. I had to decide between playing a school camogie or basketball match as I loved both sports and they clashed.

I don’t even remember now which one I chose but the significance is that I had no major worries in the early years of my life. My childhood and upbringing was great, I had what I needed and achieved what I wanted.

First signs

During college, while studying PE teaching at UL, I experienced the first sign of a mental health difficulty, although I didn’t realise what it was at the time. Following the episodes, I called what I went through ‘indecisive phases’.

I would go from being fully confident and assertive to having days of being unsure of myself, constantly questioning everything and withdrawing from life resulting in doing nothing and staying in bed a lot of the day.

Thankfully I had very supportive friends and family and they encouraged me to get the help I needed. Initially, I thought going to a counsellor would just fix me but I now realise the process of recovery is long and requires significant and constant work but it is very attainable.

Bipolar disorder

After a troubled but successful 4 years at UL, I began teaching in the UK but after a few months with fluctuating moods I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. I finished work there and came home where I could be in a safe and supportive environment.

In the years between now and then I’ve gone through a lot. I’ve worked a number of different jobs, travelled a bit, studied and been involved in sports and other activities. Although I haven’t always been able to reach my full potential, because of my illness, I’ve made the most of what I am able to do.

Every time I feel good for a while, I like to believe it will always be this way but inevitably my mood fluctuates significantly and I experience depression followed by elation or vice versa. I am good to take prescribed medication and go to necessary appointments including seeing a psychologist but I am by no means better.

It is about living well

Unlike physical illnesses, it’s hard to see whether someone with a mental health difficulty is better. For me it is about living well. Unfortunately I was not well during early October last year and I needed to get away. I just didn’t want to be in my world and I was so grateful for the option of going to St Pat’s, otherwise I’m not sure where I’d be today.

During my time in St Pat’s, my mood continued to fluctuate. However, my sleep did become more regulated, a big issue for me (and many people suffering from mental ill-health). The service there, although some things may be improved upon, is great and I’d consider it vital for many people not only in Dublin but all over Ireland.

It is a safe place with all the necessary facilities and amenities as well as a huge range of programmes and extra activities service users can avail of. There is a good structure to the day in place and going there gave me reason to get out of bed every morning.

Support groups

While studying a postgraduate diploma in UCC during 2014, I heard about Aware support groups for young adults that were taking place nearby. I attended these groups sporadically over a number of months and found them very useful. There were times I went when I was in great form and able to provide good feedback and support for my peers there.

On one occasion I remember I was so low that I reluctantly went but got upset easily and often during the meeting. I was very well supported and left the group feeling a little bit better and with a sense of achievement for having went and spoken.

At one of these group sessions I think I subconsciously decided I’d like to be a support group facilitator someday. Having a teaching background, I generally have good confidence speaking in front of people, I am organised and a good listener. Four years later, here I am, it’s been a journey but when I was in hospital at St Pat’s last year and heard the Aware lecture I seized the opportunity to speak to one of the Aware employees and get the ball rolling on becoming a volunteer.

Six months later, having competed the two weekends of training in Dublin and four observations of support groups I am a fully qualified facilitator and enjoying the experience and feel I am giving something back.

Optimistic

 

I am in good mental health at the moment thankfully and it’s allowing me to operate normally in all aspects of life and be fully functioning. I am aware that should my mental health decline any bit I may have to take a step back from aware for a few months or however long it takes for me to look after myself and recover. However I am optimistic that this won’t happen and that I will be able to be a facilitator for at least the next number of years.

My journey is far from over. At 30 years old, there’s a long way to go but just as I enjoy hearing about positive experiences, I want to share mine. I believe connectedness with one another is an integral part of world and indeed I believe it helps our mental health. All aspects of my life are going well at the moment including work, sport, health and friend and family relationships.

Long may it last. But in the meantime I will endeavour to look after myself both mentally and physically as best I can, as you should too.

Christina Broderick is 30 years old from Kinsale, Co Cork. She is a qualified PE and Chemistry teacher. Christina enjoys a wide variety of sports, socializing with friends and writing poetry. 

The Aware Young Adult Support & Self Care Groups (18-25 yo) take place on a weekly basis and are free to attend.

  • Dublin Young Adults’ Support & Self Care Group: 9 Upper Leeson Street, Dublin 4, every Thursday at 7.30pm
  • Cork Young Adults’ Support & Self Care Group: Inniscarraig Centre, Western Road, Cork every Wednesday at 8pm

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About the author:

Christina Broderick  / Aware support group facilitator

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