See Change Ambassadors Sandra Dillon, Rick Rossiter, Abigail McDonnell, Miriam Dowling and Jen Ronan at the launch of Green Ribbon 2018 in the Mansion House, Dublin

This May is Green Ribbon month, a time when we here at See Change encourage everyone to start conversations about mental health in order to reduce stigma. A large part of our work would be impossible without the insight and expertise of our 60 ambassadors who share their stories of lived experience throughout the year to try create conversation around mental health. One such ambassador is Miriam Dowling and this is her ambassador story…

Living with a mental health difficulty is tough, dealing with the stigma of it is tougher.

After a four years of severe panic attacks, I had a breakdown in 2003.  I completely shut myself off from the world, I didn’t talk much, I never went anywhere alone and avoided all manner of social situations, from the hairdressers to family gatherings.  With little support I deteriorated to a very low point, considering suicide on a number of occasions.

I wasn’t able work for a number of years, but gradually, slowly, I got myself back on my feet. I was once deemed unfit to work for the rest of my life.  I decided that wasn’t the life I wanted for myself, so I set about changing it.  I went to college and after my degree I started the job search.  I was open about why I had not been working, it was a large gap in my CV to cover up, but I felt I demonstrated resilience and strength, and highlighted what I had learnt from my experience.  Despite this, I couldn’t get a job.  While I feel I was discriminated against because of my mental health, I have no way to prove it.  When asked why I wasn’t selected, all I was told was that they found a more suitable candidate, maybe they did, I’ll never know.

Life went on, my mental health continued to improve, I had a baby in 2014 and that triggers my mental health difficulties again.  However, this time was different.  I knew what was happening, I knew what to do.  So while it was tough and continues to be, I’m the one in charge, not the fear, not the anxiety, me.

Today, I have my own business, my baby is now 4 years old and I went back to college to do an MBA.  I still attend a psychiatrist and take medication, I still have to watch out for triggers.  I have some really tough days and I have some brilliant days, but that’s the nature of life, it’s ups and downs for everyone.

My mental health is an integral part of who I am, it shaped my life and lead my down a path I never expected, but I am more than a label and hospital appointments.  I am a strong survivor, who didn’t give up.  I am me.

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