It may be the 21st century but saying you have mental health issues or suffer from depression is likely to get you the same reaction as having leprosy did back in the day. I kid you not. People don’t know how to handle it. Some will literally cross the street for fear it’s contagious. Covid, in any of its variants, wouldn’t hold a candle to it. Rest assured, that says more about them than it does about the one with the illness. High time the stigma around such issues is obliterated.
Now, without moaning and groaning about the dreaded lockdown – we all remember too well how bad it was – suffice to say I was alone for the duration. My youngest was in Dublin for college and my mental health suffered, severely. Throw two hips that needed removing and all surgeries cancelled because of covid into the mix and you get the general picture; in the midst of isolation and chronic pain, stinking thinking set in.
It’s easy when the form dips to begin to dwell on how life had kicked the hell out of your family over the past decades, and it’s rather hard to pull the big girl knickers up when you’re rotten with arthritis and can’t bend over. I did, eventually, and very reluctantly, go on a mild antidepressant, but you can’t talk to a tablet, and it doesn’t talk back. I promised myself if it, or anything else started to talk back in the house, I was out of here – end of – no debate. Oh – trust me, it really was becoming a hello wall situation, rapidly.
Faith would normally be my first port of call in any difficulty, but in this instance, for reasons I do not understand, I let it go a long time before I cried out for help. When I did it was rather intense and, I assure you, not pretty. I watch for signs when I ask for help and within two days, I spotted Vanessa had an article on Facebook about a five-day writing challenge starting that Friday.
I admit I was a big girl at the time – and I am ballsy – but it does take a bit of backbone to jump into a group of people you don’t know and I knew at some point I was going to have to share some writing, and having left school at 14 and being dyslexic into the bargain I was more than a tad nervous. However, I asked for help – this was in my face, so – I jumped. Best decision I ever made, period.
At the end of that amazing week there was the opportunity to join Writers Ink and seriously, that has that been the saving of me in every sense of the word.
Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t written my greatest tome, far from it, nor have I learned everything I need to know about writing – I don’t believe you every do – we learn all the time – but what I have done is find my tribe – my voice – and save my mental health in the process. And that, is priceless.
I couldn’t even imagine life now without the tribe in Writers Ink. I understand now that my writing and the group is my oxygen – what keeps me happy; my voice. Each and every person is a cog that keeps the wheel turning perfectly. Like a well-oiled machine. This happens only because at the helm are two phenomenal woman who lead with kindness, an open heart and go above and beyond the call of duty for the success of the whole. They have a vision, a passion and a willingness to help and they have no idea just how far-reaching their help goes; what a difference they have made in the lives of so many – how grateful we are. It’s so much more than a business – than a writing group – these two are reaching out and saving souls and they don’t even know it. They are powerful personified.
I wake every day now with a purpose – with a passion – a desire to bring words to the page and finish a book that came to me many years ago before cancer, Alzheimer’s, drownings, suicide and a few other life curveballs decided to come thundering at me.
And on the days that the body won’t let me get out of bed, I either read or take notes on pages on my phone or connect with what’s happening in the group; watch a live, which is a lovely connection, or go back over one of the endless author takeovers in the guides. Bottom line, you are never alone and your passion for writing is kept alive.
Vanessa and Maria have writers not just from all over Ireland but from all over the world. I am beyond proud to be one tiny part of the group. And, after two years of lockdown, we met for our first writers retreat in the fabulous Fitzpatrick’s hotel Killiney.
From the writing produced with Vanessa’s prompts at the Saturday workshop, to Maria’s amazing meditations, Diarmuid’s Jacket at the Gala Dinner – takes a man and then some to wear that jacket – to hearing the wonderful Nora declaring to everyone she’s a writer now, it was just precious. And writers travelled from Prague, Italy, Germany, England… thank goodness next year’s date is already set.
In closing – it takes time when life kicks you for decades, to find your footing, to begin anew, alone at 60 – to capture your voice again, embrace courage – to find your place in the world, but I have now. I owe a huge part of that to two phenomenal women, Vanessa & Maria, and the wonderful tribe in Writers Ink. So, from the depths of my heart, I thank each and every one of you for your role in saving, not just my writing, which is so important to me, but also, my mental health, which is everything.
With Love & a smile
(c) Ita Roche
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