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Embrace Your Madness!

In Istanbul in November of 2005, I had one of those rare ‘aha’ moments. One of those moments where I saw myself as others might see me, and realised why even those who like me refer to me as ‘mad’. Personally, I prefer the term ‘eccentric’ – but we all mean the same thing; that I do tend to march to the beat of my own drum.

So there I was, in Istanbul, with an 18 month old and a three-and-a-half year old. We’d just deplaned from Prague, and were in a taxi.

My Turkish is non-existent and the taxi-driver had just a smattering of English, so communication was minimal. I gave him the name, address and telephone number of our hotel – having typed it out before we left home. Our driver nodded.

‘I know,’ he said, with sage reserve.

Entrusting my safety, and that of my precious children, to him, I settled back to get my first glimpses of Constantinople.

In hindsight, I realise I should have asked him what, exactly, it was he ‘knew’. Was it the address he recognised? Did he know the hotel? Or was he just confirming that he knew how to read English?

On the outskirts of the city proper, with one hand on the wheel, the driver pulled out his mobile phone. He glanced at the piece of paper I had given him and punched some digits on the keypad. A quick conversation took place in Turkish before he looked at me over his shoulder.

‘I know, I know,’ he reassured me brightly and set off with increased confidence.

About fifteen minutes later my ‘aha’ moment dawned on me:

It was just after midnight, and I was going the wrong way up a one-way street, in a city I’d never visited before, with my children in the back of a taxi, with whose driver I could not communicate; I had a booking in a hotel neither he nor I knew the location of, and my ‘guidebook’ was two pages torn from a month old copy of the Sunday paper. Nobody knew where I was, and my mobile phone didn’t work in Turkey.

Still, something inside me knew it would all work out – and it did. Within another five minutes, we had reached our destination.

My girls and I had a wonderful five days in Beautiful Byzantium. Flying out of the city at six on the morning of our departure, I realised how grateful I was for my ‘madness’. I finally understood what Shakespeare meant when he wrote ‘To thine ownself be true’: That it is important to march to the beat of your own drum, no matter how out of synch with the rest of the world that beat might be.

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Mind Yourself

My girls were three minutes late for school this morning. It was my fault entirely;  I had them out late last night – at  The Sugar Club, a nightclub in Dublin. Even though it was a school night, I made the decision to bring them because I thought the event was important enough for my duaghters to witness it first-hand. The event in question was the launch of See Change‘s Make A Ripple campaign.

Make A Ripple is the joint effort of 45 individual bodies concerned with mental health. The aim of the campaign is to raise awareness about mental health, mental ill-health and to remove the stigma associated with mental health difficulties. Two very brave women – Barbara Brennan and Caroline McGuigan –  spoke about their own experiences with mental health problems and their brushes with suicide.

Mental health is as much a part of who people are as their physical health – in fact, the two are inextricably linked. I felt it was important for my children – aged 7 and 9 – to be at an event where mental health and difficulties with mental health were spoken about openly and without shame. At their ages, I wanted my children to be aware of that. I wanted them to know that if they ever had a difficulty that they could speak about it – and that by keeping it to themselves they would be making it worse.

We spoke about mental health on the drive home. My girls understood what Barbara and Caroline  had meant when they spoke about their difficulties. They understood that it  was important to talk about pain and difficulty – whether that pain was physical, mental, emotional or spiritual.

Coming away from the launch last night, I had a very strong feeling that mental health awareness needs to be taught in primary schools across Ireland. If we are going to remove the stigma associated with mental (ill)health and see a decrease in the number of suicides and attempted-suicides in this country, then we need to start with children as young as five and six.  Those children are our future, we need to make sure theirs is a bright one.

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