Today is R U OK? Day. This isn't an easy post for me to write. It may not be an easy one for you to read either. Here goes.
"R U OK?Day is a national day of action dedicated to inspiring all Australians to ask family, friends and colleagues, ‘Are you ok?’ By regularly reaching out to one another and having open and honest conversations, we can all help build a more connected community and reduce our country’s high suicide rate.
R U OK?Day is on the second Thursday of September (13 September 2012).
More than 2,200 Australians suicide each year and men are around 3 times more likely to die by suicide than females (ABS 2012). For each person that takes their life, another 30 people attempt to end their own life (SANE Australia).
Most people don't openly share their feelings, particularly if they're struggling. The best thing we can all do is regularly talk to the people we care about - regardless of whether they are at risk - because connection is good for us all.
In the time it takes to have your coffee, you can start a conversation that could change a life."
(From the R U OK? Day website)
(From the R U OK? Day website)
I've always maintained that despite my Ichthyosis and the difficult social and medical challenges it brings, I am ok. Mentally ok I mean. Not depressed. Happy, coping and positive.
And I am. I've been ok for a long time now. But there was a short time in my life when I wasn't ok. When I was nine years old. And this isn't ok.
While in New York, my Mum and I met an online friend, DeDe, in person. DeDe's son has Ichthyosis too (she blogs), and we met online because she found my blog. When we met in person, we talked about a lot, especially reassuring her that her son will be ok. Like me. He will have a great life. It will be tough but Ichthyosis can be a blessing.
Mum talked to DeDe about some of the tough times for her and Dad, and how they overcame them. Some of the difficult times were when I was a baby and very sick in hospital, and also when kids teased me at school. Mum told us that while Dad would pick me up from the family I stayed with after school and I would bottle things up until she got home. She brought up the time when I was nine years old and I told her I wanted to kill myself. She told us that one night after she got home from work, she gave me a bath and combed my scalp, and I said I don't want to live anymore. I could not handle the teasing and the exclusion and being so different from the kids I went to school with. I wanted to spend more time in hospital rather than at school because people understood me there, and didn't see me as being so different.
Mum spoke of how she was in a panic and immediately called the paediatrician who referred me to a child psychologist. I saw the psychologist a number of times with my parents and alone. After the sessions I was more confident in myself and wanted to live.
I told Mum I don't remember that time. I have a good memory, but I don't remember the time I wanted to kill myself. I don't remember my parents' concern or the sessions at the psychologist. I don't even know if I realised what suicide meant when I was nine. As Mum told the story to us, I wiped tears from my eyes. No one - certainly no child - should be driven to the point where they want to end their life.
I am so very lucky my parents sought help for me so soon. And that the psychologist was able to help me. I am so glad I am here.
When I was at BlogHer I went to an open mic party. Bloggers' names were pulled from a bowl and they stood before the audience reading their blog posts. Julia Roberts, who blogs at Kidneys and Eyes read out a post about her young son being suicidal. It wasn't easy to listen to, but god it was powerful. You can read that blog post here. Her son is doing ok now, thanks to receiving the support he needed.
Although I experienced these feelings as a child, I am not sure what it took to help me come from that dark place. I don't remember the words that were said to make me realise I was worthy. But I knew my parents loved me and wanted to see me live.
It is heartbreaking to see reports of children and teenagers taking their own lives, because they were having a difficult time at home or at school, and felt there was no one to reach out to. There is always someone to listen and help us through our problems.
Being a child who is physically different from your peers is hard - other children are cruel. It is isolating and lonely. But I want people to know that it is ok to be different. You are special and have something unique to offer, and as you get older and move to further study and to work, your life won't be like it is at school. In the meantime, there are people to speak to if you're having a difficult time: your parents, siblings, a trusted teacher or the school counsellor, a friend or a doctor, or contact one of the helplines below. The R U OK? Day website has some resources for schools, too.
Please, today, and everyday, ask someone, R U OK?
Australian national helplines and information: