I got a nice surprise in the supermarket yesterday. This is not a sentence I have a chance to say very often.
I spotted the readers' edition of U (an Irish fortnightly magazine). I had submitted a short piece for their 'Favourite Things. . .' section, so I picked it up to see if they had used it.
They had :) I picked up a copy to go with my lunch and spent the rest of the day in a benign good mood. There is something very nice about seeing one's name in print.
Anyway, the item I chose to write about was a silver and garnet pendant I bought while I was interrailing in 2008. Other contributors chose sensible things like sunlight, being female. . . I wrote about jewellery. Of course. They're lucky I didn't write about chocolate.
But going on that trip was a major step in my ongoing journey through panic disorder. I promised myself that if I got through the trip without a panic attack, I'd buy myself something great in our last stop (which was Paris, so evidently finding something fabulous was going to be a dreadful trial. I mean, clearly. Guys, not only did I shop in Paris but I made my friend come with me. Luckily she still talks to me). This pendant was it. It isn't my normal style - or it wasn't, at the time - but I fell in love. It looked like something that a European princess would have owned - a Habsburg or a Wittelsbach or a Braganza. It looks like something that would be smuggled across borders under a corset, and sold to a shadowy gentleman to fund a revolution.
In other words, it had no business being owned by a temp from Dublin. With bitten nails.
I bought it anyway. It reminds me of how far I've come on my journey through panic, and it reminds me that I got here largely by taking risks, pushing myself outside my comfort zone and generally behaving like a normal person in the hope of becoming one.
I stepped outside my comfort zone with this piece too. I just told the readership of a national magazine about my mental health issue. It's firmly in the public domain now.
But I'm cool with that. There is still a stigma attached to mental health issues, especially in Ireland. And while I can't preume to comment much on lots of the more pressing mental health issues out there, but I can talk about my experience with panic. I can't offer any wisdom or any insight. But I can say what worked for me, what didn't, and perhaps most importantly, I can turn to another sufferer and say 'Me too.'
Might not be much help, but every step helps to de-stigmatise a little.