I abseiled off the Hogan Stand to raise funds and awareness for mental health
"I hope you're not afraid of heights."
I heard that a lot in the run-up to my abseil last week. For the last three years, mental health charity Jigsaw has run an annual abseil in Croke Park to raise awareness and funds for mental health services and this year I decided to take part.
May is mental health awareness month and because of that, I decided to dedicate at least one of my articles a week to help give charities and individuals working in mental health a platform to speak about their cause. While this was a part of the reason I decided to take part in the abseil last week, I also had another very personal reason.
Jigsaw held their first abseil three years ago in May. That same May I lost someone close to me to suicide.
I woke up three years ago to a message telling me that someone I'd always considered an aunt and one of my biggest role models had taken her life. It was a complete shock.
She was always so kind and considerate of others, always the first to check if someone was ok or if they needed anything. I can't remember a time I spent with her that she wasn't laughing and smiling. She was also a writer and the first person to encourage me to write as a career.
After losing Jen, I kept thinking was there more that I could have done? Should I have messaged her more? Checked in to see if she was ok? There were so many questions, the biggest one being 'how did I not see this coming'?
We always think that there will be big signs, something that will set alarm bells ringing, but that's not the case. A lot of the time those struggling with their mental health will mask it with smiles and pretend that everything is ok. They feel like that speaking about their problems would be a burden on others.
Just before my abseil one of the event organisers from Jigsaw said that when young people approach their offices they do so with apprehension. That for them it's like standing on the edge looking down at a sheer drop and that was the inspiration for the abseil. That we would get to experience just how anxious young people seeking help feel and how brave they are to take that step.
I thought I would have been a lot more nervous than I actually was. I was more anxious about missing my bus to Croke Park than the actual abseil come the day. Sometimes the adrenaline just overpowers the nerves and you just do it. I was also decked out in my Crystal Maze finest jacket so I'm pretty sure that helped.
I won't pretend that I was in any way graceful as you will see in the video below. Before I got anywhere near the jumping off point I managed to drop one of my gloves over the side of the stand. It was retrieved but the glove dram didn't end there. The whole abseil down they kept slipping off my hands and at one point the instructor stopped my rope so I could readjust them. As you can tell I'm an abseiling pro.
I have to admit, aside from deciding that I was no longer friends with my gloves it was an amazing experience. The view when you're up on the rope is spectacular and as a Dubliner thoroughly appreciated.
It was over and done within less than five minutes and while I wasn't shaking in my boots doing it I did have a big case of jelly legs when I landed. Adrenaline had obviously worn off.
It was also fantastic to meet so many of the other volunteers and hear all their different reasons for wanting to take part. The team overlooking everything were also brilliant at getting everyone excited and calming nerves and decked us all out with our very own orange capes so we could be heroes for the day. We were also given a free cup each which has now become my favourite cup to have tea in.
While I wish that I could turn back time and tell Jen just how much she was loved and wanted, I can't, but I can try and help mental health charities fund their vital services to make sure other people know that they are very much wanted.
Having dealt with mental health issues myself even on my worse days I try to remind myself that it will pass and recite my mantra 'it's just a bad day, not a bad life.'
I would highly recommend the Jigsaw abseil to anyone considering taking part and I'm already making preparations for next year's abseil. By that, I mean stocking up on sellotape to make sure my gloves stay on this time.
If you're interested in taking part in the Jigsaw abseil in 2020 or you would like to make a donation you can by visiting their website www.jigsaw.ie.