This week, on the 9th of September, is RU OK? day.
This question and the conversation around this could change a life.
We’re sharing a small part of what is our deeply personal story around the question RU OK?
As a family, we’ve had many conversations about whether to share this or not. I have personally felt enormous angst about sharing something so personal and wanting to protect my family fiercely. It was Ava who had the final word. We hope that maybe in us sharing a part of ourselves and a part of our story; it may help someone else.
Someone who might need help right now.
We hope to help de-stigmatise experiences and conversations about mental health.
We know that conversations can change lives.
It was our Ava who had the final word.
What follows is a part of our story which we have decided to share…
We have agreed that I will write what I can from my perspective, which I will share here at the end of this post.
Ava’s preference is to talk instead. Just her and me via a video recording that we share also.
We understand that this will be the first time many people outside of our family will hear of Ava’s and our family’s struggles.
As Ava says in her interview, it’s not an easy thing to just drop into a text or easily converse about when things are so raw. Lockdowns make it a lonely journey too. But there are little moments of joy as Ava will also share.
Knowing that people care. That people are there.
This question might mean the difference of someone hanging on rather than slipping into crisis. You might help save a life.
To our Ava who is fighting such a battle, and to Grace and Ettie – thank you for having the determination and courage to share our story when we, as a family, are all feeling anything but courageous.
To our community – thank you for continuing to be here with us.
Thank you for continuing to be a part of the Relish Mama community and family.
Trigger warning, the following content includes discussion around topics such as depression and self-harm behaviour. We encourage you to care for your safety and wellbeing and have provided links to organisations you can reach out to if you need help.
I will also warn you that if you are here for the recipes, they are not here but they will be back soon.
Nearly five months ago, our darling Ava was diagnosed with severe clinical depression. As it turns out, she had worn her ‘mask’ for a lot longer than that.
I won’t pretend that these past months have not been the most heartbreaking of our lives. They have.
And we certainly didn’t know that last year seemed to be just the warm-up for what was on the path ahead.
As already mentioned, we talked long and hard about whether to share this. Every part of me wants to protect her, but despite experiencing very low days these past few, Ava is 100% certain of sharing her struggles in the hope that she may help another if she can.
I admire that so much. I think she is one of the bravest souls that I know.
I don’t have the words or the energy just yet to share our full story. We’re very much still in the thick of it. For now, it’s one day at a time. Trying to be as gentle as we can with ourselves and help Ava to do the same.
Ava had been retreating for some time. Withdrawing from family time and conversations. Initially, I thought it was the big leap into Year 11 and doing a year 12 subject, and I know that a part of it was that. But it was also her way of hiding. Popping her mask on when she had to and then retreating. Throwing herself back into study and the solitude of her room. Lockdowns didn’t help.
We’ve always been incredibly affectionate and open with one another and as a family. But now, the cuddles were becoming fewer and the conversations shorter. I did suspect depression. I won’t hide that I haven’t been there myself.
On one of the few days that our kids were actually able to attend school this year around lockdowns, I was at home, trying to work, but I couldn’t stop thinking about Ava. I then had a very sudden and urgent need to collect her.
I messaged her at school and asked her if I could come & collect her early and that I wanted to take her for a hot drink. Not something a parent usually interrupts their child’s school day for but with no questions asked, ‘Yes, please’, she replied almost immediately.
I called a cafe near the school and asked them to, please have 2 hot drinks and a muffin on the ready & that I was coming by in 10 minutes. This conversation was not one to be had inside a cafe. I knew that I was about to ask my child to take her mask off. That it was safe and okay to do so. There were to be no distractions. No waiter interruptions. Just her and I and the space to talk and be safe with one another.
We found a park bench that could be just ours. Ava was not asking any questions about why and what was this all about. She sipped on her drink, facing the water, and I popped my arm around her and slid her in close.
Ava, I asked. “Are you okay, darling”?
Ava is quite a bit taller now. But she was slumped down and had to twist around and look up to see my face. Tears welled up in her eyes. She didn’t answer straight away. It was a heartbreaking few moments as I waited and then she lay her head on my lap and out came the words “No Mum. I’m really not”.
We sat together for a very long time. Talking and crying. Clear snot pouring out of our noses as it does when you’re that ‘messy’. At times there was just silence.
It’s been nearly five months since this day. It’s been a very long and slow journey which Ava speaks more about in the video interview we have done together.
We know too well that there are too many families who have similar stories. Families who are in much pain.
We know of too many lives lost. Too many people who have suffered.
There is help. There are people who will listen. Please know it is safe to take the mask off. Many people care.
We understand that this will be the first time many people outside of our family will hear of Ava’s and our families struggles. As Ava says in her video, it’s not an easy thing to just drop into a text or easily converse about when things are so raw. Lockdowns make it a lonely journey too. But there are little moments of joy as Ava will also share. Knowing that people care. That people are there.
This question might mean the difference of someone hanging on rather than slipping into crisis. You might help to save a life.