Mental health can strike anyone, anywhere- that’s a fact. I have four amazing daughters but a mental illness took one away. Harriet, or Hat as we liked to call her, was clever and kind, the sort of person that “wouldn’t harm a fly”.
Hat felt stigmatised by the overwhelming and devastating effect the illness had on her and despite wanting to keep Hat at home protected and safe as a family we knew this was wrong. Hat picked herself up and returned to school to complete her A levels and then went on to university.
It was obvious that as Hat studied and lived at uni how vulnerable her illness made her. Again, after several episodes when Hat needed to come home to heal, she changed and restarted her course at uni. I don’t know anyone braver.
When Hat died one ordinary February day in 2010 my world and that of my husband and her sisters imploded. We all began our own mental health journey, including counselling, medications or shutting out the real world that dared to continue. Ordinary tasks like getting up, washing, dressing, leaving home or opening the curtains became hard and often impossible.
Hat struggled to leave home during her episodes and to encourage her we used to say that Hat was taking the sausage dog for a walk- I was the dog. Every night we walked to the post box and back.
We used to bump into each other like waddling penguins. I miss those walks.
One Saturday morning when I saw no point in getting out of bed there was a knock at the door. My daughter told me to come and see who was there. Reluctantly I got up and I looked down the stairs to see someone holding a sausage dog. I cuddled the lovely three-month-old puppy, I felt happy even though it made me cry it was comforting.
At that moment I knew I had to get my own sausage dog. I looked up different dogs for sale and felt it was a strange twist of fate that led me to a litter born on Hat’s birthday, 10th June. I bought the most amazing puppy and called him Henry. Henry has helped my whole family and has been the best therapy ever.
This 10th June for Harriet’s 30th birthday and we are all wearing a ‘Hat for Hat’ and having a barbecue to celebrate our lovely girl and hope it helps people talk about mental illness - no matter how hard - one by one. It’s ok to cry.