The Fighter

Nikki Bradley

The Fighter: Nikki wants to hear from You!

Nikki Bradley pictured in the Optimal Fitness gym in Letterkenny. Photo: Declan Doherty

Nikki Bradley pictured in the Optimal Fitness gym in Letterkenny. Photo: Declan Doherty

I HAVE been writing this column for a number of months now and I usually concentrate on how the campaign is progressing, however, today I want to turn the spotlight on you.

I have received emails from some of you in recent weeks where sharing your own personal struggles with me. Some have spoken about themselves and others have contacted me through concern for a family member.

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I always feel extremely honoured when I get these emails and it got me thinking about the hundreds of people in our county currently struggling with various issues.
Irish people tend to keep personal matters to themselves for reasons unknown. Perhaps embarrassment or worry that people will judge them.

I am going to tell you a story about an incident that happened many years ago that led to me speaking to a professional counsellor.

My friend and I were on our way to work one evening, I was about 18 at the time. I remember feeling unusually tearful for a short period in the lead up to that evening. Small irrelevant issues had been upsetting me, but because I didn’t have a concrete reason for the tears, I just shrugged it off and hoped the heavy feeling would go away.

On that particular evening I had been feeling agitated and a little overwhelmed, so when my friend made a passing remark about something minor and unimportant I ended up exploding with rage. It came from nowhere and it was quickly replaced with a waterfall of tears that I couldn’t stop. I turned on my heel and left my friend standing there confused while I walked up Letterkenny Main Street sobbing my heart out.

I rang my dad who collected me and as soon as he saw me his face furrowed with concern. When he asked me what was wrong I suddenly realised I did not have an answer for him. I had absolutely no idea what had made me behave the way I had.
That night I did a lot of thinking. I allowed myself to acknowledge what I had been through. I realised that I had coped with the physical side of my illness, but I had ignored the emotional baggage that came with such a serious diagnosis.

It is safe to say I didn’t get much sleep that night and I awoke the next morning with my decision made. I finally realised that squashing my feelings and emotions down would not make them disappear. In order to accept my situation and deal with what I was going through I was going to have to talk to someone. I made an appointment to see a counsellor that same day.

At first I felt embarrassed about having to speak to someone, I felt a little ashamed for some reason. Was there something wrong with me? Was I weak?
These questions stayed with me until I actually sat down with my counsellor. During our session it began to dawn on me how normal it felt to spill my guts to a complete stranger.

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It was a surprising revelation to say the least. I had expected to feel shy or awkward but actually it was great. I cried a lot during the first session, however, the relief I felt afterwards was unbelievable. I finally understood why speaking to a stranger as opposed to a family member was so important. When I had shared my worries and concerns with my family I had walked away feeling incredibly guilty. I often found myself playing down my feelings and pretending I was okay when in reality I was far from it at times.

As decent human beings we are programmed to protect the ones we love and my subconscious was telling me that by being one hundred percent truthful with my family I was going to hurt them. We do not have those personal ties with strangers therefore truly baring your soul is easier. Weird I know. I walked away from my first session feeling like a different person. I had not transferred my problem on to someone else and the reality of that allowed me to go back time and time again. I now openly talk about the importance of seeking help when we need it and the shame I felt at the beginning is nothing but a vague memory.

SHARING YOUR STORY 
I shared this story with you as some people find it easier to open up when someone else goes first. Now it’s your turn. I want you to share your story with me and I will print it here so we can help ourselves and help each other.

It doesn’t necessarily have to be a sad story, I will leave it open. If you know someone that might benefit from sharing their story then please, show them this article.

If you would rather share your story with me privately that is perfectly fine also, the main aim is to get you talking! Normally, when I sit down to write my column I am tired or stressed, but this evening I couldn’t be more relaxed and that is due to the therapeutic values associated with writing things down. If you don”t believe me, try it – You might just surprise yourself!

Nikki Bradley is the founder of Fighting Fit For Ewing’s, a campaign to promote awareness of Ewing’s Sarcoma. Nikki is sponsored by All Sports in Donegal Town. Support her campaign by giving ‘Fighting Fit For Ewing’s’ a LIKE on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @nikkibradley59

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