This is the first in our series of blogs that are written by you. They are your stories about the impact that play has had on your lives.
By sharing our stories we can impact others and inspire more people to seek out everyday play and put play in their self-care tool kit. Amy is an inspiration in overcoming mental health battles and dealing with grief and loss. In her journey in learning how to manage her mental health, she also finds ways to keep her loved one’s part of her play.
I’ve struggled with my mental health since I was a teenager. I’ve had periods of depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicide attempts. It was often brushed under the carpet by my family and myself, partly because my younger brother was more “traditionally” depressed, and all of our energies were put into helping him and supporting him to live. In July 2017, my brother took his own life at the age of 26 and it completely turned our whole family upside down. I was shattered and really struggled to know how to cope. With two children, a 1 year old and 3 year old at the time, I didn’t know how I was supposed to go on. All of the typical symptoms of grief were there but there was a whole other layer to it, with it being so sudden and the nature of his death. As time went on, I got counselling, attended a support group and tried exercise and being out in nature, but it became apparent that this was more than grief alone and I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety in October 2017. I was finally given the help that I needed to balance the chemical in-balance in my head that has definitely been there for years. This gave me the energy and levelled the playing field, if you like, to allow to me to do the things that I knew helped me.
After getting the treatment that I needed to help with my depression and anxiety I felt I was better able to embrace life and part of that was practising mindfulness and embracing play with my children. When a loved one dies in such a horrific way, it puts a lot into perspective. My brother lived 26 short years; he should still be here now living life to its fullest. So I made a promise that every day I would live life for him. In August 2020, after being inspired by the Playful Den’s stories, my cousin and I decided we wanted to try wild swimming. No mean feat in the Scottish weather but we gave it a shot and we loved it! After being in the cold water I felt so… ALIVE. Connecting with nature, feeling the sand between my toes and waves around my waist I was hooked and got such happy endorphins from going into the sea with my best friend as much as possible. In February this year, we decided we wanted to do something to mark my brother’s 30th birthday, in the previous November, and decided to do “30 dips for Ryan’s 30th”. We are still working on those 30 (currently on number 20) and have so far raised £825 for a local charity Touched by Suicide Scotland who provides peer support groups for families affected by suicide in Scotland. This play in the water led to an interest in water sports and in April I purchased a stand-up paddleboard which I now regularly take out on our dips.
In the early days of my bereavement, the only thing that got me through was my kids. Playing with them or watching them play and learn was so mindful and was the thing that kept me going. My brother and I were 2.5 years apart in age and shared a room growing up, so we were constantly making up games together and played all day long out in the garden or on the street. Watching my children play and the relationship that they have when they play in their own little world brings back so many happy memories and amazing feelings for me. I know I am so lucky to have had a brother as a companion growing up and I know he would want me to keep on playing and making the most of life.
Play is so important for us to learn about ourselves and the world around us. These past few years have taught me that you are never too old to play, and it is never too late to try something new. Play has enhanced my relationship with my children when I was probably not the most pleasant person to be around and has enhanced my relationship with myself.
Thank you for sharing your story Amy, what a wonderful way to honour your brother and enjoy your children’s play too. If you’d like to follow Amy, you can do so here. If you would like to share your story, please click this link and fill in our form.