Mary Byrne: I was in a very dark place
#Flexisquad alumna Mary Byrne continues to warm our hearts with her vibrant personality and show-stopping voice. The well-loved Irish singer not only suffers with osteoarthritis but also has her own struggles with mental health. In time for Mental Health Awareness week, we caught up with Mary to find out how she’s turned a corner and is on an upward road.
What does mental health mean to you in relation to your arthritis? For example, has your mental health changed at all since finding out about your arthritis and beyond that point?
Well I suffer from depression. I take anti-depressants and when I was really bad with the arthritis, before I lost the weight I was in a very dark place. It comes and it goes, if I get days where the pain is too much, it can bring me down a dark road but I do try now, because I know why I’m going down the dark road, to be mindful of what I’m thinking and to realise that this will pass and I’m not alone in this. There are people out there who are in worse positions than I’m in and they cope with it every day. It made a huge difference to me when I was diagnosed with arthritis and then diagnosed with depression as well, it was really hard to come to terms with but I have and I’m on an upward road now and it’s a really nice feeling.
Do you have any advice for people who are struggling to stay positive with arthritis and depression?
The first thing you do is you talk to people. You talk to your doctor, you talk to your friends and you get up as best you can. Keep positive and remember you’re not on your own, there are things you can do; with arthritis and with depression, both of them can be helped together and you can really come out of it the other side and get your life back on track. That would be my advice; keep positive and talk to people about it and get help!
Is there anything you particularly enjoy doing which is a stress reliever from arthritis and that lifts your spirits?
There are a couple of things. One of them is I go swimming; swimming is one of those things where you’re on your own, in the pool, you don’t have to swim hard, just gently up and down. Meeting people in the pool is fantastic as well, you end up like a load of chickens standing around pecking at each other in the water and it’s the loveliest feeling. We’re all in the same boat, we’re all in the same situation.
The other thing is there’s a nice little path beside you or your street is nice, go for a nice gentle walk up and down for just 10-15 minutes; feel the air, look around you and appreciate what’s there. It just does wonders for the mind; even looking at the trees and listening to the birds, it’s the most beautiful feeling you’ll ever feel if you just open your mind and let it happen. I go out the back garden and hear the birds whistling. It could be a frosty morning, it could be a rainy morning, it could be a sunny morning, it doesn’t matter just take it all in and it really does help your mind focus on something else other than what you’re feeling.
I cannot stress the importance of staying active, keeping the blood flowing. Whether that’s through a swim, a walk, whatever you can manage. I know it makes a huge difference to my mental and physical wellbeing. With my arthritis this became so hard for me, I couldn’t get out and about. I put on weight that made it even harder to get moving. I came across Flexiseq, a gel that is designed to help with arthritis. It has given me my mobility back. And getting that back has lifted my spirits, I’ve lost weight and I feel I’m back to being me.
Do you have a motto or quote that you live by?
My mother always said ‘live for today and die for tomorrow’ because tomorrow is promised to nobody. Just live today and let tomorrow take care of itself. There’s no point in worrying about today because you can’t change what’s happening at the moment, what you can do is live in it and cope with it. That’s what I like, I like the idea that I live for today and I cope with what’s happening and tomorrow will look after itself, it’s another day and it’s not promised to us but if it comes along it’s great.
For those suffering with mental health issues is the most important thing to talk about it rather than hide away?
Oh never hide away, that is the worst thing you can do because you will go deeper and deeper into the darkness and you don’t want that. You need to be in the light, you need to have people around you who understand what you’re going through. Your GP is your first port of call, you go there, you talk and you tell the truth. You tell how you’re feeling and what you’re feeling and they will decide whether you need to talk to somebody in the professional fields of mental health or whether you need medication. You may just need to be in a room with someone else who is suffering the same thing and going out for walks with those people. Just talk about it, open up and let the light in because it will kill you if you don’t. Remember to believe in what you want to believe but always keep positive, always.
We heard that you recently attended and opened a running event recently for “AWARE”. Could you tell me more about the event itself and the charity you were with?
Aware is one of those charities that covers a whole range of mental health issues. It covers suicide, depression and anything to do with mental health. It’s all over Ireland, where we still have a taboo about mental health and Aware is one of those places that brings it to the forefront.
For the run, we went into a park and we stood there and took a load of photographs then we went for a huge run (I didn’t run but I did walk). It was a huge turn out and a fantastic way of getting out there that it’s okay not to be well and it’s okay to ask for help. That’s what Aware does and it’s a fabulous charity.
#Flexisquad alumna Mary Byrne was speaking to us for Mental Health Awareness Week. If you are suffering from depression or mental health problems make sure you speak to a GP. For targeted care for joint wear and tear, you can purchase Flexiseq at most pharmacies across Ireland - click HERE to find out more. Let’s get moving.