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Steering Group Member

Brief info

I’m Chelsea and a question I get asked a lot is, ‘Are you named after the football team?’ The answer to that is no, I am not. Nor do I follow them or any other football team. In fact, my passions lay outside the world of sport. They include various things such as film, both making and watching (which I study in QUB), reading, the arts as a whole and the general well-being of our country, which includes the well-being of those in it.

Hence why I joined ‘Voicing The Void’. I believe that by combing both of these passions, there is a great potential to promote and encourage mental health and how young people, in particular, may benefit from learning early on how they can express such.

My Story:

One Way Ticket To Life

My story starts with me singing three little tadpoles on a stool at the sink, washing the dishes and having a blast. This is the earliest memory I can think of and never fails to bring a bout of happiness. In this memory, my family is sitting laughing at me with my lisp and mispronunciation of words, and I am delighted. My cousin, who is really more like my brother is laughing along with my mum, my aunt, and my uncle, and starts to join in. From there my life begins.

Growing up I was neither the popular kid nor lonely. I had friends and I enjoyed school. I loved to sing and dance and auditioned for every play that came my way. I had enough confidence that nothing held me back and was ambitious enough to give everything a go. However, Eddie died, and I changed and didn’t know what to do and still don’t.

Eddie is the uncle I previously mentioned and he played a massive role in my life. He was the male authority figure in my life, who picked me up when I fell, who helped me with my homework and who took me on trips to see the beauty in this lovely island. He was fun, stern, and did everything for me and family without question. So, when he rang me one morning after a heavy night of drinking and told me goodbye, I initially didn’t think of anything of it, and truth be told I don’t think he did either. But that was the beginning of it.

We spent the next few days in the hospital, in the ward waiting room, with Eddie fighting for his life. On the fourth day, he came around momentarily to look at his wife and his two sons and drifted to a difference place a few hours later. The next few hours, and days have blurred together in my head but I remember looking at him at the wake and instantly regretting it. It wasn’t his face. And now that face is etched into my memory. However, what I do remember besides that is refusing to cry. One because I was still in denial, but also because I watched my mummy, and her siblings mourn their guardian throughout their childhood, and I watched my two cousins struggle to mourn and plan the funeral and the grief in their faces. So, I wanted to be the face that they could look at to know I was there to help them in whatever way I could, whether it was to grab them a cup of tea, to help sort out readings or see a smile or make them laugh momentarily.

After this, when summer came, I became withdrawn and sat and read books in my room every single day until school started back again. I didn’t want to socialise; in fact I point blank refused to and a lot of my friends were starting to get annoyed with me. I don’t exactly how I remember I pulled myself out of it, but I know that my friends never gave up in inviting me out or over to their houses, so I believe it was their persistence with me that made

me slowly come out of my isolated shell. But the one thing that stuck with me, was the hard exterior to always try and keep a smile on others faces, and to be the strong one for them.

From there my life carries on, I do well in school, I have loads of friends and I move to Liverpool for university. I stayed for 3 months. I fell back into a rut. I isolated myself, fell into depression and gained weight. The only thing I could think of to help myself was to move back home, to be around the family and friends who helped me the last time I fell into a rut. I started working in hospitality as a waitress and bartender. While hospitality is a fickle, hard, and tiresome job, it really helped me become the person I am today. It gave me confidence, I met new people and I started to have fun again. I decided that I would start saying ‘yes’ to everything. And in no time, I was having the best time and loving my life.

But of course, no one’s life is one straight road. There’s twists, turns and tantrums. The oldest Todd brother and the oldest Todd sister passed away from cancer. To say the family was devastated in an understatement, but again, I buried the tears and I again tried to be there for my family, to put a smile on their face and to let them lean on me.

Watching your family suffer and grieve is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to endure and keeping my own grief inside of me for many years has meant that I have a wall inside me that is hard to break down, but every so often the grief takes over and cripples me. However, I feel like this is stuff that every person goes through, so there is a shame there, that holds me back from expressing how I feel. I feel guilty because I have people in my life that have experienced a harder life, and even people who I do not know, but who have also had their own trials and tribulations. What I will say though is that what helps me get through every day of life is reminding myself that I am surrounded by people who love me and want me to succeed and remind me that no matter how I feel, there is not one ounce of shame in feeling down and lonely. It happens and its life and if there’s anything that watching my family suffer has taught me it’s that every day is a blessing. And if you’re ever feeling guilty or ashamed for feeling depressed, remember that everyone has story to tell. Everyone grows up. Everyone is surrounded by people. Everyone has experienced some form of event. In every book I’ve ever read, there are characters, growth, and events, just like in every person’s everyday life, therefore, everyone has a story to tell.

You get one life so here’s my motto; Love your life.

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