I finally just got round to going to see the much talked about movie of the moment “A Star is Born” last night. While I knew before I went that alcohol and drug addiction would be key to the storyline I was also surprised to see another topic even closer to home also highlighted - a condition I have lived with for 4 years now… The ‘silent’ illness called tinnitus.
This pic was taken one morning in October 2008 after I was asked by the Limerick Leader newspaper to take part in a feature titled "Can Women Have it All". I remember getting myself and my daughter ready that morning - we both got all dressed up and ready to be photographed. After the photographs were taken I was called by Anne Sheridan, a journalist with the Limerick Leader to ask me what I thought about working mums having to juggle their careers and motherhood and could we really have it all?
When I was contacted by one of the lovely researchers at TV3 to appear on their Boost My Business section of Ireland AM, I was excited about the opportunity but also very scared at the thoughts of appearing on live TV! Television was something I had never done - I was comfortable sitting in front of a computer screen but it was a first for me appearing on national television and the fact that it was going to be live - yes LIVE!!! - would normally have only added to my anxiety if I had allowed it to!
After running my own design agency for almost 2 decades, I had done many presentations to clients but since I developed tinnitus I struggled a bit with these until I started meditating. So while I was getting back on track meeting clients and presenting my designs, being on television was another kettle-of-fish! I firmly believe that being mindful about the upcoming appearance really helped how I felt about it. I also had my daughters confirmation on the friday previous so that was a welcomed distraction as I said to myself "I won't think about it until after the confirmation" and that's exactly what happened - it didn't enter my head from that initial call from TV3 until the Sunday before my appearance.
On the journey up to Dublin that morning at 6am, apart from doing my make-up followed by a 10 minute meditation and chatting to my ever supportive husband, I decided to use my MoMe Cards to flick through. I shuffled them around a bit and it's funny as the one card that kept coming up was "Inhale, Exhale, that's how you'll get through it". I joked about it with my husband a bit but I can honestly say it helped me breathe and forget about the cameras and the fact that it was going to be live and just relax about the whole experience.
When we arrived at TV3 everyone there were so welcoming. I initially felt at ease - still a bit nervous - but definitely not anxious like I would have been in the past. I realise 100% that as we get older, age definitely helps us deal with situations like this, but without a doubt I know that mindfulness and meditation helped me breathe and relax in a situation that in the past I would have worked myself up into a tizzy over!
Behind the scenes getting ready for my first live tv appearance and remembering to Breathe!!
We didn't have long to get set up as obviously everything on Live TV happens so quickly - but again - that was probably a good thing! I got the chance to have a quick chat with the really lovely Sinéad Desmond, but after Mark Cagney introduced himself to us it was time to go live! Even though there was no time for a run-through and have a chat about what questions we would be asked, Mark made everyone feel at ease. He was a complete gentleman and even noticed how I was using my cards to help me breathe! So, along with listening to my breath and not my tinnitus ringing loudly, and focusing on what Mark was asking me and not the cameras - I ended up really enjoying the experience in that moment so it was all over before I knew it!
After we wrapped up everyone was so lovely. I got to have another chat with Sinéad Desmond - who was so friendly and approachable - and so genuine! It really was such a lovely experience and one that I am very grateful to the team at Ireland AM and TV3 for. I received such fantastic feedback from family and friends after the appearance and it also proved to be a great way of boosting a little business that ironically never ever set out as one! Thank you TV3!
I have mentioned before how starting to cycle again has really helped me get relief from my tinnitus. My doctor mentioned that it's the wind blowing past my ear that diffuses the sound so I can escape the constant whistling sound. While I have since discovered other means of distraction - much as meditation and being mindful - I have now started to discover other benefits of cycling apart from the obvious fitness side. Cycling has definitely made me feel more present. I notice my surroundings more and really embrace the freedom of the feeling of being on the bike. As an added bonus, my husband - who introduced me to cycling - and both my children also love it so it has become a great way to spend an hour on a saturday or a sunday.
We are also very fortunate to have the majestic River Shannon on our doorstep with a cycle path that goes from our house directly out to the stunning grounds of the University of Limerick. On a clear winters day it is one of the best feelings in the world to cycle along the banks of the shannon and stop along the way to see the swans and the ducks. My children absolutely love it and since I became open to Mindfulness I have learned how wonderful it is to appreciate these things even more. In a world where we are obsessed with perfection and appearance we all need to stand back and really see the beauty in everything. I mean really notice things. Before I started on my Mindful journey I would have frequently visited the ducks with the lads but I would still have probably had 101 other things going on in my head at the same time so while I saw the ducks I probably didn't really see them. Now I can sit there and watch them with my family and really notice and enjoy those moments in a different way. It's those moments on our cycles that I really enjoy. It's looking at the architecture while cycling around UL's campus along with seeing the shadows of my children on their bikes as we're cycling along. It's knowing that they enjoy it too as there will be plenty of days when they'll say I don't want to go and that's fine to but for the moment I will enjoy the ones when they do.
Until recently, I hadn't cycled a bike since I was a child. Like most people my days of scooting around on my Raleigh Burner were well and truly over since I became a mum. Even the thoughts of cycling again scared me! My husband has always been into cycling and really enjoyed taking the kids out on their bikes so I decided to give it a go! I was a bit shaky at first - and to the amusement of my 2 children it took me a while to get my confidence back. Now just to clarify - by no means am I going to be competing in the Tour de France or anything - I just mean going for a cycle along the banks of the River Shannon with my family. But I was still cycling - something I hadn't done in years.
What I didn't realise at the time though that getting back on my bike would become a form of therapy for me. After I was struck with my tinnitus in September 2014 I soon realised that the only time the ringing in my ear would leave me was when I was on my bike. It is as if the sound of the wind passing my ear drowns out the sound of the ringing. It's such a sense of freedom - not just from the obvious feeling of cycling but for me freedom from the ringing in my ear. It has also become something that I can enjoy with my family and a great way to spend time with my children.