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Blogmas Day 3: Tea, laughter and cry in Hythe

Monday 3rd of December

Today is all about the latest Touch event last night,  this time at Hythe. It was the last one I could attend for this year and I wouldn’t miss it, no matter how tired I was.

I’m glad I didn’t. It’s as if the evening was sprinkled with Christmas magic. You’ll see why…

I didn’t know what to expect after the last one I’ve been in Eastleigh.  Every Touch evening I’ve been has been incredible, but that one was very special. And last night was definitely one of my favourite so far. 

There were no staff at St Andrews church cafe, so Rachel and I were on tea and coffee duty, which I enjoyed more than I thought I would. If only waitressing paid as well as my current job!

The first speaker was our own Debs who’s been sharing her story of how she founded Touch two years ago (you can read it here) at our events across Hampshire and although I’ve heard it twice so far, last night was different. Debs shared more than she did before, she moved everyone, she made everyone laugh. It was the perfect start.

Next up was Emily* (not real name), who Debs interviewed. And she was incredible. She told us all about her tough childhood, her struggles with depression, alcohol and drug addiction and the muscle disease she’s been living with since she was a teenager. 

What I loved most about Emily was her sense of humour and her honesty. She somehow made talking about serious, sensitive, deeply personal matters very easy and natural. 

As Emily herself said due to her stubbornness and honesty, her greatest strengths and weaknesses, and the love for her children, she never gave up, despite the physical and mental problems, dealing with unemployment due to her condition and so many other obstacles life threw at her.  She learnt that being strong and independent doesn’t mean you shouldn’t ask for help and support, it actually means the opposite. 

She is now 7 years clean and every day wakes up knowing there is a reason she is on this earth, there’s a reason she wakes up and she is doing her best with whatever life gives her.

I had the chance to meet Emily after the break, as she came over to ask for another cup of tea and I was in such awe, I didn’t know what to say to her. So I made a complete fool of myself as one does and just said ‘You are so cool’. That’s the only thing I could come up with!

She smiled awkwardly, replied with a thank you and went back to her table. I’m such an idiot!

Next up was Denise* (not real name). Denise had a completely different life to Emily. She had a great life, a great husband, they had their first child as planned, everything was going well and then she suddenly didn’t feel like herself. She was diagnosed with post-natal depression a few months later, after she heard all the ‘advice’ most people give to you when you are struggling with depression. 

-‘Cheer up’, ‘Your life is great, there’s nothing to be sad about’

You get the gist. A few years later, with great support from her family and therapist,  she managed her depression with no medication. And all of a sudden, after partially losing her hearing on one ear, she was diagnosed with a brain tumour, which to begin with didn’t cause any other problems. Denise worried that her depression will flare up again but she tried her best to forget about her tumour and got on with her life. Until about a year ago, when her tumour grew and became dangerous. So she had to have an 8-hour surgery and re-teach her brain with physio how to use the left side of her body.

She is still to the day dealing with the side effects of her surgery but is feeling much better. She shared her story to say it’s OK not to be OK and it’s OK to talk about it. Another amazing human.

Last but not least  was Heather (I’ve used Heather’s real name as she has shared her story in public before). Another astonishing story, another extraordinary human. Heather caught a life-threatening infection after a holiday and woke up in intensive care, fighting for her life. What actually brought her back from coma was her love for her son, Will. With not much support other than few friends and her mother, she moved back home after 6 months in hospital and pushed herself to get better and after a long, painful recovery, she was eager to help others.

A few years later she became a carer of her beloved mother, who suffered from severe back pain, which they later discovered was advanced metastatic cancer. Sadly her mum died of cancer a year ago but Heather is grateful.

Grateful she is alive,  grateful of the lovely friends she made during her ordeal, who were there last night to cheer her on, grateful that her friends nominated her for Strictly’s Comic Relief and met her favourite dancers and celebrities.

She has since founded a charity, Where There’s A Will, to support ICU patients and their families.

What a marvellous evening.  One of the highlights was a, at first glance serious man, who didn’t say much but by the end of the night he was moved so much he almost cried and thanked everyone and he couldn’t wait for our next event.

‘Anywhere will that be, I’m there, I’ll follow you anywhere’

On our way back, I asked Debs where she finds these amazing people. Debs answer sums it all really, that’s what Touch is all about…

‘I don’t find them, they find me… but it’s easy really, because everyone is amazing in their own way and tonight was a great example. Three completely different but amazing people. Everyone is amazing and everyone has a story and I’m grateful I bring these people together and make them feel comfortable to share their stories.

And people like that man, who was touched by the stories and loved it so much he asked us if we recorded it so he can watch it back as soon as he goes home, makes it all worthwhile’.

That’s what Christmas is all about really isn’t it? It’s all about people, helping each other, inspire one another and that’s what Touch does.

Eleni

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