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This week, Nicole has been taking part in the Cork heats of the Rose of Tralee contest. Pushing herself out of her comfort zone has pushed her levels of discomfort, and helped her to come to a realisation that she would like to share. You can read more about Nicole’s story here.

To quote Eminem “His palms are sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy, He’s nervous, but on the surface he looks calm and ready”

As some of you know I began running for the Cork Rose this year. In the last 2 years almost (can you believe it’s been almost 2 years!) I’ve really not done anything for myself. I’ve been so busy juggling work, school visits, campaigning and doing interviews that I thought you know what why not? Why not do something for yourself for a change. So I got the call and boom I was in! At first I was extremely excited.

But my highs are always temporary and they give way to extreme lows. The best way I can describe it and here is the irony is that it’s like taking drugs. You are high on life for a while but you must deal with the skag afterwards. It’s always like that with me. That week the prime time episode aired and got great reviews, I was running for the cork rose and life in those few days was good, but it was short lived. In the week coming up to the first event I was scared. Hell, not even scared but actually petrified. I was already on a low or my emotional skag and I was unsure why? This high/low scenario has been part of my life now for well over a year and a half and I could never pin point what it was. I had about 15 internal panic attacks between Wednesday and Friday. I wanted to pull out and to hell with it give up. I lost all faith in myself completely. Competitions like this are always out of my comfort zone completely and this one terrified me. It brought back feelings that I felt of the time my brother lay in hospital dying. I realised that I was petrified of the unknown. I couldn’t do anything in that hospital but watch him die, I was helpless and in this competition I am unsure of the outcome too and that scares me. I always like to know or see an outcome to something and this had me totally blind sighted. Something in me triggered and I felt so small within myself. I was petrified.

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I never imagined that I could have Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome or PTSD. I thought it was something that only people who have been through something horrendous like war, rape or abuse had but the definition states otherwise.

Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it.

Triggered by a terrifying even either experiencing it or witnessing it. What could be more horrifying than to witness your brother dying and not being able to do anything? I suddenly realised that I have PTSD. I have finally found the cause. This feeling of nothingness, of no emotions and of not being able to truly connect with people around me had a name.

I, Nicole Ryan, have Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The hardest thing was telling people. I told 2 of my friends and then told my mum and it wasn’t easy but it was needed and now I share it with all of you. PTSD isn’t easy and I have yet a lot to learn about it. Without entering this contest it probably would have taken me years to figure this fact out. My mum reminded me why I was doing it and to always keep this in my mind and she is right. I don’t do this to win, not at all. I do this because I want to show the world that you can be a positive role model, I do this a little for myself to get some sort of confidence boost, to meet a few great people and to do this for him.

So I’ll struggle on just a little bit longer, I have a new mind-set about this and as long as I remember why I am doing this it won’t feel so overwhelmingly daunting and petrifying. I know there will be a few more last minute panic attacks and self-doubt but I have a lot of people behind me. Support from the Shona Girls, my family, my town and my friends and had I never entered I would have never known. I have a knack for turning negative into positive.

I got this….”

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