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Grant boost to TIDAL to revitalise Toomebridge community

November 15, 2016

Today we’re announcing grants to TIDAL in Toomebridge, Co Antrim and Enagh Youth Forum in Derry/Londonderry through our People and Communities programme.

Mum of five Geraldine McCoy from Toomebridge tells us how is being part of TIDAL has changed her life.

Roughly one in every hundred people will experience bipolar disorder at one point in their lives – and Geraldine is one of them. She was 32 and working as a primary school teacher when she started experiencing mood swings, going from feeling highly energized to lows of depression where she couldn’t get out of bed. She was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and had to give up her teaching career, and struggled to control her condition while dealing with family life.

It’s only in recent years that Geraldine, now 49, feels she has control of her condition and has a positive role in the community again, thanks to volunteering with TIDAL. They’ve just received £177,950 from Big Lottery Fund to develop a community enterprise. Local people including Geraldine will be involved in running the enterprise which will improve health and well-being, bring people together, and revitalise the community in Toomebridge.

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As a younger woman Geraldine had been a confident person, with a talent for sports. But as she juggled her busy work and family life in her early thirties, it became clear that something was wrong.

Geraldine, said: “I couldn’t see it at the time, but in hindsight it all started after my fourth child was born. I started to get highly energized, almost hyper and I felt like I could succeed at anything which meant my ideas became too big, too quick.

“I would get frustrated with people who weren’t as productive as me, say things out of character and have intense mood swings. But at this stage I didn’t know anything was wrong, I felt normal. Without medication, support or any understanding it just got worse. There were days when I’d be in bed with the curtains closed and I wouldn’t answer the door.

“The highs and lows went on for a couple of years before I was diagnosed.

“It was 17 years ago and I still get emotional thinking about leaving my teaching career. I loved my job. But I have five beautiful children and when I left teaching I dedicated the next few years of my life to my kids, who were all under 11 years old.

“At the time it was very difficult. I didn’t really understand what was happening to me and I didn’t have very good coping mechanisms. Even making simple decisions like what to buy in the supermarket for dinner became a huge task.”

Geraldine’s husband Kevin and children Anne (16), Paul, (22), Caoimhe (24), Ciaran (26) and MaryKate (27) are all great supporters of her. But despite this, Geraldine had been used to working, and felt something was missing. She taught herself to craft wood and started gardening.

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Two years ago she got involved with TIDAL where she helped out in the office and now volunteers in the garden and crafting area. The experience is helping to improve her mental health and allowing her to use her teaching skills again.

“I’m 49 now and this is the first time my bipolar has been easing. Being committed to TIDAL has stopped me from going into my usual pattern of isolating myself. Now when I’m depressed I will push myself to get out of the house and I come to the TIDAL garden – I can still have my own space and not talk to anyone if I don’t feel like it – but the important thing is that I’m out of the house and I’ve got people around me if I need them, and I’m doing something productive. If other people can experience this at TIDAL too then we are changing lives.”

The grant from Big Lottery Fund is being used to develop the group’s community enterprise. Waterways Ireland and Lough Neagh Partnership, supported by Heritage Lottery Fund have also provided funding to renovate the disused Lockkeepers cottage and Quay area which will be used for the community enterprise facility.

Geraldine said: “When you change one person’s life there is an enormous ripple effect. With this new project we are going to be able to improve the health and wellbeing of the whole community. A safe community space will be created where people can come and get involved and talk to other people. I’ll be able to spend more time with people in the garden and help them talk about their mental health.”

To find out more about our People and Communities programme visit: http://bit.ly/1PCCD5P

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