Friendships are the glue that binds us together. Edaein O' Connell explains the power and comfort these relationships have brought her.
Being a staff member of a female publication means I think about women from across the globe a lot. However, on this day I am thinking about the women closer to home. The women I surround myself with daily.
Each and every one as inspiring, dazzling and divine as the other.
I was told life can be hard. It isn't plain sailing and sometimes those winds of change adjust your path so suddenly you find it hard to breathe. The life you had imagined is now a daydream. It no longer holds the warm assurance it once did. You are unsure; you now find yourself afloat on unsure water. Its waves crash against the edges and swallow you whole.
And when life gets heavy, and it feels like you are losing grip, it can be difficult to see where the calm retreat will come from.
When my own life suddenly diverted its course, it felt like I was falling. I fell from the cliff but couldn't catch a crevice. But when I did, the safety net that caught me was my friends.
Complicated and critical
Female friendships are a complicated thing. Just like relationships, they ebb and flow. And as you change as a person, they do too. This may be for better or for worse, but ultimately it demonstrates how entrenched and critical they are in our lives.
When I found myself going through a 'thing', I underestimated the deep connections I had made over the years. Those girls who saw me at 14 (when I thought I'd marry the lad who sat next to me on the bus and when I used foundation for lipstick), came to my side even though I may or may not have deserved it.
The ones who joined in my drunken antics. And the ones who sat with me in the chipper while I cried into my curry cheese chips because I thought no man would ever love me.
Related: Happy International Women's Day –
the gender pay gap lingers
It was the girls from college who saw me with the horrific dip-dye that looked like bad roots. And the girls who accepted me when I dressed like an ABBA tribute act, with white platforms and an abundance of luminous yellow garments.
Over the years, I've cursed those friendships at times. And like every friendship, there were bad days when I said, 'this is it'. We get angry and annoyed and say 'that's it, I'm done'. But women are special creatures and at every turn, they have surprised me.
The love, compassion, and thoughtfulness I've been shown in these ever-changing days have outdone and shattered the notions I had about the women and the friendships in my life.
Female friendships are an outlet. There are conversations I have had with them, I wouldn't dare have with anyone else. They know some of my darkest secrets, my brightest moments and everything that lays in between.
And it's not just those relationships with my closest acquaintances – it's the friendships I have with my mother, my aunts, cousins and work colleagues. For so long, I thought I needed someone or something to complete me. I thought I wasn't enough, but those friendships and those women taught me I was strong, independent and powerful all on my own.
I am enough. And so are they.
Related: We repealed the eighth: here's what's
next for women's health in Ireland
When you go through a difficult time, it's very easy to think and believe you are isolated and alone. You become afraid to utter even a word to anyone for fear of judgment and ridicule, because everyone fights their own battles, with their own trials and tribulations to face.
But not once have I felt alone. The women in my life never let me, and I am forever grateful to them for that.
It's all in the little things. It's a phone call. A quick visit with a bar of chocolate. A walk. A hand on the shoulder and a comforting text. It's knowing you won't drown. It's knowing the sun is somewhere across the horizon, and you have people close by to help you see it.
It's the women around me who have put me back together. They have cared for me, taught me necessary lessons and guided me on rough waters.
And isn't this something I should have known? Because as women, we will never be alone.
Because we have each other.
So often we are pitted against one another in work, in life, and in friendships. But that narrative is ours to take and ours to destroy. There are battles much bigger than us which we must face together. And as the world tries to ignore us, we must push back.
We're sometimes shy, often sanguine. We're sad, happy, angry, playful, insecure, bold, bright and fabulous. We are stronger together than apart.
Cherish and empower each other
Cherish those friendships, those women, those special connections. Support them, protect them and let them grow. Be a shoulder to cry on and a hand to hold when everything is clouded. And empower them.
To empower means to make someone stronger and more confident; to help someone take control of their life and claim back their rights. My friendships have done that, and I hope to do the same.
So here's to the women in our lives who have raised us, guided us, loved us, fought for us and hoped for us. And to the friendships that continue to teach us lessons, give us strength, make us laugh and keep us sane.
May they last a lifetime.
Read more: 7 uplifting films worth watching this weekend
Read more: 'We wanted to be together': Whitney Houston's best friend Robyn Crawford confirms they had a relationship
Read more: Dynamic double acts – meet the Irish women working together