Post for ‘over to you‘, by Gabhain O’Donnabhain

It can incredibly difficult to be a young Irish male these days, let alone being a young Irish male living in a rural area with mental health issues. Without going into it in a whole lot of detail, I had a very traumatic upbringing, with major grief and loss on a personal level, to put it mildly, along with growing up in a household with addiction in it, I also survived stage 4 cancer. As I got older I tried and tried quite successfully to bury pretty much every memory of childhood that I could, almost to a stage where I was not sure if had very had a childhood.

I noticed as I was going through secondary school to a lesser extent, but massively when I was in college that something was wrong, but I couldn’t exactly put my finger on it. As a typical male I pretended nothing was wrong. I will put it to you this way to the outside world, I was this person who had survived so much, and was thriving in college, but the reality was completely different. I was sitting down planning this post and it kind of struck me, I got a first class honours in my first year of college, was representing my university in 2 different sports. It must have looked like I was destined for great things. But what no one knew was I was suicidal. I was so desperately unhappy that I couldn’t see any other way out.

I believe that the universe conspires to put people into our lives at moments like this, to give us a glimmer of hope. For me that was a homeless person and Jo in the Samaritans, Yes I know that her name wasn’t actually Jo, but she saved my life. I was walking down street and a homeless person told me that I looked worse than he did. And that I should contact the Samaritans. They gave me the courage to go seek professional help. Thanks to those 2 people I didn’t go through with what I was thinking about.

Eventually I figured I should open up to family and friends. And I suppose this is the heart of my post. When I first came out with my mental health issues I was in College, which for me thankfully was a place where lots of things that may not be accepted in rural areas, are welcomed with open arms. I kind of naively assumed that this would be the case as I told my wider circle of friends. The truth however was a different story. I lost some people I thought I would be able to count on, with words like “freak” and “nutter” being thrown around the place. Looking back at it I think that or at least I hope that people just didn’t know how to deal with it. Either way all it means is that I now have a much smaller circle of friends, whom I cherish dearly. I suppose the point of my post is to ask you, no to beg you not to give up on your friend if they tell you they are struggling. Don’t cut them off, you may be the one person who could help them.

I will give you an example of what I mean. I deal daily with anxiety and panic attacks, for those of you who haven’t experienced a panic attack, forget whatever you read in a book, the reality is completely different. Magnify whatever you read by 1,000 and maybe you are getting close to what I experience. Now imagine if one of your triggers is to be around alcohol. Imagine if all your friends want to do is go to the pub as a means of socialising. I have tried going but to say its not a good idea is an understatement. Imagine I was out with you a few times, and each time I had a panic attack and would then leave, the texts asking me to hang out got fewer and fewer. Up until recently I had simply given up going out at night, but then a friend actually asked me what was going on, and I explained so now we hang out and neither of us drink, so there goes the trigger off into the distance and at the same time I still get to socialise with friends.

It can be the simple things really that make or break my day, and by extension influence my life. So next time a friend comes to you about their mental health, listen, ask questions, but no matter what tell them they are loved and that you are there for them

You can read more of Gabhain’s work on his blog, Running for Sanity.

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