The writer of this article wishes to remain anonymous.
I am not Maurice Shanahan, I am not Tom Quinn, I’m not a big name sporting star that everyone knows. I am a ‘normal’ person. I live my life on the low key. I do share a few characteristics with these men. I’m a human, I have a huge passion for Gaelic games, and I have struggled with my mental health.
When you see these big names write about their mental health struggles it’s great for raising awareness. But what many people still fail to realise is that anyone can have mental health struggles, not just big names. Your best friend, your neighbour, a family member, there are so many people in this world that struggle with their mental health.
My struggle has been a mainly silent one. I would wake up every morning wondering why, but I would go to school and put on my best fake smile because I didn’t want to give people a reason to worry about me. I felt people had enough stress in their lives without needing to worry about me, and at the time I was coping well enough by myself.
Then something changed, one morning I woke to find I just couldn’t cope by myself. That was my first experience of self-harm. I don’t know why I did it, it seemed the right thing to do at the time, but looking back it was a stupid course of action.
I started sharing my feelings with a few of my close friends and my girlfriend at the time. All was good then for around a year, I was beginning to feel better for a time, enjoying being able to trust someone with my thoughts and feelings and also being able to have them as someone to have a great time with.
Then something unforeseen happened. Me and her broke up. To this day I am still unable to quantify how much that has affected me.
All of a sudden I had nobody to talk to about it, my downward spiral began, and it wouldn’t end for a while. Every morning the light was fading, I felt so alone in life. I wasn’t sleeping at night, I had no motivation for anything, my grades began to slip in school and previous hobbies began to have less and less appeal. I stopped showing up early for hurling and football training, some nights I just wouldn’t go. What were once my escapes from the pain were now nothing to me. I felt emotionally numb, I felt nothing except pain.
Inevitably thoughts of ending it began to creep into my head. Once that began I knew it was time to change, it was time to actively go and seek help. I began by telling one of my closest friends how I was feeling, and he said that I should tell someone in the know about these things.
The fact my friend actively helped me through this made me feel slightly better about it all. Then as I told more people I slowly began to feel better and found that I wasn’t alone at all.
That brings us to today. Although I am not better, not even good, I’m improving, and the small light at the end of the tunnel is slowly getting bigger, but it’s a long way off for now still.
To quote Maurice Shanahan, one of my greatest inspirations both as a hurler and a human; ‘…hurling is a game, but life is life.’
If you leave this post with only one thing let it be this; if you have a friend who seems even slightly off normal, make yourself approachable and ask them if they are okay, because even though it seems like a small thing to you, it could end up being the difference to them.
If you or someone you know is struggling with similar issues, Samaritans operate an around the clock helpline on 116123.
Picture credit: Brendan Moran / SPORTSFILE