So this is a piece I wrote over a year ago now. I actually completely forgot about it. It’s nice looking back now to see how much things have improved, I’m doing so good now compared to when I wrote this. It was written for a mental health awareness booklet in 2015 that circulated UCC. If you’ve ever heard me talk, whether it’s about basketball or just in general, I always talk about finding consistency. It’s something I always thought was important. I almost didn’t post this up because it’s really personal but I feel like if it helps one person, then it’ll all be worth it. Enjoy:
Nothing was ever really consistent. I think that’s the best way to describe it. I mean, I wasn’t in a low place all of the time, it came and went. There were high periods in between, but they came and went too. The worst part about it was I never knew when the next low was going to come. I just had to wait until that feeling of dread took over.
This whole thing really started over 3 years ago when my best friend killed himself. Dealing with that at a young age really does change who you are and how you look at things. It wasn’t something I noticed straight away really, mainly because everyone was messed up initially after it happened. At first I didn’t talk to anyone, I felt that I should be there for other people because they were hurting more than I was. I learned pretty fast that I needed to talk though. Keeping it inside made everything more negative. To be clear, I wouldn’t say I had a problem straight away after the suicide it’s more that this trauma stayed with me and ate away slowly.
The last three years haven’t been all bad, far from it actually. I’ve had a lot of good times and made a lot of friends for life who are supportive and who I support in return. As I said, no feeling was ever consistent. Things would be good for a month or so and then suddenly, those feelings in my throat and stomach came back. What interested me at the beginning was that these feelings never returned when I was around friends. I was always alone. I found it difficult, and to some extent still do, to be on my own for extended periods. I guess my brain just went into over drive every time it got a chance and my mind would dwell on all the negatives, overthinking every little detail. I think it actually made it worse in the early days that I realised the lows only came when I was on my own because I started to dread being on my own and would actively avoid it. Even keeping my mind busy seemed to work so I became fixated on school and college work just to keep myself from thinking, alongside over training just to be doing something.
Looking in from the outside then, I didn’t look like someone in trouble. I appeared as a happy guy, excelling in my academic work, plus doing pretty well in sport. Because the lows only ever really came when I was alone, I was never really sad around my friends. Regardless of whether they knew it, my friends were a release for me, they made me feel a lot better about everything, just by being with me. They knew about my friend dying too. I’d be very open about it anyway. But to them, it looked like I had made it through and had actually become stronger when, in reality, my achievements were a result of me trying to distract myself from my thoughts.
It was within the last year that everything peeked and I finally accepted I needed to go talk to someone. Before this year, I’d only get lonely when I was on my own so I could counteract it by being around people. Recently though, I began feeling alone when I was with my friends. I started to feel like nobody wanted me to be around and that I didn’t really fit in. The low periods really started to last longer then, because I had no escape. I felt bad when I was on my own and when I was with others. It seems like a cliché but it is a real experience, feeling lonely in a room full of people. You sort of feel disconnected from the rest of the room. When that started happening to me my close friends began to notice that there was something wrong too. At the start I didn’t want to talk about it. I kept denying the idea that there could be something wrong with me. I suppose I didn’t want to be labelled as someone who needed help. Eventually I started talking to a few friends about how I was feeling and that did help temporarily. It felt good to get it off my chest. Unfortunately, that was just a temporary solution and after a couple of weeks the feelings of dread and sadness returned. It all peeked one night we were out I think. I remember getting into the car after a night out and just crying. I wasn’t even sure what about. I think I just realised I was tired of everything in my head being so negative. It was then that I decided that I’d go and talk to someone.
I’d never even thought of the counselling services in UCC until a friend recommended it to me. I think it’s a service not many students realise is there. I remember walking out of my first session with a smile on my face because I knew I’d made the right call and I knew I was on the road to getting better. I’m currently still attending sessions but I do think the counselling provided by the college has made a big change in the way I feel daily. As well as that, I think just being open about how you’re feeling and not hiding it from anyone really helps. I know it’s difficult to admit you need help in the beginning, and the fear of the stigma surrounding mental health can be hard to overcome, but in the long run being open with your friends makes everything a lot easier.
I’m not 100% there yet but I am definitely in a better place now than I was a few months ago. The biggest thing for me was having people who I felt I could talk to and be open with, without judgement. There’s nothing worse than when you feel you’re being pitied by your friends. Just because you’re going through a rough time doesn’t mean that it defines who you are. That’s important as well; remembering who you are outside of your mental problems.
For me, it all comes back to consistency. I couldn’t maintain a consistent level of happiness. It was only when I really committed and continuously sought out help that I began seeing results. Mental health is like anything else worth having, you have to be willing to work for it.
Yeah so that’s that. It’s good to be able to contrast between then and now. A lot has changed. The picture up there is of my own I-pod. I think it’s important to have reminders of what we’re striving for.