Aaron Connolly is an Ambassador for Back Onside the Mental Health Charity that we are working with, he is a footballer, a husband and a dad, he has also tried to take his own life.
An extract of his blog appears in this weeks match programme but he is the full article, it is honest, eye opening and at times difficult to read but please do that, read it, this is why we are working with Back Onside, its ok to not be ok !
“You are such an inspiration, please tell me how did you beat this?” A sentence which starts with a really kind sentiment and a compliment to my recent fightback from near suicide but finishes with a naive and ill informed question. I don’t want to sound ungrateful to the countless people who have reached out and said something very similar to me over these last few months, but I do get irritated sometimes when people believe I just got over depression one day. Listen it’s not their fault, I commend them for reaching out and asking the question. It takes real bravery to admit things aren’t good in your life and you need help. I’m not really sure what’s brought me to the laptop today but I feel I have something to share. it may be the ramblings of a man still in the midst of his battle with this fucker, yes I did refer to it as just that….a fucker. It may turn out to help you, or someone close to you but bear with me and lets see where this takes us I’ve always liked writing for therapy after all.
Just over 4 months ago I tried and failed to take my own life, never have I been so retrospectively grateful to fail at something. I’ve told the story of that evening many times now so here’s the highlights. In a nutshell I decided suicide was the only way out of the pain, the suffering, the continual hurt and anger I was feeling. I left my wife a shitty goodbye text message, one which I regret until this very moment and will likely regret until I do leave this world. I stood a few feet from an oncoming train and before taking my final steps I had a hallucination type experience of my son shouting on me and I fell back sobbing. I don’t mean to sound so flippant as I know it was a horrific experience and not something that is easy to hear or read for many, however I prefer to focus on what I have done since that night rather than re-live it. I’ve battled depression for as long as I can remember (clinically diagnosed for 5 years) and I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy. I am fully aware that’s a cliché but that comment is 100% genuine, this dark cloud has nearly robbed me of my life more than once. Not only that its robbed me of countless days and weeks spent in darkness with an inability to live normally. It’s robbed my wife of a husband and my son of a daddy many,many times so I’m sure you’ll understand my hatred and anger towards it.
The subsequent four months on from that evening have been totally surreal so much has changed, both internally in how I cope with things and externally in my life circumstances. I’m proud of how far I’ve come of course I am but I’m super aware that this is merely the beginning of my journey. I’m predicting a long, windy, and potentially treacherous road remains ahead. My recovery is very much an ongoing battle I have not yet won because here’s the thing about this fucker I’m fighting it, then just like that it comes back and bites you in the arse when you least expect it. Just when you think everything is going well and you’re doing what you perceive to be all the right things…boom another week consigned to the couch full of self loathing and self pity!
So back to the original question; “How did I beat this?” I didn’t and I haven’t but if we re-frame the question slightly there’s a conversation to be had for sure. “How did you deal with this?” That is a far more pertinent question, one which I can try and answer and guide people with. Firstly let me make it very clear, I have a fantastic support circle one which would be the envy of so many I’m a lucky, lucky man in that aspect and I know may others can’t rely on that initially. My wife Siobhán is a nurse and has an understanding of ill mental health so is always there by my side, no matter what shit I put her through and make no mistake I put her through some shit. I can become quite a horrible person to be around yet she always seems to see the good and drag me out of the mire time after time. My son Ruairí is a shining light, every single day without fail I feel immense pride at the wee guy he’s becoming, just one of they class, cool wee guy’s who owns the room when he walks in. I then have a handful of close friends and no matter the time or day I can reach out and spill my guts to without fear of judgement. John, Ryza, CJ, JC, Dunny, Crichto, Miller you all have been there at one time or another and I am forever grateful. Finally I have Libby from Back Onside, just a kind person doing incredible work in the Mental Health space supporting vulnerable people and raising awareness.
Even with all of these fantastic people in my corner ready to pick up the baton and help me fight at any given moment I’ve learned one thing, recovery starts from within. The only way to turn this around is to fight it, get angry and find a way to fight back because if you don’t it’ll beat you down to a pulp and leave you broken. Once you break and you lose the willingness to live then we are in the danger zone and that’s when we lose people, I was there but for whatever reason I made it through, maybe to tell this story? Don’t get me wrong you will need help along the way and that is available but the first blow needs to come from YOU! Challenge the negativity with something, anything sometimes even getting out of your bed is an achievement so treat it like so. Tell your mind “I beat you this morning I’m up!” Day on day you can manifest this into something that resembles a recovery. This sounds so simple and basic but I promise you the small things make a huge difference, I am living proof.
I remember the moment I decided it was time for me to take action. I had been in hospital 2 weeks, locked up for my own safety and I was given a 15 minute pass to go outside in the grounds. The sunshine hit my face, I looked up, soaked it in and spread my arms like something from a fucking movie and it just clicked in my mind. The feeling of instant gratitude that I had failed when trying to kill myself and an understanding that I own my thoughts and feelings and only I can challenge them. I made a decision that very moment I will not end up here again, now that was potentially naive of me as the power of the black cloud can be unwavering but its something I try to live by daily now.
I champion many coping mechanisms from running, writing, reading to meditating and each of us will have varied levels of success with them. What is crucial is just trying. When the chips are down and you have that feeling like you are chained to your bed or your couch unable to move, I ask you to try something, anything. Don’t submit to it. You are better than you are telling yourself. You are worth more than you could ever believe. Nothing or no one is unfixable as long as you are honest with yourself and those within your support circle. Never be afraid to talk and reach out you’ll find a helping hand I certainly have. Yes unfortunately you’ll also find some negativity from those fortunate enough never to have suffered, just ignore and move on from that I’ve had to even if some of them were family.
I sit here feeling as good as I remember feeling for a long time, despite the fact just last week I was off work again struggling to cope with the latest downturn. The difference now from previous lows is I understand my feelings better than ever, I’m self aware and learning how to be more honest with those around me. Most importantly I didn’t submit to it, yes I prioritised my engagements with people and the activities I wanted to participate in but I achieved the goals I set and continued to fight. It was a little warning shot across my brow that in the background it lurks and I must maintain the good habits I have learned, be grateful for how far I’ve come and all I have or face spiralling back into that hole, the place I promised myself I’d never go again!
Thank you for taking the time to read, I’m intent on trying to do this semi-regularly although I have been for a long time so I don’t want to over commit. I hope this helps others, its certainly helped me. If you are struggling please get in touch with myself or Back Onside. My message is you can get through this but its going to take hard work, nothing that you are not capable of!