Since we’re doing this cycle for mental health I thought it fitting to write this post about my personal experience with mental health challenges.
In my early twenties I suffered from depression for about 2 years. It was rotten. Every morning straight after the blissful haze of awakening, I would feel a kind of hollowness, that nothing was right. However, I was lucky. Breda, my mum, was amazing. She understood that what I was feeling was complex, and that it needed to be addressed by a person who understood that particular type of complexity. She understood that I needed to be helped by someone who was qualified to help. But beyond her understanding of the need for that help, she also held no stigma about mental health issues or about opening up and accepting that sometimes getting help is necessary.
My problems were relatively minor in the scheme of things, and some of it had to do with the social anxiety associated with the processes of discovering my own identity. But that is not to belittle how I was feeling. The difference between the angst of identity development and the continuous deadening feeling from depression are now clear and discernible in my mind.
For the most part I dealt with the constant gnawing feeling in my gut through a combination of bombast, humour, kayaking and socialising. I also think that I was, and still am, lucky with the friends and family I had and still have.
But I have no doubt that I was lucky. The reason that I believe that luck played a large part in helping me deal with my depression is because I suffered from a problem that was, and I believe still is, treated blithely on a societal level in Ireland. And, as I mentioned above I was lucky that my mum didn't hold the prevailing ‘you’ll-be-grand’, ‘sticks and stones’ attitude towards my depression.
But, I think that attitudes in Ireland are changing thanks to the many people and organisations doing amazing work for mental health: Headstrong, Aware, Shine, Mental Health Ireland, and MetalHealthReform.ie are just some organisations amongst many who do fantastic work in providing support, progressing awareness, and increasing societal understanding of the function and importance of good mental health.
Both my wife, Stef, and I believe that mental health is of huge importance to society on every level. Headstrong, and many other organisations, do incredible work with people suffering from mental health problems in Ireland, and as attitudes towards mental health change so to do our attitudes towards each other. Surely this makes everything better for everyone.
On one final note: the support that we have received so far on our Bike Back Home journey for Headstrong and mental health has been uplifting, to say the very least. Absolutely everything from ‘likes’ on Facebook and Instagram photos and posts, to donations on our mycharity.ie page have been enormously appreciated and they all energise us more and more to get our pedal on back home to Ireland!
So, a massive thanks to everyone who has helped us to support Headstrong so far on our journey. It really means a lot to us. Only 12,000 kilometres more to go!