Eoin Stynes discusses how important talking was in managing his mental health.
Written by Eoin Stynes
Voices - Experiences
Young people share their personal experiences.
I just want to begin this by saying that I seek no sympathy for what I have gone through. I only wish that by reading this people will start to look at mental illness in a different light and to bring the topic to the fore, eradicating the stigma surrounding mental illness, especially in young people, before it’s too late. We need to be pro-active towards fighting mental illness and suicide, the Silent Killer, instead of just reacting to it after it happens.
To the sufferers, you are not alone! Remember that some of the greatest minds to have ever graced this planet have suffered from various mental illnesses. Michelangelo, Isaac Newton, Ludwig Van Beethoven, Vincent Van Gogh, Leo Tolstoy, Charles Dickens, Ernest Hemmingway, Abraham Lincoln, Calvin Coolidge, Winston Churchill, Princess Diana, Buzz Aldrin, Carrie Fisher, Catherine Zeta Jones, Heath Ledger, Winona Ryder, J.K. Rowling, Sheryl Crow, Billy Joel, Marlon Brando, Emma Thompson, Elton John, Jim Carrey, Stephen Fry, Kurt Cobain and Robin Williams, to name but a few. From artists to scientists, composers to musicians, political leaders to authors, explorers to actors, to comedians. All of these people have positively impacted the lives of billions of others around the world throughout history and up until the present day, all the while struggling through their illness. Remember this list when times are tough and you feel worthless. You are more special than you could ever imagine.
My story starts in 2012 at the point where I first noticed I had a problem on my hands. People saw me as a happy go lucky, talented lad with a lot going for him. Always a smile on my face and always up for a laugh. This was the Eoin that everyone saw. Very few saw the real me, the one that had no self-confidence or worth and no happiness. I was hiding behind the thousands of masks that I wore on a daily basis. I went through this pain for three or four years, self-medicating when times got really tough. What I thought was helping me, was doing more harm than good. I didn’t know what was going on, why I felt that way or how I should deal with it. I went through days that I wouldn’t be able to leave my room because I was afraid. I just couldn’t move out of my bedroom because I knew that I was safe there. These days quickly grew together and soon grew into weeks and then months. The only time I left the room was to get drink, get food or if I smelled perfume wafting upstairs. The latter was the fastest one I moved for! It was safe to say that college didn’t happen at this time, but I was getting by just enough from working through the internet that I was able to hide it from my family. This went on for months upon months with no let up. Going from extreme highs to extreme lows with no notice whatsoever, and sometimes these swings happening within seconds of first coming on. Constantly making me more and more frustrated and causing me to hide myself more and more due to the fact that I didn’t know how I was going to feel five minutes later. I was spiralling out of control and I had no idea of how to handle myself.
In January 2014, a week after my 21st birthday, I broke down. I woke up on the Wednesday morning and couldn’t move. Feeling like this had happened before but never as bad as the way I felt that day. I rang my parents and broke down in tears on the phone. I jumped on the train and by four o’ clock that day I was in to see my GP. I was diagnosed with Clinical Depression, prescribed medication and sent on my way. The visit lasted about the same length as the last sentence. Immediately I felt a sense of relief that I had finally told someone and had gotten help. Without this first step on my recovery I wouldn’t be here today. But little did I know, that the worst was yet to come.
Starting to recover
A few weeks later I began therapy and with everything I talked about I began to feel better. At the beginning there were still bad days and weeks but soon the good days started to out-number the bad and my outlook on life completely changed. Through talking about this I have started to handle the bad days better and to cherish every happy second that I have. I know it’s a cliché but believe me when I say, a problem shared is a problem halved. Talking about my problems has been the best cure, better than any medication that a doctor may throw out to you. Talking to my friends, family and anyone that would listen is what saved me from myself and my own mind.
Depression was something that I had never really thought about as a possible reason for how I was feeling. It was only that I heard an interview on the television and they talked about the symptoms of depression that it clicked with me. I was mentally ticking off these symptoms and noticing that I was suffering from many of them. This was the first time that I had ever thought of it as a possibility and that I wasn’t just me being selfish and melodramatic. Due to this I strongly stand by speaking out and sharing our experiences of mental illness and suicide on every media format around. It needs to be a main topic in every politician’s manifesto and a headline on all news broadcasts to stop the loss of young people in this country. Suicide is one of the biggest killers of young people in Ireland, but it is one that can be easily stopped with the right resources and support. One thing that has struck me from newspaper articles over the last few months is that suicide is still seen as the biggest sin imaginable.
The media has long been a source of pain for many a person who has gone through a mental illness, constantly making people feel worthless. The media don’t speak ill of the dead when it comes to the death of a drug dealer or crime lord who have terrorised communities for decades. As Jim Morrison once pointed out, “Death makes angels of us all, and gives us wings where we had shoulders”, in their case, more often than not, this statement is true. But when it comes to a 20 year old who has taken their own life as an escape from their inner turmoil, they are viewed as an “attention seeker” and “selfish”. Using these words to describe someone who has taken their own life does not prevent others from going down the same road.
One cannot provide a blanket description of why someone tries to take their own life, but in my case it was to finally stop the pain but most of all it was to stop myself from being a burden on my friends and family. I do not condone suicide in any way or fashion, I am merely trying to point out that how we handle this and how society views it has to be changed. We can’t just sit back anymore and let it happen. Society usually doesn’t seem to care until it is too late, as was the case when the great Robin Williams took his own life. The internet went wild after his death, tributes, sympathies and thanks went out to him. I don’t think the same would have happened if he had remained alive. We need to cherish humanity and life while we still have it instead of just reacting after it is too late. We need preventative measures to combat suicide, not a reaction!
That’s my story so far, I have changed completely since those early dark days, all through the help of my family and friends. Through good times people underestimate how much they need their friends and family. I urge everyone to cherish the people around you throughout the good because they will be the ones jumping down that dark hole to help you out when times are tough.
To the sufferers, please talk. Take that first step to helping yourself because it is the first step towards happiness. It will allow you to look back a year later and see how far you have come and how strong and special you really are. The people I mentioned at the start could have never predicted the impacts that they would make on the human race and the history of the world. Now it’s our turn to make our mark!
Thank you for reading.
I just want to thank all my family and friends for standing by me and showing me that there is light at the end of the tunnel. You stood by me when I tried to push you away and I will be eternally grateful for this. Finally, to my Meitheal family, you have shown me how much love, hope and compassion is really in this world and restored my faith in humanity.