Look at me and what do you see?

by See Change Ambassador, Keith Dore

 

Look at me and what do you see?  

Listen to me and what do you hear? 

A 6’5”, 110kg strong Irishman. A Firefighter. 

If you really saw me for who I am and really listened to my truth, you may never see me in the same light again.  

I am father, a husband, a son, a friend, a teammate, a firefighter. In the past I have been a garda, a soldier, a teacher, a doorman and bus driver, among other jobs. These are all roles and jobs which I have performed, but they are not really who I am. In each one of these roles I have had the ability to play the part as much as an actor would. I have taken on the character of each role and, in doing so, I have never had to show myself to the world. In reality, I have struggled for years with my mental health from a young age due to a variety of factors which were underpinned by a low lying depression within me. I pushed it all down though and I isolated myself away from others and dealt with my own lack of self-worth by hoping it would pass and generally it did to a certain extent. It comes in waves though, and depressive states would really knock me back again and again and when I got knocked down I became a self-pitying mess who was incapable of sharing how he felt with others. I didn’t share because I felt they didn’t care. ‘They’ was anyone else in the world.  

I didn’t share because I am a man and men don’t breakdown like that do they? Men are strong and resilient and stoic. Men are meant to be reliable. Men get things done and have no doubts about themselves. Men must not show themselves to be weak around other men. I held those beliefs for years and those beliefs very nearly put me in an early grave as I made the ultimate decision in 2017 to end my life.  

Over the years I knew there was a sadness inside me that I just couldn’t shake. I overcame my social anxiety through the use of copious amounts of alcohol but the hangovers would make my depression and anxieties worse. Through the years I always showed up for others though. I put on the uniform and attended the worse days of other peoples’ lives as a garda, a paramedic and a firefighter. Putting on the uniform allowed me to play the role. When someone rang 999/112 for an emergency we turn up and we aim to make things better but when I had my own emergencies I didn’t pick up the phone to call for help. Why? I didn’t want to be seen as being weak, or not able to cope. I didn’t want there to be a perception of me within my workplace that I was someone who was not fit for work or someone who couldn’t be trusted.  

I am lucky to be here as a survivor of suicide. I cannot take back anything that has happened in the past but I am so grateful that I am still here. I had gotten to the lowest point in my life and when my dog and pal of 13 years, Tigger, died on November 6th 2017 the grief I felt was like a tipping point for all the other pent up emotions that I had kept inside myself for years. It sent me into a downward spiral fuelled by depression and alcohol that I could not get out of. I decided I had hurt too many people and they would all be better off with me gone. I now know that is not true.  

The help was there if I had looked for it. If I had allowed myself to be vulnerable and opened up to people more I do not think that I would have gotten to the point of wanting to die. If I didn’t try to play up to the role of the strong silent man in society I would not have gotten to that point. If I had had the courage to stand up for myself more and believe that my feelings and emotions were as valid as anyone else’s I would not have gotten to that point. But I did get to that point and I never want anyone else ever to get to that point of darkness in their life where they feel that there is no other option. Believe me when I say, you are loved and you are worthy of living a full life. Please don’t be afraid to ask for help.  

 


If you are having a tough time at the moment and need to reach out for support, please contact any of the following

Shine: phil@shine.ie

 

Samaritans: 116123

 

Pieta House: 1800 247 247

 

YourMentalHealth.ie: 1800 742 444

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