Make a Ripple: Dave’s story

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About the Make a Ripple campaign

This series of blog posts are part of the See Change Make a Ripple campaign, an initiative to help end the stigma of mental health problems by sharing experiences and building public understanding. If you’d like to tell your story, you can visit the Make a Ripple stories portal. If you’d like to write a longer piece like the one below, you can contact a member of the See Change campaign team atinfo@seechange.ie or on 01 8601620

Dave’s story

Just before I turned thirty I experienced what was, I would realise in years to come, a mental breakdown. Several years of denial drowned in excessive alcohol, drugs and high living had stripped away all the mental supports I had once thought were as strong as steel.

 

I had ignored this downward spiral my life had taken and the result was a failed suicide attempt. Perhaps a little bizzarely, it was the attempt itself that was my wake up call. Right up until the very moment I made the attempt I was unaware of how desperate I had become.

 

For sure, I knew that I had some problems and that things weren’t going as smoothly as I would have liked them to. I had lost some good jobs along the way but had always managed to find another and salvage a little of my professional reputation. Almost inevitably, I lost one too many.

 

I eventually found myself unable to get a good enough reference to find more work in my line and a career I had built up was gone. It wasn’t the only casualty. I felt alienated from everything and everyone around me and the future felt like a dark cloud I couldn’t see beyond. It’s hindsight that tells me my only real mistake in the whole cycle was not to ask for help.

 

It was there for me had I only recognised it. This was at the end of 1999. The tiger was starting to roar and the world was gearing up for the millenium. I felt like I was the only one out of step with a society I had helped create.

 

I had been successful in the IT business and suddenly found myself completely at odds with my old self and the world at large. The sad irony being that in a world chock full of options I thought that I had none.

 

Surviving suicide has been a very humbling experience for me. I know that had even one little thing been different that day I would not have been so lucky as to survive. I often think of those who committed suicide in more decisive ways, who never had the chance to realise as I did, that as bleak as everything seems, it is possible to recover joy in the world around you and in yourself also.

 

In the aftermath of my attempt I found myself stripped of all pretence. With the help and support of friends and family I was able to begin again. From the very bottom.

 

How much easier might it have been if I didn’t carry the stigma of having attempted the ‘cowards way out’. That expression cuts me with it’s ignorance, but I must acknowledge that for a while I believed it too. How much easier would it have been if the problems with my mental health were no less shameful than any other medical problem.

 

If I had not felt the stigma myself, then I might have sought help earlier when only assistance was needed and my troubles were small ones. This to me is the importance of reducing the stigma attached to mental health issues. Like an untreated wound can become a more serious infection, something as simple as finding it difficult to cope can all too quickly descend into debilitating depression.

 

There will always be services required for those in desperate need, but if we can change how mental health issues are percieved then how many would be spared that desperation? It’s your mental health, the slogan goes, and that’s true. We need to treat it with as much care as our physical bodies. There is though, beyond ourselves, the mental health of our nation.

 

Right now, with the economic woes we all face, I can’t help but think of how many are out there in circumstances not unlike mine 12 years ago. How can I reach them in time and let them learn from my mistakes before making any more of their own? Well, the answer is I can’t reach them individually. What we can do is inform society at large that these are not weak or incapable people. They are not failures or fools. To believe that is to be ignorant, and it is this ignorance that we need to stigmatise.

 

Dave Byrne

 

If you are affected by this story and would like to speak with someone, please click through for a list of organisations that will provide support

 

See Change understands that there is a complex multiplicity of perspectives on mental health problems and the experience of being unwell. See Change encourages the publication of material that promotes understanding of mental health problems, the experience of being unwell, and recovery. The opinions expressed by contributors to the Make a Ripple campaign are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of See Change, funders, or partner organisations.

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