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Conor Cusack on his own battle with depression and the importance of taking the first step to receive help Photo by: RTE

Dealing with depression starts with the first step, talking and reaching out for help

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Conor Cusack on his own battle with depression and the importance of taking the first step to receive help Photo by: RTE

Conor Cusack (34), a hurler with Cloyne and Cork, the brother of Cork All-Ireland winning goalkeeper, Donal Og Cusack, wrote a moving blog on his personal battle with depression which went viral.

Since it’s publication Cusack has said the number of young people reaching out to him has been “astonishing”. He has allowed IrishCental to publish his story as part of our mental health campaign to encourage those who need help to take that important first step in seeking help.

This is his story:

I still remember the moment well. It was a wet, cold, grey Friday morning. I rose out of bed having had no sleep the night before. Panic attacks are horrific experiences by day, by night they are even worse. As I drove to work on my trusted Honda 50, a group of my friends passed in their car heading to college. They all smiled and waved and looked so happy. I smiled and waved and acted happy. I had loved and excelled in school but it was the same with my hurling, it was the same with my friends, it was the same with my family, it was the same with the people of Cloyne, it was the same with life, I had lost interest in all of them. Losing interest in people was the worst. Where once I would have felt sadness at seeing my friends heading to where I had always wanted to go, I now didn’t. Something much larger, deeper, darker had taken hold of my mind and sadness, despair, hopelessness were not strong enough to survive alongside what I was feeling.

They say something has to crack to allow the light in. At about 11am that morning, I finally cracked. I couldn’t do it anymore, all my strength at keeping up my pretence had gone. I curled up in the corner of the building and began to cry. One of the lads working with me came over and he didn’t know what to do. I asked him to take me home. The GP called to my house and prescribed some sleeping pills and arranged for me to be sent to the hospital for some tests.

I spent a week there and they done every test imaginable. Physically, I was in perfect health. I was diagnosed with suffering from ‘Depression’ or in laymans terms, that awful phrase ‘of suffering with his nerves’. I had never heard of the word before.

I was sent to see a psychiatrist in my local day care hospital. I was 19 years of age in a waiting room surrounded by people much older than I was. Surely I am not the only young person suffering from depression, I thought to myself. There was a vacant look in all of their eyes, a hollowness, an emptiness, the feeling of darkness pervaded the room. The psychiatrist explained that there might be a chemical imbalance in my brain,  asked me my symptoms and prescribed a mixture of anti depressants, anxiety and sleeping pills based on what I told him. He explained that it would take time to get the right cocktail of tablets for my type of depression. I had an uneasy feeling about the whole thing. Something deep inside in me told me this wasn’t the way forward and this wasn’t what I needed. As I walked out a group of people in another room with intellectual disabilities were doing various things. One man had a teaching device in front of him and he was trying to put a square piece into a round hole. It summed up perfectly what I felt had just happened to me.

I now stayed in my room all day, only leaving it to go to the bathroom. I locked the door and it was only opened to allow my mother bring me some food. I didn’t want to speak to anybody. The only time I left the house was on a Thursday morning to visit the psychiatrist. When everybody had left  to go to work and school, my mother would bring me my breakfast. I cried nearly all the time. Sometimes she would sit there and cry with me, other times talk with me and hold my hand, tell me that she would do anything to help me get better, other times just sit there quietly whilst I ate the food.

Depression is difficult to explain to people. If you have experienced it there is no need, if you haven’t, I don’t think there are words adequate to describe its horror. I have had a lot of injuries playing hurling, snapped cruciates, broken bones in my hands 11 times, had my lips sliced in half and all my upper teeth blown out with a dirty pull but none of them come anywhere near the physical pain and mental torture of depression.  It permeates every part of your being, from your head to your toes. It is never ending, waves and waves of utter despair and hopelessness and fear and darkness flood throughout your whole body.  You crave for peace but even sleep doesn’t afford that. It wrecks your dreams and turns your days into a living nightmare. It destroys your personality, your relationship with your family and friends, your work, your sporting life, it affects them all. Your ability to give and receive affection is gone. You tear at your skin and your hair with frustration. You cut yourself to give some form of physical expression to the incredible pain you feel. You want to grab it and smash it, but you can’t get a hold of it.  You go to sleep hoping, praying not to wake up. You rack your brain seeing is there something you done in your life that justifies this suffering. You wonder why God is not answering your pleas for relief and you wonder is he there at all or has he forgotten about you. And through it all remains the darkness. It’s as if someone placed a veil over your soul and never returned to remove it. This endless, black, never ending tunnel of darkness.

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