Many psychologists and counsellors around the county in the intimacy of therapy are exposed to the hurts people have over their life. About a year ago I recently met James, a former client, who is in his mid-teens. He had suffered from depression but is now doing very well. I told him about writing my book ‘Becoming Your Real Self – A practical toolkit fir managing life’s challenges – Penguin Ireland ‘ and invited him to put down his thoughts, so that others with similar struggles might read them. Here is his story.
‘When I was young, I was always a bubbly well-mannered child who tried to be as helpful to all of my friends and teachers as I could. This lasted all through primary school. Once I got into secondary school, I changed. I became quiet and withdrawn from my friends. I began to talk to only a few people who I trusted a lot, but never really told them what I was thinking. I had all these thoughts that were whizzing through my head: “Why am I here?”, “I hate myself”, “I am weird”, etc. I felt so confused and sad. I soon began to feel depressed and sad, but I chose not to tell anyone. No one. One day, while texting my friend Sophie, she texted, “You okay you seem sad all of a sudden.” I replied, “I’m okay don’t worry.” Sophie persisted and I began to pour out my mind and heart to her and she sat there and helped me through every second, even when I was telling her that all I wanted to do was die. ‘Soon after I told her, I felt a lot happier. Sophie helped me a lot. I was close to ending my own life, but she held me back. Sadly the friendship crumbled and I fell to pieces when I was left all alone again. ‘I fell in and out of depression but I told one other person and they did the right thing and went to an adult and told them all about me and my thoughts. At the time I believed it was the worst thing they could’ve done; my parents and school were keeping watch on me. I was referred to local services, but there was a massive waiting list. I still didn’t like talking to anyone; I kept it in; I didn’t want to disappoint or hurt. My GP insisted on my visiting a psychologist. I soon felt a lot happier in myself and my mood levels increased. But I still didn’t like talking to anyone. ‘Months later I began to accept that I was gay and told a few of my friends. The few I came out to helped me understand that it was okay to be gay. Soon I realized that one of the reasons I was having suicidal thoughts was that I wasn’t okay with my sexuality and believed that being gay was wrong. That I would be cast out of society for being gay. My friends showed me that it was okay to be yourself. Soon I began to develop feelings for someone who was never going to like me the way I liked him. It broke my heart to know it would never happen, so I began to fill my mind with self-destructive thoughts again. I thought about ending my life, but I realized how stupid it would be to do that. I had a life to live. ‘I now think how stupid I was to ever think of ending my own life, as I now see the true love and affection my family and friends feel towards me. I owe my life to the people who stood by me at my lowest points and I thank them wholeheartedly. One of the main pieces of advice I took away with me is what I now live my life by; that saying is “Thoughts are thoughts; they are not facts.” I don’t need to act on my thoughts now. I am okay with who I am. I am my real self. You can like me or not, but I like me.’
What a powerful letter. Thankfully this young man does not have to wait a life time to express himself. Recently there has been a catharsis for many people – Pat Carey, Leo Varadkar, Ursula Halligan as they acknowledge their real self. I have seen in my practice and it’s repeated in many places all over the country where people have been afraid to express themselves for fear of being judged by others and society. This denial when turned in on itself has catastrophic consequences including self-medication through alcohol leading to alcoholism, depression and sadly for some the ultimate act of suicide which say I cannot live in this pain any longer.
Let’s remove the causes of pain. The judgements. Let’s be compassionate. There is nothing to fear. Fear exists for individuals on both sides of the debate often the response to fear is Fight or Flight – Let’s keep perspective. Let’s reduce the amount of people who are turning to psychologists for support with their distress. Don’t create prisons for other people. A new dialogue will lead to a more positive space, one where there is growth for everyone and all can be their Real Self.