Ralph Leigh

I suppose growing up I probably didn't have a normal life or maybe as normal as others, but hey who does. I came from a small family, my mother raised me and my older brother Jamie pretty well I think considering my Mum and Dad had separated in 1996, she pretty much devoted her entire life to me and my bigger brothers well being. I suppose growing up for me a normal dinner would have been Sausages, Beans and Mashed potato but I didn't complain in fact it was gorgeous. I remember times of struggle but I also remember times with my Brother and Mother and Father that I can never forget, great joy and overwhelming love. In fact my Mom would break a sweat to make sure I had the nice football boots that other kids had she may have to starve but hey that was her.

My Father decided to move to Australia when I was 14, unknown to me, and I suppose very unexpectedly, where he their set up his new life with a new wife. I think as my teen years began I started to change in ways, I went to college in Galway, looking back I done what many teenagers did and do I drank a lot, I dabbled with substances you tend to dabble with, I remember nights out when I would be the one getting into a fight in Galway or being chased down the street by a group of guys, don't get me wrong I'm a loving person but after half a gallon of Vodka and Red bull I can be Mike Tyson or like to think I am,the next morning It was all a blur I think this became a pretty normal night out, I attended Galway Technical Institute and lived in Galway, that year I met a girl and I experienced everything that a teenager is meant to experience.

I then attended GMIT studying a course i had no interest in, I enjoyed the Social aspect of college, I seem to get lots of attention from girls, in fact I will admittedly say thankfully this hasn't been a problem for me I have met some lovely girls, but that year I met my soul mate ''The Black Dog''. You see to you I look like a guy who loves his style I might come across popular and have never had a problem meeting girls, I also have been a key member of football clubs across Galway. But deep down I have an underlying illness, I can only describe it as somebody inside me chewing away at my guts and feelings and spitting them out repeatedly. I went through my college years going out with a couple of great girls, I fell in love a couple of times, I lost a couple of pals along the way, but I also lost myself, I didn't know who i was, I lost all control of my body and my mind, alcohol didn't help. After drinking i regularly had suicidal thoughts images. I think my line of thought when I was talking to people even if they were praising me or speaking highly of me, was "If only they knew the weirdo I really was I'm a girls blouse deep down".I suppose with alcohol I was never okay, I have been pulled out of a river a few times, and done some silly things. Last year 2015 I think I found that friend again, a failed relationship, two suicide attempts, a couple of break downs and time in hospital due to an overdose, I reached a point in my life where, when I looked in the mirror at myself I hated who I stood for, I asked myself who am I anyway. I returned to University to pursue an Arts Degree where I got to a stage where I couldn't stay in a lecture hall without breaking open in a sweat, I also developed stomach problems due to stress and anxiety, all the time I just wanted to turn and tell someone but I couldn't, I don't think anyone properly understood how much pain I was living in, It made me a nasty person, not the person I knew.

And so I dropped out of college as It got so bad I couldn't even get my haircut without having a panic attack, I mean I didn't even know what a panic attack was I thought i was just a weirdo that felt faint all the time, Or I was socially abnormal. You can have everything going for you but if you can't see it then to you know-body can. My line of thought was ''stop leigh being a crying bitch and grow up you girl''. Believe me I'm no better or worse than anybody else on this earth. I will always battle with this but it's how I deal with it I can now meet it head on . Life is tough.Watching videos lately of people speaking openly about this, I have found it really touching actually, It inspires me a little. I have seen therapists and counsellors this year but they didn't work, I think my time in hospital this year really done me some good, I mean it was a close call but i left that hospital determined to turn my life around, I sit here today with a new job running my own shop, It's the first time in my life I can actually say I'm content with who I am and happy within myself, i am one of the lucky ones to be alive, and I look up to people who have the courage to speak openly about this,my line of thought was "only weird people suffer so that means I am one of them people",I hope that people realise this is a normal illness, it does go away it can get better, and things can be so much better, a healthy mind is so important, and mental health needs to be highlighted so much more in this country, I'm glad I have done this as i think for me it takes something off my chest. I wish people would realise "it's okay to not be okay".Im not perfect I never will be but I'm my own man now and I hope I can help others.

Doug Leddin