From an early age I knew that the regular life wasn’t for me, that I wanted to live life to the fullest, and push my body and mind beyond any limits that I thought I had.
Training six days a week as a 100m sprinter, eating strict, sleeping well and not doing the regular things a lad my age would do, I was striving for excellence. Having had a fairly successful career in secondary school in Track and field it was time to go and pursue a professional career.
Again following the trend of living outside the norm I knew a career in An Garda Siochana (police) was right up my ally.
Fast forward through training, I was now working the thin blue line, and it was everything I expected and more. Facing some massively difficult problems, which, might I add I don't get trained to. One night shift, I walked up from the locker room with my stab vest in one hand and handcuffs and baton in the other. I was told to get to the patrol car that there was a domestic assault just called in where a young man was beating his mother, and she needed help.
I jumped in the patrol car, the sirens screaming and the blue lights filling the otherwise dark Dublin street. In the car my heart was racing but this is what I lived for. When I arrived at the house I was greeted by a visibly aggressive male, in his right hand he held a long wooden plank, as I calmly approached him I saw a woman standing behind him screaming out for us to take him away.
The male held the weapon over his head as if he was going to hit us. He ignored my orders to drop the weapon and then ran into his kitchen, and i pursed him. I now find myself at his kitchen door, not able to see where he went. Suddenly he appears out from behind the wall, and in his hand was a foot long chefs knife. Inside I froze, how am I supposed to deal with this?, there’s no Garda manual, or training course gave me any help here. Instead, being an early 20 something year old lad I was left to rely on my instincts It was during my attempts to disarm him where I ended up getting injured. Having deep cuts in my hand I was bleeding quite heavily, I remember getting pulled out by the backup we called for.
A mere 13 minutes after turning up for work, I’m now stood outside a strangers house trying desperately to stop the bleeding. This is life on the thin blue line. One moment its quiet the next your life can be changed forever. Returning home from hospital that night, I stayed up and reassured my loved ones and parents that I’m okay, and all is fine. I went up to my bed and got to sleep straight away. Little did I know that this was t he last night of sleep I would get for the next 6 years.
Things started to change for the worse when I started having night terrors, the most vivd, real and terrifying dreams I’ve ever experienced. I would wake grasping my hand thinking I was bleeding, or thinking my bed is covered in my blood. I even had dreams that the male was in my room with the knife.
Sleep became a real issue with me. Do you ever have those nights where you’re tossing and turning, mind racing, and you’re just not able to seep. You reach out and check the time on your phone, and return to the struggle to get back to sleep. You check your phone thinking hours have passed only to find its been 4 minutes since you last checked. Thats how I lived for 6 years.
I would drive laps of Dublin, which turned into driving to Bray which turned into driving to sligo and back just to fill the void. The nights were the worst, I never felt so alone. Over the next six years I battled with anxiety, panic attacks which then lead onto severe depression.
Up to this point anything I set my mind to I achieved, but this is something I felt I couldn’t beat. I
became so tired, so angry, I was so frustrated with everything, feeling like a failure and like this is
what life was for me. I made the decision to end it all.
I remember the day so clear, I was sure it’s what I wanted and suddenly I hear this sweet voice of a child who was talking to her mother about being excited about her day out. A wave of warmth flooded through my body, and I returned to my car and broke into tears. It was that day I made a promise with myself that I’m going to give this one last real push to get better. I returned to the one thing I knew, Training. So I contacted Raheny Shamrocks A.C (my club in secondary school) and asked could I come back and train with them. They were so happy to have me and I was taking steps back to take my life back.
I would have the same playlist on my phone play during sessions, and one day a song from that list came on my computer and for the first time in years I got excited, I got drive to get up and train. I knew that this was a big sign of things getting better.
One day at training I was approached one day by the Irish bobsleigh and Skeleton Association asking would I be interested in trying their sport, and I jumped at the opportunity. Skeleton is a winter sport much like bobsleigh, which if you’re not familiar with you need to watch cool runnings! I go down an ice track made up of a number of banked curves, on a sled that resembles a toboggan. I hit speeds of up to 145kmph, oh did I mention, this is all head first, chin cm’s from the ice.
I’ve slid all over the world in places such as Canada, America, Germany and Austria in such a mentally and physically demanding sport. I’ve used the darkest moment of my life, something I will always carry with me to my advantage. I use to walk outside and remember feeling overwhelmed with anxiety, and now I can stand at the top of a track with my sled in my hand, wearing a helmet and a speed suit that looks like it should be in the window of an Ann Summers shop,and I’m in control.
I accept that there are days where things are out of my control, and I understand that a lot of my anxiety lives in the anticipation of something. Instead of seeing this event as something that would hold me back, I see it as the gift of understanding. I now know where my limits are and I can work within them.
If there is anything I want people to take from this it’s don't do it alone, and speak out. I hid most of what I was going through and I was so close to ending it all. I’m now happier, fitter, stronger than ever and I’m on the road to represent my country in the Olympic games. I’ve partnered up with a Mental Health charity MyMind who make getting help easy. If anyone reading this feels they could benefit with some help, I urge you to take the step and contact them. I was alone, I was a police officer who was expected to put up with this sort of thing. I wish I had the help they offer.
There is life after depression, I cant stress that enough. It’s so hard to see that when you’re suffering from it, but having been through some very very dark times I can attest that if you reach out, be it a friend or a family member you can get help.