Kieran Monaghan, 26
Cute isn’t he?! Now that you have been eased into the murky waters of this harrowing tale let me begin…
It was on the 23rd May 2016 I finally decided to confront what I had known for years: My mental health was on its arse and I needed to make changes. After being on stand-by mode for what had seemed like months, I made an impulsive decision to visit my friend in Germany for 2 weeks to sort my head out, remove my self from friends, family, work, the pressures of finding that perfect ‘career job’ and all the general petty worries someone in their mid 20’s going through the motions would feel.
The year prior to this I had just finished my dissertation and was finally free from the confines of formal education. I genuinely thought I would now be free to do exactly as I pleased. What followed however, was months of a directionless existence. Not knowing what I wanted to do with my degree I slipped back into old habits, working full-time at the same job I had since leaving school, grasping at every possible opportunity to gorge myself with drink to break up the grind of being just another cog in the machine. I was even finding it difficult to socialise with close friends if alcohol wasn’t involved in some shape or form, I felt completely disconnected from reality at this point. I was approaching 25 and hadn’t accomplished nearly 10% of the goals I had mentally set myself out at 18. My delusions with reality had gotten so bad that one morning, a week before my 25th birthday, I woke up for work and was contemplating throwing myself in front of an incoming train just to escape from it all. This is the only time I have ever truly considered self-harm or taking my life.
My trip to Germany felt like the reset button my life needed. I went two whole weeks without a negative thought veering into my rearview mirror during the trip. Surrounded by strangers, no prior judgement, no wall or front to put up to appeases others, it was utter bliss. Coming home to reality broke me and made me realise I wasn’t well. I told my family everything that I had been feeling the past year which brought up some uncomfortable home truths as well as making me examine my psyche in a way I was completely unwilling to before. I sought out help and was diagnosed with depression and high levels of anxiety and was put on meds to stabilise my moods and behaviour.
From a young age I have suffered from extreme anxiety. I have always been quite introverted in nature and find most social situations with large crowds of people uncomfortable unless I’m out of my face. What started off as an inconvenience for my social life slowly started to weave its way into my everyday life. I would take the smallest fear or doubt in my head and blow it up to the point were I would spend full days in my room paralysed with anxiety. I always use a strange analogy to describe what it feels like to me having high levels of anxiety:
“Do you know when you get a line from a song stuck in your head from hours on end and you can’t seem to shake it out no matter how hard you try? Anxiety is like that, but take what would appear to be a pretty harmless idea/thought, repeating it over and over in your head until it warps into the worst possible version of that thought you can imagine leaving you feeling helpless and absorbed by your insecurities.”
That might sound a tad melodramatic but this is something I was having to deal with on a near daily basis but too embarrassed to say to anyone. Being trapped inside your head fighting a never-ending mental war on yourself is tough for anyone and wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.
That analogy not do anything for you? Here it is a more visual description of what living with anxiety is like:
Being a self-hating privileged white male, I am very self-aware that myself and many guys grow up without really facing any kind of hardships in our day to day lives, both personally and professionally. The one area where males have always faltered with is talking about their feelings and being ‘emotional’. Even as someone who would identify themselves as quite effeminate, the stigma of masculinity has always lured over my head when it has came to expressing how I really feel at the best of times. I have been in past relationships where I have been unable to express how I’m feeling to the other half no matter how hard I’m being pushed. One particular relationship, which was by no means a bad relationship, ended pretty badly as the girl got understandably frustrated that I couldn’t express myself to her in the way I really wanted to. In my head I had just always been taught to avoid confrontation at all costs as men are supposed to be ‘strong’ and ‘stoic’. traditional masculinity is something I have always tried to fight against but at the end of the day I still felt trapped by the cliches of being a man.
Being able to openly discuss mental health and our feelings is something I have tried to make a priority with my male friends when we are out drinking, as sadly being intoxicated is the easiest way for men to let down that macho facade and be real with themselves even if just momentarily. Last summer I was telling my closest friend, who was suffering from a long-term battle with Cancer, that I felt genuinely embarrassed talking to him about my problems after everything he had been through to this point. I felt pathetic that I had at points wanted to give up on my life when he was fighting everyday just to stay around a little longer. But being the incredible compassionate human being that he was told me “That just because your problems aren’t as severe as mine, doesn’t mean they aren’t any less insignificant”. Despite all the bullshit he was going through, he was still willing to lend an ear and talk to me about troubles I felt uncomfortable talking to anyone else about at that stage. For that and everything else he done for me over the years, I’m truly grateful to have had someone there to listen to me when I needed it most.
So what your wanting to know now is that I confronted my problems, got the help I needed and am now fully recovered and live happily ever after?! Well kids, life isn’t the fairytales Disney and countless other feel good stories depict it to be. Have I gotten better?! Of course. Being able to talk openly about my troubles makes it easier to confront them when they occasionally come back out to play. I certainly have more good days than bad days but those bad days can still be as bad as they used to be. The only difference is now I have the support system of friends and family to pull me out of that funk when I get into that headspace. Honestly without them this might be a much different blog post.
Sadly at the end of last year my friend passed away after battling for years and I was fully expecting to go off the rails completely but his death has brought all my close friends closer together than we have been in years and we all have each other to fall in if things get tough. I have also been fortunate enough to bring new folk into my life who have unwillingly helped my recovery without even being aware of it.
If I could say anything to anyone reading this post who can relate to any of this, especially the dudes: please tell a friend or family member and that burden will feel 100 times lighter. Male Suicide is the biggest killer of men under 40 in Britain and this static will only spiral unless we teach men that its okay to be emotional and talk to others about your problems. Sure its gradual battle that never truly fades away even with time but you will be surprised by what someone showing basic human compassion towards you could do to help.