Mark Laherty, Student Leader
There was this music building in my old boarding school. It was the one place where nobody was likely to find you, where the pace of the day didn’t feel so tightly wound. It was two years ago, give or take a few days, when I ducked in there and curled up in the corner for half an hour.
On the rare occasion that mainstream media decides to show mental illness, it does so through some major attention-grabbing demonstration, like bursting into tears, or a big long self-loathing monologue. Hell, most of the time, all we have are Batman villains written to have funny stares and no empathy. All this is, of course, hardly a reflection of reality. By all means, people do break down and burst into tears, but it’s not the only way that someone can break.
I’ve often found that after working myself too hard for too long, I end up doing nothing for a long time. That’s not to say I sit at home scrolling through Facebook. I mean, I literally just curl up and stare into blank space, and that’s it for the next hour or two. Sometimes I don’t even bother to curl up. Just lying on the ground will do. Mercifully, this is a rare enough occurrence, and only happens when I work myself to the point that I just don’t have any energy left, physically or emotionally. It’s partly a matter of making sure you don’t hurt yourself by accident.
Unfortunately, damage can come from without as well. After a particularly nasty relationship, I carried on insofar as I walked from one class to the next, but for about six weeks nothing was really going on in my head other than an acute despair, which seems an awfully cheesy and insincere way of putting it, but no, that was just a very extremely not good time. A quick glance at the results of my Leaving Cert mocks will show that.
The problem was I didn’t feel like I had a good reason to complain or even ask for help. When all you see of mental illness in movies and books is the worst of the worst – suicide, extreme depression, self-harm – you feel like you’re not allowed to complain unless you’re that bad. In saying this, I certainly don’t mean to dismiss the experience of those who have to live with that extremity. But I would say that a lot of people who suffer some form of mental illness are further down that misleading scale. We don’t take our problems seriously because we don’t think they’re bad enough. It’s what some call the Depression Olympics.
Unfortunately, unless Hollywood picks up your entire life and decides to twist it into a Teachable Moment, you’re not going to get any good out of suffering in silence, and even then the Oscar will only go to the actor who played you.
That, basically, is what Please Talk is about. No, not the Oscars, the other thing. It’s about talking. If you’re honest to a friend, it does help. There are all manner of resources linked on the site if you just poke about in the toolbars up there.
After half an hour of sitting in the music room, I texted two close friends to say that I wasn’t okay. I guess that’s what you might call a turning point.
The only way out is through. You will get through. I will get through.