Aidan O'Connell is my name. I want to talk briefly about Mental Health and Stigma.
As 2015 concluded and 2016 began, I thought it was time to take off the mask I was wearing for over 20 years and show my face. I'd been through a lot, bullying, the suicide of my partner, defeating alcohol, defeating gambling, defeating prescription pills and I remember thinking I'm not a famous sports star or singer, but I want to make a change in how I live my life and how people see me and I want to make an impact in the field of Mental Health and show that I'm no different to anyone else.
Most of all, I wanted to tell the world, I'm Aidan O'Connell and I want (in respect of Mental Health) to
That's where it all began for me, I wanted to
#EndTheStigma, as for reasons of stigma, I hadn't told anyone about my difficulties centred around Anxiety and OCD for fear of being stigmatised, treated differently, being seen as less or being seen as weak.
I decided to blog. I decided to call the blog-EndTheStigma for the reasons above. Initially, I wrote on generalised themes and then I began to open up. A few things that brought me to open up were some of my experiences, some, I recall below in the hope that others realise we all have difficulties, but we all can get help. My aim In life now is to become a Mental Health Advocate.
I'm not ashamed to say I was bullied in school to the point where I accepted it as my punishment. I raised my shoulders, pretended I didn't see or hear the bullying. Inside it was torture. I wasn't deserving of bullying. I was just an easy target as I was a little anxious. Nobody is deserving of bullying. I had about 11 years of bullying between primary and secondary school. Primary school was OK. Secondary school was daily and aggressive bullying, genuinely nasty and I can confirm words do hurt more than "sticks or stones". I was zoomed in on and identified as an easy target for bullying and it led me to dark thoughts and dark places.
Today, I can say I am at peace with it through professional help, but if you are being bullied now in school, please tell a school authority and/or parent and keep telling them till it's over permanently.
I am saddened to say that I took to drink like a fish takes to water. What started off with a few pints of beer on weekends turned increasingly in my 20's to 3/4 nights a week of maybe 10-15 drinks and I was increasingly drinking on my own. I was consistently told by my medics I was self-medicating. I made a huge number of dates in my mind when I would stop and I failed on every occasion. In October 2010, the first weekend of the month, I went on a heavy drinking spree and again said on 5 October, sick as a dog, I was giving up alcohol. This time, I did. I had 10 years of binge drinking. Today I am 6 years without a sip of a drink. If you are drinking, there are so many great organisations that give a steer. The first point of call is often your doctor. I'm proud of my achievement with drink. We need to EndTheStigma regarding getting help for drink problems.
I am saddened to say that after being off drink for a number of years, I found what I now understand to be another form of self-medication and that was gambling. I went from a small bet of 5 or 10 Euro to bets of 500 Euro. Needless to say, I lost. I lost badly, the bookmakers took me for tens of thousands of Euro. I was trying to push away the feelings of anxiety and feeling of guilt that I didn't understand. Anyhow after a huge gambling spree on St Patricks Day 2013, I said I had to stop as I felt in a crisis. I haven't looked back. I am 3 years Gambling free. I did it by myself because I had nobody. We need to EndTheStigma for those who have gambling problems. There is help and you don't need to feel any guilt or shame, work with the professionals.
Through the Alcohol and Gambling and Anxiety and guilt and feelings of emptiness, I was attending my family doctor and I was being given scripts for anti-depressants. I was worrying about worrying and the side effects and the stigma and I never filled the scripts and for ten years, I binned them. I convinced myself that the now known psychosomatic feelings were from my Mental Health problems.
I had 3 Brain Scans, countless MRI's and ENT appointments as my body reacted to the pain in my mind and gave me physical symptoms and equal distress. I eventually agreed to a trial of an antidepressant after 10 years and I was given with it an anti-anxiety medication to quell any initial side effects and my fear. I soon realised that I was getting more relief from the anti-anxiety meds than the antidepressants. I started to "Doctor Shop" as I was getting diagnosed anywhere from Generalised Anxiety Disorder to Obsessive Compulsive Disorder to Borderline Personality Disorder to Bipolar II, I was beginning to see I had an addictive personality. I was addicted to certain meds. By this time, I was becoming known amongst Doctors and had trialled two dozen meds and two dozen doctors. If you are abusing meds or "Doctor Shopping", stop, seek out the help of one good doctor, perhaps your primary care physician who can also maybe refer to one specialist who you must be entirely honest with and stick with. I have been clean some time and I did it the hard way on my own.
Suicide of my Girlfriend
I had many troubles when my girlfriend took her life at a harbour in Dublin. I never knew or met or thought I could love one person so much and my feelings at the time were I was undeserving of such a beautiful young lady. I have never known feelings of such distress on finding out (I fainted). She had a clinical depression and I remember many nights when she was falling asleep in my arms crying as I held her. I have a blog on this subject recently and I found an outpouring of support and kindness to me. If you feel suicidal call 116 123 for the Samaritans in Ireland or contact emergency services on 112 or your number wherever you are in the world.
When I came close to Suicide. I visited the site where my beautiful Laura had taken her life a number of times and felt increasing feelings of despair and sadness and I had nobody to talk to. I had feelings of loss (that I hadn't processed properly at the time with a professional). On this day, I drove to the edge of the sea and proximity to an unguarded edge of the harbour, suicidal ideation had blurred with suicidal intent for the first time and I decided to let the handbrake off as I was in "Drive" in my automatic car. I was going to die... Split seconds later, a hand came through my open driver window and the keys were pulled out of the ignition by a beautiful woman who had seen my distress. I believe it was a miracle. She hugged me and called emergency services. I have survived it all by opening up. So today, I stand as a stigma fighter.
My website is endthestigma.ie/
My Instagram is ENDTHESTIGMAOFFICIAL
Each day, I am advocating for Mental Health on Mental Health and I am now an Ambassador for See Change in Ireland. You can be well too by opening up too. Start with a conversation. Aidan