This week I received an email from a well-known owner and breeder in Ireland. The impact of reading the content was immediate and profound. This is a man who is popular, good fun to meet and with a generous heart. He was especially supportive of me last year when I was raising funds for the Irish Cancer Society. I had no idea what he was and is going through.
He wrote that he was heppy to have this article printed and indicated that he was happy to be identified. However I was unable to confirm this with him directly before the deadline and therefore have not named him. It does not lessen the value of his contribution.
Let’s roll the clock back to almost two years ago. Bank balance. Check. Picture perfect house. Check. Family and friends. Check. Nice horses, well I could only hope I could check. What I couldn’t check was my mental health, my mind, my happiness. Yes. I hold my hands up and admit finally.
I suffer from depression.
It’s been an ongoing thing. It’s been with me for many years. Sometimes it hides itself. Other times it’s more obvious, plenty of times hidden very well by me. Many times far too well for my own good. I can simply cover it up. Amplifying my outgoing personality – usually aided by a glass or two of something strong.
I think it’s important that as the world of bloodstock forms such a vital part of the economy of Ireland we realise that those around us may indeed be suffering the same misery that I myself suffer. In fact it’s only as a result of the intervention of some of the well-known individuals of our industry that I’m in a position to even today be writing this. For this reason alone I wanted to share my story.
Quite simply it’s only for those people that I’m sharing my experience.
This isn’t a thank you letter or a method of recognising sympathy. The one thing I don’t want is sympathy. Simply put, those people intervened not for thanks but for the realisation of what I was enduring. They may or may not already realise my indebtedness and appreciate fully how much I regard their simple kindness. This is simply an opportunity for those of us who may well not understand the daily chore of dealing with such an illness to appreciate what we go through.
Within our industry it’s been well documented that there has already been one or two much higher profile individuals who have had the brave courage to admit they too suffer the same issues I have encountered. However I think it’ll only be with continued awareness that we can recognise the symptoms, reach out and help.
It’s quite simple. A problem shared really is a problem halved.
Only a few months ago I was celebrating the win of a fine two-year-old on only his second start. He had the world at his feet and we celebrated like one would expect.
That afternoon anyone I met, was introduced to or encountered would, I expect, have thought I was one of the most positive, effervescent people they’d met. What they didn’t know was only hours later I was in hospital. Forced with the prospect of being kept (against my wishes) by the authorities to protect my own safety.
This is depression.
That wasn’t the only episode. In fact it may not be the last. I hope it’s at the very least ONE of the last. Depression manifests itself in many different forms. I’m most certainly not wanting to use this as a way of diagnosing illness, but simply an opportunity for us all to look around us and recognise what our friends and colleagues may be going through. It is also a way of reaching out, understanding and fulfilling the great values our industry prides itself on.
I wrote this on an evening that I’d been speaking to a very popular trainer and jockey. They actually had nothing to gain. There were no more horses to have, no more rides to be obtained. They simply wanted me to know they are behind me, supporting me 110% and I was delighted to know I was part of an industry that actually cared.
For that reason alone I wanted to share my experience. After all this is Christmas, the time for looking out for one another.
Published January 2015
Sadly, depression is a fact of life. It is an illness and not an embarrassment or weakness. It is important to be clear about this.
In spite of many messages to this effect being promoted and circulated through social media and otherwise, many sufferers see the opposite. If you have never suffered depression, and thankfully the majority of people do not, it can be sometimes hard to understand how it feels.
Your inability to deal with even the simple things in life can make no sense to people who are well. Struggling to get out of bed, to perform simple tasks, to be in a state of inertia and unable to feel highs or lows, to find no meaning or enjoyment in anything you do. These can all be symptoms of depression.
In themselves, they do not necessarily mean you are depressed. We can all feel low from time to time. Taken as an aggregate however these can cause the sufferer great pain. If these are issues for you, please ask for help. Family, friends and medical professionals can all play a role in helping sufferers through difficult times.
The most important part of getting out of this state is to be honest about the situation and to talk to someone you trust or who can help. One in four people can suffer this terrible condition and there is lots of help available. No one should suffer alone.
Few people have not been touched by depression, whether suffering themselves or seeing a loved one go through it. It is vital that into the future we do not have any reason to use the words depression and stigma in the same sentence.
Mark Enright and Willie Codd stand out as beacons when it comes to this illness, and they are deserving of our total admiration for their honesty.
Their motivation in speaking out is to help others who may be afraid to say how they feel. Admitting that you are suffering from depression, or being diagnosed with depression, will immediately help to lessen the burden it imposes.
There are many supports available to people who may need to speak to someone and I would urge anyone who feels troubled to call them today. These include the Samaritans who offer a 24-hour service at a free number 116123, or Aware on 1890 303302.
Reach out today to someone you feel may be suffering, and to those who are suffering please reach out to someone for help. This is nothing to be ashamed about.