I left Pieta House as a different woman, one that wanted to live
ASKED to describe how she felt while suffering from depression, Carrigaline-reared Becky McFall, now living in Dubai, says she experienced loneliness and a feeling of emptiness.
“I hated being alone because these feelings would be at their strongest then, especially at night time,” she recalls.
“I often found myself crying into the early hours of the morning because I would dread waking up in the morning and having to ‘do life’.”
Now, Becky is in a much better place — and for her 23rd birthday on March 19, she and five friends are going to do a skydive in Dubai to raise funds for Pieta House in Cork, a suicide and self harm crisis centre that provides free counselling.
For Becky, who works as an infant teacher in Dubai, Pieta House was a life saver. At the age of 17, when she was in sixth year at school, she was diagnosed with depression and anxiety, leading to self-harm.
“A friend of mine brought me to our school guidance counsellor,” she says.
When the guidance counsellor heard Becky’s story, she contacted her parents.
“I remember being so angry that my guidance counsellor ‘told on me’ but looking back, I couldn’t be more grateful that she did.
“My mum took me to our GP, who diagnosed me. The diagnosis was confirmed by the psychiatrists and psychologists at my first treatment centre. They also explained that I was emotionally unstable and could not regulate my emotions.”
Becky found school hard at the time.
“While I am naturally quite bright, school was the least important thing to me at that time in my life and my depression made things like concentration and motivation extremely difficult.
“This impacted not only my grades but my attitude and experience in school. But thankfully, I was able to apply to the DARE scheme (a third level alternative admissions scheme for school leavers whose disability has had a negative impact on their second level schooling).
“That gave me a little bit of help to get the course I wanted.”
Becky eventually gained a degree in early years and childhood studies from UCC.
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) didn’t work for her.
“I think I just didn’t have a bond with my first therapist. I felt the practice was very clinical. They educated me on the scientific reason behind my depression and took what I considered to be a very medical approach. I felt like I was being talked to.”
However, Pieta House made Becky feel “more comfortable and listened to”. The service assessed Becky and paired her with a therapist.
“I think being able to relate to and trust my therapist was one of the most important factors in the success of my treatment.
"They offered me 12 sessions of one-to-one therapy which focused on strengthening my will to live and redressing my desire to die. I found that this intervention model worked well for me and I brought this positive way of thinking into my adult life.”
During her treatment at Pieta House, Becky’s therapist helped her with “letting go of searching for that pinpoint moment that gave me depression”.
She adds: “I found it hard to accept that I was going through all this for no reason. I was convinced that there had to be an exact moment, an exact reason for having depression.
“Once I accepted that I was never going to find this moment or reason, my focus shifted from ‘why is this happening?’ to ‘what can I do to manage it?’”
Becky says she was diagnosed with ‘biological depression “which means there was a chemical imbalance in my brain.”
She says that while Pieta House didn’t cure her depression, the service “pulled me out of an immense darkness and gave me tools on how to manage my thoughts, feelings and emotions so that I didn’t end up in that darkness again.
“I left Pieta House as a different woman, one that wanted to live.”
Becky took anti-depressants for a while but is no longer on medication. She found them “really helpful in regulating my mood and emotions.
“I remember in the beginning, when I was hesitant about taking them, my mum said to me that if I woke up with a headache every day, I would take a painkiller to make the day easier. Anti-depressants are just like that.”
Becky says that her mother was by her side through it all.
“She was my hope.”
Asked if she has experienced stigma because of her mental health issues, Becky says that hasn’t happened.
“I think our generation is incredibly aware and accepting of these issues and I have always found it really easy to be open and honest about it.
“I felt better once it was out in the open because I knew from there that I was going to get the help I needed.”
Becky moved to Dubai in August. 2019.
“I absolutely love it. Every weekend, there’s always something new to experience. It feels like a constant holiday and I have met the most amazing group of friends out here.”
The good weather “automatically lifts my mood,” says Becky, adding: “There’s nothing like having your morning coffee on your balcony in the sun. I don’t know much about SAD (seasonal affective disorder) but I am sure the good weather has a positive impact on my disorder.”
Becky has never before done a skydive and says she is terrified. She and her friends hope to raise €2,000 for Pieta House. She has no plans to return to Cork.
“But my family are there so a part of me will always be in Cork.”
To contact Pieta House call 1800 247 247. For more on their services see www.pieta.ie/