CARBERY RANGERS senior footballer Brian Hodnett has overcome his battles with mental health over the last five years and is looking forward to embracing his new lifestyle and playing in this year’s football championship.
The talented footballer has bravely come forward to tell his story to promote mental health for GAA players and the general public.
Brian’s journey shows there is light at the end of the tunnel and that people can come through their mental health challenges stronger.
Brian’s initial problems first occurred at the end of 2015 as he recalls. “It started back in December 2015, when I was a passenger in a serious single-car crash. It was the starting point of my problem. In the six months after that, I found myself neglecting my college work in AIT and was drinking more frequently.
“I was very much in denial. Other people knew before I did that things weren’t right. I spent more time in bed. I knew that something was wrong, but you kind of tell yourself that you’re fine and that depression could never happen to you. It had crept in, but I just ignored it,” revealed the ace player.
The Rosscarbery native knew something was wrong when his temperament changed and he began drinking on a more regular basis. “It affected my personal life more than my sporting life.
"Playing sport was a good distraction from my problems. In my personal life, I found my temper to be very short. So my family and friends would have found it difficult to be around me.
"It affected relationships in a way where I couldn’t be happy. I felt low more often and started getting dark thoughts that no 21- or 22-year-old should get. I was out drinking to try get the mood high.”
Brian incredibly played a huge role in helping Carbery Rangers capture the senior county championship title for the first time in their history in 2016.
He credits the GAA for helping to maintain his focus.
“We beat Valley Rovers and we had a three-week break until the semi-final. It was the first week of college and I spent the whole week out and then staying in bed all day.
"I was going from very low to very high, back to very low moods daily. I knew something wasn’t right, but I didn’t know how to break the habit.
"Football that particular year just about kept me intact. In the two weeks leading up the county final, I cut the drinking out completely which was difficult. Playing football was an outlet.
"It definitely helped me forget about the negative thoughts, but even going through the last few months, I’ve let myself get distracted from playing and training. I have gone away and done my own thing, drinking when I shouldn’t have been and letting people who put massive trust in me down. "Ultimately the GAA only helps me and keeps me positive. It’s a great boost if you are playing well.”
Brian credits speaking to someone professionally as a great way to think positively and get your life back on track if anyone is experiencing mental health problems.
“You have to find what works best for you. I think speaking to someone helps. I still go whenever things get a little difficult.
"I feel like a big weight has been lifted from me, once I come out of those sessions. I would encourage anyone to go. Keeping fit, setting realistic goals, trying to be positive as much as possible, and trying to implement good habits can definitely benefit people suffering with mental health issues.”
Covid-19 brought a lot of fear for people, but Brian’s new positive attitude ensured he is now relishing life and his new healthy regime.
“Lockdown helped me. It’s made me realise a lot of things I’ve done in the past and the mistakes I’ve made. Ultimately it’s made me learn a lot about myself, how I’m not a bad person.
"I’ve just made some very poor decisions that have resulted in huge consequences and caused a lot of hurt. I try to be as positive as I can. I’ve learnt from the mistakes that I’ve made.
"I know that the people who have stood by me and helped me are always there to support me. Keeping fit, playing football, and looking after myself has ensured I am in such a better place than I was 11 months ago.”
Brian, who played a big role in helping CIT regain their Sigerson Cup status for next season, is indebted to his family, Keith Ricken, and all his Carbery Rangers colleagues who have helped him overcome his struggles.
“My family and friends have been hugely influential in helping me get back on the straight and narrow. Keith helped me through a lot of tough times.
"Haulie O’Sullivan and the senior management team were very good to me. He never once stopped backing me. I believe things have to get worse before they get better.
"It is only you who can sort yourself out. If you aren’t willing to make some changes then you’ll keep going the same way.”
Carbery Rangers face a huge championship clash against Castlehaven. Brian is looking forward to the season ahead.
“I am raring to go. We will have to bring everything we have to beat Castlehaven. We will have to be bang at it.”