IT’S hard to pinpoint why I lost control of my life, but it’s a lot easier to pinpoint when, and for me it started in transition year.
It was the first sign that things in my life weren’t quite right. I started to lose focus in school and for the next two years I flip flopped between being focused and being completely disinterested in school and life.
Things really deteriorated after my Leaving Cert. Sixth year started off great, I remember after a parent teaching meeting, my mom coming home saying the teachers couldn’t believe the change in me from 5th year.
Unfortunately, that energy I had at the start of the year began to fade and after Christmas I had lost all interest in school. I persevered, but without any interest or direction and lacking maturity, I sat my Leaving Cert really just for the sake of it as the results held little importance to me because I had no plan to begin with.
As I watched my class mates head off to college, I had no such path so I ‘fell’ in to a life that revolved around partying. I say ‘fell’ as it was an easy choice for me. First, I enjoyed it, and probably more importantly it gave me a purpose. ‘I was gonna ‘party’ better than anyone else I knew. This ‘strategy’ worked for a while. I had a purpose at least. I enjoyed it and I was good at it. But as the years went by, it became less fun,and I was surrounded by the repercussions of my life.
Instead of going from party to party, I went from crisis. Eventually, my life revolved around trying to put out the fires I created and the partying became a crutch I relied on heavily to get me through the week.
At this stage, it was more about survival than living, and it had been going on for so long I didn’t know any other way. Life got increasingly hard and lonely. I considered myself the life and soul of the party and in my warped thinking that gave me purpose. But when the party ended, I was left alone with my thoughts and trying desperately to put my life back together. This was a weekly occurrence.
Before I knew it, it was ten years later and I was still doing the same thing. I needed to change and thought a change of scenery would sort everything. So I left Cork, the only place I had ever known, and moved to Sydney. Life was great for a while, but eventually it was all about Friday and Saturday night again. But at least I was away from the drama I created back home. Moving to Australia didn’t solve any of my problems, but did give me a taste of life with out drama.
Eventually, my time in Oz came to a natural end and I was right back to where I started, but with a stronger desire to change. It didn’t come easily and it was only after I watched my own father pass away, alone and lonely after alienating everyone who loved him because of his own drinking, that I knew I had to try and sort myself out.
However my most difficult times lay ahead, it was eight months later before I finally admitted I needed more than the help I could give myself. I kept failing and the more I failed, the more I spiralled out of control.
Asking for help was the hardest, most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. It was, in equal measures, a surrender and also the first positive thing I had ever done for myself.
I avoided the demons trying to pull me back from the progress I made and used exercise as my weapon. I exercised against every feeling or impulse trying to pull me back. But, as time went on and my head began to clear, I found the strength to face my demons and to take a painful look at my behaviour and what caused it
‘The hardest work is the work you do on yourself’, and if I give myself credit for anything, it’s for doing that work, because it was not easy. But changing 20 years of bad behaviour was never going to be easy. Now I could start to become the best version of myself.
When the fog cleared, I was for the first time filled with hope. What a feeling that was! And if I can do it, then anyone can.
This hope consumed me, I wanted to pass it on, but didn’t want to preach, so instead of just offering personal advice, I decide to get qualified and went back to study psychotherapy.
I wanted to get qualified in helping people rather than relying on my own personal experience. After four long but rewarding years, I graduated with a 2nd class honours. Without doubt, it was the best investment I ever made in myself. I also couldn’t ignore the significance exercise played in my own recovery, so I decided to qualify as a personal trainer.
From there, I developed a concept of combining exercise with psychotherapy. On their own they can be hugely beneficial but I firmly believe together they can be life-changing.
I can honestly say I’ve finally built a life that makes me happy and works for me. I’m a dad, I’m married and I wake every morning with a smile. Mine, by all means isn’t an isolated or unfamiliar story. I don’t have a magic formula for change, but I have managed to pull my life together and I have turned from someone who is unhappy to someone who works hard to wake up happy and positive everyday.
From the ashes that could have been my life came something positive and something I’m proud of. It’s called ‘My Mental Fitness’.
I provide a space that’s safe and confidential which gives people the space and support they need to help them pull out of lives dominated by mental health issues, by anxiety, depression or low self esteem.
‘My Mental Fitness’ offers a package that combines therapy with exercise but I totally understand that sometimes both can’t happen together. So I also offer Personal Training in a safe environment because, like me, it can sometimes be a matter of just seeing the wood from the trees before you have to strength to turn around and fight what’s chasing you.
On the other hand,I offer psychotherapy to people who need the mental support before that can exercise. Either way, I take the focus off the mirror and the scales because I firmly believe ‘ it is the mind itself which builds the body’.
This isn’t a declaration of how I overcame my struggles because I hard a hard life. I always had a loving family and was offered every opportunity. My rock bottom came because I felt morally bankrupt, I wasn’t the person I wanted to be and I wasn’t happy.
I always had a job, I always had somewhere to live and had a living and supportive family. If anything, I felt guilty because I couldn’t understand someone who had so much would do their best to sabotage it. I know my story pales in comparison to others. We don’t pick our struggles and we don’t pick our battles, all we can do is choose how we fight.
See www.mymentalfitness.ie or on Instagram at @mymentalfitness2022