It’s a funny feeling being reborn when you turn 30. A decade past, spent in the confines of the padded cell, locked away in your own mind. Those who have been through the dark night will know that feeling: the poison running through your veins, blackening the blood, like molten oil through pristine water. And if you have survived it, the feeling is quite incredible. The inherent fragility that accompanies the process needs to be treated with delicacy and tact. For me, life has begun anew. The decade of my life that is shrouded in confusion and clouded with angst now feels like a distant memory, a past life never to be revisited for fear of chaos and destruction. Towards the latter years of my 20’s, having graduated with an honours degree in Psychology, I took up the position of Psychology Intern with an organisation based in Dublin. I was enthusiastic and energised, yet the demon still hovered above me. This organisation provided support in a myriad of ways to people with intellectual disability, autism and mental health issues. Little was I to know when I first strolled into the building that my time there would be transformative. The name of the organisation is WALK.
Fuelled by my own desire to succeed and copious amounts of coffee, I proceeded to flourish in ways I previously never thought possible. I was afforded a level of intellectual and creative freedom that saw my work become noticed quickly. At this time I resembled a rather shadowy version of my true self, which was not be revealed until sometime later. Yet for all the sedation and fuzzy cognition, I managed to break from the cocoon of my own mind. The padded cell suddenly didn’t seem so claustrophobic and I recognized for the first time that I had a choice to open the door and walk freely into the world. Having never really felt part of anything tangible, I got the sense that I was valued, I mattered. The power of this perception cannot be overstated. Floating through life as a non-entity is a dismal existence. For the first time, I was supporting people who depended on me for their wellbeing. Oh, what a gift!
While I was going through a difficult period of constant mental readjustment, it dawned on me that the people I was helping had given me something so beautiful that it can never be repaid. They had allowed me into their lives. While my clients were merely a few hours out of my week, I had become a massive part of their lives. This created such a feeling of warmth within me that my mind-set was changed forever more. To be the angel on someone’s shoulder is such an incredible privilege and one that buoyed me when I would otherwise have sank deep into the abyss. It facilitated the process of rebirth, and I am forever grateful.
While I look back on that period of my life with fondness, it is easy to forget the turmoil that lurked just beneath the surface. I remember vividly sitting in my office chair while the black dog snarled in the corner. Yet because the nature of the work I was carrying out, I was able to persist with my passion and see it through. I would wish anyone who goes into this area of work the best of luck, and let them know that they will receive back every good deed in multiples, like an awesome wave. Working with people with certain issues opened my eyes. I could see that the poison was not restricted to just me, but it flowed through others as well. And now, I write this with the utmost pride and resilience. This time pulled me from the dark. Sometimes I think that I embody my condition. If so, then I am mental illness. And I do not discriminate.