Kieran’s Story of Recovery

Ascent out of darkness: Kieran’s comeback

If you’ve ever wondered how your support of campaigns such as Walk in My Shoes is changing lives right here in Ireland, read this story of Kieran’s comeback and you’ll wonder no more: with the help of St. Patrick’s Dean Clinic, he has triumphed over nearly 20 years of panic attacks, anxiety and depression, and is living life to the fullest at last…

In his wildest dreams Kieran could never have predicted that when depression and anxiety hit in his mid-teens, he would spiral down into darkness – not to emerge for nearly two decades.

A recent study found this is true for nearly two out of every ten of the men and women who come to St. Patrick’s. They suffered for up to five years (or longer, like Kieran) before seeking help – a tragic consequence of the shame and stigma around mental illness in Ireland.

Like many, Kieran hid his pain

If you’d known Kieran then, you mightn’t have guessed how anxiety, panic attacks and depression came to rule his every waking moment. A bright lad from a good family, he studied hard, got a good Leaving Cert and went on to four years of college.

On the surface, things seemed grand. But Kieran was falling apart…

He confesses, “I just lost the plot. I couldn’t sleep. I had the easiest job in the world but I couldn’t handle it – I would panic, make mistakes. Over the years I paid out hundreds of euro from my own pocket because I couldn’t bear the thought of my mistakes costing someone money.”

Kieran continues. “One day, I ended up on a park bench hundreds of miles from home, crying and crying. My Dad had to come collect me.”

The breakdown led him to his GP, who prescribed medication that numbed Kieran’s anxiety – but also left him “flat. I remember thinking I would have had the same reaction to winning the lotto as I would have had finding out my parents had died in a car crash. Emotionally I was a straight line.”

He calls mental illness’s stigma ‘huge’

“It’s disgraceful how big a stigma there is around depression. I think every single person in the world has somebody affected by it,” Kieran relates. But his parents would not give up. “When I was in the depths of despair and couldn’t even get off the chair my Dad used to say to me, ‘if you had a broken leg you’d go to the doctor and get it fixed. It’s as simple as that,’” recalls Kieran. “If I didn’t have their support I would have given up 15 years ago due to the stigma.”

At last Kieran returned to his GP, whom he calls, “Brilliant. He said to me, ‘I’m not a specialist in this area. But I can contact the specialists. I was a bit hesitant about going to St. Pat’s – at other places I’d been told, ‘this is a disease, you’re going to have it forever.’ Once I met the doctor at the St. Patrick’s Dean Clinic, I could see it was very different to anything else I’d experienced before. At St. Pat’s they told me, ‘we can sort this out.’”

At St Pat’s, an ascent out of darkness

For Kieran, the key was a combination of a science-based approach called Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, or CBT, used with incredible results at St. Pat’s for more than 20 years, and a new medication. “For somebody else it might be art and group therapy, but the CBT and a medication that didn’t suppress my emotions worked for me. The CBT has taught me to do things I never could before.”

Today Kieran is a changed young man. “This time last year I was unemployed and depressed – now it’s all coming together. Last week I went on an interview for a new job. Fifteen months ago I couldn’t even look somebody in the eye on the lift. I owe St. Pat’s a debt of gratitude – I want to be an example to other people of how you can change your life around.”

To help people like Kieran, take part in Walk in My Shoes Day, April 26th.


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