Posted by in Features.


The Journey

May 14, 2019

This is dedicated to everyone I met along the way.

In writing this article it is difficult to know where to start. Do I start towards the beginning of my journey in life? There are things from my early childhood I only discovered along the way. I could also start with my psychiatric hospitalizations at the age of 20 or maybe I could start towards the end of my journey and explain why I am writing this now and why it took me so long. I think an appropriate place to start is with a quote from a book I read in the Summer of 1992. In the years after I have often wondered how my life would have turned out if I hadn’t read this book or even if I would be still alive at all. The book I’m referring to is “The Loony Bin Trip” by Kate Millet in which she wrote about her attempt to regain control of her life after being diagnosed as manic depressive. In reference to the book she states “It was this book or none, The Loony Bin Trip, or nothing. For it stood like a boulder in the middle of the room, demanding to be attended to.” It was the following sentence from the book that probably changed my life. Kate Millet is describing her encounter with Prof Ivor Browne and her anger at the psychiatric profession: “He regards it as reasonable anger, detests drug therapy, is of the deeper-levels school himself and would have me try therapy, to go over the ground about my mother and father and so forth.”

During the Summer of 1992 I was in crisis. My very existence on the planet was perilously close to extinction. The previous year at the age of 27 I had started college in St. Patrick’s College in Drumcondra to train as a primary school teacher. However depression which I had been suffering from on and off for years reared its ugly head again and I struggled very badly in my first year. I struggled with the course as well as the Teaching Practice. My depression had returned again towards the end of my college year, during my Gaeltacht 3 weeks in Carraroe and that Summer back in Galway. To explain this further I need to go back to my teenage years.

I did my Leaving Cert in St Nathy’s College in Ballaghaderreen in 1981. In September of that year I started studying Electronic Engineering in what was then the Regional Technical College in Galway. I had lived a very sheltered life growing up on a small farm outside Ballaghaderreen in North Roscommon. I was a very shy, introverted, unhappy young man. That first year in College, studying was my savoir. I attended my lectures, studied in the evenings. I really didn’t have much of a social life that year.

Towards the end of my first year in college I was in St Patrick’s Church here in Galway and I saw that the local scout group were looking for leaders to help out. I made contact with the person in charge and started attending the weekly Cub Scout meetings. In June of 1982 we brought the kids to a scout den down the country. It was there I met the group leader from this group and he befriended me. He was in his sixties. He showered me with attention. He told me he would be bringing their own kids on a camping trip the following month and I was welcome to join them for the weekend if I wanted. I said I would.

On the 17th July I turned 18 and I had my first alcoholic drink that day. It was the following week I went on the camping trip with this other scout group. On the first night of the camp all the young leaders went out to the local town for a few drinks. I was very socially awkward and the drink helped me to relax. I had a few pints and was inebriated when I returned to the camp with the other leaders. The sleeping arrangements were that myself and another young leader around my own age would sleep in the trailer tent that the group leader had brought with him to the campsite. At some stage during the night he put his hand inside my sleeping bag and sexually fondled me. I was half asleep and half drunk. I didn’t know what to do and just pretended I was asleep. In the morning nothing was said about it. I thought about telling the other young leader who had been sleeping the other side of him but I didn’t. The weekend continued as if nothing had happened.

I returned to college in Galway that September. I went out socializing a bit more because the drink helped me. This man said if I was ever passing through his town to call in. He had basically offered himself as a “friend” to me. I do not remember when I felt depressed for the first time but that year I began to experience bouts of depression. Over the next two and a half years I met this scout leader from time to time. He took an interest in me. My unhappiness with life had increased and I could talk to him. However there was a price I had to pay for the friendship. He would give me drink and sexually abuse me. The abuse never happened when I was sober.

After I finished in the RTC in 1984 I spent the Summer working in Galway. I had become disillusioned with the course and didn’t want to work in electronics. After the Summer finished I spent time in Galway and my home place in Ballaghaderreen. My bouts of depression became more regular and deeper. My depression continued into the following year. Around a week before I was eventually hospitalized I went to the scout leader again. At this stage I really didn’t care what happened to me. He gave me drink and abused me again.

On the 14th of February 1985, St Valentine’s Day, I was very very severely depressed. I didn’t think I’d be able to make it through the day. I asked my parents to bring me to St Patrick’s Hospital in Castlerea, the local psychiatric hospital, as I felt in real danger of acting on my suicidal thoughts. When I met the psychiatrists I told my story as best I could, including about the scout leader. They wrote it all down and put me on anti-depressants. I responded to the anti-depressants. They let me out for the weekend after 2 weeks because I had bought a ticket to see the Boom Town Rats perform in Leisureland. I stayed with my Aunt Teresa in Salthill and went with my cousins. I went back into the hospital for another week and then they let me out.

I was feeling very good so I stopped taking the anti-depressants. I wanted to set up a radio station in Ballaghaderreen. I had gone on some kind of manic episode. I went round the shops in Ballaghaderreen “promoting” the radio station giving out pound notes. Very few people would take the money from me. When I was in town Aunt Teresa and my father came in. They said I wasn’t well and they wanted me to go back to the Castlerea loony bin. I said I wouldn’t but I eventually agreed to go to the psychiatric unit in the Regional Hospital in Galway, now University College Hospital Galway. There I met a psychiatrist. I tried to buy some machine he had on his desk for my radio station. I remember his words “I think you need help.” At that stage I stormed out the door past Aunt Teresa and my father. Teresa came after me pleading with me. I was eventually persuaded to go back to the loony bin in Castlerea. They brought me there by ambulance. I spent another 9 weeks there before being released 2 weeks before my 21st birthday, with a diagnosis of manic-depression, now called bipolar, hanging over me. I was told I’d have to take lithium for the rest of my life to control my mood swings. Some time after coming out of the hospital I stopped taking the lithium. I did a course in Boyle called “Building on Experience” which led to a course in Sligo on radio and television repairs. That led to working in Macks Amusements in Bundoran for the Summer. I returned to Galway, spent a few weeks in Clan Electric in Dominick Street before getting a job in Salthill Amusements (The Big Arc). For the most part I have fond memories of the roughly 5 years I spent there. I enjoyed the work.

During my first Summer working there I experienced a bout of depression. I hadn’t taken any medication in around two years. I made an appointment to attend the local psychiatric unit. They asked me if I had experienced this before and I told them about my Castlerea hospitalizations 2 years previously. They contacted Castlerea. They told me…no wonder you are depressed, you are manic-depressive and you are not taking your medication. They put me back on lithium.

Over the next few years I used to experience severe bouts of depression, even on the lithium, but they were not frequent and would clear up in a couple of weeks. The psychiatrists used to tell me if I wasn’t taking the medication the dips would be more frequent and more severe. The only time in my life I experienced a manic episode was that one occasion when on anti-depressants after my first hospitalization in 1985.

In 1990 at the age of 26 I thought about going back to college to train as a primary school teacher. I had all the requirements from my Leaving Cert except Honours Irish. I started evening classes at the Study Centre in Mill Street alongside Leaving Cert Students. In June 1991 I sat Honours Irish in St Enda’s College on Threadneedle Road. I applied for the B Ed course in St Pat’s in Dublin, did the interview and after getting my honour in Irish I was accepted. I had stopped taking my medication again the previous year.

In St Pat’s College we stayed in on site accommodation. I remember my first week went well. That first weekend I went back to my home place in Roscommon as I had moved out of Galway. However I went into a severe depression the following week back in Dublin. I went back to Galway to stay with friends. My mood didn’t improve. Sunday came round and it was time to go back to Dublin. I knew if I went back there was a very strong possibility I wouldn’t make it as far as Drumcondra. I asked my friend to accompany me to the Psychiatric Unit in the Regional. They kept me overnight. In the morning my mood had lifted. They put me back on the lithium and let me out. I decided to take a week off and I returned to Dublin the following week.

As I said earlier I had a very difficult first year in Dublin and the following Summer. By then I was in weekly contact with the Psychiatric Unit pleading with the psychiatrists for some kind of psychotherapy. They kept telling me I was manic-depressive and that things would eventually settle down. I never accepted the chemical imbalance theory as the reason for my severe depressive episodes. I always felt there was a reason for my depression buried deeply in my childhood.

I can’t remember how I got my hands on The Loony Bin Trip but a short reference to Professor Ivor Browne in it set me on course that would completely change the direction of my life. After reading about him I said to myself… I have to find this man. I went to Dublin one day going round hospitals. I was eventually told the hospital he was practicing in, St Brendan’s in Grangegorman. Back in Galway I wrote in to the hospital in an effort to get an appointment with him.

In September I returned to Dublin after doing another bad Teaching Practice, this time in my old National School in Ballaghaderreen. I had heard about an Adult Children of Alcoholics course on the radio and I started attending that. I got a letter from St Brendan’s Hospital to see a psychiatrist there but this course seemed to be getting me in touch with childhood issues so I deferred the appointment. When the course finished the facilitator put me in touch with a psychotherapist in Dublin and I started attending weekly sessions. That was January 1993.

Sometime after this I got an appointment to see a psychiatrist in St Brendan’s. I told him my story as best I could. I remember him saying that Prof Browne mostly dealt with people who were sexually abused in childhood. I remember the thought in my head “how do you know there is no sexual abuse there?”

During my Easter holidays from college I had my first appointment with Prof Ivor Browne. I told him my story as I had to psychiatrists for years in Galway. For the first time in my life I felt someone understood what was going on for me. He told me he would take me on as a client, that I would stop taking the lithium and undergo an intense form of therapy in the hospital. He advised me to continue with the medication until the Summer when I would be gradually weaned off it.

After I finished my second year in college I attended psychiatrists in the hospital and over the course of a few weeks my daily dose of the lithium was gradually reduced. I was due to finish it entirely in early July but on July 4th, a few days before I was due to stop taking it, I said this is my independence day and I didn’t take it anymore. That was the last time I ever took lithium. Regarding my visits to the psychiatric unit here in Galway, for a number of months afterwards I used to get appointments to attend for my regular blood tests to monitor my lithium levels. I was so angry with them I wouldn’t give them the satisfaction of telling them I was no longer taking the medication and Prof Browne would be looking after me from then on. I never stood in the Psychiatric Unit again until around 3 years ago when a woman I know asked me to visit her son there.

Prof Browne held holotropic breathwork sessions in an old church on the grounds of the hospital. The sessions consisted of lying on a mat, breathing deeper and faster with loud music being played. In that way you would enter an altered state of consciousness. The thinking behind it is that deeply buried emotions would come to the surface and be released. When I did my first session I cried deeply. I did another breathwork 2 weeks later.

After these sessions I felt quite good. Because of the difficulties I was having with the teacher training course I had arranged to take a year off from college. Prof Browne said that when undergoing this type of work it is very important to remain grounded in everyday life and asked me did I need to take the year off. I decided to return to college. I met the President of St Pat’s. He said that if I was returning I needed to do a teaching practice as I had deferred one of them during the year. I did a teaching practice in a school here in Galway. The head of Teaching Practice who had now become a regular visitor came out to me and gave me a very positive report.
At one stage early in my therapeutic journey I was at home in Roscommon. I was having a conversation with my father about doing the breathwork sessions with Prof Browne. He then apologized to me saying if he had ever done anything to me. This meant nothing to me at the time. The peculiar thing about all of this is that at this time I had a good relationship with him while I was  angry with my mother.

I returned to St Pat’s in October. However not long after going back my depression returned with a vengeance. I did a few more holotropic breathwork sessions but then nothing was happening in these sessions. At Christmas I approached the registrar in the College and told him of my struggles. He told me I had a number of options one being that I complete the academic part of the course and defer my upcoming Teaching Practice. I took that option. After Christmas I continued with weekly psychotherapy sessions.

However when I returned to Galway at the end of my college year I went into a severe depression again. I went back to Prof Browne who I hadn’t seen since before Christmas. He gave me a number of options, one being that I leave the therapist I had at the time and transfer my care over entirely to his team. I took that option.

In September I started bimonthly holotropic breathwork sessions. This continued until around April 1995. Prof Browne was retiring plus I wasn’t getting in touch with emotions any more in the sessions. He referred me to a psychotherapist In Tuam who I would see every 2 weeks. It was towards the end of 1996 that something came up in my therapy, something that I had been completely unaware of up until this time. A very deep trauma came up for me which over the course of a few weeks I discovered that my father had sexually abused me as a very young child. I had completely blocked out the memory of this. I was shocked. This brought up huge anger towards him.

I stopped going to Ballaghaderreen and didn’t go to my home place for over 3 and a half years. Over the course of these years I continued to deal with the emotions the therapy was bringing up for me. Over time I told my mother and 2 brothers. I was working part time in Salthill at the time.

Towards the end of 1998 I decided to tell an Uncle of mine. He was my mother’s brother, a priest who was back living in Ireland not far from my home place, having spent his life ministering in Japan. I remember the weekend well because I had gone down to stay in his house for the weekend. It was the weekend Lady Diana died. I told him my story. Without going into the details of what he said, some of which shocked me, he basically rubbished my story. He alternated from saying this couldn’t have happened to saying so what if it had.

My father had 8 sisters who thought he was a god. I thought… what hope have I in telling any of them, if my father’s brother in law won’t believe me. I never told another relative until 2011. My therapy continued. I heard that my father wanted to see me at various times but I told members of my family that if he came anywhere near me I would go to the guards. Eventually I agreed to meet him. Himself, my sister and mother called to me here in Salthill. I don’t know why no one came into my flat to talk. My sister left the car. I sat into the driver’s seat. He was in the passenger seat. My mother was in the back seat. I began to tell him what had come up for me in my therapy. He denied completely doing anything to me. There wasn’t much else I could do.

After 4 years seeing the Tuam therapist she ended the professional relationship against my wishes. I was happy with the relationship and felt I was making progress. She referred me to a therapist in the Rape Crisis Centre here in Galway. I told the therapist my story. At least she was honest but she said she wasn’t sure she could help me.

While I never had the deep depressions I used to have, after I finished my holotropic breathwork with Prof Browne, I still used to have suicidal thoughts from time to time. However after my session with the Rape Crisis Centre therapist, my suicidal thoughts came back very strongly. I contacted the Samaritans here in Galway and called in to their centre in Nun’s Island. In the meantime I tried to get another therapist. Eventually a therapist agreed to see me but she cancelled before my first session. I was in crisis at this point.

I decided to go back to Prof Ivor Browne because he had referred me to the Tuam therapist in the first place. He referred me to a psychiatrist in Dublin who was also a psychotherapist.  It was very expensive and Prof Browne said he referred people to him that other therapists couldn’t help.

Initially he was very positive about my recovery. After being with him for around a year and a half he talked about me taking a 6 month break. I came to Galway and experienced my suicidal thoughts again. I called into the Samaritans again. At my next appointment I told him honestly that if he insisted on the 6 month break I couldn’t guarantee that I would be able to keep the appointment. I continued seeing him for around 8 years in total.

In 2003 my father got leukemia. Initially when he was in UCHG I refused to see him but I  did go in to see him eventually. He died in 2004 in Roscommon Hospital. In his last few weeks alive I visited him regularly. Each time I asked him if he ever did anything to me. I just wanted some kind of acknowledgement. Each time he denied doing anything to me. One day when I asked the question he said “except in innocence.” I picked him up on this but he claimed to not know why he had said that.

In the meantime in my everyday life I had moved to another part time job and eventually started working for myself in 2004. I was installing TV aerials as well as free to air satellite systems. One evening while driving home the thought came to me…do I want to be doing this for the rest of my life. The answer was… No. I started thinking of my teaching career again.

I inquired with St Pat’s in Dublin where I had previously studied. They told me that because it was so long ago, even though I had passed all my academic exams and had attained the Diploma in Religious Education, I would have to make a fresh application and start all over again. I was hoping I would be allowed just to do the Teaching Practices I had deferred. I applied to the College as well as applying for the course in Mary Immaculate College in Limerick. I didn’t get the Dublin course but I was accepted into the B Ed in Mary I. I commenced the course in September 2007.

I found the first semester difficult but in January 2008 I settled into the course. I was appointed class rep by my classmates as the incumbent had to take a year off  as his wife became pregnant. At the end of that January I did a holotropic breathwork session in Dunderry in Co Meath, the first time I had done one since 1995 with Prof Browne. It brought up a lot of emotion for me. I decided at that stage that holotropic breathwork would form the basis of my recovery from then on. I settled into College life, enjoyed my role as class rep. I did a Teaching Practice in a school in Limerick. It went well.

I left the Dublin psychiatrist/psychotherapist. I asked him for a medical report. In it he referred to the time he had spoken to me about taking the 6 month break and my suicidal thoughts at the time. He said the only reason he continued seeing me was to prevent me from committing suicide. This angered me. What about recovery? He had effectively given up on me at that point. In a medical report Prof Ivor Browne had written for me shortly after first seeing him, he predicted I would make a “complete recovery.”

That Summer we went to the Gaeltacht on the Dingle peninsula. Afterwards I did my first holotropic breathwork session in Moyhastin outside Westport. I was to become a regular there for the next 10 years as well as doing other sessions in Dublin, Dunderry and Wicklow. I really enjoyed College life. In some ways it was the secondary school I never had. I set up a student website and used to put up things of interest to the students. I was a regular on the student social scene, would take pictures on nights out, come back home and upload them to the website before I went to bed so the students would see them when they came into college the following morning at 9 o’clock. The website became so popular with the students that lecturers would sometimes give me material to upload for the students. In my second year I went for election as Welfare and Equality Officer in the Student Union elections. I was elected and beat the incumbent. Unlike the majority of the students I was sad to leave Mary I.

In May 2010 my Aunt Teresa from Salthill died. I was very fond of her when I was growing up and in my years as a young adult after I started working in the Big Arc I was often in their house. I have very fond memories of that time as well as her husband Vincent who was my god-father. She was my father’s sister. After I discovered about the childhood abuse I stopped calling to the house. My father would inevitably have come into the conversation from time to time and I wouldn’t have been able to deal with that. That is a very sad loss I have had to deal with along with a plethora of other losses in my life.

On July 17th 2011, my birthday, another of my father’s sisters died, my Aunt Kathleen in Castlerea. I gave a couple of my Galway cousins a lift down to the funeral. I was bringing just one of them back to Galway and before he left I told him about my father’s sexual abuse. I explained to him that that was the reason why I had stopped calling to their house. He said Teresa wouldn’t have been able to deal with it if I had said it.

Even though I got my teaching qualification in 2010 I didn’t feel ready to go working so I decided to concentrate on my recovery and regular holotropic breathwork sessions. As I delved into the painful emotions from my childhood it seemed to free me. It was as if the deeper I went into my childhood traumas I was almost propelled out into the community. I became involved in a lot of sporting and charitable organisations in the city. Going for election in the 2014 local elections was another milestone along the way.

Gradually I tried to get my teaching career back on track. In 2016 I worked for a few weeks as an SNA in a school here in Galway. The following year I volunteered for 2 months in the school I had done the good teaching practice in many years previously when I was a student in St Pat’s in Dublin. The year after that I subbed in different schools mostly in the county.

Last year I moved to Dublin as I felt I wouldn’t get longer term work here in Galway as I still needed to do my H Dip. I also knew someone who was prepared to rent me a room in his house. Initially I enjoyed the teaching but I sometimes struggled especially with difficult classes. I also had problems with my accommodation and had to move out of where I was living.

I came back to Galway and decided to concentrate on my recovery. I volunteered with the Galway Arts Festival and then drove to Scotland for 5 nights with my car. That was beautiful. Over the last year because of the intensity of my psychotherapy I had to pull back from a lot of my volunteering although I still did once off activities like the Macnas parade, the Cope Galway Christmas Day swim, the St Patrick’s Day parade as well as some bucket collections. Christmas was a very difficult time for me. I nearly didn’t help out at the swim, something I had done the last 5 or 6 years, but I knew I would be angry with myself if I didn’t. I went up, fitted into my role, same as always and in actual fact it was the highlight of my Christmas.

Around 2 years ago I heard from my cousins that a Roddy family reunion was being planned. My father had 8 sisters, three of whom lived in America. I would have loved to meet these cousins but at the same time I knew I just wouldn’t be able to be in their company if they referred to my father. I decided the time for pretense was over. I sent an email to my cousin who was organizing the get together. I told her I wouldn’t be going to the reunion because my father had sexually abused me as a child. I knew this would have been circulated round among them. Just 5 or 6 of my cousins, mostly from the one family, emailed me back in empathy. I heard nothing from the vast majority of them.

Over the last few months I really got in touch with the core feelings from my childhood sexual abuse. The thought of speaking publicly about it used to come from time to time over the years but I never did anything about it. In fact I thought after I sent that email to my cousins I had put the thing to bed. However these thoughts became much stronger and more frequent in recent months. My mother never liked the fact that I had spoken publicly about suffering from depression and had overcome it through psychotherapy. I had a difficult relationship with her throughout my life and it was really only in the last year, through the process of psychotherapy that I had worked through a lot of the negative feelings I had for her. For as long as I can remember, going back to my childhood, I was angry with her.

How could I put a 92 year old woman through the distress of me saying publicly her husband, my father, sexually abused me and especially when I hadn’t done so earlier when his sisters were alive. All his sisters are now dead except one Aunt I have living in America. They all went to their graves knowing nothing about this. Whatever about my feelings towards my mother over the years, she didn’t abuse me. I was really conflicted about all of this. It felt to me in my silence as if I had taken one for the team and this had caused me nothing but distress. At the same time I felt more comfortable in myself if I were to speak publicly, something I wouldn’t have done before. I thought, what if I did interviews with the local papers here in Galway? The problem with that is that one of my brothers works in Castlebar and he could pick up the Galway Advertiser there and bring it home. Would I have to ring him up and say… don’t bring the Advertiser home this week? How would that work out? These thoughts were really driving me crazy.

Because of everything that had been going on for me the last few months I had more or less decided not to run in the local elections as I had previously hoped to do. However 1 week before the close of nominations I decided to drive down to Roscommon to see Mom. As I drove across the city and saw all the election posters the thoughts of running came back to me. On Monday 2 weeks ago, Mom had a fall at home. She seemed to be fine but she was brought to Castlebar University Hospital for tests. The following morning I decided to phone City Hall to make an appointment with the returning officer but I also said I may cancel the appointment I was given on Friday morning. That afternoon I drove to Castlebar to see my mother. She seemed to be fine. She was sitting on a chair beside the bed. She told me about the fall etc. To me she was just in for some tests, same as last Summer. She was as tough as nails. Mom had been in hospital here in UCHG last Summer. She had a big operation but seemed to recover well. However in the last year she only left the house for medical appointments.

On Friday one of my brothers rang me at lunch time saying Mom wouldn’t be coming out that day as we thought, they needed to do more tests. At this stage there was no immediate danger we thought. I told him I’d be down the following day. In the afternoon I handed in my nomination papers. I was back home around 6:20 when I got a call from one of my brothers saying Mom had taken a turn and that I should leave straight away. I left, arriving at the hospital at 7:50. Mom had passed at 7:10. When I went into the room she looked peaceful and was warm to touch. The thought that was in my head was “she did what she could, I did what I could.”

I came back to Galway that night as I knew being in familiar surroundings was the best place for me. On Sunday I drove to Ballaghaderreen to spend some private time with her before the reposing. The reposing went well which I had been dreading. Some friends of mine had traveled distances from Galway and Mayo which was really nice. I didn’t sleep that night. The following morning was very difficult. I was sitting in my car before I went into the church. I didn’t want to engage in any chit chat with anyone. A former class mate of mine from St Pat’s had come down from Galway to sympathize with me. He lost his wife to cancer 3 years ago. He couldn’t stay for the mass because he has a young family at home and had to get back. That meant so much to me.  I could hardly talk to him.

We gave Mom a really nice send off. I had agreed to read the reflection towards the end of the ceremony. I had “robbed” it from the mass pamphlet that was used for Aunt Teresa’s funeral mass in 2010. I didn’t know how I’d be able to read it. I have included it here:

You can shed tears that she is gone,

Or you can smile because she has lived

You can close your eyes and pray that she will come back,

Or you can open your eyes and see all that she has left

Your heart can be empty because you can’t see her

Or you can be full of the love that you shared

You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday

Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday

You can remember her and only that she is gone

Or you can cherish her memory and let it live on

You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back

Or you can do what she would want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.

I felt proud to be able to read it. At the end I looked up and the church was full. Mom would have been proud. After the funeral mass some old school friends came up and sympathized with me which was really nice.

After the burial we adjoined to a local pub for tea and sandwiches. I then had lunch with my siblings in Ballaghaderreen. I came back to Galway that evening as I had to decide whether to keep my name on the ballot paper or not. Back in Galway the thoughts of speaking publicly about my childhood sexual abuse came back to me. I thought, my mother is dead, what reason is there not to do this. Obviously I had concerns about how my immediate family and extended family of cousins would react but the reality is that however they would react would be the same whether I did it now, next week, next month or in 5 years time. I had carried this secret for 22 years and I felt I couldn’t go on any longer keeping quiet.

There is another spanner in my works. Last July on my birthday I was told I have prostate cancer. This isn’t something that causes me too much concern at the moment. I am on what’s called active surveillance. I have had 2 biopsies, an MRI scan and am due another MRI scan on the June bank holiday weekend. I believe the mind and body are inextricably linked and that trauma in the mind can manifest itself in the body. Whatever about the effect on my mental health of the secrets I was carrying they couldn’t be good for my physical health either.

Also in the days after the funeral I couldn’t help but think of the timing of her passing. She had no idea of what was going on in my mind the last few months but she did know I was troubled. I felt as if she was saying to me….Tommy has things he needs to speak about before he can move on with his life and I’m not going to stand in his way. I also felt that the fact I wasn’t there when she passed was as if she was saying…Tommy doesn’t need to be here. He will be alright now.

Furthermore if she had died a day or two earlier I wouldn’t have kept that appointment with the returning officer on Friday. Also if she had died a day or two later, that would have moved everything forward and I would have withdrawn my nomination before the deadline on Tuesday.

Some people have said to me I should hold off on publishing this so soon after my mother’s death, that I am grieving for her. That is true. I am grieving for her but I have been grieving in various forms for over 26 years, the length of time I have been in psychotherapy. Grief is a part of life.

I find expressing myself in writing to be very therapeutic. That is why I write so many letters to the editor. In writing this, it’s a form of release and hopefully will help me in my healing process. They say you are as sick as your secrets. I hope I’m just that bit healthier now after doing this. Today Tuesday the 14th of May 2019 is 34 years and 3 months after I took the decision to stay alive by asking my parents to bring me to St Patrick’s Hospital in Castlerea when everything was telling me I had nothing to live for.
When I was attending St Brendan’s Psychiatric Hospital in Dublin in the mid 90s I used to tell the therapist I was seeing there that I would overcome my problems and write a book about my experiences and it would be a best seller. The name of the book came to me at the time as “Life sentence revoked.” This was inspired by Prof Browne in what he said to me the first time I met him. When I told him I was diagnosed as manic-depressive and was told I’d have to take lithium for the rest of my life, he said “that’s a life sentence.” I guess writing this blog is another milestone on my journey to achieving that aim.