Wednesday 18 October 2017

'I visualised myself crashing my car into a wall... I just saw my mum and dad standing over my coffin, crying'

Cavan footballer Alan O'Mara helps promote the publication of the GPA's annual review of its Mental Health Programme. Photo: Sportsfile
Cavan footballer Alan O'Mara helps promote the publication of the GPA's annual review of its Mental Health Programme. Photo: Sportsfile
Joyce Fegan

Joyce Fegan

Cavan goalie Alan O'Mara (22) decided to talk about his depression when he realised it took more energy to hide it than to talk about it.

On December 28, 2011, Alan was driving home when he knew he had to seek help.

"I visualised myself crashing my car into a wall. My brain presented this notion as a way out of what I was going through and I just saw my mum and dad standing over my coffin at my funeral, crying," said Alan.

When he arrived home that evening he sat down with his parents and decided to get in touch with the GPA having only received an email from the association the week before.

"Going to counselling was the best thing I've ever done," he said.

"Playing in Croke Park in front of 80,000 people is a magnificent feeling and it's very easy to get caught up in that, but you can't rely on that sensation to feel good about yourself," he said.

His depression started with a loss of satisfaction in football coupled with having no formal day-to-day routine that work had given him once he started college.

He didn't see the point in things and describes the experience as a period of "confusion".

Alan didn't know what was happening. "I just told myself to stop being stupid and feeling sorry for myself."

He admits that recovery isn't all "sunshine and rainbows" like he thought it would be.

"I felt I'd beaten depression but it caught me off-guard, but I learnt a lesson from that."

Now he knows the symptoms and takes action to keep depression at bay and deal with it.

Alan's decision to speak out was not a spur-of-the-moment one. He broke his arm during the summer and was rereading his diaries from his time in recovery.

"This might help someone," thought Alan and he decided to go public. "A few months down the line and I don't regret it one bit," the courageous young man added.

Irish Independent

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