Tuesday 25 July 2017

My way out of the dark wood

In the mid-eighties Eoghan Harris suffered a panic attack which heralded a battle against manic-depression. Here he tells how he won that battle and tackled the silence surrounding mental illness

GOOD MENTAL HEALTH: Eoghan Harris suggests taking up swimming and going for walks with the dog, along with meditation or a calming pastime such as fishing or knitting, and the avoidance of deadline disasters by doing work in advance. Photo: Tony Gavin
GOOD MENTAL HEALTH: Eoghan Harris suggests taking up swimming and going for walks with the dog, along with meditation or a calming pastime such as fishing or knitting, and the avoidance of deadline disasters by doing work in advance. Photo: Tony Gavin

'IN the middle of my life I went into a dark wood," says Dante in the Inferno. Early middle age is when we mostly experience what was once called a nervous breakdown. What follows is a flat account of my own experience. It has a happy ending – I have not had a bad depression for the past 20 years – but it came after considerable effort.

In 1984 I was writing plays but drinking heavily. One day, buying a tie in Michael Barrie's of Duke Street, I suffered what I thought was a heart attack. It turned out to be a bad panic attack, the first of many.

Because I was writing a play about West Cork Methodists I picked up the name of Professor Norman Moore of TCD, a Methodist, a professor of psychiatry, and a man both old and wise. Both his diagnosis and prognosis proved to be correct in every detail.

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