Monday 21 October 2019

A letter to my younger self: It's hard to believe you were going to end my life over something so irrelevant

Páidí Manning aged 20, and aged 30
Páidí Manning aged 20, and aged 30

Páidí Manning

Páidí Manning recently celebrated a milestone birthday that he never thought he would see.

At 20-years-old, Páidi was struggling with his mental health and didn't think he would make it to his thirties.

Páidí Manning
Páidí Manning

The now 30-year-old hotel worker is thriving and has dreams to go back to college to study counselling and psychotherapy.

Here, he writes a letter to his younger self, outlining his struggles with mental health and how he overcame them.

...

Well lad,

Remember when you wrote that you thought you’d be dead by 23? Every time you look to the future, you can’t see any life that doesn’t end with you killing yourself. Well you’re 30 now, with no end in sight. Neither of us saw that coming but I’m really glad you didn’t kill me.

Normally I’d ask somebody how they are but I know how you are. You’re deeply unhappy with every aspect of your life and it’s manifested in rage, hatred, waking up with your teeth and fists clenched and lashing out at everybody. Your temper is ferocious. People think you’re a psycho. You’re self-harming and don’t even know it; yeah, punching walls and burning yourself with cigarettes is self-harm.

You try to hide the fact that you’re crippled with shyness and your confidence is non-existent. You’re too nervous to even talk to a girl, let alone ask one out after the last made a show of you in front of everybody. I remember you laughed but I know part of you died. You built a wall inside that Trump would be proud of: he’s President now, long story...

You’re proud to a fault and your pride would be irreparably wounded if anybody knew that you’re so lonely that you cry yourself to sleep. You’re broke, you hate school, you’re being tortured relentlessly by two bullies, you have no friends and life sucks.

What’s changed? Life. Life is unrecognisable and for the better, although you lose loved ones along the way. You have friends now: people who like you for you. Your family love and depend on you; you don’t fight with them anymore. Mam’s still amazing and your head-wrecking, little brother is one of your closest friends.

Remember when a teacher screeched “your lives are over if ye fail the Leaving Cert lads” in class? She was so very wrong, they all were, yet you believe them without question. It was drilled into your head for years, yet they never told you that you can bypass the points system once you turn 23. The more you fail, the more you lose hope and you give up. You think about suicide, a month before the Leaving, because you get suspended and think there’s no way back. It’s hard to believe that you were going to end my life over something so irrelevant. Honestly, I place more significance on my eye test than I do on the Leaving. Not once have you used calculus nor have you given a second thought what Patrick Kavanagh or Adrienne Rich inferred in their poetry since you left secondary school. Life begins after the Leaving, regardless of the result, once you escape that misleading, artificial, pressurised bubble.

The anger and hatred evaporate but they’re the only emotions you’ve known; they mask your depression and it kicks your ass. All those weeks you skip in sixth year, when you stay in bed with the duvet over your head? You’re not being a rebel; it’s depression. You sleep away countless days over the years but that isn’t your future.

You’re some man to bottle things up. I understand why those words never escape; you’re feeling vulnerable and you don’t want to look weak or get hurt. I really wish you hadn’t kept it all to yourself. Some things need to be said out loud. The people you spend your teenage years fighting, the ones you’re having punch-ups with, you don’t realise it yet but they’re fighting their own demons.

You learn to deal with rejection and heartbreak. It sucks but each time you’ve been hurt has toughened you and made you more resilient. You’re not immune to suicidal thoughts or depression, particularly when you don’t look after yourself physically and emotionally, but you learn how to fight those thoughts off.

You’re not always going to be shy and awkward, or short and scrawny for that matter. Those braces come off and you start smiling again. You’re taller than Dad and better looking than Eoin, despite his protests, eye-rolls and damning photographic evidence. You’re not self-conscious about your body anymore; Jesus, changing for PE was traumatic. You can’t pass a mirror without checking yourself out; no longer do you hate the person staring back at you. You’re not afraid to talk to girls either; you should see the girl who said she loved you after a few drinks the other night! You might not be the best looking, the most intelligent or the most stylish person in the room but you are one of the most confident.

Life hasn’t always been rosy but it has been worth living. You’ll have bad days. Friends die far too young. Family die and life is never the same. You’ll grieve for them all. Relationships end and those walls will go back up but you’ll move on and the walls will come back down.

Speak up, speak out, try not to cause pain to others and when those dark thoughts, those suicidal thoughts, come creeping into your head, do not keep them to yourself.

Best of luck; I’m rooting for you.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this article please contact:

  •     Samaritans 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.ie
  •     Aware 1800 80 48 48 (depression, anxiety)
  •     Pieta House 1800 247 247 or email mary@pieta.ie (suicide, self-harm)
  •     Teen-Line Ireland 1800 833 634 (for ages 13 to 19)
  •     Childline 1800 66 66 66 (for under 18s)

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