Friday 17 November 2017

Off the Ball: Conor Cusack an inspiration by simply being vulnerable

Cloyne man's honesty about depression shows that 'winning at all costs' is far too high a price

Diarmuid Lyng

We have Conor Cusack on the radio show tonight. It led me on a voracious search through a multitude of articles and hundreds of "just a couple more" readers' comments in reaction to the words of the Cloyne man since his blog post went viral last week.

He has been through the mill and his story doesn't need retelling here. But he's an inspirational guy – simply by being vulnerable, open, honest and in touch with his feelings.

Stop the press! Irish male athlete speaks about his feelings! Conor is forcing the conversation in a different direction around mental health. That the darkness can be your friend.

In a world where we find ourselves comparing our 'behind the scenes' to everyone else's 'highlights reel', this is an important shift.

Dessie Farrell caused a stir almost 10 years ago talking openly about depression in his book 'Tangled Up In Blue' – as usual, before his time. But here we have another breakthrough.

So what happens next? Can we harness the wave of energy Conor has created to meaningfully contribute something more positive for everyone?

The reality is that the conversation needs to move on straight away and embrace more than the extremes of depression and suicide.

We're all on a wellness scale and regardless of where on the scale we are, even if people are struggling, there's pure potential and absolute expression waiting for all of us.

Conor is proof of that but a central part in that process is the ability to embrace our inner darkness.

So what's the next step? Sport represents the phenomenal opportunity to engage the inner child in all of us – that ability to play.

Our sporting organisations across all sectors of Irish society have an opportunity to provide the space Conor talks about. The chance to be unique, instead of having to fit in. To be your best, not THE best.

The GAA, FAI, IRFU and any other sporting organisation have that responsibility to the social fabric of the country because they are the space people go to to be their true selves, away from the mayhem. They shouldn't be used to create even more instability, more mayhem.

The reality is thankfully dawning that 'winning at all costs' is coming at too high a price. There will still be purveyors of that message. People will continue to cling to the necessity of winning, because much like Conor speaks of in his early days, much like I experienced myself in hurling, it's a social currency to trade on in the vacuum created by not asking the most pertinent questions of yourself.

As Conor consistently encourages, the answers to any question you ever have are inside you. But give yourself the gift of creating the time and the space to ask the question. No one else will do it for you.

DL

Irish Independent

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