“Ireland was the place where things got worse”

Brianna Clark first went to therapy as a child and says it quickly became a part of her life.

“The therapy allowed me to go through an emotionally unstable childhood because my life was always in a state of turmoil or upheaval,” says the 29-year-old American. “At some point in my teenage years I subconsciously developed the idea that I would always be in therapy because it was part of my life and I thought I would always need help – it was just after I started meeting with my current therapist I realized how dangerous and counterintuitive this idea is. The goal I have now is to “make therapy redundant”, knowing that I can always come back to it when I need to.

“But I can say for sure that in the United States, especially New York where I’m from, this therapy is viewed positively and is certainly common. I also admit that in America therapy is often a lifelong commitment, and when you’re depressed for life, this whole story becomes an extension of you.

The biggest effect of depression on me is relentless self-loathing

Clark, who lives in Dublin with her boyfriend, Dave, and their puppy, Choo Choo, says depression takes many forms for her. This often leaves her to hate herself. “A common misconception is that depression is just loneliness or sadness, but for me that also includes disconnecting, feeling disconnected and questioning my very existence and my place in it. world – as well as procrastinating, wavering, wondering if I made the right choices and comparing myself to others.

“The biggest effect depression has had on me is relentless self-loathing. I shamelessly hate myself and wear my self-hatred like a badge. Only now, in the personal work that I do, do I learn that it is not too late to talk to the little girl who has endured horrible things, and I can watch her and tell her that it is will go .

“There are also a myriad of physical symptoms, like brain fog, nighttime grinding of teeth, a tight back and atypical pain for a 29-year-old woman – which also include fatigue and excessive sleep, acne. , weight gain, oily hair, and vision loss while looking at my phone – the list is endless.

Giving advice

Clark has been seeking help for years and is a “champion” of mental health awareness (this week is Mental health awareness week, with World Mental Health Day on October 10.) “I push the advocacy element out in my darkest days, when I’m not helping myself,” she says. “I went to therapy. I volunteer for organizations, like Aware, leading change. I participate in annual suicide prevention walks. I’ve seen acupuncturists and massage therapists and I’m doing mindful stuff. Most importantly, I don’t hide the part of me that asks to be seen and remember that change takes time. But I also give a lot of advice that I don’t take – so I don’t eat right, exercise, and ask for help when I need it.

“I tend to fall victim to my own pattern of taking a hammer for every good thing in my life and smashing it to oblivion. I’m not supposed to get better, yet I am constantly struggling. to get better, and in my desperate attempt to do so – whether it’s to find the medicine that works or to find a job that is my “true calling” – my life itself weaves in and around my poor sanity all over. the weather Depression and I have been inseparable bed companions for as long as I can remember It has been the elephant in the room, the warning, the “but” of every conversation, big or small.

She had suicidal thoughts and lost a friend to suicide, but after deciding three years ago that she needed to change something in her life, she moved to Ireland to study, but her mental health issues subsided. intensified.

“It was in Ireland that things got worse,” she says. “Things happened to me that I thought only happened in movies, like being hospitalized and being fired from a job because I suffered from depression. Covid-19 has limited my access to services and emotionally I’m in a place I’ve never been before and it scares me.

“I almost completely disengaged from everything and stopped taking care of myself, eating well and deliberately lost touch with people. I slowly fade away, convinced that there is not much about me that is worth saving. I feel like I’m irreparable.

“More recently, depression silenced me in ways I never thought possible. My mom flew over during the height of Covid-19 because she was so worried – but I felt her words bounce off me and come back to her. “

A&E or a walk

Clark believes the Irish health care system has “worked against” her, despite all their efforts to combat it. “When I got to college, I immediately sought advice and even though the waiting list was several months long, when I expressed my feelings of suicide, I drastically increased the list.

“But I was just given two options on my date: A&E, or ‘a walk around Merrion Square’. I thought it was a joke. The counselor asked me if I had a “plan” to kill myself. I didn’t, but I was sitting there without a shower and barely alive. I didn’t want to pick up someone’s bed in the emergency room, especially since my friend said he would put me on an IV and send me home. So what did we do? We took a walk around Merrion Square.

“I asked a therapist and a psychiatrist to sort my medications, but the waiting list was over six months. where I would be. In the meantime, my mother sent me medicine from the United States.

“I don’t think Ireland was prepared for me – a woman who was well used to advocating for patients and wanted to be responsible for her medication regimen and treatment options. I had no idea that Ireland is decades behind America in terms of mental health treatment – and if I had known then what I know now about the system, I would have told myself to run for that there was still time.

System in “crisis”

Clark has encountered other problems with the care she has received since her stay in Ireland and believes that the country’s mental health system is in “crisis”.

“It’s a matter of national attention and urgency, and change has to happen,” she said. “I have never felt more energized by one thing than this because there are people who die before they can get help. Mental health funding represents 5.1% of the total health budget. There are thousands of children waiting to see CAMHS [Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services] specialists, and adults can wait years to be seen by a mental health professional. Then the moment you finally find help, you end up with overworked and underpaid staff and you’re directed to the system as quickly as possible due to the demand.

As it stands, there is no real help for people with mental health issues

“People are coming forward courageously, now more than ever, and we need to listen to them because it is historically difficult for people to come forward. As it is, there is no real help for people with mental health issues. There are resources and systems in place, but they are largely dysfunctional and inadequate, lacking a human touch for a problem that falls under the human condition.

“I come from a place where affordable medicines are front and center, resources abound and there is no shame in asking for help. It’s a bigger and more diverse place, but that doesn’t mean Ireland can’t follow a similar model philosophically and institutionally. Mental health technology, research and knowledge have advanced tremendously and we are stuck in an archaic system that is literally killing people.

“It’s literally a matter of life and death, and we have to start acting like this.”

Acquire help:
Pietà House, 1 800 247 247, text HELP to 51444.
Samaritans, 116,123, [email protected]
Suicide Or Survive, 1890 577 577, [email protected]
Aware, 1800 80 48 48, [email protected]
Child line, 1800 666 666, text 5101.
HSE Drug and Alcohol Hotline, 1800 459 459, [email protected]
Travel advice service, (01) 868 5761, 086 308 1476, [email protected]
HSE crisis SMS service, text 50808.
St Patrick’s Mental Health Services, (01) 249 3333, [email protected]
Alone, 0818 222 024, [email protected]

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