My name is Paul ‘Calso’ Callaghan. I grew up in Co. Armagh, N.Ireland, the youngest of 9.
We were not well off but we needed for nothing, my parents worked very hard to make sure we never went without. It was probably due to this that I never really knew what a hard days work was for myself until I was 18 years old. My father had passed away a few months previous and I had found myself out of work when I was offered a few weeks work labouring to a squad of Plasterers. The first few weeks were horrific, a complete body shock to what manual labour really was, but I pushed through it and fell in love with the job, the strain and the effort required on a daily basis.
Fast forward 10 years on and I had my own successful Plastering business, employing a few lads including my brother. I used to be turning work down on a weekly basis during the boom, just not able to take everything on. I worked the lads hard and had a high standard of workmanship but I hope they realise now that that is why we had years of continual work. It was 2008 and the recession was really kicking in…unfortunately some things were not made to last…
Then over a period of 4-6 weeks I noticed that the phone didn’t ring. We had about 8 months lined up in front of us, and then the unthinkable happened… in that 8 month period not a single phone call came in about new work. The exaggerated rumours of a recession had come true, everyone had been talking about it, and we knew it would slow down, but this just stopped… no slowing down… it literally just stopped!
I had to make the horrible decision to end the business and let the lads go. I also made the decision to move to Co.Clare, my sister Louise was living down there and I was used to the area, so I felt a whole fresh start was needed to fully let go of the business.
I moved down in November 2008 and started doing odd jobs to pay rent. The next 18 months were the worst of my life. I found myself in debt, deeply unhappy because I wasn’t plastering anymore and felt inadequate and emasculated that I wasn’t the man I used to be.
I hid it well, I put on a smiling face, joked around in my usual nature and tried my best to make out that everything was ok… and that was in front of everyone I knew, I let nobody into the “dark side”.
I would go into a blind state of panic when I was by myself, anxiety and panic attacks where the toughest parts for me. One minute I’d be fine and out of nowhere I would be hit with thinking the worst, I wanted to hurt myself and on occasions did, I’d punch myself, cut myself and often thought about ending my life because that would be the easiest solution… thankfully my stubbornness always won that battle.
Anyone who knows me in life knows that I always want to do my best, to strive; thank god I have that pain in the ass quality!!
I started to shut myself out of things, I had no want to be around people, my visits and phone calls to home became less and less, my relationship at the time suffered too, I became a misery to live with… always angry and negative about everything, the slightest wee things would get my back up.
When I should have been sleeping I was awake, going through debts, having panic attacks etc and when I should have been awake and working, I just wanted to crawl into bed and sleep.
It all came to a head one day… I finally broke into a mess, I cried and screamed and opened up to my sister… it was like a 30 min conversation but it changed everything for me, there was a huge weight lifted off my shoulders… 18 months of anxiety and depression was eased.
Now don’t get me wrong, it didn’t vanish, it still lurks in me, but I went and sought help from my GP and he referred me onto another doctor who eased me into anti-depressants and has since eased me off them too.
I had always wanted to grow some vegetables in my garden and I taught myself how to do that with books from the local library, this new found hobby turned into a passion and this really helped with my condition, it gave me a new sense of purpose again.
From that I taught myself how to cook and started a blog www.thesustainablelarder.blogspot.com to keep myself occupied. I have been totally blessed in the way that has totally turned my life around, since then I have had my debut cookbook ‘Calso Cooks: Real Food Made Easy’ published and have a regular cookery slot on TV3.
I know I have been very fortunate in how things have worked out for me, I have worked and still am working very hard at my new career but it has been that focus and that drive at a new challenge that has been keeping the “dark side” at bay… I still have my moments and who knows maybe it will always be a part of me, but if I can control it and take a step back when it attacks then I’m ok with that.
To open up and talk to someone may be the best thing you ever might do, the more you bottle it and shut yourself away the more it will eat at you. If it was any other ailment you would seek the right help for it. Do not think for one minute that it makes you weak to speak about it… it will be the strongest thing you will ever do.