28 Jan 2016

The stigma of being human – Dignity Series

This is Kevin’s story about his experience of dignity in his mental health journey. He and others from Gateway Mental Health Association in Rathmines have given permission for us to print their Dignity Stories.

Becoming very withdrawn at age 15, I was in a mind state of fear and negativity.  I couldn’t punch my way out of a paper bag.  I was very passive & would not or could not go to a doctor.  I was in a prison of the mind.

Then Success! At age 30 I finally found my feet with a course in Amenity Horticulture.  The identity of being both a student and gardener agreed greatly with me, giving me a role in this theatre of life, and the confidence to start thinking about how I could make positive progress on other areas.

For the first time since I was a child I had the confidence to go to the barber shop and take part in the everyday conversations held there.  Up until then my father had always cut my hair at home.  I remember feeling a glow, a halo, around my head coming out of the barbershop that day now that I had an identity, a trade of my own.  I even began to advertise in newspapers as a gardener and got work maintaining private gardens.

Looking to develop even more, aware that something was still amiss, I made up my mind to see a shrink.  I think the use of the word shrink for a psychiatrist is to do with the shrinking of an oversized ego through therapy, I read that somewhere.

In any case the Doctor got down to business.  After a few years in therapy, my progress was, to my mind poor as I still didn’t seem able to go out and socialise in the everyday world as I had hoped.

Looking back I believe the Doctors straight talking approach gave me a fair crack of the whip and I found his diagnosis helpful – throwing light on my life story up to that point.  I learned I was a solitary person with an emotionally withdrawn personality.  This did make sense to me.  I was advised that ‘I had to work on it,’ – a very sensible piece of advice.

Things eventually started to improve for me when I joined GROW Mental health, and over the years GROW, Gardening, Music, Gateway, Positive Psychology have all conspired to improve and enrich my like making it worth being human, worth living.


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