On Friday, March 7 last, Conor Cusack delivered an inspiring speech to over 300 people at a Positive Mental Health event in Kinsale organised by Kinsale Youth Support Services (KYSS). From the outset, Conor specified that he was not a professional, and that he was speaking in a personal capacity, and that his ultimate aim was to portray a message of hope. He began his speech with the following story.
“A man found an eagle’s egg and put it in a nest of a barnyard hen. The eaglet hatched with the brood of chicks and grew up with them. All his life the eagle did what the barnyard chicks did, thinking he was a barnyard chicken. He scratched the earth for worms and insects. He clucked and cackled. And he would thrash his wings and fly a few feet into the air. Years passed and the eagle grew very old. One day he saw a magnificent bird above him in the cloudless sky. It glided in graceful majesty among the powerful wind currents, with scarcely a beat on his strong golden wings. The old eagle looked up in awe. ‘Who’s that?’ he asked. ‘That’s the eagle, the king of the birds,’ said his neighbour. ‘He belongs to the sky. We belong to the earth — we’re chickens.’ So the eagle lived and died a chicken, for that’s what he thought he was.
Conor outlined that he had lived, and almost died, trying to be someone that he wasn’t. He detailed how he had always sought the approval of others and tried to please other people. He compared himself to others, and didn’t have a sense of self worth. Conor described his experiences of getting panic attacks from the age of 15, and the effect they had on him. He felt traumatised, that his heart was in his mouth, and these attacks increased in strength and frequency. The feelings he experienced were deeper and stronger than sadness, and he no longer enjoyed the world.
He described the fear of being labelled and stigmatised when he experienced a nervous breakdown. However, Conor learned through his recovery that life is not a problem to be solved, but a mystery to be lived. We can accept in life that cars, computers, and equipment break down, but we cannot accept when we ourselves break down. We can repair ourselves, and build ourselves back up better than before. He wanted to carry a message to anyone suffering, to have the courage and strength to be kind to yourself. That it is ok to stand out from the crowd and be yourself. Please take that first step, and seek help, you are not alone, and the rewards are great. We are all spiritual beings having a human experience, not human beings enduring a spiritual experience. You are not defined by successes within life.
Conor again referred to the fact that he was not a template, and that he could only speak about his own personal experiences. He also referred to the quote “Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself”
Following his emotional address, Conor deservedly received a standing ovation from the captive audience. There followed a question and answer session, in which people in attendance were free to express their thoughts. Several speakers from the audience spoke of their own personal experiences with their mental health, and they thanked Conor for his courage in speaking out, which gave them inspiration, and courage in their own lives.
Tom Walsh, youth health support worker with Kinsale Youth Support Services also addressed the audience, and he outlined his role to offer advice, support and guidance within the local community of Ballygarvan, Ballinhassig, Ballinspittle (Courceys Parish), Belgooly, Innishannon, Kilmacsimon, Kinsale, Riverstick and Tracton.
On the night several information stands were available covering: The Samaritans; Kinsale Youth Support Services (KYSS); Bandon Community Drugs Initiative; Out and About Association (dealing with anxiety or panic attacks).
Each person who attended the event received an information pack to act as a point of reference detailing the contact details of each of the above groups. All present also got a gift of a box of gold blend teabags, with the message ‘A problem shared is a problem halved’ on the packaging, which shows that it is the small things like sharing our feelings over a cup of tea and making time to listen, which make all the difference to our own wellbeing.
The Youth Forum is open to young people from the ages of 14 to 18 years.
Further information is available at www.kyss.ie, and Tom Walsh, Youth Health Support Worker can be contacted on 085 8725789.