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'I'm getting better about ignoring the black dog, I've locked him outside and I haven't fed him in years'

Stephen Considine shares how he went from attempted suicide to creating art to help others.

Stephen Considine

THIS YEAR’S DARKNESS Into Light walk takes place on Saturday May 12th in aid of Pieta House, proudly supported by Electric Ireland. Participants in more than 170 locations, on four continents, will walk the 5km route to raise funds and awareness.

In the weeks leading up to it, people around Ireland will be sharing their own journeys from Darkness Into Light. For the first part of the series, artist Stephen Considine, founder of BiPolar Bear Wear shares his uplifting story of finding art after a difficult battle with depression and a brave recovery from a suicide attempt.

The wibbly wobbly wonders

I’ve had depression since I was a young teenager but I didn’t have a clue that there was a thing called depression. I also have attention deficit disorder and that was going on undiagnosed. From an early teenager I hadn’t a clue about myself and mental illness so it went untreated for years.

When I was about 20 I got what I call the wibbly wobbly wonders and I knew that I really needed an intervention. Things kept snowballing until I became the most depressed snowman ever. When I was 22 or 23 a ridiculously unfortunate event happened where a lot of people died and I just got severely depressed.

I locked myself in a room, I wasn’t eating, I was taking sleeping tablets, I wasn’t going to work or college. I didn’t want to be alive and there’s no other way to put it. I wanted to be happy but I just wanted to sleep the whole time as opposed to not being alive.

I’ll never forget, my dog had a puppy and I couldn’t even pet her or look at her. I was completely numb to everything, I couldn’t show empathy, I just had such a lack of passion and motivation.

With my people

It escalated one night when I attempted suicide for the simple reason that I didn’t want to wake up. I was taken to Saint John of God and they literally saved my life. It’s the hardest thing that I’ve ever done but definitely the most important thing that’s ever happened to me. I owe my life to my friends and family who put me in there.

In Saint John of God I was just completely immersed with people who knew everything about me – the patients there understood me and I felt like I was with my own people. There’s something really lovely about being around people who understand you.

At first I didn’t understand what I was going through, I couldn’t verbalise anything but then I was thrown into Saint John of God where everyone talked and there was no stigma so now I will talk to everyone about it.

I don’t think I’d ever return to the point of not wanting to wake up again from what I learned there. I haven’t been completely kosher, I’ve had a few encounters with the black dog since. He’d be barking the odd time but I’m getting better at locking him outside and I haven’t fed him in years.

Helping with head wobbles

14853137_344142875941334_8589733597609506053_o Source: Bipolar Bear Wear

I decided after that I was going to devote my life to try and pay back the people who kept me alive. If I won the Lotto I’d love to build an in-patient ward in Pieta House. I came together with my other friends who have suffered mental health issues to create BiPolar Bear Wear.

We wanted to make sure if there were young lads like us that they wouldn’t feel alone and clothes are such an important platform for communicating with others and establishing your identity. We’ve made money for St Patrick’s and Pieta House so far, and next on the list are Saint John of God and Talk To Tom in Wexford.

21192477_515300242158929_6356906519278337569_n Source: BiPolar Bear Wear

A teacher messaged me last year saying she was doing a mental health week and told the kids to check out BPB. Within a week, one of the students came up and said thanks so much for putting me onto them, I am now going to see a counsellor, I was in a very bad way. That’s the be all and end all, it made me so happy. I’m still worried for the kids we haven’t reached yet. It’s so important – it’s life or death, really.

An army of love

We’re all in debt to the heroes behind Darkness Into Light and Pieta House. Last week a teacher I know in a small school in Cork said that three kids in fifth class are suffering with head wobbles and they’re all availing of Pieta House.

My first Darkness Into Light I was astounded to see so many familiar faces and baffled by the amount of people who are directly or indirectly affected by suicide. It’s so important to see how many people care.

We ended up on the beach in Arklow and I saw this mad Lion King-type of sunrise I’d never seen before. I sat with a friend who I had become close to because we were both suffering, we were pretty troubled and isolated at the time. After the walk I felt so much less alone, it’s really quite a romantic experience.

It gives you hope for mankind. It’s actually the most astounding event in the world. There are even people from Saudi Arabia marching in Darkness Into Light where there’s serious stigma to have a mental illness. It’s really invigorating to walk across the world simultaneously as an army of love.

When you feel worthless and you don’t think anyone would give you an inch, there are so many people leaving their lovely warm beds at 4am and you realise people that you haven’t even met yet care about you – it’s the most lovely feeling.

Source: Electric Ireland/YouTube

Join the thousands walking from Darkness Into Light on May 12th to raise funds and awareness for Pieta House. You’ll find more information online here, or follow the conversation on social media using #DIL2018.

If you need to talk, contact for free:

  • Pieta House 1800 247247 or email mary@pieta.ie – (available 24/7)
  • Samaritans 116 123 or email jo@samaritans.org (available 24/7)
  • Aware 1800 804848 (depression, anxiety)
  • Childline 1800 666666 (for under 18s, available 24/7)

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About the author:

Stephen Considine

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