Trouble from the Troubles

Hello. My name is David and this blog may seem to some like a book, movie or even a cartoon, but everything I say is 100% real.

To understand my mental health issues I need to bring you back to my younger days. I grew up in West Belfast, the now-demolished Divis flats on the lower part of the Falls Road in Northern Ireland.

I was born in July 1977 into a really loving family, no doubt that's still true to this day, but during my first 14 years I had witnessed up to 11 deaths, both through bombings and shootings, as well as 100's of 'kneecappings' of both British soldiers and people I knew in my local community. I saw plenty of people shot dead, all of which happened between 10-200 feet away from were I was standing at the time.

I know that may be a shock to anyone outside Northern Ireland, but to us it was the norm at the time. Let's not forget this was all in the middle of the so-called 'troubles'. It was an incredibly difficult time for everyone in Northern Ireland, whichever side of the fence you were on.

On top of the troubles which affected everyone, I also had to deal with the stuff that not everyone goes through. My grandmother was shot dead before I was born. My other three grandparents all died of cancer.  My younger sister was still born. My mother got and survived breast cancer and I had cancer.

Now, fast forward 22 years, and that's when my adult life fell apart. After my wife's miscarriage, we were blessed with a set of twin girls. At the age of 36, I had already well developed split personality, severe depression with what I called a 'demon voice' in my head that wanted nothing more than to put me down, It would make me hide away from the world and constantly let my mind go into overdrive with thoughts of suicide. To cut it short, I attempted suicide 3 times in 10 days and spent a long time in a mental hospital.

Upon my release, I was introduced to a man that, to this day, I credit as saving my life. He gave and showed me the tools I needed to want to stay alive and live a normal life. I have 4 daughters who, at my time of weakness, thought would have be better off without me. The changes I have made to my life include both lifestyle and mental fitness.

I now go round talking to the local youth, both my area and others, across the religious divide about mental health awareness and the effects of suicide on families. When I'm invited, I also go to the gym 2 - 4 times a week. I play 5-a-side football and I'm involved heavily with my local football team as a committee member. I'm proud to be their first ever Welfare Officer, who reaches out to all our players and coaches from 8 - 40 years of age. We offer people help and advice and can open doors to young and older players / people who have been unaware of these facilities they never knew existed for years !!!

For me personally, if it wasn't for my friends getting me up off my backside and pushing there support in my darkest days to attend and help out on match days then God only knows where I would be right now. Our motto is #ItsOk2Ask4Help and #ItsOk2Talk .... So for any young or older people out there whether you have kicked a ball or not, just pop into your local football club or youth club and simply ask them if they need a hand.

I haven't stopped smiling this past 4-5 years and that's simply down to mental stimulation for caring about my health, my family, my club / players and and all the other members. The price for this happiness? All you need to do is ASK !!!!!

It's an incredible story from David made all the more amazing given it's true. I don't think many of us would have come through the things David has been through and remained so positive. Did you live through the troubles? Has it impacted on your mental health or that of people you know? Let us know in the comments below.

You can keep up with David on Twitter, where he's @DEDEV1977