On the outside I was smiling, on the inside I was dying
I’m 40, married with two children and I’ve battled suicide and depression since 2010. I told my doctor if I can get through this I want to help others to fight it and that’s what I did and taxiwatch.ie was born.
In 2010, life could not have been any better. I had built a new house, bought a new car and was working away happily. Then BANG! I was hit from behind by a drunk driver and my back was injured. I had pain shooting down my legs every day. If I was lying down I was fine but if I walked or stood up I was in agony.
I went to my doctor who sent me for an MRI scan and this confirmed I needed surgery on my lower back. After my first operation I was in recovery and I was lying in bed everyday watching TV. I didn’t leave the house for weeks. I felt so helpless as I was the main earner in the family and as I was self-employed, meaning no money was coming in while I was out of work. I started to think about everything and started to feel useless and annoyed and every other emotion you can think of.
I had never had depression and I’m ashamed to say it but I thought anyone who had depression was just lazy, looking for sympathy or it was all in their heads, but then I started to cry and cry and cry for days. I had depression. Unfortunately, my operation did not work and I ended up back in hospital for a second operation on my back. I spent weeks in hospital and when I was sent home again to recover my head was fried.
I knew once again I was going to be lying around, not able to provide for my family and it hurt me so bad that I sunk lower and lower and I didn’t want anyone to know. After all I’m a man and I thought I was too tough to be crying. Weeks and months went by and I still felt and knew that my back was not getting better and that I might need a third operation. I dreaded it but I couldn’t stand the pain anymore. I was eating OxyContin like skittles and I was loving them. I didn’t realise I was now hooked on pain killers and was a nightmare to live with if I didn’t take them.
I hid my problems from everyone. Outside I was smiling and inside I was dying. Eventually I was in hospital on my third attempt at fixing my back. I hated every minute of life at this stage but I had to get it done and told myself “just suck it up – what’s wrong with you”. When I woke from the operation I felt no pain. I prayed that it was fixed. I felt great, the pain was gone. I went home for the last time to recover and as I laid in bed I felt good. I was still taking packets of OxyContin and life was good, or was it?
I woke up one morning and I felt everyone was judging me or saying things about me and the slightest thing would cause me to explode and shout at everyone. My wife knew something was not right and asked me was I okay? I said yes just leave me alone and I’ll be grand. We agreed to lock me in my bedroom so the kids would not see me this way. I spent eight months in my room.
Eventually I went back to work and I felt I was okay both physically and mentally, but I was far from okay. Somebody I worked with said something to me which I took to heart and I snapped. I wanted to kill him. I drove back to work to find him and take his head off. I was bawling my eyes out and was shaking with temper. Another friend called me and I couldn’t speak. He calmed me down over the phone and I decided to drive home from Dublin to Kilkenny. I don’t remember any of the drive home. Next day I went to my doctor and I fell apart in his office. I didn’t care anymore. I had enough. He put me on Meds and sent me to a councillor. I went and after the third session I started to feel better so I stuck with it and after a while the crying started to stop. I felt better after speaking about it. It was like someone took their foot of my chest.
During my depression I had thoughts about suicide and felt that everyone around me would be better off if I was not around them. I had thought of insuring my life so they would be financially okay after I was gone. I had thought of ways of killing myself so it looked like an accident and they could collect on my insurance, driving off a cliff or a pier or even pulling my car across traffic into an oncoming truck or bus went through my head. Thank God I didn’t do it. I remember saying to my counsellor at the start that if I get past this I want to help others out and make sure nobody has to go through what I was going through. He said “Unless you help yourself first, you can’t help others”. So I did just that, and when I felt ready, then I setup TAXIWATCH.IE.
In November 2014, I went back to work full time. I was in a much better place, my back was okay, not perfect, but okay and I was smiling. On my first night back driving my taxi I came across a man on a bridge contemplating suicide. I stopped my car and shouted at him “get in the car and we’ll talk – I know what you feeling, I’ve been there”. He looked at me and eventually he got in. I could see the pain in his eyes as he cried. He was then taken to the hospital for help. An hour later I was going over the same bridge and to my horror another young man was on the bridge again contemplating suicide. I stopped again got out and put my arm around him and he told me he “wanted to die as he was not allowed see his child”. I said “if you do this, you will never see the child again” and he agreed to get off the bridge and he was again taken to the hospital.
I was so moved by this that I went and took part in a SAFETALK and an ASIST (Applied Suicide Intervention Skills Training) course with the HSE. It teaches you how to speak and spot someone who is in distress and how to help them. I found both courses amazing and came back to Kilkenny and recruited 21 people to come and do the course again with me. In November 2014 I setup TAXIWATCH.IE and we now patrol the streets, bridges and quays of Kilkenny in our taxis looking out for people in distress. To date we have had 136 interventions with people wanting to take their own life.
We now have expanded and also have Taxiwatch in Ennis, Waterford and Clonmel. We are a 24 hour a day service and have a 24/7 crisis line on 087 6665050. I hope to go nationwide with this initiative in the hope of saving more lives.
24/7 Call 087 6665050