Questions by Cameron Watson
Answers by Kieran Daly
Q – Tell me a little about what you have gone through in regards to mental health?
A – So I moved to Texas when I was 12 from this small mining town just outside of Glasgow. I had never really lived in a big city like Austin and I joined halfway through middle school, so everyone had already made friends and I struggled to do so. I remember for the last year I sat and ate lunch next to the group that kicked me out.
Everything piled up towards that point. In my first and second year of high school I was very disenfranchised with the experience of going to school. I didn’t like going, I didn’t have friends. The only friends I had were more of a façade to show my parents “look, I have friends”. Sometimes I would say I was going to see a movie with all these people, and only one or two would turn up and then they would immediately leave after the film.
My best friends I made in my last two years of high school was through a program called PALS (Peer Assistance Leadership and Service) which helped ‘at risk’ kids, kind of like an older sibling program. I made my best friends through that and I’m still friends with them now. But when I moved back I wanted a little bit of freedom from my mum and dad, and wanted to be on my own.
I then got into a relationship and I realised I wasn’t happy with something, I wasn’t content with it. I got nervous about everything in my life. There was stuff that the person who I was seeing told me – stuff in their life that made me nervous about our relationship. It built up and I started self harming. When we broke up it got a lot worse. She broke up with me because of my depression, she couldn’t date me because of it and for me it was like falling off a cliff because she was my support network.
I had cuts from my wrist up to my elbow on both arms and it got to the point where I gave up hiding it. When I stopped hiding it no one said anything. I was living with people in first year and I fell out with some of them over it. We were out for a night out and we were at pre-drinks. One of them took me out the room to talk about it and I said it was ages since I last did this and you only noticed it when I was drunk. So I felt like I had to get drunk in order for people to notice me.
I ended up developing a bit of an alcohol problem – not in the same way that freshers say they are alcoholics. I would wake up hungover from drinking all day the day before, pick up the vodka bottle beside me and take a swig and carry on. I just stopped caring.
I then got involved in Air3 Radio and met some really good friends. I got a good support network but it began to slip again. I fell out with some of the people I lived with because I don’t think they understood what I was going through. There were nights where I was panicked and anxious. I came in one night and they were yelling at me trying to help, but I didn’t respond to it well. I screamed and yelled back – I’m not an angry person but the anxiety and depression took over.
In second year it got a lot worse. I cut and self harmed again but I began to get better. I met someone that wasn’t a support network for me – they just understood me and I could tell them anything.
Right now though I’m in the best place I’ve ever been. I would say I’m a functioning anxious person. I channel my anxiety and depression into everything I do. I’m the station manager for the radio station next year and I don’t think I could do that if I wasn’t able to cope with my anxiety and depression.
Q – Why would you self harm?
A – I had a lot of pain in my life and it was coming from nowhere. I felt if I could give myself something to have the pain over, I would cut myself. It became a reliever for me as well. It wasn’t great.
Every time I made a cut and saw that little red line I would be happy, it was bad but I made that pain around me physical. It was no longer in the air but on me and I could carry it. Sometimes I would look at them and say you don’t need to cut yourself again because it’s there, you can channel that pain there. But it got to the point where I ran out of space.
Q – Were you self diagnosed?
A – I was self diagnosed for a while and a lot of people didn’t really believe me. I did go to the doctor though and went to the same one four times in eight weeks. Every time I walked in he would see the cuts on my arm, but still ended up saying “just sounds like you’re having a bad week”.
It wasn’t until my girlfriend last semester said you need to go to the doctor, I’m not going to force you but I’ll drive you there and be with you. We went for Nando’s before. We then drove up and I walked in and it was the same doctor as I had two years ago. I told him everything and then said I don’t know if you remember me but I saw you two years ago and you said I was having a bad week. But he sat me down, I took a test and I had a really high anxiety disorder and because of it depression can come from it.
Q – Do you think the coverage of anxiety and depression is good in the media?
A – It’s got better, but no two people’s problems are the same. I think as soon as you see a character with one of these, people then associate all people with these illnesses as that character. It’s really hard for a film writer like myself to write a character to have these illness but are still normal. Things like 13 Reasons Why have exaggerated it completely and don’t realise that you can still act happy and smile.
Q – Do you think there is good awareness within the university?
A – Yes, personally anyway. I have just finished my six sessions of counselling. That was a big thing for me as well in the union elections when people were talking about mental health and the facilities available.
I think the counsellors on campus are amazing because it’s a free service. I developed a close connection with my counsellor as well because she was walking that journey with me. I wish it was more freely available though as there is a long waiting list.
Q – Do you have any other thoughts on the subject?
A – I think everyone goes through it differently. If I was to give any advice I would say find an outlet. I’m a creative person – I joined radio, I joined AirTV, I made an ATVA, I’ve started a mockumentary series, I write music, I’m starting to make a name for myself in Stirling being asked for gigs.
If you can find an outlet and channel, using the sword coming to you as a shield, I think you can… I think the best way to say it is, you know Avatar? You know the way they channel, bending, learning that. Channel the bad into something better.