In support of
20x20

Republic of Ireland Women’s National Team and Glasgow City striker, Clare Shine offers some advice to her younger self on her struggles with mental health.

I can only imagine the thoughts running through your head with the world seemingly at your feet at such a young age. It will feel like everyone you meet already has high expectations of you, and with those high hopes comes a lot of pressure.

Speaking from experience, I can tell you that not everything is going to work out how you might want it to, and there will be many mountains to climb, but that’s all part of growing up as a player and as a person. You will learn how to separate being a player and person in time but, please be patient with it. I struggled with that and you can learn from my mistakes.

When you reach the start of the first mountain, roll with it and take deep breaths. Listen to the advice that your friends and family give you. As much as it may seem like nobody understands the terrifying thoughts that take over your whole way of thinking, the people closest to you will love you no matter what and no matter how hard it may be for them to hear those dark thoughts from you.

Clare Shine, on her senior debut for the Republic of Ireland, against Spain in the UEFA Women's EURO 2017 Qualifier, Tallaght Stadium, 26 November 2015. © Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

Clare Shine, on her senior debut for the Republic of Ireland, against Spain in the UEFA Women’s EURO 2017 Qualifier, Tallaght Stadium, 26 November 2015. © Matt Browne / SPORTSFILE

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Every good day may follow with five bad days and on those bad days you may find yourself searching for something that eases the pain, something that no longer distracts you from it.

It is my hope that sharing everything I have learned will help you to avoid making the same mistakes. While there are some things I wish I had done differently, I am now stronger for having come through certain experiences and wiser as to how to handle situations when they arise.

You might think, for example, that alcohol is your best friend and helps to ease that pain. But I can assure you that it only feeds that devil on your shoulder telling you to have ‘one more’. It also tells you that you’re not good enough and points out all of your insecurities that you try to flush to the back of your mind.

All of those nights you end up walking home because you spent your last tenner on a drink you probably didn’t need. Tears rolling down your face over the thought of wanting to end it all there and then. That devil appearing that never seems to go away. It’s a battle that you will never win on your own.

If only I could warn you about what you are about to do and tell you how many people love you no matter what. But I know that you don’t care. I know that you’re not thinking about anything other than getting rid of this pain.

Five years of those thoughts coming and going, and each comeback proved to be a greater fall. Leaving Pieta House both times, I felt invincible and ready to attack the world once again. But not giving yourself that self-love, that self-care, that you needed led to you walking aimlessly around Cork city, full of pints and God only knows what else. As you’re walking, your chest starts to tighten and your mind ready to explode… “nobody will even care… just do it, just do it”.

Republic of Ireland Women's National Team striker, Clare Shine is speaking out about her mental health struggles to encourage others in similar situations to seek help. © FAI

Republic of Ireland Women’s National Team striker, Clare Shine is speaking out about her mental health struggles to encourage others in similar situations to seek help. © FAI

As you wake up, sitting upright in a chair, you see your best friend asleep on the hospital bed. A doctor sitting outside the door, just in case your mind begins to wander again. You are on suicide watch.

“Why am I here? Why am I here?” You’re screaming and shouting but nobody can hear you. All you want is for everyone to leave you alone. You’re sick of continuously letting people down and feel that the world would be a better place without you. But let me tell you something, the people who love you – and there are many who truly do care about you – will see things differently. They can be, and should be, the ones who reinforce what is good about this world and why you make such a positive impact on it.

Right now, you’re known for your talent on the pitch, but it’s up to you to make sure that the person develops as much as the player does. They need to work together, but the emphasis should be on the latter as sport will only last for so long. You have a life to live, so be the best person you can be and do not lose sight of what is important.

Take my word for it, that devil on your shoulder can also be your best friend.

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Just please, talk to someone.

Clare,

January 2020.

If you are affected by any of the issues raised in this story you can contact Pieta House for 24/7 support at 1800 247 247

You can also text HELP to 51444 (standard message rates apply)

 

If you enjoyed Clare’s story, you might like to read Galway hurler Conor Whelan’s “Breaking The Silence.”

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