What led me to GROW – Michael

My name is Michael and I want to share a little of my background, and also what led me to GROW.

I was born and reared in Athenry, Co. Galway and I am the eldest of five children. I had a very good childhood even though my family weren’t the wealthiest and times were tough. I got on very well in national school and had lots of friends there. As I moved into secondary school, times again were great up to my Inter (Junior) Cert in 1986 were I excelled with 10 honours and I was very popular with my fellow students and teachers.

Circumstances changed for me in fourth and fifth year in school. I was physically and emotionally bullied by a fellow student. It was constant although he only hit me sometimes, only when I called him his nickname. He wasn’t the brightest of students.

I failed my first Leaving Cert in 1988 due to the bullying but I repeated and did reasonably well the following year. While I was working in Galway city in the summer of 1989 I bumped into that bully again and I got very angry at him and beat him up, although I detest fighting in any form.

From 1989 to early 1991 I worked in a few bars and one hotel and again was popular with fellow workers and my employers. In fact 1990 was the best year of my life and 1991 was the worst, and now I’ll tell you why.

In January 1991, I was at a house party at a friend’s house in Athenry. My friends started taking hard drugs like cocaine and LSD and all that terrible stuff. I was very drunk but my friend’s temped me to take them but I strongly refused and got on my racer bike and cycled very, very fast downtown. It was about 2am. I remember passing the local Church at a very high speed, and the road was very icy and thought ‘O Christ I can’t stop’. There was poor street lighting at that time in town. I recall going around a long blind turn and seeing two men on the road. They were about 30 to 40 feet ahead of me and I braked extremely hard, a reflex break I think it’s called. Very quickly, I skipped past the two men and my bike hit the kerbing and tumbled off the bike. What follows is up to you to believe or not however I swear to God that this is the truth.

I was told later that a rolled down the road, roughly 30 feet and slammed my the back of head on the tarmac in The Square in Athenry. I had what is known as a Near Death Experience or for short NDE and it was divine for me.

I remember my spirit gently floating upwards. I felt totally at peace and very loved. I saw a universe of stars and a quite large, round star in the middle of this beautiful place. As I ascended and got closer to the large star, a soft gentle voice came from it saying in quite whisper, “You must go back”. I believe this voice was the voice of God or a Angel as I am a Christian. Ever since this wonderful experience I am very spiritual person. I believe in good and doing good for others and I’ve always will be like that.

After the two men did CPR on me I remember my spirit returning to my body very quickly. They asked me would I like to see a doctor or would phone for a ambulance but I was bleeding a lot and I had no broken bones so I decided to walk home which was very foolish on my part. I can’t thank the two men well enough and I meet one of the men sometimes in Athenry over the years and offer him a pint which sometimes he accepts.

I staggered home slowly and fell in the door. My parents and brothers rushed out and took good care of me. I fell asleep and we went to the Regional Hospital in Galway in the morning. I was rushed into a room there and the doctors examined me and gave me blood and looked at my head wound and gave me some stitches there. I was covered in plasters too. During all this time I was very disorientated.

I remember been left what felt like a very long time on a bed and 2 nurses talking a bit away from me, saying “He has to go to psych”. I said “What’s that? I don’t understand!”. One of them said, “The doctor will take good care of you there”. “Ok” I said. So a hospital usher brought my up there along with my parents. Now I had no idea what psychiatry was at that time. When I got there the doctor, he was a student doctor mind you, had a word with my parents and then talked to me. I can’t remember what he asked me but I talked strangely to him as I felt uncomfortable there. At the end of the interview the doctor consulted to the head doctor and after that he told my parents and I that I will have to be admitted to St. Bridget’s Hospital in Ballinasole.

My NDE was Heaven, my first admittance to Bridget’s was pure hell.

I spent three months in Bridget’s up to March 1991. At the time, it was an overcrowded, dirty place. The only good thing there was the food. My first doctor was not a nice man, he usually would meet me for interview in the mornings and always smelled of drink. We never really got on together which can happen between people sometimes. He asked me some, of what I found strange, questions like “do you hear voices?, do you see things?”, and worst of all, “how is your sex life?”, which is a deeply personal question.

I told him a few times over my stay there about my NDE but he said it was not true and that hurt a lot. He labelled me a certain illness and that I now believe was the totally wrong diagnosis. I was on certain medication for a very long time and it did not suit me at all. A doctor 14 years later put the record right. And she took me of the old medication and almost straight away the side effects of it were gone for good. The new medication she put me on worked and I felt a lot better. She gave me a new diagnosis and it is the right one. I left hospital in March 1991. After that I stayed at home for a year taking a lot of tablets and I put on a lot of weight and sleeping a lot. My family throughout were supportive to me thank goodness.

I starting to attend Loughrea Training Centre in 1992 and found it hard for the first year. My concentration was gone and slowly got back during the first year there. The following two years were much better and the manager said to me in 1994 that I was the best student there -unofficially! I was offered a computer course in 1995 and I accepted it. It was a good experience eventhough one of the teachers was very strict. However I completed the course & qualified with a distinction.

In 1993 I was admitted to hospital again for another three months which was better than the last time but I was ‘high’ or maniac. I was admitted again in 1997 due to a incident in the Army which I can’t talk about. However life got better after that, as I worked with my father and worked in Galway as well for a number of years. I went to hospital again in 2005 for a short time, (three weeks), and the doctor said would I like to move to Loughrea to a hostel and I said yes.

So, I’m living here now since then and am living in my own house since 2009 and I love living here in town. I was in hospital last year in the Galway unit for 6 weeks last year and it’s all right there. The doctors there though are strict but considerate and won’t discharge anyone until your completely 100% ready to leave which is right is think.

These days I’m in the best health and life is good. I attend a day centre and have a few good friends and visit home often.

I attend the weekly GROW support group in Loughrea. GROW is the best support group I have ever joined and I hope it can expand further and help many more people like me. I hope you found my story interesting and thank you for taking the time to read it.

Michael – November 2015