‘The people who said ‘you saved my daughter, my son.’ Those messages are why I’ve done it’

LESS THAN A week after its original publication, Shane Carthy’s book ‘Dark Blue’ has already been declared for reprint.

Shane Carthy in action for the Dublin U21s in 2015.

Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Written from the first-person perspective with an engaging writing style, Carthy began this writing project some 18 months ago, reliving the days of his dark and frightening journey with depression which almost claimed his life.

There’s honesty all over the pages as the prodigiously talented Dublin footballer exposes himself to the reader. The surface layer of the successful underage star is stripped away to reveal the tortured youngster struggling to make sense of his deteriorating mental state.lac

Some of the passages are difficult to read, and as Carthy admits in a conversation with The42, even more difficult to put down on paper.

Carthy has spoken publicly about his battle with depression in the past, and was applauded for his courage to open up about such an important issue. As the sales numbers suggest, his book has triggered a similar response among people.

His candid interview on the Late Late Show last Friday night amplified the positive feedback even more.

And yet, when O’Brien publishers came to him with a figure of 6,000 copies for the first release of ‘Dark Blue’, Carthy had his doubts about whether or not his message would hit the right note.

“I couldn’t quite believe it when I got that email today,” he explains.

“I was being kept in the loop with regards it [the book] going well but to me, when they said they were printing 6,000 for the first print, I was thinking, ‘surely 6,000 people won’t buy my book. Who am I?’

“It’s completely blown my mind and I’m overwhelmed by the whole response. I’d love to get back to absolutely everyone but I suppose I’ll just have to do it in a more generic sense from social media posts, and the few people I’ve seen in person.

“But I guess, after the Late Late, I had seen such a kind of diverse reaction. People of about 18 years of age to 90 years of age – either in person or on social media – coming up and saying their own little piece of what they went through or what someone else went through.

“That put it into perspective for me that this story reaches further than just a sports story.

“It epitomises that mental health has affected us all.”

For those who are unfamiliar with Carthy’s background, the Portmanock man is an exceptional footballing talent. This writer first got a real insight into his ability during the 2020 Sigerson Cup campaign, where Carthy played an instrumental role in leading to DCU to their fifth crown in top tier of third-level football.

Carthy was also an emerging star in the Dublin underage ranks, earning a call-up to the senior team in 2013 at the age of just 18 under then-manager Jim Gavin. He was part of the squad that ended that year as All-Ireland champions.

The “idyllic life” is a phrase that comes up many times in the book, one which Carthy picks to illustrate how people perceived him on the outside. Internally however, he was suffering.

In the book, Carthy details how he tried to process these emotions himself, mainly through sport, before eventually informing his family and some friends about his situation. 

Several attempts were made to help aid his recovery, including a trip to Sweden where he spent some time with one of his sisters. 

By now however, Carthy was having suicidal thoughts and was subsequently admitted to St Patrick’s Mental Health facility in 2014.

One particular incident from his 11-week stay at the hospital that offers a vivid, yet troubling image of his mental state at that time:

“From this point, my mental and physical actions were independent,” the passage begins. “I was merely a spectator to my physical actions.  

“All the while, my mind was screaming, ‘Stop, stop, stop!’ I was powerless though. Images of my family flashed through my head. This was the first time this had happened — every other time I’d been at this point, I had failed to register a thought about my family.

“Before I could go any further, the sound of the curtains being drawn open startled me. ‘What are you doing, Shane?’”

There are many events like this in the book that are emotionally challenging for the reader. Incidents when he recalls experiencing panic attacks, and the memory of a day when he snapped at his parents about wanting to be discharged from St Pat’s to play a match for Dublin evoke similar feelings.

I’m blown away. Thank you to everyone who has shown such incredible support! https://t.co/EjvbBgYZO1

— Shane Carthy (@S_Carthy8) February 4, 2021

Unsurprisingly, the effort needed to recount these moments with such raw honesty took its toll on Carthy.

“There was an awful lot,” he explains. “I had days where I had written for 20 minutes and days where I’d written for six or seven hours.

“The particular moments when I was in St Pat’s tying my laces and shutting the curtain and going to do something irreversible. That was hugely difficult and although that was around a page or so describing that event, it took me nearly two or three days.

“I was very careful throughout the book with these kind of dark moments. From asking my friends and family to recall the panic attacks that I had, that was hugely scary because that was an out of body experience that I couldn’t describe. I had to have someone else recall those memories.

“They were difficult to put down on paper because, as much as I wanted to be open and honest, and not sugar coat things, it wasn’t easy. I was checking in with myself every single day to make sure I was ok regurgitating all this.

“It doesn’t get any easier and I’m just very, very careful. Particularly those moments at St Pat’s were quite vivid and extremely difficult. [They] probably took me longer than what normally should [when] writing just a normal passage.”

The timeline of the book covers the early days of Carthy’s mental health battle right up to almost the present day. The book was originally intended to be published last April, to coincide with the day when he first entered St Pat’s back in 2014.

But the pandemic caused complications for the release date of ‘Dark Blue’ and it was subsequently pushed back. The delay, however, allowed Carthy to include an account of how he has adjusted to Covid-19.

For others who may be struggling with their mental health, this is vital material to have towards the end of the book.

“There’s so much I could include within this Covid time, and particularly around mental health and how I dealt with it.

“It was an extremely quick turnaround. I think it was 15 or 16 December it was sent away for print, so it was an extremely quick process in getting the final draft across to the editor. He worked extremely quickly and brought it back to me. I was extremely happy with what was coming back.

'I don't think anyone realised the length & breadth they went to, purely to save my life'

Bhuaigh Shane Carthy bonn Uile Éireann le @DubGAAOfficial in 2013, ach is beag duine a raibh 's acu go raibh sé ag fulaingt.@S_Carthy8 writes about his journey in 'Dark Blue'💙 pic.twitter.com/wUcH6WN5wG

— Spórt TG4 (@SportTG4) February 3, 2021

“Until I handed over the final draft and it went for print, and I was getting the cover photo and the whole wrap around of the book, that was [when I was] coming to the realisation of, ‘Oh this is really happening.’ And it very much came to the fore then that it was a very emotional moment when I got my own copy of the book a couple of weeks ago.

“Just seeing the whole wrap around, and it just brought me back to the dark and difficult days that I was going through. Just touching it and feeling it, it was like my own child.

“Even last week, it was coming up to the official publication date, I actually got sick last Monday and Tuesday morning because I was so intimidated by what I was releasing. Not that I never did realise what I was releasing to the public, but I guess because it was getting closer it was becoming very real.”

Dublin senior football manager Dessie Farrell is a prominent figure in the book. He was the manager of the Dublin U21 team that Carthy was playing for when he went to St Pat’s. 

Knowing about Farrell’s own experience with depression, Carthy confided in his coach and found a great source of support in the Na Fianna clubman during that difficult time in his life.

When the first few editions of book finally arrived, Carthy ensured that his old coach would have a copy of his own.

“I rang him a couple of weeks ago and it was probably a strange thing that I’m ringing the Dublin senior football manager but it was away from football. It was about me and him, my life and to ring him and just say that I had a copy of the book that I wanted to send out to him as a way of saying thanks.

“It would have been so nice if I could meet up with him in different times. It would have been so lovely to have an embrace like we did back in St Pat’s, but such is the time we’re living in. That’s just not possible, so the best I could do is speak to him over the phone and we had a frank and honest conversation.

“It was just a small way of saying thanks. On the flip side of that, I would absolutely love to represent him, represent Dublin and right the wrong of what I feel is me being robbed of an experience that I should have had back in 2013.”

Almost seven years have passed since Carthy’s stay at St Pat’s. From a point in his life when he was contemplating suicide, to now being the author of a book that tells the story of how he recovered from all that, is an inspiring place for Carthy to be in.

Another 6,000 copies are due for release, as more and more people show their desire to hear about his journey.

“It was hugely intimidating because I’ve put my head above water in a public forum to be criticised as well as praised,” says Carthy.

“And I suppose the realisation came last week. I just kept reminding myself – I have a couple of notes in my phone and one in particular at the top of the list is, ‘to save a life.’

“I guess when I saw the messages coming in post-the Late Late [and] all throughout this week – the amount of people [who said] ‘you saved my daughter, my son, my life even.’ Those messages are why I’ve done it. Just seeing that is a massive relief. You can be very irrational in your thinking, people are going to ridicule you or slag you.

“But it certainly wasn’t that. I’ve been blown away.”

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