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Brendan Doyle on his mental health journey and his Winter Olympics hopes

Brendan Doyle joins Joe Molloy on Off The Ball to discuss his mental health challenges and his j...

Brendan Doyle on his mental he...

Brendan Doyle on his mental health journey and his Winter Olympics hopes

Brendan Doyle joins Joe Molloy on Off The Ball to discuss his mental health challenges and his journey to becoming a Skeleton racer.

This article contains references to mental health topics and incidents from Brendan Doyle's life that may cause the reader distress.

"It was May 2009, a night shift actually," Brendan Doyle says.

"When you come in, the first thing you do is you get briefed by your Sargent, basically house-keeping stuff of what happened the shift before. But I actually didn't even get that far in. As I was getting my kit from downstairs, I was screamed at saying we need to get in the car.

"Unfortunately domestic assaults are something that are quite common. You would experience a lot of them but they're probably the most volatile calls you go to because it's highly driven, it's highly's extremely dangerous.

"When we pulled up outside the house, the front door swung open."

Doyle was confronted by a man who drew him into the kitchen. His victim was there and she was visibly injured. The man now had a knife and while Doyle successfully made the arrest, the nerves in his thumb were severed and his small finger was so damaged that it is now permanently bent.

As an athlete and guard, Doyle didn't consider his injury a big deal. He called his loved ones and brushed it off, expecting to wake up the next day and start recovery but that's not what happened.

"I didn't really think much of it, but basically I went down this road that I wasn't ready for. I didn't expect this to go the way it did, I would start experiencing things like vivid, vivid night terrors. We've all had nightmares where you wake up and you're shook a little bit and you don't get back to sleep straight away.

"Night terrors are that multiplied by 100. I would have visions of the suspect with the knife standing over me.

"My brain was just trying to process what had happened but it was doing so in these violent, vivid dreams. I would wake up every morning in a sweat."

Naturally, Doyle started struggling to go to sleep. He did everything he could to avoid going to bed and returned to work as a guard. He wanted to prove to himself that he was fine and just pushed through the night terrors.

But that didn't work.

"I remember sitting in the patrol car and I felt my chest clench. My stab vest was pushing down on my air. Being an asthmatic, I just thought I was having an asthma attack. I grabbed my inhaler and had a puff but nothing changed."

Doyle left work but his mental health issues only worsened. His drives around Dublin eventually turned into drives to Cork or Sligo just to avoid going to bed.

"I was really struggling at the time with my identity because I wasn't fixing myself like I normally did. My relationship at the time fell apart. Social just went out the window. Every little thing that made me who I was, I stopped doing.

"I was a shell and that went on for years.

"It got to the stage where I legitimately felt the only logical option left to regain control of my own life was to end it because that was the one action that I knew there was a definite outcome. It would give me a break from the storm and the feelings I was going through day in, day out."

Doyle said when he was going to do it he felt relieved. He wasn't scared. He took the time to think it through and was welcoming the end of his life. It was completely rational in his brain.

"The incident was 2009 and this was 2014."

 It took Doyle a long time to get help and his reasoning made sense to him at the time, it's a line of reasoning that will be familiar to those who have been in the same position.

"When I was struggling, your train of thought is off and I viewed counselors as someone who was sitting there because they were getting paid to. I didn't view it as a stepping stone, I didn't view it as help. I viewed it as they were sitting there taking the little money I had.

"That's a broken train of thought but that's what happens when you're in the position I was in."

Doyle missed out on the 2018 Winter Olympics as a Skeleton racer by a single point. During the lead-up to that qualifying campaign, he gave an interview where he talked about his mental health struggles. That was how his parents found out about what he had been living through.

"They knew that there were struggles but there was never an understanding of how bad the struggles were."

We're at around that point ahead of the Winter Olympics in Beijing for 2022. Doyle is dealing with different challenges now, he's been at home for one Christmas of the last five or six years and is relying on GoFundMe to fund his qualification attempt.

But he's no longer spending his nights driving around the country, in part because his training is tiring him out so much.

His training proved to be a turning point for his mental health and now, as qualifying rounds beckon, he knows he can overcome anything in the sport because of what he's overcome previously outside of the sport.

"I battle with so much this is not going to be worse than what I've been through.

"Anyone in sport, it doesn't matter what level, will appreciate that the majority of the time is letdowns, setbacks, injury, upset. It's just something you become accustomed to. Skeleton is just so much more frustrating because it's so nuanced and there are so many moving parts.

"And it's not like I grew up in the sport and I acclimated to the levels, I was thrown into the deep end with people who had four or five times my experience.

"It was just another example of adopting this mindset and accepting the hardships and working through them."


Support Brendan Doyle's Winter Olympics dream

Doyle has raised more than €15,000 so far, you can contribute to his GoFundMe by clicking this link.

"My heart is full. I remember the day the video came out and I was woken up by GoFundMe notifications...I just cried. This is the beginning. This is that changing moment where everything felt hopeless and suddenly it's not hopeless anymore."


Samaritans Ireland

If you have been affected by any of the content in this article, you can find support at Samaritans Ireland. Samaritans Ireland offer support by phone, email, with a letter or by visiting them on location. There is also a self-help app available that you can download.

You are not alone.

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