Movember – Ross

(5 mins read.) “I’ve been doing Movember for eight years now. Originally, my connection was through rugby. I grew up around people playing rugby. My dad used to play and I got into it from a young age. I was playing seriously up until my early twenties, but thereafter my ambition of becoming a lawyer became more important. I studied law in UCD and, from then on, it was smooth sailing. Everything just seemed to fall into place. I moved to the Netherlands and did a masters in international law and got incredible opportunities from there. The first took me to Paris, where I ended up practising as an associate at a prestigious global law firm. After Paris, I moved to London, where my career advanced and I became a senior associate at another prestigious global law firm. None of this was really planned and though I pursued them, these opportunities just kind of fell into place, so I stuck them out. I was just an Irish kid from Dublin living a wonderful life in these fantastic cities. I earned a great salary, travelled around in business class and stayed in stylish hotels. It often made me wonder how I deserved it all. I mean, I worked very hard, but to be honest I lived a pretty charmed life. Up until 2020 that is. In February 2020, I turned 30. I had spent my twenties working in stressful high-performance environments with long hours and lots of responsibility. I realised I had never made time for myself or to travel. I decided I needed a break. I had a girlfriend at the time and we were together for a year and a half. Things were getting more serious, so we both agreed that before we attempted the next phase, we should see the world together. We decided to quit our secure well-paid jobs and left London on March 9th, 2020 to start the adventure of a lifetime. Then, everything came crashing down all at once.”

“A week into our adventure, the pandemic hit. The whole world shut down. We had just arrived in New Zealand. From then on, everything went downhill. Hotels wouldn’t accept us and everything started to close. We learned that Ireland was locking down and St. Patrick’s day was cancelled. We thought we had escaped it. Nine days into our trip, however, New Zealand locked down. It was manic. We were thousands of miles from home with nowhere to go. We didn’t know what to do. We got an offer to stay at a friend’s parents’ house. We barely made it there before lockdown started after an incredibly stressful nine-hour drive. They were wonderful people, but when you are forced to live with people you don’t know, it makes things challenging. We stayed for two weeks, but lockdown didn’t end. Small cracks began in our relationship. We were spending 24 hours a day together in this very stressful situation. She wanted to go home as she was worried about her parents. She was crying most days seeing the awful news in Ireland and the UK. She worked as a doctor so it really resonated with her as she had friends working on the front-line. Although airlines were charging thousands for flights, we decided to travel home to Ireland. Once home, our relationship continued to suffer and, long story short, a few weeks after we made it back, though we didn’t break up, we parted ways. She went back to her parent’s house and I went back to my dad’s. I found myself back in the room I grew up in with nothing to do. I made a decision to try go back to London and continue where I left off. I had gotten these great opportunities before, so I believed I would be able to just start over. But when I started to apply for jobs, for the first time in my life, rejections came. I was getting rejections from everywhere. I started to really doubt myself – maybe I wasn’t as good as I had thought. On top of that, after a few months and difficult lockdown summer, my girlfriend left me. I had completely lost all sense of purpose and that’s where the real struggle began…”

“I was really struggling with my mental health. I had lost my girlfriend, job, life, travel dream, my manhood, everything really. I was a child again, sitting in my room with my dad asking me to do the dishes. That was when I got sick. I couldn’t eat or sleep for weeks and in a matter of days I lost 10kg. I broke down for the first time in my life. I saw a doctor and was put on meds for anxiety and insomnia. I had reached a really low point and was thinking very dark thoughts, unsure how things would ever improve. It was the most difficult period of my life, exacerbated by lockdown and the pandemic. I was hopeless. It started to change when Movember 2020 began. I’m from Howth and I’ve always loved the sea. Given I had little else to do, I decided to grow a moustache and, on my brother’s suggestion, swim every day for 30 days in November to raise awareness for men’s mental health. Externally, I lead on I was doing it for others, but internally, I was really doing it for myself. I needed something to turn things around. I was swimming in the same spot in Howth at the same time every day and began to make friends with like-minded others doing same. We ended up creating an incredible community of sea swimmers and I found myself connecting with all kinds of wonderful people who were kind, positive and supportive. I started posting daily IG videos of my swims and the response was amazing. At the end of my campaign, I had raised nearly €3300. It was incredible. I recall at the end of my challenge looking to shore from the sea. It was 0°C that morning and the water was bitterly cold. I thought to myself ‘this is definitely not as hard as the mental health issues I was facing…’ Things have thankfully turned around since then, I am now a senior associate at one of Ireland’s best law firms and was able to move out of my dad’s house, eventually. When I was at my very darkest place, this all seemed completely impossible, but with the support of those around me, here I am!”

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