‘No one to tend his garden now’

Harding addresses launch of ‘Darkness Into Light’ walks

Michael Harding, the renowned playwright and novelist, revealed his personal struggles with depression during the launch of the local Darkness Into Light (DIL) events in the Bush Hotel, Carrick-on-Shannon, last Friday.

  For the past eight years, these events have been staged throughout the world. They are unique early-morning experiences that begin in darkness as thousands of people walk or run a 5 km route while dawn is breaking.

  Last year’s event attracted over 100,000 participants in more than 80 locations across Ireland and abroad.

  This year, locally, such events will be staged in Carrick-on-Shannon, Ballaghaderreen, Roscommon town, Sligo town, and Banada Abbey, near Tubbercurry, at 4.15 am on Saturday, May 7.

  People will remember those who have died by suicide, while vital funds raised are for Pieta House, the suicide and self-harm prevention crisis centre.

  In launching the event in Carrick, Mr. Harding, who lives in Arigna, near Boyle, said: “I had a bad time with depression five years ago, but I have had it since, and I now realise I can live with it.

  “There is a time when I am going to get really, really down, and there is a time when people around me will know that I am ‘not in the best of form.’”

  Mr. Harding, from Cavan, said that there were many signs of depression – such as difficulties with sleep – and that the illness could be triggered by relationship difficulties or work-related stress, among other factors.

  For him, it manifested itself in a lack of positivity, he said. 

  “One of the things that I have understood about depression in myself is that it’s about being negative about yourself,” he said. “For me, depression was when the negative voices in my head take over completely.

  “You are immobile, can’t make a cup of tea, can’t talk to anybody, can’t lift the phone because you feel everything you are doing is wrong.”

  Devastating consequences can result from this ‘voice in your head’, Mr. Harding said.

  “The tragedy is that that voice can sometimes push you over a cliff or into a river, or somewhere else, where there is no coming back,” he added.

  He recounted a harrowing story of a man at Arigna who took his own life. 

  He remembered seeing the “beautiful, quiet man” tending to his cattle in north Roscommon for more two decades. His tragic death, Mr. Harding lamented, had left a gaping void in the area.

  “For 25 years coming up the hills of Arigna, you would pass his house and you would always see the light on,” he said. “You would know that he was in there reading or content with himself.

  “The reality is – and the unbearable pain there is for people – is that there is no one to tend to his garden now. His cattle are gone.

  “When I came up that hill last winter at Christmas, when there used to be always a light in the window, there is no light now.”

  He said, in a similar fashion, ‘lights are going out’ at various houses countrywide.

  Pieta House, the suicide and self-harm crisis centre, was showing people that there was another way, bringing them “from darkness into the light”, he said.

  Online registration and further details on DIL are available at www.darknessintolight.ie