Loneliness, anxiety, depression and mental health issues affect one in eight men. Yet no one talks about it. Every year particularly around the Christmas through January periods you may see messages on the Carve social feeds asking people to reach out for help if they are feeling down. Some of you may wonder why we go to the trouble. I mean it’s not exactly hip to chat about when most are feeling very merry. The reason is that every year, without fail, we will get messages back from people who just needed to feel connected.

Craig Butler former Irish longboard champ is one of those fighting depression. This is a piece he wrote in the hope it may reach the eyes of surfers in similar position and hopefully help them light up the sometimes dark road. He’s pretty brave for putting it out there, so hopefully if you read it and it hits a few strings, you too will find the courage to reach out to someone.

(Suicide is one of the biggest killers of young males. It’s a topic that needs open discussion without prejudice or preconceptions. If you need to talk to someone, which can help, call @samaritans 116123 24/7.)

There will come a time in your life when you are neither ‘here’ nor ‘there’. When you feel so insignificant that you start to question your own existence I am talking about being alone.

I want to share with you my own personal experiences of loneliness I hope that in someway I can catch the heart off guard so that you and I can come
to the same understanding and share in a memory or in the now.

I have suffered depression my whole life. For as long as I can remember. Through primary school I didn’t fit in. I had no friends and I was the one that nobody wanted to sit beside and would act disgusted and protest to the teacher if they were made to in front of the whole class. They would shuffle to the opposite corner of the desk and laugh over and back with their friends. I felt like I was dying on the inside and I would dread my teacher picking partners to team up for class assignments. Why? Because whoever partnered up with me would make a scene and I would just awkwardly stand there at 11 years old and try my best not to burst into tears. I was a loner and totally alone. I didn’t have a single friend whilst growing up. No one to run to for a hug or to vent. It’s hard fathom now and it hurts to think that there is kids going through this whilst I type.

Some days I would break my fathers razors and bring them in my pocket to school. When things turned ugly and I was made fun of, or laughed at I would run to the bathroom and sit down on the toilet seat and dig that razor into my arm. I would scream and cry at the top of my lungs and start punching the wall until I had blood dripping from my knuckles. I was 11 years old, I can’t even imagine an 11 year old doing that today and being in that much pain. Surfing gave me an escape, but only to a certain degree. Liquid therapy is the best type of therapy. Or so they say. But surfing isn’t always there.

Surfing isn’t something that you can call upon in some of the darkest times in your life. The ocean is a short term fix that won’t always be there. Especially the days when you feel trapped. When you decide that your life has no direction and your purpose on this earth is meaningless. Over the years I have come to learn that this is a feeling that 90% of people around the world feel at some point in their life. So what do we do when we hit a low point in life?

When I hit my teen years and started high school, deep down inside me there was something forming and I knew it wasn’t right. On my travels through puberty my sexuality was starting to form. The day I realised that I might be gay was the day I cried my eyes out. I cried because I didn’t want to become any more of an outcast in every aspect of my life. But the truth be told, everyone at that age feels like an outcast. You just haven’t found your path in life yet.

Being a young surfer coming to realise your own sexuality, for me was a very worrying thing. I have fought many demons in the past couple of years that have come close to breaking me as a person and I at times still just hold on by a thread. But the biggest demon of all was my fight against being alone in my younger years whilst coming to terms with my sexuality. I would spend hours online as a kid searching for other ‘’gay surfers’’ but always came up short. Could I really be the only homosexual surfer on the planet? Of course not, but it certainly felt like it. I had no one to aspire to or I could relate with my hardship. I had no one to share these strange feelings with.

There are school kids fighting this war today and I truly feel for them because I know just how hard it can be. But, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I waited until I finished school to come out. The day I left go of the weight on my back and opened up was the day I seen the light. No one cares about your sexuality. Because everyone has their own fight. Nothing changed when I came out, I don’t know what I expected to happen. But everything stayed the same on the outside. The only difference came from within. When I finally knew the time was right and came out I became more confident and happier with myself. I don’t feel the need to hide anymore and If you are struggling with your own sexuality you will also feel the same. People won’t stop liking you and their opinions won’t change. On the off chance that they do, then who cares. You don’t need that person in your life and you have to learn to let go of them, because if someone stops liking you for you then they are not worth the time of day.

You can feel like the loneliest person in the world. But on the face of it all, we are all alone. You shouldn’t rely on others to bring you happiness. Happiness comes from within. I wish I could go back 10 years to when I started high school and tell myself that. Once you sit back and learn to embrace your own company, you’ll never go lonely again. I have travelled the world with friends and I have travelled the world alone, I have travelled to contests around the world by myself on the LQS trying to see myself fit to make the world longboard tour but always came up short. I was always alone, but never alone.

Now I always choose travelling by myself over traveling with a companion. You learn what it is to be truly free and to find your own direction, you can choose your own path. I lived homeless on a trip to New Zealand last year. It was something I have always wanted to do. Having no worldly possessions other than a tent and sleeping bag. I spent a 100 days alone, drifting from valley to mountain to town. Sleeping miles away from the nearest person on top of my sleeping bag underneath the stars. I learned what true happiness is and what it feels like to be completely content with myself. I discovered this whilst alone. Other traveling people I would meet along the way would become attracted to me. Both physically and mentally, due to how I decided to live and they would decide to stay days at a time with me. This was because they could see that I was contented being by myself and they wanted to capture some of that contentedness for themselves.

I spent a month living in a bush on a deserted part of beach on an island off of New Zealand and became known to the locals as the ‘’bearded Irish man in the bush’’. Some mornings people would stop by where I was sleeping and bring me fresh fruit and sit with me for hours. I didn’t have to speak much, but they just enjoyed my company. Some cold mornings or after stormy night unexpectedly a random local would arrive down with a flask of hot tea or coffee, and some of the older people would sit and talk for hours about their lives to me. I was alone and so were they. We shared in each others company and everyday a different person who came to hangout with me would leave relaxed a little bit happier each time. I would always be left in awe at their generosity and it helped get me through each day. No matter how wet or miserable the weather got, I was always satisfied and left with a glow with my faith being restored in humanity and with the realisation that if these people want to sit and spend time with me then I must not be half as bad of a person as I think I am.

When I find myself lost and feeling lonesome I look back on that place in time. That was true loneliness and I was never happier. Inside I was happy and that rubbed off on other people. What I took away from that trip to New Zealand is that you can have absolutely nothing and no one, but once you are happy within then people will always be near.