Cloyne forward Cusack, brother of Dónal Óg, revealed in a personal online blog posted yesterday how he managed to cope with the illness as a teenager in the late 1990s after being introduced to a clinical psychologist.
Prior to it, he had ballooned to 20 stone, missed out on an U21 championship with his club and had planned to take his own life.
He had also been on 18 tablets a day and advised to undergo electric shock treatment. However, his introduction to his specialist was a eureka moment.
“After meeting Tony, I instantly knew this was what I had been searching for. It was the complete opposite of what I felt when I was being prescribed tablets and electric shock therapy.
“We sat opposite each other in a converted cottage at the side of his house with a fire lighting in the corner. He looked at me with his warm eyes and said ‘I hear you haven’t been too well. How are you feeling’. It wasn’t even the question, it was the way he asked it. I looked at him for about a minute or so and I began to cry.
“When the tears stopped, I talked and he listened intently. Driving home with my mother that night, I cried again, but it wasn’t tears of sadness, it was tears of joy. I knew that evening I was going to get better. There was finally a chink of light in the darkness.”
Cusack had to relive memories of bullying in school, which he found difficult, but was off medication within a week.
The improvements in his life became clear. “A lot of my identity was tied up with hurling and it was an unhealthy relationship. The ironic thing is that as I began to live my life more from the inside out and appreciate and value myself for being me and not needing hurling for my self-esteem, I loved the game more than ever.
“I got myself super fit and my weight down to 13 and a half stone. I made the Cloyne senior team and went on to play with the Cork senior hurling team, making a cameo appearance in the final of 2006.
“It is still one of the biggest joys of my life playing hurling with Cloyne, despite losing three county finals and an All-Ireland with Cork. Being involved with the Cloyne team was a huge aid in my recovery and my team-mates gave me great support during that time.”
Depression is an issue being considered more in the GAA since Cavan goalkeeper Alan O’Mara spoke openly about his difficulties earlier this year.
Cusack’s blog came a day after Galway hurler Niall Donoghue’s funeral. Cusack strongly recommends speaking to a specialist as the first step. “Everything you need to succeed is already within you and you have all the answers to your own issues. A good therapist will facilitate that process.
“My mother always says ‘a man’s courage is his greatest asset’. It is an act of courage and strength, not weakness, to admit you are struggling. It is an act of courage to seek help. It is an act of courage to face up to your problems.”