A local man has told an inspirational story of how he transformed his life having been on the brink on committing suicide five years ago.
In October 2010, Breifne Earley, from Leitrim village, had plummeted to such a state of despair that he decided to take his own life. However, a sequence of events led to him changing his mind.
Then, he turned his life around to such a degree that not only did his depression lift, but he began to live a very fulfilled life.
He has completed some remarkable physical and mental challenges, crowned by his recent victory in the 2014 Pedal the Planet World Cycle Race.
Breifne, 32, recounted his story at the launch of Roscommon Suicide Bereavement Liaison Service in Vita House Family Centre on Abbey Street, Roscommon town, on Monday.
“Unfortunately, I was in a position where I nearly asked my family to require this service,” he said. “Five years ago, I sat in my bedroom in Dublin in a bedsit. I was almost 20 stone, so I was severely obese.
“I had not had a second glance from a girl in two years. I was very unhappy in my work environment and my professional situation was not healthy.
“I was generally unhappy. There was no redeeming positivity at all. I made the decision one Sunday afternoon that I was going to take my own life.”
Then, he explained, two incidents happened by chance.
Firstly, as he sat in his bedsit, a movie called The Bucket List came on the television. It details an epic adventure around the world, in which the protagonists tick a variety of expeditions off their ‘bucket list’.
It proved inspirational to Breifne.
Secondly, he received a text message from an uncle, informing him of a forthcoming memorial service for his son, who died of leukemia, aged 12.
Breifne said: “And I just thought of the devastation that that death, completely outside anybody’s control, had caused my family. And I just thought that my parents wouldn’t survive if I was to take my own life.”
And so, he decided to give himself a “stay of execution” and to postpone his plan to end his own life.
“I was going to give myself one year to turn it around,” he said.
He set himself a list of significant challenges.
“Individual personal challenges: to lose weight, to get out more, to travel, to save some money, to get a new job, to get out of the environment I was in and learn some skills.”
Over the course of the next 13 months, from October 2010 to November the following year, he applied himself doggedly to those tasks. He received widespread support as he logged his progress on an online diary.
He made remarkable advances. In that 13-month period, he learned to swim, contested triathlons and open-water swims, cycled around New Zealand and ran a marathon, to name just some of the challenges that he completed.
He also travelled to 10 new countries and lost four and a half stone.
Breifne said: “I got to the end of the year. Every single challenge that I had set myself was achieved. And I decided that I couldn’t go back to the old way.
“There was never a question again of me taking my own life. Everything was so positive that it was unbelievable.”
He continued to set himself challenges.
The most daunting one was the world cycle race. Only seven people registered for this event; just four made it to the starting line in March of last year; only one made it to the finish line. That was Breifne.
In mid-July, after cycling for 490 days, covering 27 countries and 18,000 miles, he won the prestigious competition.