For a lot of people on Leeside and beyond, one of the few positive memories of the long two years of restrictions and Covid-19 will be the comedy and social media videos of Tadhg Hickey.
The Cork comedian may have seen his life on stage suspended – but he made the most of his ‘downtime’ with regular videos that reached millions of fans via his twitter-account (which now has 50k followers) and various social media channels (more recently, Tadhg has launched a popular Podcast – Wish EU Were Here.
Now Tadhg is ready to return to the live stage. His new show from him – In One Eye Out The Other – is a darkly-humorous take on addiction and starts next Thursday, April 28, in Dublin’s Smock Alley Theater and ends in Cork’s Everyman Theater on June 3.
Fans can expect the star of stage, screen and social media to talk about his own struggles during the pandemic, and the nervous breakdown he suffered at the start of the year.
The Leeside funnyman says breakdowns are much misunderstood and stigmatized, and he’s not afraid to talk about what’s he has gone through, especially after a couple of years that were difficult for so many people in so many ways.
Tadhg says the popular conception of what a ‘breakdown’ looks like may not be accurate: “To paraphrase Alan Partridge, it doesn’t mean driving to Dundee in your underpants.
“I had no delusions, or no psychosis, I just lost myself for a period. Instead, in its simple form, a nervous breakdown is an intense time of emotional distress when you cannot function.
“I think it’s temporary insanity and I have no problems with saying that. Human beings can go insane for a while and then come back to sanity.”
Tadhg believes that recognizing what you are going through for what it is can help you find a way out.
“If we see it as a difficult spell we are going through, that takes the fear out of it and helps us come out the other side of it,” he told the Irish Mirror.
“See it as a mental breakthrough, not a mental breakdown.”
The dad-of-one, 39, quit alcohol in 2015 after realizing he was an alcoholic and has been sober ever since. He has gone on to write, star and direct in comedy shows for RTE such as The School and Sketch.
However, Tadhg believes the unresolved trauma behind the alcoholism emerged this year and led to his mental crash.
He said that despite being dry for seven years, he transferred his addiction to work, which created knock-on problems.
Tadhg explained he started to get stressed in January, working away in his room in Passage West in Cork, with the blinds closed.
He recalled: “I got so preoccupied with work, my behavior was insane. I was thinking things like, ‘I don’t need friends. I need to be working’.
“I wasn’t seeing any friends. I wasn’t exercising. I wasn’t eating right. I became totally addicted to progress in work and the dopaminergic hit of Twitter views. I was mistaking that for who I was.
“I pretty much got addicted to work and Twitter. The things that sustained me as a human being like being active and being sociable and just having fun were all gone.”
Tadhg became physically ill and was hospitalized with kidney stones, which he reckons was his body’s way of warning him something was wrong.
He said: “In the middle of that, I started to get really low in a way I hadn’t since I was drinking.
“I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t eat and I was unable to partake in life. I couldn’t do anything. I just felt empty.”
This set off a spiral of panic about taking time off work.
I added: “The breakdown itself is not so bad. But the fear of it getting worse and debilitating me was overwhelming. Work is one of the top causes of a breakdown but it’s not generally acknowledged.
“You can go to a support group for alcohol or gambling or even sex addiction. But to my knowledge, there’s no support group for workaholism. In fact, it’s often lauded as something to be proud of.”
Tadhg put out a video on social media of why he had been off the scene and it got a huge reaction.
He said: “The video had about half a million views, and I was contacted by so many people saying they had experienced the same thing.
“Some called it ‘burn-out’ but whatever language you want to use, it’s still a mental health thing. I was comfortable enough to say, ‘I lost the plot’.”
The Cork comic was unable to find a counselor with any appointments free for months so with his degree in philosophy he focused on self-care.
Tadgh said: “I accepted it as a phase and stopped panicking and did the things that work for me.
“Running and yoga and meditation and meeting friends. I thought, ‘I have to take responsibility here for what I can do to help myself’.
“I had been treating people like they were a nuisance to me and my work. I had to climb out of my own a**ea bit.”
He’s now getting ready for his first post-pandemic tour and is preparing to bring his one-man stage show across theaters in Ireland and the UK.
For more information see tadhghickey.com.