Kayleigh Hone who competes tonight in Miss Universe Ireland pictured earlier this week at Lough Eske. Photo Matt Britton.
Just over two years ago a young Donegal student was suffering from severe bouts of anxiety and depression. Tonight she steps on to the stage in the prestigious Mansion House in Dublin as one of the finalists in the Miss Universe. A truly inspirational story.
The Democrat met up with Kayleigh Hone from Clar, outside Donegal Town after noticing a posting on Facebook. It read, “My nerves are finally getting to me - to think I will be competing in the Mansion house in Dublin in the Miss Universe Ireland competition in a bikini in front of hundreds is incredible. If someone would have told me 3 years ago (or even 3 months ago) I would be doing this I would have laughed at them.”
Inspired by these heartfelt words we met up with Kayleigh in the stunning Harvey’s Point after she returned from Portugal earlier this week.
From a shy, anxious girl with no confidence and suffering from depression that couldn't go into a shop on her own without tearing up or having an anxiety attack, from missing a lot of school because she didn't like facing people, to a Miss Universe Ireland finalist, she came a long way and now hopes to inspire and help people suffering from anxiety or any other mental health issues to battle through it and never give up.
“My confidence was improving and one of my friends asked me to take part in a little bit of modelling locally. I was terrified but I found that it was yet another tool in my recovery" - Kayleigh Hone. Photo Matt Britton.
"Dark place to be"
She recalled, “I had a totally normal childhood, no major traumas and a great family but in my Leaving Cert year this whole anxiety thing just hit me. There was no real reason, it wasn’t one of those reactive situations, it just came out of nowhere. I cannot really say it was exam stress - I was quite focused on my ambition to be a veterinary nurse.
“I suppose it was a very dark place to be - I didn’t want to get out of bed, to meet or talk with anyone. I had totally lost my confidence and self esteem. In reality I just couldn’t cope. People would say, 'Come on Kayleigh, perk yourself up' - they didn’t understand. I just wasn’t able to. You just feel so alone in these situations.”
Kayleigh battled on and tried to keep up the facade of the smiling face, but it was all just becoming too much. She dropped out of school and cut off contact with a lot of her friends. Her mobile often was her only contact with the outside world.
Eventually she built up the courage to talk and naturally her mother was her first choice, it was then that the necessary medical intervention started to kick in.
She was diagnosed with both anxiety and depression and put on medication coupled with counselling. Her school the Abbey Vocational School were informed of the situation and could not have been more helpful.
Kayleigh continued, “It was difficult at the start but at least I knew that I was no longer alone with my condition, I realised it was OK not to feel OK and that it was perfectly normal to talk to trusted people.
“Things started to improve - I put in an awful lot of walking - along the beaches, whatever and bringing out my five dogs. Yes, I said five - these animals really helped me through my condition in the early days. I could talk to them, they would listen without criticism, they were totally non judge-mental. These were some of the little things I did to battle this illness.
“My confidence was improving and one of my friends asked me to take part in a little bit of modelling locally. I was terrified but I found that it was yet another tool in my recovery. I was able to dress up in other’s clothes, get the hair and the make up done - in a way it was as if I was taking on another’s persona, it may have been an escape but it worked for me!”
“Things started to improve - I put in an awful lot of walking - along the beaches, whatever and bringing out my five dogs. Yes, I said five - these animals really helped me through my condition in the early days."
With her confidence renewed Kayleigh took herself off to Portugal where she is currently working in the hospitality business. “I felt I just had to get away for awhile and find myself - the weather and sunshine was a big factor, it gives you a great lift. Being in the hospitality business affords you the opportunity of meeting and chatting with new people all the time.”
She added, “Yes I still have bad days but I chose to not let my anxiety take me down and I hope to make a difference and by sharing my story with others and hopefully giving them the courage they need to overcome their own mental health issues.
“In my opinion mental health is something I feel should be talked about a lot more. The more we talk about it the greater the chance of people stepping out and being able to talk to someone about their issues. Talking helps and makes a great difference - we all know the a expression - 'A problem shared is a problem halved'. There is little point in bottling everything up - it just keeps getting worse unless you knock that cap of the bottle.
“Tonight in the Mansion House is not all about winning, I feel I may have done that already.
“It is all about my ability to walk up the steps of one of the most prestigious buildings in Dublin with a renewed sense of confidence and the demons left behind.
“Make no mistake about it - life is a challenge, nobody promised us it was ever going to be easy, but remember there is help out there, never be afraid to grab it. We all need it at some time of our lives.”
On a final note Kayleigh would like to thank all those who helped her through the difficult times - her parents, family, friends, teachers, just so many and her sponsors who made tonight possible - Get that Trend, The Reveller Bar and Rory MC’s in Alvor in Portugal.
* Another young Donegal woman, Roisin Gallagher from Falcarragh, also competes in the Miss Universe Ireland finals tonight, see separate story.