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'If it helps one girl or one boy, then talking about it has been completely worth it'

Dublin star Nicole Owens reflects on opening up about her personal struggles and sharing her story over the past year.

“SILENCE IS NOT the answer,” as Nicole Owens wrote in a refreshingly honest, deeply personal and candid piece recently.

Nicole Owens Dublin star Nicole Owens. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

The Dublin star forward, who was pivotal as her side secured back-to-back All-Ireland titles in 2017 and 2018, penned a remarkable piece for The Sports Chronicle, bravely opening up — once again — about her personal struggles and battle against depression. 

“As a teenager, struggling with my sexuality,” she wrote, “depression manifested because I didn’t have a way to verbalise those feelings.  To speak about them to anyone meant I’d need to address what was fuelling the problem.

“At that age it wasn’t an option to let any light into that room. My way of handling it was to spend periods of time alone when I’d be very upset.”

The 2017 All-Star continued: “I’m not religious but I was in such a negative place about my sexuality that I would pray every night, to an entity I do not believe in, that the homosexuality would go away.”

Owens, now 25, first spoke publicly about battling her demons on the brilliant Dublin ladies documentary ‘Blues Sisters’ this time last year. She delved deeper into the topic, speaking to The42 last December and has done so many times since.

Nicole Owens Facing Cork in September. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

But to see the entire story in her own words, in one place, was powerful.

Speaking to the media in Croke Park last Friday, that was, of course, the opening subject of conversation.

“From what I’ve seen,” she smiled, “there’s been a really really positive reaction.

“People who weren’t really aware of ‘Blues Sisters’ or other times I’ve talked about it in the past probably got more of an insight into it this time.”

What about the message itself, the fact that silence is not the answer, and the importance of talking?

“It’s something that since I have talked about it, it’s become very, very important,” she agrees, welcoming the fact that she’s seen as a role model.

“I’d be very conscious that there’s a platform there and I believe that talking is the best way to deal with it, so the more I talk about it, hopefully the more other people will talk about it.

“When I was a lot younger I had a lack of understanding of what was going on. I didn’t know how to deal with it, I had nothing to compare it against.

“I suppose, even maybe if people realised that some of the feelings I talked about or some of the ways of being resonated, they might challenge it earlier than I did. If it gets one girl or one boy to do that, then talking about it has been completely worth it.”

Screen Shot 2018-11-20 at 15.06.08 Owens at Friday's event. Source: Sportsfile.

As she’s said many times before and will say again, being able to identify with someone else and resonate with what they’re going through certainly helps.

She refers back to her own experiences years ago, compared to what it’s like now.

“When you’re young, you almost kind of normalise it,” she continues.

“I thought it was part of my personality like, and who I was. I didn’t talk about it, I hid it and that ended up perpetuating it and making it worse.

“So, people know that it’s not normal to feel that way, to shut it up in a box. Even if it’s a starting point, even just, ‘Oh, did you read this article… sometimes I feel sad, or I find it hard…’ Even if it just starts a conversation, or opens up a conversation.”

She can see how beneficial sharing her story has been for others so far, and how it has also helped herself.

While unearthing the past and delving deeper and deeper for this recent piece in particular was therapeutic, St Sylvesters ace Owens feels that it was also quite strange.

“It’s weird because it’s probably the most in-depth, in one chunk, I’ve thought about my history of it in general, all at once.

“Having people seeing all of it, especially the really negative parts that only certain groups would have seen, I can feel a bit vulnerable about it. 

“But I was never afraid that there’d be a negative reaction, or that people would stigmatise it, or sort of turn it around.”

On the pitch, Owens starred as Dublin recorded a historic two in-a-row after beating Cork in Croke Park and established themselves as a truly great team, as many have said since that win in September.

Earlier in the year, they lifted the Lidl Ladies National Football League Division 1 title for the very first time as they continued their stellar work under Mick Bohan.

Looking forward is the main thing now however, and she’s more than excited for 2019 to start despite the added pressure, expectation and talk of three in-a-row.

“Well, it has started now with doing the double this year,” she grins.

“But every season, it’s a new start. Everyone starts in exactly the same place. If we were to go in in January and start talking about three in-a-row, Mick would shut that down pretty quick.

“It’s going to be a case of we go back in, the league is the first objective and then it’s our measurable targets as we go along.” 

Nicole Owens, Sinead Aherne and Niamh McEvoy arrive with the cup With the Br Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

- With reporting from Sean Farrell.

Nicole Owens was speaking at an AIG Heroes Event with the All Blacks and Dublin GAA in Croke Park on Friday.

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Emma Duffy

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