Growing up in Donegal, Jack was part of a tight-knit Irish family. His parents had always wanted a large family, and they were blessed to have a lively household with four boys.
Being the youngest, Jack was especially close to his parents. His mum was the heart of the family, as well as the breadwinner. His dad was a “man’s man,” more inclined to tough it out than go to the doctor if he was sick. But he was also a devoted family man who gave up his career to become a stay-at-home dad.
“Dad used to wake us up for school in the morning, and bring us bowls of Ready Brek with more sugar than oats—because otherwise we wouldn’t eat it.”
Jack thrived at school because he enjoyed meeting people and making friends. He was also a bohemian sort, very much into fashion and art. While in secondary school, he started working at the local cinema.
Things were going well—until they received some unwelcome news.
Although the medical explanation was a brain aneurysm and a stroke, Jack knows that his father died of heartbreak.
“It was the stress and turmoil that triggered it. He’d had enough of being on this earth alone. He needed to be with his wife.”
In fact, it was around the anniversary of his mother’s death that his father passed away.
Meeting the pain head on
The shock and grief of losing his father had a profound impact on Jack. He struggled with guilt over his decision to leave the nest for Amsterdam. He couldn’t help wondering if things would’ve been different if he’d stayed home.
The months that followed were a period of intense turmoil. He turned to alcohol and drugs to dull the pain. His two best friends tried to intervene, telling him he needed to stop. Then on a flight home to see his brothers on the anniversary of his mum passing, he completely broke down. That was the turning point.
Jack realised that he had so much life and opportunity ahead of him that he couldn’t afford to waste. He started taking care of himself and processing his grief in a healthier way.
“I decided to go through the pain, instead of trying to find ways around it. I met it head-on and really thought about it. I meditated. I started taking care of my body and mind.”
<quote-author>Jack Dowdall<quote-author><quote-company>Sales Development Representative at Oliva<quote-company>
The loss of his father also forced Jack to grow up very quickly. “That’s when I really became a man,” he says. But Jack’s idea of being a man is different from his dad’s.
“For my dad, being a man meant even if he got shot in the stomach, nobody would know until they saw the blood. My idea of being a man is being someone who can cry, who understands hardship, who’s comfortable talking about tragedy and is empathetic towards others who may be suffering.”
Meanwhile, Jack started a new job at a sneaker store. He loved the people there and made a lot of good friends. About 3 or 4 months into the new job, he opened up to his colleagues about what he’d been through.
“Being able to share this with people gave me an overwhelming sense of comfort. I even had people come and tell me their stories. It just shows that you never know what’s happened to someone or what’s going on in their head.”
Jack also found that opening up accelerated the bonds he formed with his colleagues.
“Deep-rooted connections at work are only possible when you open up. I made friends at that job I know I’m going to keep for life.”
Not only did Jack flourish at his job back then, his passion for mental health and wellbeing would eventually lead him to a new career in a new industry.
A continuing journey with mental health
Jack eventually decided to try his hand at sales. After completing a SaaS sales training course, he looked at a list of software companies he could apply to—but couldn’t connect to their missions.
Then he interviewed for a sales role at Oliva. When he was offered the job, he felt an overwhelming joy wash over him.
“I felt like everything I’d been through was finally coming full circle, that I’m supposed to be working at a mental health company. I’m helping companies alleviate problems they don’t even know exist. I know I’m helping someone in crisis get help.”
Despite the loss he’s experienced, Jack has arrived at a place of acceptance and describes himself as “a very positive person.” He continues to be outspoken on mental health issues in order to help other people.
As for his parents, Jack feels their presence in his life all the time: “I feel their energy in everything I do.” He’s proud of where he is today, and he knows his parents would be too.
“I swear to God, if my mom and dad knew about the job I’m doing now, they’d be insanely proud. Wherever they are right now, I know they’re cheersing a big pint of Guinness."