Nicholas Ryan-Purcell was diagnosed with Asperger Syndrome at thirteen years of age. He was also faced with mental health challenges, brought on by early trauma, which triggered a lengthy depression. Nicholas overcame a series of obstacles to complete his Leaving Certificate and then undertake, and graduate, from a three- year course in TV production at Ballyfermot College Dublin.
While attending a workshop in Listowel many years ago, John B Keane gave one of the best talks on ‘what it takes to become a writer’.
In his own inimitable style, Keane mixed jokes and yarns in an effort to reply to as many questions as possible.
“What makes a good writer stand out” one budding writer queried.
The Listowel bard sipped a Jameson and answered in his Listowel drawl:
“You must live with your story. Then you must write it down and be prepared to stand over it. No matter what your critics think, if you are happy with it, and believe in it, then you are on your way to being a writer”.
Concluding his answer, The Listowel playwright added, “Remember this. For a football team to win a county final they must be good. To repeat that victory the following year and the year after, you must be really good”
A SEAL OF APPROVAL
There is every possibility that John B’ would have given his blessing to the recently published book ‘Anything is possible’ by Nicholas Ryan-Purcell.
Nicholas has been repeating ‘victories’ since childhood.
This is his first book, and he rose to prominence in recent years for his documentaries about living with autism and another one about ‘Underdog horse Gordon Lord Byron’.
Although originally from Emly in Tipperary, Nicholas is no stranger to Kilkenny .
The Kilkenny Observer spoke with two Kilkenny people who have had first hand dealings with the author.
Jackie Cullen who is a Special Needs Assistant at The School of the Holy Spirit had this to say: “ I met Nic at a screening of his documentary in Kilkenny. He later came to our school and had a most interesting question and answer session with parents of children with autism. I found him to be most obliging and very generous with his time”
Meanwhile Paul Brophy a presenter of the programme ‘Kilkenny Communities in action’ is full of praise for Nicholas. I have interviewed Nicholas on a couple of occasions and from our first meeting it was obvious he is a man of great determination and drive”.
THIS IS NICHOLAS
The 230 page book from Nicholas deals with learning to live with autism.
Award-winning filmmaker Nicholas became nationally known after releasing his documentary film ‘This is Nicholas: Living with Autism’ in 2018. It was screened in 28 Irish cinemas, featured on RTÉ’s Nationwide, and led to Nicholas appearing as part of a panel on the Late, Late Show.
For anyone trying to understand the trials and tribulations of a person living with autism, this sixty minute documentary is well worth a viewing.
In a way, viewing the documentary allows you to know Nicholas a bit better and allows you into his life.His awards in the world of film include
*Editing for feature documentary award ( London filmmaker festival)
*Editing and foreign feature awards at Hollywood International Independent Documentary awards at Hollywood International Documentary awards USA
*The spirit award at the 2012 SCC Winter Short Film Festival, Kentucky USA
FROM CHILDHOOD TO MANHOOD
His book is a no holds barred account of his life from childhood to adulthood.
We learn how as a youngster he struggled to make friends and how he would find himself alone in the playground while the others in the class ran about with the carefree attitude synonymous with children of that age.
Apart from, or maybe because of his autism, Nicholas suffered badly with depression and that inner voice tormenting him with negative thoughts telling him he wasn’t good enough.
Think of someone constantly prodding you with a needle. Now think about that prodding coming from inside your head.
Multiply it by one hundred and you are on the way to understanding the depression being experience by Nicholas.
This negative feeling was to last for years.
However, with the help of a loving community, teachers, and friends Nicholas was able to overcome his fears and go on to become a respected and award winning film maker and writer.
While many helped him on his journey, it would be remiss not to single out Nicholas’s parents Dorothy and Oliver and his sister Joanna.
He points out that had it not been for the doggedness and pure love that his parents showed him, his life would have been so different.
And it wasn’t an easy ride. On more occasions that he cares to remember, both his parents would correct him and point out the error of his ways.
But always in a loving and constructive way.
One beautiful quote from Dorothy sums up her attitude: “It is not my job to be liked by my child, but it is my job to ensure that my child is liked by everybody else”.
In fairness the fingerprints of his parents love and support are rather obvious on all the steps of Nicholas’s life
WHO IS THIS BOOK FOR?
So who is this book for? We would suggest that if you want to discover and understand more about autism then it is a book for you.
However it is much more than that. It is a book about setting and achieving goals. It is a book about believing in yourself, and when that belief is at a low ebb, allowing family and friends to help and guide you.
In a way, it is about achieving happiness.
The great philosopher Carl Jung wrote “Even a happy life cannot be without a measure of darkness, and the word happy would lose its meaning if it were not balanced by sadness. It is far better to take things as they come along with patience and equanimity.”
‘Anything is possible’ is available at Khans Bookshop on James’s Street and The Book Centre on High Street.