Wednesday, 6 July 2016

I sprained my mental health

I recently sprained my mental health, twisted it badly. I'm on crutches for a couple of weeks, possibly longer.

"What happened?" they said.  

Happened out of nowhere. I was driving home one day, pulled into the driveway and then BANG! It just went from under me. I managed to get inside and to sit down and have a look.

It was swollen and ugly. Bruised and delicate. The slightest touch and slightest movement just too much to handle and I was worried I might cause more damage.

"It doesn't look too bad" they said.

Most of the strain can't be seen, the damage is on the inside and it's very slow to recover.

"There's a couple of exercises you can do to help" they said.

They do help but once I stop I can feel the pain again and it gets worse as the day goes on. By night time I'm curled up in agony and I struggle to sleep with it.

I was told to wrap a bandage around it for support if I'm going out. That will keep it stable and no one will notice. I leave the crutches at home too and try not to hobble because I don't want to bring any attention to myself.

I hope it gets better soon, I want to get back into things properly but it seems to be getting worse. I'm reading loads of stuff about how to make it better and I've asked a couple of people for advice.

"Have you talked to anyone?" they say

Well I'm talking to you.

The swelling isn't going down so I keep taking painkillers which stops the ache but only for a while. It's gotten so bad now I haven't gone to work.

The lads have been onto me about playing football later: "I can't play I'm injured" 

"You'll be grand sure run it off".

I went for a scan. "There's nothing broken" they said.

It's getting worse now.can't move at all and I'm uncomfortable all over. The pain is on my face and I'm complaining all the time. Telling everyone and hobbling around.  

"Does he ever stop?" they say "sure there's nothing wrong with him"

I'm ashamed now. I'm embarrassed. I'm can't handle the pain. I'm weak. 

I'm not going to work. Not going to football. I'm going nowhere because the person who is going nowhere will always get there.

The swelling is going down, but there's plenty of marks and scars. I'm left with a limp. 

"What happened?" they say.

Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Mindful sparring with the beautiful great

With gratuity and respect I shuffle once more through the treasures and moments from the wonderful life and times of 'The Greatest', Muhammad Ali. 

The death of a symbol, a superior ideal with a Greatest Hits collection most affirming and beautifully attained across sporting, cultural and civic disciplines.

His actions, his words all gave me prime to curiousness towards a mans knowing in stance; challenging firmly a childful anima to work an understanding on what it must feel like to know you are in fact, truly the greatest. 

A child throughout the 1990's, knelt innocent in reverence to a sport under many lights and many more dollars in the loom of a pay-per-view era. Boxing inspired. Tyson; Holyfield; Lewis; Benn tagged lovingly with preceding battlers Dempsey; Marciano and Durán. 

Far from complexity was the joy in re-runs; the commentary on style and worship in execution imitated through soft fists and flailing arms in front on a TV screen.

My Dad stepped in, adamant that above all discovery unearthing history and panache behind the 'sweet science', quite simply 'Muhammad Ali IS the greatest'.

No past tense. Stated. The old mans artistic devotion already held pedigree; Phil Lynnott; David Bowie; Clint Eastwood and George Best all A-listed so there was no doubting the principle of his announcement.

So began the fascination as Ali eased into my heart. Posters, books, rough-hewn VHS of famous moments inside the ring. Primary tokenism in teenage obsession as my prying mind expanded to grasp 'greatness' in its true form. 

It was in the context of his sporting profession in which Ali kept me guessing; the decree in promised conviction trumping predicted victory delivered upon a crystal podium forever risen above all others. The athletic shrewdness, fighting precision and prudent nous pronouncing 'greatness' alongside maladroit rapping and intelligent rhyme that bowled opponents down before a glove was yet undusted. 

This was an insight to confidence I had never experienced.

The political relevance escaped me. The wonder years of young felled me pure only to gaming excellence and boxing fulfilled the mystery of greatness in greatness. Latter years allowed me acknowledge Ali's humane eminence with knowledge of the power in principles cast in faith and desire to stand for what one believes in.

I fell short in the attempts to understand fully the non secrets behind the obvious fantastics of Muhammad Ali. The celestial reach of his greatness slew me due to my want to understand it all too much. 

Two decades later, two weeks on from his departure, the meddling presence of my mental quests rest well in admiring the great from a great distance, his spectacle is forever.

Words taken from the book 'Approaching Ali' by Davis Miller comfortably calculate and result the adoration held by me and many in growing up in the after years of his achievements:

"There are so many ways to think about almost everything. And none of them is nearly as round as reality".


Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Local boy in a photograph

Measured by the directives of vulnerability in which meandering hesitancy has controlled a lack of action, I've been led back to bowers in my mind that I thought were buried and heavily overgrown. It was a bad week.

The inspiring quotes, self-help techniques and online links that encourage engagement, pride and ascetic stance in the face of what someone somewhere may define as 'weak', all insignificant in setting my feelings in line over the course of three difficult days.

Hashtags and trends on the front foot of what was a busy run in relation to mental health progression in Ireland did little for comfort and instead stood merely as a platform for finger-tip acknowledgement disjointed from positive mindful function geared towards personal goodwill.

No amount of talking heads in the Dail could have changed this.

I went for a walk. An April evening hung across from a setting sun, dimmed beautifully in celebration of brighter nights. A stroll in byword to 'clear the head' was deplorably tumbled to a drag that filled my head to the brim. Like a knotted blacksack bursting with routine of doubting questions, essence of worth uncomfortably topped and squeezed with hatred.

I stopped at a bridge, a flyover between Killester and Harmonstown DART stations. Red bricks topped with slabs, ancient to me as they've forever stood there to the best of my recollection. 

Slighting just above my forehead, it would have been easy to climb despite best efforts of a soaring green railings upon the slabs. This a necessary deterrent to prevent the mischief of youth or to discourage lifelessly desolate males in their 30's from climbing above train tracks to consider all options.

The path sufficed with my heels risen. I stood high on my toes holding the railings and watching through the grids as a train made its way. It's bright light torched towards me as the noise in my head settled allowing focus and effort to brutally assess the weight and time that would be required in falling perfectly as it rolled on by. 

The train passed along with my mathematical curiosity. I stayed on high on my toes with my forehead pressed hard against the fence. The squared embrace of its wiring shaping squares against my skin.

Starring down at the tracks, a song played in my head: 'Local boy in a photograph' by the Stereophonics;

'There's no mistake, I smell that smell,
It's that time of year again,
I can taste the air.

The clocks go back, railway track,
Something blocks the line again 
And the train runs late for the first time' 


Friday, 13 November 2015

Line on the horizon - taking the call

Two years ago I decided to volunteer for a recognised youth helpline. Despite the early stages of personal realisation in managing low-mood and two planned suicides, the willingness to commit was inspired by absent direction once felt as a youth as well as curious notions in my ability to potentially help others.
Reflecting upon teenage years, ‘helplines’ were often joke-holds of minute difficulties in adolescence; phone calls to The Samaritans referred to dramatically with shouts and laughter about ‘killing yourself’ because your football team lost at the weekend or because someone took the last chocolate biscuit.
There was innocence to such ignorance, but one further example of finer misguidance was talk of an elderly man nearby who was apparently making regular calls to a helpline. Amongst a gang of bemused boys, it was quickly decided that our neighbour was a ‘weirdo’ that never left his house. In this instance, there was blindness in societal understanding and a schooling failure towards children of the 1990’s.
Following initial contact with the organisation, a training period was undertaken in a relaxed setting. There were immediate assurances relating to our own well-being, relieving pressure on anyone feeling apprehensive about taking a call. On the basis that the operation could not function without willing volunteers, there was genuine appreciation to all who made a decision to give up some free time.
I was nervous at the prospect of taking calls; particularly should an individual threatening suicide pick up the phone and dial. I feared of saying something inappropriate that may make someone feel worse and also feared not saying something that maybe should be said. There was considerable doubt on my own state of being, a concern that the probability of subdued demeanour could deter anyone seeking help.
I discovered very quickly that the means behind taking the calls stood not as an advice or counselling session but rather as a private listening service free of judgment for everyone and anyone who felt the need to talk. Indeed, there were calls of a sensitive nature; young callers lost in life and struggling at the brim of neglect mentally and physically, fallen deep into desperation seeking answers and guidance.
They were difficult calls to take. Feelings of sympathetic understanding could only branch so far for a teenager immersed in struggle. I felt anger because all I could offer was an ear to listen; that society should be offering so much more than a phone line which gave no guarantee of the callers wellbeing after the conversation concluded. However, the constant promotion in recognising the callers’ courage in making the initial phone call acted as safeguard in compassion and placed strength in the principle of lending that ear to listen.
The pattern in communication showed that the majority of callers just wanted to talk. Chastened in loneliness and seeking conversation that could easily peak from the highs of counterpoint recognition relating to a favourite song or film to the lows of forethought to facing the next day alone.
It was the tribulations of one regular caller that stirred my emotions, imprinting both worry and inspiritment in the aftermath of volunteering. Jamie (not real name) was bound by the consequence of every decision he/she had made in life to date. He/she was in solitude, fighting to survive day by day.
Beneath the curtain of despair, the teenage spirit was inspiring along with a sense of humour most sharp and endearing.  The intelligence in expression of everything the child considered to be right and wrong in life based on what he/she had done was tragically beautiful. In the absence of anonymity and protection law, any decent soul would make headway on an instant rescue mission.
Again, it was the regularity of ringtones that gave hope to every caller’s future. It was the calls that never came that created a void of defeatism coupling internal pleas for anyone struggling to pick up the phone. Silence on the end of a line was just as frightening with thoughts inside screaming: ‘you’re almost there, you’ve made the call, please say hello!!’
I gave one/two nights a month for a year to answering these calls, discreetly and unbeknownst to most family and friends.
I learned the value in the continuum of communication; empowering trust without a visual, just two voices on a telephone. I taught myself that irrationality has no boundaries in everyday life and that everything in terms of physical and mental expression comes from something inside us. Whilst sometimes upsetting and terrifying, on the back of the real life stories I have heard (from fellow volunteers as well as callers) I believe that (unfortunately) everything is normal and its ignorance and lack of understanding that deems life experience good or bad to be abnormal and ‘weird’.
I found balance within myself, embracing the bravery that these young people show in facing their problems as best they can. For the first time in my life, I acknowledged that for every problem I face, someone else is facing 100 more.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

All the lonely people

This piece originally appeared in The Irish Times online as part of a feature focusing on loneliness. It was an honour to contribute.

There has always been an aura of simplicity about my presence in character. Despite the ambivertedness and often detailed observance in my outlook around people, the role of 'happy go lucky Dave' was a recognised and rarely challenged fairing amongst family and friends.

Bubbly, outgoing, sporty and active; all resounding traits of a self-promoting bio with the mood swings, drama and bitter excerpts merely regarded as the impulses of teenage angst.

I've always enjoyed company, revelling in chat and laughter. But the hidden scorn of paranoia and insecurity could easily spoil the anticipated gladness of socialising and connecting. Talkative, engaging but quietly doubtful. Apprehensive about personal viewpoints on the basis that someone might not like me because of what I thought or what I said.

This silent persecution inside persisted in the former of mental torture; a daily routine of mirror goading tagged with insults and reminders that I was worthless, no one liked me and that I was better off alone.

Subsequent moments by myself allowed me to revel disturbingly in the triumph  of forced solidarity; ignoring text messages, avoiding nights out and meet ups with the belief that I would not be missed, that family and friends would be glad  I chose to stay away.

The peak of depravity in forced withdrawal from social circles came when reluctantly agreeing to join friends on a weekend away. Citing work as an excuse for late arrival, this made sure I could travel alone. I also booked separate accommodation with a comeback of financial constraint at the ready should anyone raise query.

Upon returning to my hostel later that night I realised I has forgotten my access card. Unable to get inside I avoided contacting nearby friends, opting instead to sleep in the car.

One friend, who most likely picked up on my subdued demeanor that night, rang my phone. Despite having a towel as a blanket, a jumper for a pillow and a hardened carpet beneath me, a place on his hotel room floor that night was perhaps the greatest comfort I had ever known.

These experiences of depreciation and mindless punishment are just few from many clouded moments of confusion and misunderstanding in my very being. However they have played a vital role in my eventual willingness to discover a grasp in managing doubt and fear that rises when life is interupted.

The study of mindfulness has helped greatly in finding guidance to living. Acknowledging that whilst nothing in life is absolute, everything is relative. Gaining awareness of my emotions and reasoning with the experiences I have been through gives me strength and confidence to persevere and compassionately embrace the value of myself and of equal importance the value of family and friends.


Friday, 16 October 2015

Boys Don't Cry

Link to YouTube video Boys Don't Cry

Poetic monologue against 'bullying'

Something More...

Hand written poem shared on 
World Mental Health Day 2015