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

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Always Write - Never Be Wrong

It has been one year since I started Reeling In The Fears. Set up as a platform for sharing scribbles, poetry and mixed mediums of artistry in relation to my mental health and management of depression in recent times, the blog has proved a founding venture to a means in writing.

Such is my nature, the cynic within rifled doubts about raising matters most heartfelt and intimate to be placed into the sphere of others trust. But to quote the great Stephen King who said about writing: ‘The scariest moment is always just before you start’. Inwardly comfortable in life, the skied degree of creative liberation moulded my desire to begin writing once again.

The initial curiosity of debate and recognition on mutual actualities amongst strangers was an interesting promise. The subsequent connections made online and the understanding and realisation that so many have struggled, so many have fought and so many have made it through and are still fighting has placed value in the works I thought I may regret sharing.

I’ve sought harmony between emotion and rational in these works; wholeheartedly engaging in exclusive chronicles endeavoured to sample moments of pang which I experienced, sometimes alleviating the misery sometimes not. Mounting the complexity of self-loathing and doubt with a mixture of poetic monologue and cryptic description, this is a chosen style. A purposeful paving geared towards the readers own interpretation of struggle and manifesting the confounding complication of self-depreciation and loss; a relative sensation personal to my own torment when once at my lowest waning.

In penning these delicate truisms, the finest air of self-espial attention has come in the growing awareness of integrity in writing and discovery in childhood teachings that helped shape principle.
Nurtured in my youth with a crazed eye upon literature, my grandmother subjected me to many a book come bedtime. Night after night, she insisted on my privilege to a reading from a chosen classic. Charles Dickens was a regular headliner and my favourite selection being a colourful copy of Great Expectations, torn and beautifully decrepit. Airless in stench and gritty to touch, the old book had wonderful illustrations made perfect for promoting the story in my tiny mind.
Scattering inquisitiveness often distracted from the plot as I was constantly amazed by the volume of words and story:

‘Did Charles Dickens write this himself?’

‘He did’ said my Nana ‘and he meant every word of it’.

Teenage avidity to be writer blossomed as any opportunity to release the wave of imagination inside was taken. The family took pride in what they deemed as a valued vocation, despite the awkward coyness in my stance and misunderstood worth in talent. I figured that people were to be good at something and that fanfare and celebration of a youth with a pen seemed illogical.
Growing up I had watched relatives share their innovative fortes, accepting forever that people were just talented and individual ability was a known thing to everyone else. My grandfather (on my Dads side) was an exceptional artist; a regular sat relaxed outside St Stephens Green at weekends with framed oils hanging lateral over the railings. He was a painter; this was his “good thing” according to my 13 year old self.

The first realisation into practice and nurture was lessoned when this wonderful painter collapsed, suffering a stroke and losing the use of the entire right side of his body.  ‘How will he paint?’ I thought. The idea of self-fulfilment, dedication in artistry, mindfulness in discovery and application to the things we do curdled inside for the very first time. These things we’re good at aren’t always forever.

My grandfather’s emergency gave the first responsive perspective on why we do things. Beforehand the best in my youthful bloom limited innovative application to the reason of ‘do it because you’re good’ and ‘because others know you’re good’. But to better this bloom, I learned the truth in embracing the fulfilment in talent and ability. Not for reward, but for the worth in wholehearted engagement and loving what you do.

Such was his attachment to what he did (also his magnificent stubbornness) my grandad taught himself to paint once again using his left hand. The results were unsurprisingly spectacular as he put everything into his craft until he was physically unable.

My favourite poem is ‘Alone’ by Edgar Allan Poe which contains the tragically gorgeous line:

‘All that I loved – I loved alone’

There’s context in varied aspects of life in which this can be applied; loneliness and contentedness; desire and loss; want and need. But in relation to learnings in art, it captures perfectly the hold we can have on our hobbies and interests. There’s an acceptable selfishness in truly cradling sincerity in what we do and knowing that no one can force the connection upon us.

Writing is wonderful; the creation; the exploration in language; the stories; the truth. Everything is alive in its fabric, a fertile chasm most prolific in colour, endless and most intimate. I learned not to let others adore it for me, but rather be dignified in mindful execution when ideas flow. The integrity in delivery will give others something more than knowing you might just be good at something, it will give them deliberation and consideration on their own thought and values.

I write myself and I mean every word.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Feeding order into disorder

A Sunday evening that brings the week slowly to a close. The final errand in organisation before an early bed is a task once undertaken as a chore, once not undertaken at all.
Chopping boards; sizzling pans; knifes and scallops. There's a calmness in the procedure, an underlying excitement towards the outcome. A half an hour investment to the pleasure of Mondays meals.
Breakfast, lunch and dinner soon to be ready and waiting.
The joy in food prep wasn't always cradled with such affection. My adolescent views being plainly ignorant; gauging classism and snobbery at anything above peas and potatoes.
Brought up on a plate of the basics, convenience with a slice of convenience beside it. The fundamentals of every Irish diet bound by the essentialities of processed meat and frozen veg. Not forgetting the customary 'if it was a plate of sweets, you'd eat it'.
Unfortunately, the plate of sweets was too easily available before and thereafter dinner. Cereals, minerals, crisps, chocolate all within reach of an out-swinging cupboard.
My early teens were difficult. I spoken before on this blog about issues with bullying as a result of being a 'chubby' kid. I put this childish rotundness down to the way I was made, oblivious to the over indulgence and constant want for snacking on all things sweet.
The eventual realisation following in school and on street torment and abuse swung the pendulum in another direction however.
Hurt and paranoid over apparent bodily imperfections, by age 15 there was a dramatic behaviour change with my approach to food. I needed to lose weight and fast in order to fit in and end the torture. if I could change my look, then I'd be liked.
Being involved in football and athletics disguised the changes with regular comments being passed about 'taking a stretch' and 'being active'.
The workouts took care of themselves but eating had been cut down. Rather than ditch the empty snacks, it was dinners that were neglected. Breakfasts were replaced with an extra ten minutes in bed every morning.
Plates left with tinfoil on the table eventually found the bin; daily excuses of unavailability and general business a regular answer to queries over non eaten meals.
The inevitable concern from family was secondary to the goal of breaking free from years of onslaught, the ceaseless taunts and harmful labels: 'ya fat prick' 'jelly belly'. The end game of escape made it worthwhile.
The plate of sweets was still very much available however. A reward for the goal and a stream of self-reassurance that chocolate isn't bad for you and minerals are refreshing.
Progressing to the real world with long working days combined with training and exercise determined the eventuality of ill health as 5AM starts began to burden energy levels and concentration.
Such was my ignorance to healthy living, I considered taking a cod liver oil tablet every morning as sufficient nutrition to launch me into 12/13/14 hour days. The subsequent feed coming near midday in the form of sausage rolls and red sauce. 
The reputation of being 'flying fit' and 'fast' carried me only so far and the consequence of ill choices caught up and pulled me to the floor.
Open commentary on endless yawning and my pale complexion were passed. There were two statements that hit home during this period, supposed banter that I looked like I had AIDS and that I looked like a cocaine addict.
December 2006 saw me gaunt and grey with heavy black eyes and high cheekbones. The limited diet, sugar binging and ignorance to what was good health left me empty by age 22. 
On the back of several respiratory infections as a result of a non-existent immune system, the lack of energy and inability to function saw me collapse and bound for hospital.
I'd never ever touched alcohol, never smoked or did drugs. I rarely ate fast food  or takeaway. I liked apples, but had a sweet tooth. I was healthy, flying fit and was fast. How did this happen?
The flying fit and fast status was clipped quickly as I discovered asthma, a condition I hadn't suffered from since aged 7, developed as a result of pneumonia. The stay in hospital failed to end the problem as there were visits to the GP thereafter; flu, colds and reoccurring chest infections. I was tested for TB at one stage and regularly tested for diabetes. All self-inflicted; continuous and utterly soul destroying.
All of this occurred at a time of unemployment and mislead ambition, a time when the feelings of doubt continued to grow inside me regarding the future and what at all could be achieved. These feelings failed subside and over the following four years spread like a cancer, disabling my self worth and desire to live with any purpose.

There is always hope in discovery and over the past few years simple lifestyle and environment changes have enabled me to engage fully with the positivity and goodness surrounding healthy food and eating.
Nutrition is a popular topic and I have found good influence and inspiration, here are a couple that have helped;

The Happy Pear
Two brothers with a simple message 'eat more veg'! Their passion for healthy eating is quite contagious. The recipe book is full of healthy options for breakfast, lunch and dinner and a visit to the cafe/restaurant in Greystones, Co.Wicklow is well worth the trip.

Scott Jurek
Scott is a long distance runner, a very long distance runner! He has completed and won some of the toughest 100+ miles footraces across the world and recently completed his masterpiece, breaking the record for running the Appalachian Trial from Georgia to Maine in the US. He ran it in 46 days, 8 hours and 7 minutes. The trail is 2,189 miles long.
What makes his feat more impressive is that Jurek is dedicated solely to a Paleo diet (plant based) which shows the rewards in taking care of your body when putting yourself through such rigorous tasks.
His book 'Eat and Run' is an inspiring story from an ordinary guy, also including some simple mixes and recipes for healthy living.

Spontaneous Healing by Andrew Weil
A concise and articulate book embracing the power of being in control of our bodies through healthy eating and healthy living. Simple and motivating.

Monday, 11 May 2015

Passports & rainshine; no map required

The squeaking surplus, washed up under soles sobbing and unstopped. The dribble of storm, silent streams twine down two legs truly bare. Grey knee-cut breeches remain crisp to one side, the facing pattern clime conquered and darkened. A blue tee sags not kindly; brimful in heavy clam, humid in disturbance against pale skin beneath.
A stance now open, but plain to see unmoved. Both arms bow outward, a wranglers pose most stiffened, caught still in wetted form.
The relieving wheeze, testament to shelter now found below a concrete umbrella. The hut giving disguise in cultured degree; tieback bamboo, vague necessities, petals blooming in multi-coloured tango. The floor once silver, withered now it fades; collective with the ‘welcome’ mat forsaken to lower limbs that stride in purpose to nowhere.
The accession. The arrival. A thriving hub. The chalked walls stand uneven, splendid in the grasp of directionally obtuse vines, mashed green in upward spirals. To the fore a daybed, caped and grooved. Angled central but since shifted, the settee for stopgap community when strangers meet to announce. Sound bites are subtle; selected euphony bridles affection, the hustling voyagers appease in rising maunders. Liberation in heralded acquaintances never before known, never known thereafter. The uncounted amble in and back out, careless avenues in adventure from ad hoc itineraries around the world.
The host he slouches, downward buoyantly. Smiling, most handsome. Gentle in his formed triangle. The hulky upper-bows to resting forearms with fingers intertwined, inked and bulging. Giant hands together pressed soft against the unspoiled lectern, a wooden bridge of welcome and goodbyes. Normality in commotion, he sterns a chaffed face. I watch. Teaspoon cheekbones, cobbled and sun bruised, high and brooding above hammock lips showing perfect enamel.
The blanched stanchion holds aloft my imperfections. A position protected, away from summer cloudburst. Mouthing squirms. Head nods. Signals in understanding to the latest washed up on the tiled shore. Further swash from the heavy sky fall definitely copious and stifling. Fenced within comforting restlessness. Temporary insanity grows. Fervour meeting flavour. The spice of day long enterprise. Nostrils sing over close upon shoulders, lacklustre sun lotion and the tang of required bathing.
Babbles. Eruptions. Red-skinned and singing. A gala moves smiling. Touring to and fro, an obscure blockade they vibrate. Heartbeats. Handhelds. Sandals. Sunshades. The pulsing traffic. Silent in solitude, my feelings still and comfortably complacent. The mindful indulgence disturbed. A sauntering eye catch. Recognition.
My stomach whistles. The doubting calculation behind the consistent stream. People left, people right, crowds prosper in amongst a flourished lobby. Rising certainty. It has to be? A blatant joist, beaming white like these pages I write. I see the person just near; same shirt, same smile. The excitement it simmers. Come onward the affirmation: ‘Go far and go wide, it’s all to play for living’.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Pressure born & marred

A tableau course and shot most colourless,
the scene set still.
Third person running, addressed from each angle,
Recreant monologue a sound on loop,
a heavy ball bounced back.

Dreary dictum bethinking acrimony inside,
the pendulum of drastic bios, confessions most terrible,
Tortured brainwork to punished pinballs that strike.
Two strikes and return,
Two strikes and relaunch.

Music and moments fasten musings to conclude,
The power to suck air, the tower the smother.

A pledge to take bullets, a turn to fire three.

A pledge to take bullets, very quick to fire three.

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Sunscreen scribbles and shouting

Plainsong fusion. Classical guitar. Female crescendo a vocal peak. The rhythmic fanfare against subdued jitters in the room above.

The lust to thrive lay slain, a body slouched horizontal. Fallow in heat, fastened in flesh to bobbled and hardened layers over a recycled mattress finely solid.

A thrum sent pale from a seasoned vent. A metal flower, three-petal and turning. It's wired stem overreached. The near silent application vague in its persistence as hot air broods.

Shorts pulled and loosened. Cotton resting warm  and cumbersome against muscled thighs otherwise bare. Shirtless under sweat; daubs, bubbles, a devastated torso held unavailing to need. Chest intensified, but no air free.

Starring, both pupils swell; water-wells of lightlessness ran deep through body ground and mind soil. Blackened sight pockets pitted in drought. Unforgiving to the enemy inside.

A glance arrested, the room shoeboxed. One mansize entrance of expanded lumber, bound and locked. The black helve ornate and pushed upward, forced for insurance.

The wallpaper seeps; once full of newness and shine, but since conquered. A corner folds triangular, hanging down from up. Below a locker sits polished, ruined in gloss by only scattered coin and debauched tissue.

On opposite, the floor hides. Clothing worn and discarded, unfolded and frayed beside a travel bag untouched. Readied, zipped and ribboned with yesterdays destination. Subtle confirmation of a sojourn all-out impermanent.

Just beyond, bottled lotion sits tepid. 500ml run down. Its lid on axis, excessed with creamed residue, liquid cling to the aftermath of today.

Joined in recent desertion, a red notebook. Tattered, small and well-borrowed. Pages unsmooth, earmarked from transit. Open, the exhibit of scribbles. Doodles little to purpose. Notes on proposals. Words to ideas. Sentences to reasons. Pleasantries and requirements simple but learned:

'¿Quires hablar?'.

Lonesome in rest nearing the corner, black tape unused. Armed extension thoughtless towards the thick loom. One hand hits lotion, the bottle fallen and flat. The notepad now further found to damage with white unction splotched gradually over lined pages.

The pressure naked, careened warm and humid. The circled band held and twisted. The seal broke. Tape pulled stern. Body movement swift in direction to the door.

Tape revved once more, sticky side down. The first fillet bitten, pulled and broken. Thumbed fresh between wood and wall and hand-palmed downward.

A process repeated. Turned. Stretched. Ripped.
The ripple of strips a sharp eruption not shallow to the risen soundtrack still echoed. The outline firm. The keyhole final. Stuffed and covered. The window secondary in airtight succumbing. A room blackened. A room thinning.

Positioned in bed once more. The required ribbon. Duct tape raced heavy under thumb against unshaven neck contours. One wrap soundly, a second looped secure.

One fist levered in sternness, trembling yet vivid. The quickness. The rip. Twisting tape constant. Three rounds. Four. The tightness, a surge. Several pulls more. A squirming throat, an hourglass unturned.

Calmness and heartbeats. Sweat and still. White spots. Black spots. Together the rabbithole to perceived liberation.

One tear.
One gasp.
One knock on the door.

Monday, 5 January 2015

The fibres of living

A trio, we travel and talk. Forward with fleeting footsteps that answer back. Leather and suede announce intent against the pathways beneath accomplished fibres of fast falling rain.
The sodden severity becomes most definite through brazen white light that strikes and fades, the movement of cars passing by. We stop to configure; a grasp to sought composure beside a poled nightlight. On show for all a kindled brume so dank and teeming.
Three friends, three faces hopeless to the elements.
A wash of wringing jeans, soused shirts and seething jackets. I correct a wet collar and brace both shoulders; a shiver that follows courteous to the finest droplet that finds flesh and tickles my spine.
Four flooded fingers repair a onetime coached cowlick as rainwater streams gel downward, a wince behind eyelids as the sting sets in. In unison we declare the obvious; stating blatantly the heaviness of the downpour.
Late for the party, wet for the celebration. We carry on.
I trial to the rear; soaked, silent and satisfied. An easy soul cotton to the purposeful wanders that take us through car parks, low roads and side streets.
Unlost in an industrial maze and lead by two in front who crave liquid and leisure.
I pry openly as they flirt with the fashionable; fascinating with goals scored on the pitch and the girl goals missed off it. They audit their finances by trading tips on 'each way' and pricing the pint.
Their excited natter shrinks to background sound bites as I bow in admission to ones standing in social circles. Ambiverted and interesting in my own small way; unique and proper; flawed, but full of love; drenched but devoted.
We yield at a crossroad; still late, still unperturbed. A window nearby provides a black mirror to my reality. Self judgment is cast, all positive and proud. Wet and wandering. I look good. I feel good.
"Everything alright there Davy?"
"Couldn't be better my friend, couldn't be better."