Back in the chair, sitting through the shit…

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January 15, 2014 by John Buckley

Drawing by Sarah Buckley

So, I’m back in the chair, didn’t think I’d be back, but I’m back and that’s where I am I suppose. Just to add, sitting through the shit, is not a phrase I coined! I wish. It was one of my good friends. She uses it to describe waiting out the bad stuff that comes our way. Back to the narrative! As Jon Kabat Zinn puts it “where you go, there you are”, and that’s something I haven’t been, for a long time.  Just ‘there’, I had been everywhere but there. This isn’t one of those blogs where I’m going to try and dissect where we’re at with mental health in society, nor is it a call for action. It’s more for me and if it does any good, that’s a plus.

Me and my brain have had an interesting relationship over the last few years, and I got through a time in my life, that I never thought I would. Because at the end of the day, we’re resilient beings. And there I parked it. I got through a particularly tough period, with a lot of support, and I naively thought that was that. Sure I’ve done it now, I’ve fixed myself, no hassle. No dice. I think I just got comfortable in not thinking about dying or hurting myself anymore, and it was good. I had a really great year and I had such a good positive mental health buzz going on.

What I didn’t realise, was that me and my head have a relationship, we’re always together and we always will be. I’ve got to look after it. It’s not easy to do; it takes work, focus and concentration. Investment I suppose is a good word. I got lazy; I started taking the easy route for coping with mild distress, instead of the things that I had learnt before, the skills kind fading away, left without nurture. It was easier not to talk anymore (I thought), it was easier to get back on the booze buzz, it was easier to not address problems and leave them sit there, it was easier to keep going rather than take a break. Mental health for me is not easy and straight forward, I got lost again.

So where did it bring me, well I became I liar. And as a man, that’s not an easy thing to admit. I lied to myself and to my friends, and I want to say sorry to them and to me too. I lied about how I was doing, because it was easier than actually fronting up. I lied about hurting myself, the black eyes, broken hand were not as I said and even started to believe that I hadn’t done these things to myself. It was me trying to cope with the shadow that had started to creep back into my life. It was, as I saw it, the easy thing to do. But that’s brought me to this chair I sat down on today.

My mental health has been in a state and now it’s time to take the hard options, the ones that lead me back to where I want to be again, where I need to be. There’s always going to be a lot said about mental health, not sure there’s any right answers. For me sitting back in this chair has made me realise that I’m on this journey for as long as I’m on this earth. It’s about making hard choices. It’s also about connecting and fronting up. We’ve got a lot of strength in us and around us, it’s hard to draw on it but it’s there. I’ve stopped the self harm again, the hurt is still there, but I’ve been digging deep. I don’t know how I’m going to feel tomorrow, I know that I’m going to have to use the squat pen over the next while and do some of my own digging, it’s going to be tough. I’m just back from an hour cruising around Dublin on my skateboard, just looking around, absorbing the city, watching people’s faces (not in a creepy) way and seeing a world that I’ve been missing, the living part.

Anyway, this is a bit of a ramble, not too sure on the point. Needed to get it down somewhere. We all need to cultivate our mental health, I don’t know why I keep thinking of Heaney but we need to maybe take this approach to ourselves as we do the land, through every season, including the fruitful ones

My father worked with a horse plough,                            

His shoulders globed like a full sail strung

Between the shafts and the furrow.

The horses strained at his clicking tongue.


An expert. He would set the wing                                     

And fit the bright-pointed sock.

The sod rolled over without breaking.

At the headrig, with a single pluck.


Of reins, the sweating team turned round

And back into the land. His eye                                       

Narrowed and angled at the ground,

Mapping the furrow exactly.

And for good measure, a Robert Frost quote: “the best way around something, is through it”. Be good to yourselves.


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