Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Bressie; Me and My Mate Jeffrey




I was lucky enough to win a copy of Niall Breslin's book 'Me and My Mate Jeffrey' from the charity MyMind on Twitter.

Niall, or Bressie as he's better known around the country, has openly spoken about his battles with anxiety and depression over the last few years. He's played a huge role in helping create the change in mental health discourse in Ireland that's slowly been breaking down some of the stigma around the issue.

The book is Bressie's way to tell his whole story; from a kid moving to Israel to his decision to set up My 1000 hours. In a 10 minute interview, or a 30 minute speech, it can prove difficult to get the whole picture. There is no way to paint a realistic picture of mental illness or tell your whole story in such a short time frame. And so 'Me and My Mate Jeffrey' (he named his depression Jeffrey, hence the book title) introduces us to the fuller picture, and in turn paints the everyday reality of what it's like to struggle with your own mind.


Bressie writes in a very relatable way - well at least for us Irish. It's full of Irish colloquialism. Swear words and all. In this way, the book is accessible for Irish audiences, and as it's littered with rugby tales, it's extra accessible for young Irish males - one sector of the population who have the most difficulty with talking about mental health.

It's groundbreaking in a sense. Never has an Irish male, and a famous one at that, opened up his soul to this extent. Whether it's the pure agony of fighting for your very breath, or the type of mental anguish that causes you to break your own limb; there hasn't been honesty like this in an accessible book before.

Mental health issues in teenagers are often difficult to spot. Bressie talks about his school years with reference to an inability to relate to his peers, being socially awkward and reclusive, and his introduction to anxiety in the Holy Land. It's easy to dismiss such symptoms of mental illness as teenage moodiness, hormones, or just as part of the growing up process.

I found myself in tears by Chapter 2. I could relate so much, it was like reading my own story at times. Despite a ten year age gap, different counties and different genders, our early mental health experiences were eerily similar right down to the first self-harming incident during the Junior Certificate exams year.

Bressie found help in his late twenties. It was a small step he'd been fighting against for a decade. And it made me realise how lucky I am to have had my diagnosis and started seeking help at 18 years of age. What a difference that has made to my life.

The story is incredibly honest and moving. With fantastic advice and moments of self-realisation:
"By getting to know Jeffrey, I was becoming much more aware of myself. I realised that Jeffrey was not a weakness..."

And while he found relief in sports and challenging himself physically, he had these wise words about how the mind is different:
"If you have never run you cannot expect to go out and do a marathon, and it's the same with the mind - it needs to be trained and guided."

And that while challenges still come:
"It was the fact that I was able to experience these real moments of happiness that indicated I was well and truly on my way down the road of recovery."

It's probably that last quote that resonated with me the most. I have these real moments of happiness and that's how you know how far you've come.

For anyone, male or female, young or old, personal experience with mental illness or not, this book has something to teach you. Whether it's about recognising the signs in others, gaining an understanding of what it's like to live with a mental illness, or finding the right course of treatment for you and overcoming adversity, there's much to gain. It's inspirational to see someone at their lowest and follow their journey to recovery. There's motivation to anyone who is struggling to find the light.

And whatever you might think of The Blizzards, The Voice of Ireland, or the Ironman events, there is no denying that Niall Breslin is one brave man.

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22 comments:

  1. I NEED to read this book, it sounds like it would really help me as I suffer so bad with anxiety. I constantly feel anxious and have no idea why, which also brings out depression. It's really hard. I'm going to add this book to my 'To Read' list and make a note of looking out for it when I go to the shops today. Thanks so much for sharing xx

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    1. Definitely Sarah! And it can be so helpful to just read about other people's mental health experiences. xx

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  2. Ooohh, I'm popping to town today, I wonder if Smiths have this in stock? It sounds really interesting. Thanks for sharing.

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    1. I'm not sure if they have it outside of Ireland yet? Might be something to try on the Book Depository website? x

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  3. I love Bressie, I think it's fantastic that men speak out about depression because I do think it's particularly hard for young boys and men to deal with it. Women tend to talk more which helps I think, but often males are expected to be tough and not allowed to feel down.

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    1. Totally agree Cliona. And there's been a huge difference in the number of men versus women speaking out in campaigns like the Green Ribbon. Bressie's bound to make a difference. x

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  4. I don't think it's one I'd read with the rugger and bad language but I think it takes a lot of strength and courage to write something like this and I've no doubt this will help a lot of people who wouldn't connect with many of the books already out there. Thanks for sharing

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    1. True Linda, it might not be for everyone, but it's a huge step in progress towards breaking the stigma x

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  5. Anxiety and depression is never easy to talk about let alone express through words in a book format. This book sounds both brave and inspiring, I would love to grab a copy. :-) x

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  6. Im not a reader myself so have never heard of this author or book before. I do however want to start reading more and hopefully get into a book and really enjoy reading it. x

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    1. I'm a huge reading fan! Always have a few books open at a time. I'm going to do a round up of a few books next week that might inspire you! x

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  7. I never realized that Bressie suffered fro mental health issues! Can't wait to get my hands on it now!

    Lauren x

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    1. I'd seen him talk briefly about it in regards to running and fitness, but the book was really eye opening. Definitely would recommend it x

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  8. Only heard about this book the other day. Hearing great things about it. He'll make a great mental health ambassador, he's very brave been in the public eye.

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    1. He really is Kellie, I definitely agree.

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  9. I think any book that's out there telling the truth about depression and one experience, has to be good for other people who suffer from it.

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    1. I think it's good for everyone! The more conversation the better x

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  10. He sure is a brave man. Anyone that puts themselves out there sharing the truth about invisible illnesses is

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  11. Sounds like a great book, having suffered with anxiety after having my daughter I can relate. I think its great that it is targeting younger males, I think they seemingly go under the radar and are more reluctant about speaking out about anxiety and depression. Thanks for sharing xxx

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  12. This sounds like a really good book. I may need to check it out. He is certainly very brave to tell his story. Depression is so real. I have struggled with it and I have family members who struggle with it as well. The struggle is real. The truth needs to be spoken. Glad there are people like him willing to do so.

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  13. What a fantastic man courageously sharing his battle with mental health to raise awareness in a society where mental health is still seen as a stigma.

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  14. This book looks so inspiring - what a courageous man he is. Thanks for sharing. Kaz x

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