Sport Rugby

Thursday 8 December 2016

I was aware of stigma of going to see a shrink

Published 12/11/2010 | 05:00

The Lions disappointment had brought me down to breaking point: I'd never felt so low in my life.

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But the episode also triggered a deluge of self-analysis.

At the same time as I reached that lowest ebb, I also reached the realisation that there was more at play here than just the heartbreak of missing out on the Lions tour, and that I needed to delve deeper.

I had been on some medication, nothing much, just something to help me relax, help me sleep. But I wanted to do more than take medication, I wanted to talk to someone professional, someone who could give me real advice on how to cope with what I was feeling. I needed to talk to a psychologist, but even getting to that point was difficult for me: I had to convince myself that there was no shame in taking that first step.

There would have been a time that I'd have felt ashamed to admit to having to go and see a shrink -- I was aware of the stigma attached to that.

But not any more. There are too many men in this country who are afraid to talk about their problems, afraid to go and speak to someone who might be able to help them. There's no shame in talking to someone who might be able to tell you what's going on in your own head.

I finally went for my first meeting with the psychologist in late September and had around six sessions before Christmas. It was a revelation -- it didn't feel like counselling at all. I'd been nervous about speaking to a stranger, but the psychologist turned out to be very warm and kind, and made me feel relaxed and comfortable. For the hour I was there, we chatted, and he helped me put things clearly in my mind, he made me understand that things weren't going to change in a day.

*****

Ruth and I separated earlier this year after being married for two years and being together for six. She and AJ live in Dublin now and I travel up and down as often as I can to see them.

There's no point in saying that the separation hasn't been painful because that wouldn't be true. You can't be married to someone -- be in love with someone -- that long and part without hurting like hell. It's a source of regret to me that Ruth and I have split. I haven't stopped loving her and she's a major part of my life. I know it's been hard on her too. Then there's AJ.

When I come home now from training, or from games, or from the shop, the house is empty.

We had our ups and downs in our marriage, but what young couple doesn't? Gradually, we started to realise that something had to change in our dynamic: I grew to recognise what it is to be someone's soul mate.

But things didn't work out as we had hoped and, before the summer, we made the decision to take some time apart.

Ruth moved back up to Dublin with AJ. I travel up and down a couple of times a week to spend as much time as possible with my son, and he and his mum regularly travel down to Limerick.

It's not a perfect situation, but Ruth and I are doing the best we can.

Irish Independent

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