IT’S a little difficult to know what exactly Niall ‘Bressie’ Breslin’s first book, Me and My Mate Jeffrey, actually is.
If it’s a memoir of his story so far (next big thing of Irish rugby, musician, reality TV star) then it’s far too light on the little details; if it’s a self-help book (the tagline: “A story of big dreams, tough realities and facing my demons head on”), then it requires a few more qualitative theories.
If you’ve seen his show Ironmind, you’ll already know what the 35-year-old sees as one of the best ways of tackling mental anxieties: Triathlons, setting goals, focusing.
Like Bressie’s life tale, it all seems too simplistic.
A promising underage rugby star with Leinster and Ireland, Bressie was injury plagued: On a holiday with the lads in Ayia Napa, he’s “completely shit-faced” and goes to the shallow end of the pool to attempt an “adventurous back flip”: “I could have guessed everything was not okay from the unbelievable pain of smashing my face against the bottom of the pool.”
He suffers injuries on the pitch too, as well as in the bars after celebrating a win (“whiskey has this amazing ability to get your legs drunk before your head”).
It doesn’t help that anxiety and panic attacks got worse for Bressie on the recovery bed, and the thought of playing rugby again seems alien, culminating in him literally banging his head against a wall to try and get him out of playing a game. It doesn’t. He soon quits the sport.
After a brief spell in banking during the Celtic Tiger (“I can safely say that I was the worst employee to ever grace the ACC building on Charlemont St in Dublin”), we’re onto his burgeoning music career.
Five years with the Blizzards are brushed over in a matter of pages, used more to explain his comfort in alcohol than anything else. He drank heavily after shows.
“The days following a drinking binge I would be in the depths of depression or else drinking again; neither situation was ideal.”
He moves to London and turns his hand to a solo career and that takes off too. Everything seems to come easy to Bressie — not that you’d know it.
The book sometimes reads like a Leaving Cert English essay — make a point in every paragraph, goes the advice. But it seems like the same point is made consistently here; over and over again, we hear how Bressie can’t enjoy anything due to his issues.
It gets so repetitive at points that you’ll think you’ve already read some chapters.
Yet for all its problems, the book is probably bigger than the sum of its parts.
If it helps even one person talk about their feelings and demons, that’s a good thing. And you can imagine Me and My Mate Jeffrey helping a lot of people.
“Ultimately, each one of us has to go on our own journey of self-discovery,” Bressie opines.
‘Jeffrey’ is the name he gives to his hostile mind.
“It was a name I had always particularly disliked, for no apparent reason.”
He extols the virtues of cognitive behavioral therapy, claiming every teenager in Ireland should be educated in it, and exercise.
Even this seems to come easy to him. One night, after another sleepless fit, he decides to get out of bed and go for a 3km run.
In a couple of lines, he’s running 30km a night. One feels Bressie could turn to coding and become the next Mark Zuckerberg.
Despite literary limitations, the book is one with a positive message.
As Bressie explains, while in the grip of another anxiety attack: “I do not try to be positive, I do not try to pretend that meditation can help me in this acute phase. I just have to batten down the hatches and allow it move on, and recall that it’s okay to feel like this every now and again.”
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