Brothers in each others arms

“You have faced some challenges, as we all do, and as you rightly say it is how you deal with them that defines you. I think we learnt a lot together on those rugby pitches, never more so in defeat. We tended to come out fighting but clear headed”
An old mate, a fellow rugby player and a gifted sportsman made this comment on my first blog post. JV is a top man, and despite publicly comparing me with a hagfish (look it up – it wasn’t a compliment…), remains someone I feel I could count on in times of trouble. I know that he has been there for people in the past when their world was collapsing. He is a compassionate guy who went into bat for a brother in trouble.
In other words, he is a typical ‘rugbyman’ as they say this side of La Manche. Jon’s comment set me thinking about brotherhood, friendship between men. What is it about certain sports, jobs or vocations that creates a bond, a trust? In my experience, rugby has always forged a near unbreakable link between those who played, trained and fought together. Perhaps physical threat is a common factor, or the reliance of your team mates to win/survive? Working hard to achieve a common goal, confronting challenges, putting your head in stupid places to gain advantages of inches, or fractions of seconds.

At times, these relationships can get a little fractious, particularly when alcohol is involved, but friendships hold firm. I have punched close mates (including JV – sorry bro….), and been punched by them. Despite this, the bond continues. We laugh and move on. Usually to the next bar…..

Where am I going with this you might ask? Another old rugby geezer going on about past glories, how rugby is the best sport in the world, and footballers could learn from us…. Blah blah blah. It’s a cliché, but clichés are repeated for a reason; they generally hold true.

This is not my point. My point is that it’s tough old world out there. Pressure is unrelenting in so many facets of our lives. Work, relationships, money, health, faith. All men (and ladies forgive me – I am not ignoring the challenges you face either, it’s just that your coping mechanisms seem to be more effective) will face challenges, attacks even, on all these areas of their lives. At some time or another, we will all be under the pump. Pressure builds, but you rely on yourself to cope, to manage, to exist. Stay strong, stiff upper lip. But the pressure continues to build, cracks appear in the dam. Another bollocking from the boss, another bill, the screw tightens. Its ok. You can deal with it – after all your Grandad coped with the war, he did alright. Apart from the fact he didn’t – he died in his early 60s of heart and liver disease. You soldier on, but without knowing it you are coming apart at the seams. Anxiety, depression, suicidal thoughts, all of these can set in, they can become a reality. You know what, I can feel the emotion rising in me just thinking and writing about this.

That’s because its real. It happens. Daily. Every day, men kill themselves. I have quoted this fact many times, and I make no apology for doing so again. THE BIGGEST KILLER OF MEN BETWEEN THE AGES OF 20 AND 49 IS SUICIDE! How desperate must things get to take that final choice?

What’s the answer? No silver bullet here, but we have to think about solutions, about making good choices. How about talking to your old mates? Or your pastor? Call someone. If you are a believer, as I am, cry out to God, seek His peace. Just talk, it’s actually ok to do that.

It’s not weakness, as we are conditioned to think, its bloody strong. It’s showing the world that you are not scared of breaking out of the constraint that society puts on you, and seeking help.

How about popping into the rugby club, and looking up the bloke who stood by your side in the Cup Final of 1989, and pouring your heart out to him? He will hug you, buy you a pint and tell you it’s going to get better. And he’s right.

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