Eoin Butler: writer, journalist and Mayoman of the Year

Tripping Along The Ledge


Published: The Dubliner, July 2010

The rain is bucketing down. I can hear the gutters overflowing outside.

psychiatric hospital
The phone is buzzing on my bedside locker. I wake up with a start. It’s Sunday morning. My friend has just been committed to a psychiatric hospital. Mobile phones are contraband, he says. So he’s texting me from under the sheets of his bed. I sit up and rub my eyes. Christ.

I shuffle downstairs and make a pot of coffee. Then I stand up and pace the kitchen floor. Then I sit down again and drum my fingers on the tabletop. I open up my laptop and type “friend in psychiatric hospital” into Google. Then I close it down again. The rain is bucketing outside. I can hear the gutters in the back yard overflowing. The North Circular Road is deserted. But there are tailbacks outside Phoenix Park. The Civil Partnership Act is being signed into law and a bunch of religious wingnuts are out to protest. Across the street, some gay rights activists are staging a counterdemonstration. I recognise one of the latter and honk the car horn to let her know she has my support. One of the Youth Defence crowd gives me a big thumbs up.

The traffic lurches forward again. I attempt frantically to signal him. No, no, no, I try to say. I wasn’t honking support for you you. I was honking support for the gay rights lady. The religious guy thinks I’m looking for directions now. He steps forward to offer assistance. Ah, for God’s sake. This is the last time I dabble in politics.

When I arrive my friend is wearing a dressing gown and looking a little sheepish. I’ve brought him a pile of newspapers and a book. On the flysheet of the book I’ve inscribed “Hope you’re having Big Fun in the Big House.” I immediately have second thoughts about the inscription. Psychiatric hospital humour: it’s a fine line.

He asks about the traffic. I tell him it was insane. Granted, not the deftest word choice I’ve ever made. As it happens, I’m really proud of my friend for coming here. It was a brave and proactive step to take. In fact, if nothing else, visiting him has made me acutely aware of how insensitive to mental health issues I am in the language that I regularly use.

He inquires after my stalker. She’s hanging in there, I tell him. Has she molested any of your pets yet, he asks? No, I reply. Has she ever called you in the middle of the night and told you to look out the window, and when you looked out she was standing in the middle of your lawn? No. Not much of a stalker then is she, he teases? Ah, she’s doing her best, I say.

Why’s she so obsessed with you anyway, he wonders? I shrug my shoulders. She seems to be a complete whackjo… (Another awkward pause.) She’s an odd sort of a lady, I say.

He leads me on a guided tour of his new digs. I’m not his first visitor. His brother brought him a Beatles poster with the word HELP! in massive letters. The person before that brought a bag of mixed nuts. My “Big House” crack seems pretty tame by comparison.

We sit down on the bed and talk a while longer. About nothing in particular, just this and that. A nurse stops by to see if everything is okay. He tells her it is. She spots the Beatles poster and rolls her eyes. We both smile. You don’t have to have a sense of humour to work here, I suppose. But it helps.

July 30th, 2010.

24 Responses to “The rain is bucketing down. I can hear the gutters overflowing outside.”

  1. Denise Says:

    Wow thats a really good piece Eoin. Best wishes to your friend. I really hope he’s on the mend.

  2. Albinicus Says:

    As with most things humour is often the best way to deal with things. A friend of mine was recently diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia and he sees the funny side of it. In fact his diagnosis and subsequent treatment was a relief as he didn’t know what was going on with him prior to it

  3. darragh Says:

    this was the second result from a google of ‘friend in psychiatric hospital’ http://www.musicrooms.net/showbiz/4304-Peter-Andre-Made-Lot-Friends-Psychiatric-Hospital.html

  4. Rodney Dangerfield Says:

    My psychiatrist told me I was crazy and I said I want a second opinion. He said okay, you’re ugly too.

  5. Grace Says:

    How very Irish. Everythings fine. Nothings wrong. Hahahahaha.

  6. Eoin Says:

    These Dubliner pieces don’t have titles as such. When posting here, I usually select a random line from the text. This time I went with ‘Psychiatric humour: it’s a fine line.’

    I’ve just changed it now, just in case it gave the impression that I was trying to make some trite, Patch Adams laughter-as-a-cure-for-what-ails-you sorta point.

    @ Darragh – Just saw this now. My friend will be gutted he didn’t meet Peter Andre.

  7. Eoin Says:

    P.S. Just posted me and Sam’s entire scab and fart Google Chat conversation here (right at the bottom):


  8. demure lemur Says:

    An old friend of mine recently turned up on my London doorstep at 3am having run away from a psychiatric unit, gone to a music festival, taken a shitload of drugs, then hitched from Arklow to Dublin Port. I’m writing a short play about it. Every week it has my writing class in stiches. Maybe it’s like Grace says above – a very Irish way of dealing with shit stuff. Or maybe laughter is the best medicine. I hope your friend is doing okay. And sure, if he feels like running away, taking loads of drugs and paying a smelly and penniless visit to London, you can give him my address.

  9. Justin from UCG Says:

    Eoin, for fuck’s sake: that’s a lazy piece of shite. Stop the bullshit, easy, slag-throwing, and, consider that real people with real experiences and real friends/family/enemies are let down by our hyped-up, fuck-anyone-you-can life. Quit whoring a national space to your whims; you’ve a lot better in you. Friend, Justin.

  10. Eoin Says:

    I take your comments onboard Justin, as I take onboard all comments left by drunk idiots at 4.22am.

  11. Justin from UCG Says:

    Not drunk Eoin, just pissed off. And, ‘drunk idiots’ kind of underscores my point.

  12. Eoin Says:

    I have no idea what your point is man. Do you want to have another crack at it?

  13. Denise Says:

    This is exciting. Come on haven’t had a decent scrap here since Iano Doherty thingamajig….. Another crack! Another crack! Another crack!

  14. Eoin Says:

    He had another crack via email. To be honest, I’m still not entirely sure what I’ve done to offend him.

  15. DD Says:

    Your Galway friend seems a little bit holier than thou. What’s he actually arguing for?

  16. paul Says:

    Can we see the email?

  17. Eoin Says:

    @ DD – not at all. Storm in a teacup.

    @ Paul – !

  18. massey Says:

    Yeah Paul don’t you know Eoin would never do something like that!!

  19. massey Says:


  20. Eoin Says:

    That’s totally different, Massey. Totally different!

  21. lee Says:

    Would have to say i really enjoy reading this. i spent three weeks in hospital with depression and truly people don’t know what they are like. i was surpised to find that everyone in there was not a complete nut job, just ordinary people struggling to get by. and this piece really made me laugh. thanks.

  22. Eoin Says:

    Really glad you liked it Lee!

  23. Clicking Along The Ledge | Tripping Along The Ledge Says:

    […] #7 The Rain is Bucketing Down Outside, I Can Hear the Gutters in the Back Yard Overflowing (July 30t… A friend of mine texted me one Sunday morning this summer to tell me he’d just been incarcerated in a psychiatric hospital. This is a column I wrote about it for the Dubliner shortly afterwards. […]

  24. Brian Says:

    Nicely gauged piece. Well done!

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