No More Heroes

We present as part of Time To Talk’s national day of discussion about mental health (Feb 7th) a week’s worth of posts about how this 52 year old finally made a difference and started listening to herself and others, before determining to improve life for the better…

These views are mine alone, and absolutely 100% do not mesh with anybody else’s opinion on anything. WELCOME TO HOW BLOGS WORK.


Day 1: That moment when it becomes apparent that if you want any job done properly, you have to do it yourself:

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Occasionally, we all need a little help. Even the smartest person in the World can’t solve all the issues they face, at least without the occasional supportive ‘you got this!’ or a motivational picture of a cat in their timeline. However, there is a point where all the support and understanding in existence is pointless if you decide you won’t. It might not be a won’t, as it happens. You could say you can’t, or mustn’t, or maybe even that’s just impossible. How does anything change in your life as a result, if it is easier to provide excuses than solutions.

Excuses are easy. Solutions are hard, and that’s where I keep finding myself.

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I realise just how lucky my life is, at this point, that opportunity even exists for improvement. It is incredibly easy to say ‘sort yourself out’ and there will be those who (quite rightly) in many cases might consider this as victim blaming or shaming. So, to be clear: I’m not a victim. My life, which is the only thing I can reasonably talk about with confidence, is not underpinned by any kind of issue where being told to get better is somehow making matters worse.

What my life has been ruled by is fear. This is something that’s only recently become apparent, as it happens: a complex combination of factors, which (with other mental shortcomings that will hopefully be better defined after I’ve spoken to some professionals about them) made for a potent cocktail of restriction. I can’t do that because used to precede far too many conversations. Lungs won’t work, can’t interface with people, unable to combine the mental processes required. All my shortcomings.

Nobody to blame but me.

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I had to hit rock bottom for my reset. Considering suicide, wondering what the point really was if nothing ever seemed to work in my favour, came the realisation that actually, I was the problem. This is still something to remind myself of in moments where life throws me a curve, that often brain is working against body in order to hamstring progress for no other reason than it’s easier than making the effort. Undoubtedly, that adage that you get what you give / you give what you get is spot on.

Everybody’s answer is different, too, and that’s the problem with finding a mentor of becoming enamoured with a guru/influencer/snake oil salesperson who’ll offer an easy answer in exchange for your cash/follow/first born. I’ve followed so many people via Social media who think that selling their salvation is the solution: it’s never true, and so I unfollow and move on. This is the woman who read a ton of self-help books and nothing ever stuck, until the day I was willing to forgive myself and move forward.

Excuses are Easy, Solutions are Hard. Never forget this.

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The trick, it appears, is to pick the right metaphors for your journey. I am never going to win a beauty pageant, nor would I ever enter one… however, I can be strong. Telling me I’m beautiful will be met with short shrift, but praise my ability to think through problems or write a decent blog post and you’re on the right track. Seriously, that whole ‘you’re so beautiful’ stuff is creepy, however well intentioned or based on actual perception it might be. Tell someone they’re inspiring, or dedicated. Intelligent or capable is great. Leave the surface stuff for people who won’t look past appearances.

You can be the most beautiful person in the world on the outside, and a mess inside. Given the choice, I’d rather look a mess but have my internal shit under control, but to do that you gotta work out what needs fixing.

That’s Day 2’s conundrum.

You’re So Vain

Starting tomorrow, for a whole week, I’m going to bore you shitless about what happens in my head. My problem with all the times this happens with other people (normally sponsored by the charities who all need to promote that message or newspapers trying to cash in on Time to Talk Day) is the inevitably sanitised version of events that is presented, because you don’t want to scare normal people into being too frightened to help.

Throughout my entire life I have experienced first hand what happens when ‘normal’ gets involved in the equation, and honestly it’s like living the same day, over and again, before everybody else forgets how horrible everything was except you. You are trapped in your own Groundhog Day, except there’s no cute large ground squirrel for company or the opportunity to fall in love with Andie MacDowell.

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The choices presented therefore are often difficult, painful and ultimately hurtful. If I had to sum up the overriding emotion felt right now, undoubtedly is is sadness. Trying to get other people to understand when the world generally right now does not have a fucking clue what’s going on, mired in uncertainty and often anger. With so many other things taking up the precious free time others possess, why bother helping other people?

Mindfulness has, at least for me, opened a door to better mental places, spaces that only I inhabit away from the noise and fuss of the rest of reality’s demands, which allows the opportunity to deal with sadness, anger and resentment quite effectively. It gives the means by which obstacles can be circumnavigated, and wisdom slowly distilled from the journey thus far. What have I learnt, in all of this? Fear is what underpins everything.

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We’re not talking being afraid of spiders, or not succeeding in my new career path, because both of those are now happily rationalised. We need to treat all the world’s creatures far better than is currently the case, and I have already succeeded, and will continue to do so going forward, because these paths are not hampered by my own inability. Sure, there are days when mentally below par that they become problematic, because nobody is perfect every day. You do what you can to survive.

Fear stops my brain from pushing my body, or at least it used to. Yesterday, in the gym, all those people who can just run without the nagging fear they’ll run out of breath, that their legs will stop working, that the treadmill will dump them face first on the floor in a comedy moment. Each one of those fears has been removed, rationalised and dismissed. Yesterday, I just ran. The most difficult thing ever became the most normal thing. That’s my brain at work, and why everything makes me so fucking tired.

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In the end, of course, those people who stop listening to other people’s issues are often those with their own demons to face, with no desire or ability to start that process. Reaching into computers to tell them this is, I realised quite early on, a mug’s game. Many are here to play the martyr because it suits their agenda. If you have spent a lifetime without the means to deal with the world around you, the Internet’s a perfect platform to find like minded souls who do the same and HEY then you’re not alone any more.

Except it’s all a big, fat lie. Dealing with your issues will vastly improve quality of life not just for you, but those around you. That’s the key: this isn’t just about taking care of yourself. It is the benefits your new outlook will grant in the wider world of work, social interaction and all places in between. Most crucially, at least for me, it grants you the means to communicate to others like yourself that yes, this is worth the pain.

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Trying to work out who is listening can be a fairly hit or miss affair, of course, and wading into people’s lives as some kind of white knight bringing salvation is not the kind of thing to be recommended, especially in the current political climate. So, start small. Cake .GIFs, the occasional hug. Ask a question in your timeline that might promote some discussion, but don’t think that because nobody answers, this doesn’t work. Helping people is not a means by which you gain followers or increase reach.

Genuinely helping others is not a clever Tweet with an inspirational photo sent at 5pm because that’s when the most people will see it. That’s opportunism, appealing to the widest audience and although it might work for some, its now unlikely to be even noticed by the people who need it most. True support is learning to listen, understanding the land and then presenting people with the tools they need to grow, encouraging whilst they do so. The true heroes are the ones who never get the accolades.

You have to ask for help and mean it to move forward, staring past the rhetoric of others and the belief that nobody understands except you.

Amazingly, you really are not alone.

Reality Bites

New month, time for some changes.

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Yesterday was hugely disappointing. The people who care, as always, did their best work. You guys are just so lovely: Brad, Joar, Jesse, Liz, Rev, Drifter, Scarlett… and anybody else who has taken time to read my stuff, acknowledging they were ACTUALLY LISTENING. That’s the thing with social media, how it is supposed to work. If someone is really struggling, assuming they’re simply doing it for attention? Nope.

Did I ever tell you the story about the gaming influencer who DM-d me when I started talking about mental health issues because they didn’t believe me? The assumption was this was just bandwagon jumping. I see they’re still using shortcomings to grow their brand, and it seems to work well… but knowing more and more ‘truth’ over time makes it easier to come to sensible conclusions, and to stop wasting my time on them.

Nobody needs friends like that in their lives ever, yet people still continue to engage regardless.

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I thought briefly about a massive unfollow binge to clear everything out of my life that was causing stress, before realising too many people would be missed. Instead, muting certain words and phrases means the conversations still go on, but without me involved. Making things harder is not what is required. However, believe it or not, I’m not here to garner offers of help or support, although they are appreciated greatly.

The straw that broke me yesterday was balanced on a pile of ideas mistakenly labelled by those who think everybody with a mental health issue talking about that in a public space represents some kind of cry for help or reassurance. It’s like getting annoyed when your neighbour bought a better car, or appears to be more popular in the neighbourhood.

Don’t be jealous or annoyed, be grateful it’s not you. This is always been existence: social media simply shows cracks far more obviously than was ever the case.

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It becomes really easy to see the people who aren’t being considerate or thoughtful, still trying to shove their agendas through, making it about their needs above all else. When you ask for respect, to be listened to is a perfect reward. Nobody’s gonna ask you to crowdfund me, don’t panic, all of this is under control, but there will be a point where I’ll start making stuff and you can decide whether to buy it or not.

That’s not far off now, and when it does happen you will not be judged on the ability to put hand in pocket. I won’t judge you at all, for what its worth, but if you’ve made me incandescently angry in the last month or so with a singular ability to misjudge what counts as understanding and support, don’t be surprised if we just stop talking after a while. Now is the moment where the best stuff gets carried forward and everything else gets left behind.

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So many people looked like they cared. I’m such a fucking idiot, in that regard, only myself to blame. So, now it is time to pick up the pieces, wait for my therapy appointment to roll around and start again. During this reconstruction period I’ll try and keep navel contemplation to a minimum, focusing instead on pouring the surfeit of angst into fiction.

If you’re reading here in 28 days from now, I guarantee that a lot of things will have altered for good.

The Great Escape

There’s a certain level of guilt that exists when you blow off an entire day of potential progress to cock about in your PJ’s, but yesterday, honestly, it had to be done. After an early PT I came back home and just ground to an utter standstill, so much so that there was a sneaky nap taken for the first time in what is probably six months. Suitably re-energised, the last thing wanted was to go back to work. So, after about three hours of trying to spawn a two player Civilization: Beyond Earth map that left me a continent away from my opponent, I went for a Supremacy victory, and got it.

This then made me realise that there’s a compelling argument for never letting the zealots and the mad people organise space flight, because if they’re then going to combine themselves with the indigenous wildlife, go back to Earth and wipe out the human population in the name of evolution, it’s all a bit shit, really. As I built unit on Military unit and sent them back to Earth under the auspices of ’emancipation’ there was, I have to admit, a feeling of increased discomfort.

That’s the mark of a good game: makes you think, challenges your choices.

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This week there is a LOT to be done, because it’s February on Friday, and therefore backlogs should be organised and then dismissed. Actually, with a clear run at it, the rest of what needs doing can (and will be) sorted. After that? Still got two submissions to finish for the week, should probably practice reading my own poem a few times, am gonna work on editing two rejected works and then creating a .PDF Pamphlet to start raising funds for travelling.

It’s all go around here.

Cruel to be Kind

Once upon a time, my life would have been put on hold on Wednesdays. Those days have (thankfully) passed, existence considerably better for the change. There was also a time where an obsessive need to attain goals would completely consume my brain: with reflection, it is more about understanding when to work, and that not doing so is probably more important. Body decided at about 10.15pm last night, today is a physical rest day: being able to snag an extra PT lesson tomorrow morning is perfect synergy required to get my head down this morning and work the grey matter instead.

List is written, washing is on, time to make the difference.

Learning from my kids is something that happens so many times during a day: it is not just your task to teach as an adult. There is an obligation to listen, learn and then suggest alternatives. Occasionally the intractable needs to be introduced but as has become apparent with my two, intelligence can make for a fine weapon against such restrictions. Then, it is up to you to clear middle ground. Not them, you, because the more that control is flaunted, the less likely it is that any outcome will be non-confrontational.

I’ve got very good at avoiding confrontation across the last few years, a skill not taught in my youth. Now, this and my limited parenting abilities are having unexpectedly amusing and satisfying uses. Control’s a funny thing, when all is said and done. Thinking that someone or something else is frightening or scary, when a lot of the fear never issues from the object of your concern. The amount of control you can wield is immense and really is capable of changing the World.

You just have to believe enough in the possibility.

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My paths are not once as clear as they were. Other things are appearing as important. As changes occur, and possibilities present, it is up to me to ensure that the journey forward isn’t just a single-minded steam towards one reward, if there other more important side-achievements to be had. All that gaming has finally found a use.

Who knew?

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What matters more to you, at any moment in time? Is everything a drive to gain interest in your personal projects? Are you desperate to feel a part of something bigger than yourself? Sorry for all these questions so early in the day, but perhaps it is time to try and engage the people around me into conversations they might not feel comfortable in beginning unprompted. In the next few months, I will be asked a lot of questions.

There’s a measure of confidence this morning all the answers are here.

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I’m not regretting anything that’s happened lately, quite the opposite. Sure, there are things that brain’s a bit nervous about but undoubtedly that fear is not the same quality as it was before. Can fear have shape and density? Absolutely it can. It is intractable, often impermeable until there’s the ability to ignore the effect it has on every decision taken. Once that’s dispensed with, it’s another emotion to understand then put away.

The joy last night of our first proper snow of the year was considerable, tempered immediately with ‘ooh hang on, my car’s parked on a slope and tomorrow I need to be driving.’ It probably sounds basic to the rest of you grown-ups, but rushing out to move it dressed in cycling shorts and a vest top after cycling last night would probably appear a tad reckless, but was huge fun.

Doing stuff when I think of it is the new favourite thing right now.

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Oh yeah, this is spontaneity! I remember that feeling, before my kids were born. The more that the past is poked, the easier it is to work out where contention initially emerged, and issues arose. Then, you gotta fix them. No longer need I be complicit the lie of participation: if it matters enough, then shut up and just get on with it. Really, you wanna get stronger? Just get stronger. Work harder. Stop complaining you’re not good enough. Get good.

I know, incredibly easy to type, monstrously hard to achieve. Artists don’t just become good overnight. Athletes train constantly. If you want something, work is a given. More significantly, your path to glory does not need to be the same one trodden by your ancestors. How about forging a new way that no-one else has considered before? There’s nothing stopping you from fining a better way.

Really, you can achieve brilliance and not be like everybody else.

Get it Right Next Time

What day is it again?

I shouldn’t be blogging today, Thursday is my day off, but so much has happened: there needs to be a record of where this next part of the journey begins. Without too much detail (which might come in retrospect, I dunno) yesterday saw a self-referral to a mental health organisation for counselling. Trying to work through my doctor has not produced either results or care that should be expected under the circumstances. This is a time of massive change within that particular sector of healthcare and my practice is run by doctors in their 70’s, so this is not as massive a surprise as it could be.

I’m able to function as a human being, depression being very much under control. My mental issues neither restrict or hinder daily life. I have developed a raft of coping strategies that allow an extremely competent illusion of stability and normality when high function and reasoning fail. Being a mimic is a fantastic means by which truths can be hidden, but there comes a point where this is not enough. Yesterday was the day therefore to go ask someone else to fix things that are so broken I cannot repair them alone.

The process has begun.

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My PT’s on her way back from a much needed holiday. All my health data has been shared with her via the Red Belt of Unavoidable Truths so, when she’s back in the game next week, we can start working out how I get stronger. That’s really easy: more hard work, less bad food, a desire to improve. Just gotta keep putting in the effort. Talking of which, it is Thursday, and tonight I don’t worry about what my belt is doing and just focus on doing what is asked.

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The first rejection of the year arrived yesterday, and it will not be my last.

I’m still angry. It’ll pass, and that has nothing to do with failing. It is everything to do with how that failure was communicated.

I wonder if the organisers of such endeavours learn from feedback or whether they consider anything constructively presented as nothing but negative criticism… Hang on, this is a metaphor for how disagreement plays out over Social media, isn’t it?

There needs to be more tea.