Respect

My thought train begins today with this Tweet:

It is the first time that the idea of ‘social media as a mirror’ has registered in my brain. This, as it transpires, is a remarkably apposite description of how many people use it, confirmation bias included. I’ve not yet seen The Last Jedi, but the divisive nature of reviews says very much in my mind that this is going one of two ways. There are those people watching the film and considering it as entertainment, and then those whose perception of the Star Wars Universe is so personally warped to begin with that this  narrative will inevitably end up as an affront. It doesn’t matter if you believe that the whole thing’s simply a rehash of The Empire Strikes Back or not. You didn’t write the script. That’s how fiction works.

You accept the concept you are given, or you don’t.

However, and this is important, denigration of the older generation is now a thing. This is, like it or not, the inevitable consequence of dozens of sex scandals and the disparaging of both women and minorities, which remained acceptable until this year [*] and now is the metaphor du jour. If you look beyond the vanity mirror of Twitter, and grasp the wider social issues, however, the young have always held a love/hate relationship with their elders. Go back to the 1920’s if you want to see it beginning, and you can argue that youth v experience has been a force majeure in literary terms since time in memorial.

The problem now, undoubtedly, is that there’s a lot more older people dictating the life of those younger than them. The life expectancy of the average American might be beginning to drop, but there’s still a phenomenal number of people who’ll argue that their voice matters, and their opinions should be heard. Looking at Twitter bots over the Christmas period, the assumption is they’re either run by a) under 25’s or b) Moscow. The truth, as played out in the United States, is that old white people are a force to be reckoned with. Piss them off, and everybody suffers, especially the minorities. You only have to look at the oldest kid in Washington DC to grasp what then happens as consequence.

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Except on Christmas Day I saw a number of Dr Who fans quietly frustrated at the nature of certain aspects of the Christmas Special script, using 1960’s ‘mentality’ as means by which to garner some cheap laughs. It’s the situation that happens when you look at a Carry On film with modern sensibilities and realise that certain jokes just won’t wear in the current climate. The key here is that you accept both are appropriate in the context of their own time-frame: Who’s about to cross into territory that’s as alien for a lot of its audience as the planets they’ll happily visit if there’s a man in charge. It is time to be sympathetic over the audience you’re dealing with, as well as accepting a past that, despite the ability to travel in time, cannot really be changed.

Many people are afraid of letting power away from themselves and having to trust others with decision making. Movies, TV and books allow those people the opportunity to safely experience these situations without the reality ever taking place, but social media has now empowered some to erroneously grasp that if they don’t like what they read, hear or see, it can be altered. You don’t get to do this with what other people make. They stand and fall by their own choices, and art is not theirs to recreate, but to look at and consider before deciding to like it or not. It is perfectly okay to not enjoy something, but telling a company to remove it from canon because it upsets your own world view?

That’s not how entertainment has ever worked.

[*] It’s been a thing since Adam and Eve if you’re the one on the receiving end. Now, because the practice has become socially unacceptable, it’s news.

It’s still happening though :(

Inside My Head

When you suffer from mental issues, explaining to people there’s a problem can often be, like it or not, largely pointless. Sometimes, it’s also utterly unnecessary: going up to random strangers and explaining you have depression is not *exactly* the means by which you’ll make a good first impression, and many people may consider it information they simply didn’t need. Because when only one in three individuals ever suffer from mental illness? That means the other 66% of the population won’t necessarily ever grasp your problem. That doesn’t mean they can’t, it’s just that you need to educate them in your own, unique slant on the situation. Of course, this is where the whole ‘stigma’ label stems from to begin with: often you are damned if you do and more if you don’t, because in the interests of Full Disclosure, at some point, everybody has to know. Except that’s not true either. You don’t need to accurately recall how many times someone uses the bathroom in a day, whether they pick their nose or not. Some information is yours alone to covet, and that’s probably the way it should be regardless of your mental state. When you deal with new people, finding a coping strategy that works for you and conversely which doesn’t isolate every new person you ever come in contact with is a good idea for everybody concerned.

This is not easy, and over time makes you a lot stronger than you probably realise.

Mugs

This morning I wanted to use this article as the basis for discussion: more and more, especially on social media, I see people playing the ‘I’m sorry I have X so please forgive me if I’m rude to you’ and you know what? NO. Just absolutely, positively NO. If you’re able to explain what your problem is, you’re also at least in some way capable of managing how you interact with others. Using your issues to draw attention to yourself, or to attack others because they clearly don’t grasp how significant YOUR PROBLEMS ARE is also a massive no-no. I’ve spent a long time considering this, and I find myself thinking that actually, using your Twitter profile to make sure everyone knows you have a mental illness is noble, but maybe a step too far. As that article states: ‘There are unobtrusive ways to bring up the fact that you found something offensive because of the illness you’re struggling with.’ Using your issues as a banner to stick in the ground the first time you interact with someone? Things are not likely to end well with those who stick other things in their profiles. In fact, it is often tantamount to inviting certain people to fight you, just on the basis that they initially refuse to treat you purely on your terms.

It might seem a great way to keep your personal space intact, but there are consequences.

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Like it or not, with a mental illness you exist in a world where the majority hold sway. If that makes you a minority then, by default, you’ll always be playing catch up. Of course, some minorities are better placed, others learn to hide, or pretend they are something they’re not, and the consequences of that can be dangerous. Mostly, you face a damning choice: do I try and exist in this world or not? If you want to then that’s fine, and on the days when you don’t it’s about finding that neutral ground to walk. However, what happens with depression (at least in my case) isn’t just about coping, it is about choices where for other people there are none. If you’ve never woken up and just wanted to ignore the existence of everything else? If you’re the type of person who’ll always find the positive in a situation? You just won’t get the utter empty terror of realising that today could be the day when you just give up. You don’t have the energy, there isn’t anything to brighten the morning, you just wish you could wink out of existence. You can try and blame other people for not helping you if you wish, but ultimately, the choice to move forward is yours alone. If you cannot find the strength to carry on? However hard other people try? It doesn’t matter.

More significantly you need to grasp the days when you’re just tired and the ones where its a bigger deal, and not allow them to run together. Building a routine is vital, and letting that repetition slip actually has a detrimental effect. That’s why I understand how significant writing has become, that exercise gives a beneficial and utterly natural chemical boost to my body on days when I’m emotionally low. Having a routine matters more than I ever grasped, that when you have things to look forward to and places to aim for it makes the journey far less painful and wearing. Nothing however will prepare you for those crucial moments when your journey hits a fork: then, you have to make a choice based on the best possible data available. You have to believe you’re doing the right thing, and although it would be wonderful to think there’s never a wrong turn, you often make them regardless. Being wrong is okay. Making mistakes is normal. Expecting people to provide you with all the answers isn’t just unfair, its also highly unreasonable. In the end, like it or not, you are your own final arbiter.

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I can’t offer anyone else solutions to their own mental health problems, and finally after nearly 50 years I’m beginning to cope satisfactorily with my own. If you decide to use your mental illness as a stick to beat me with you can expect short shrift as a result, because that’s not how this works. You have a responsibility to yourself to be better, and to society to educate others. Don’t mistake a mental illness as a badge of honour, because it isn’t, it is a failing, often not even of your own creation, that needs your effort and hard work to both manage and correct. If you need help, don’t be afraid to ask for it but ultimately, at some point, you will be alone with the problem, and you need to learn eventually how that works.

If you want to make the most of your life, stop using that life as an excuse.

What’s in the Box

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Only so much grey ^^

Tomorrow begins Week Two of 2016, and I’m starting to grasp a few fundamental truths about how my perception of the world works. For a long time I’ve felt I’m not getting enough out of my time, that maybe with more thought and organisation I can stop myself wasting away in inertia, getting dragged down by bouts of depression if I actually make everything have a purpose. It sounds horribly new-aged and poncy to my rather old-fashioned Essex-accented ears, but the last seven days have bought home some rather stark home truths.

If you want your life to change, you really are the only person capable of doing it.

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Extra large for emphasis :: Week One.

I don’t actually take that many pictures of myself, and this means that the last decade’s snaps are fairly few and far between. That changed when I started using Twitter, and although the Selfie may be a contentious subject for many, it proved to bring home to me some fairly fundamental home truths. I’m not getting any younger. This is my 50th year on the planet. If I want things to be better I cannot with good conscience sit around and expect the World to change around me, I have to be the one out there doing just that. So this year, however I feel and whatever has happened, there will be 52 pictures of how this year panned out so I can refer to this as evidence whether I passed or failed my own test: to move forward. As it stands, if I can keep this going for the next 51 weeks I’ll be beyond ecstatic, but there’s always how you deal with the unknown. However, as I cannot predict the future? Let’s just focus on what’s practically attainable.

A few people have referred to me as prolific in the last few months, which isn’t true, I just have a fuck of a lot to say on any given day. Having a routine in order to be able to channel that is useful, and it’s why scheduling becomes an absolute godsend when you know busy times are coming and you can plan accordingly. Right now my biggest issue to address is the domestic chaos you can’t see behind the screen that’s happened as a result of me throwing myself completely into exercise, and so that needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. Then there’s the fact that I need to be using the time I have at the Gym/walking far more productively than I am: I do little or nothing with the upper half of my body, both brain and arms/torso could do with stimulating too. So at some point next week I need to grab a personal trainer to give me some hints, and download the BBC iPlayer onto my Phone. Oh, and maybe it’s time to make some new playlists to boot.

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WOAH :O

I’ve done a Podcast interview this week which will be the first of a series of many that will be broadcast across 2016. It’s giving me confidence to expand my abilities, and maybe produce some audio collages of my own. With Time to Change’s Time to Talk Day coming up in February, I might well do something for that too, it depends if I can find the right words to use. A lot of this is about confidence, and if I tell you I was shaking like a leaf when I took that full-length picture up there you’ll know I still have a way to go before I’m utterly confident with myself, if it ever actually happens. However confident I may sound to you, trust me, it’s pretty much always a lie.

That’s why this journey’s so important to begin with.

I Am the One and Only

For many people, the Internet’s the only place they feel ‘like themselves’ and, as a result, they act differently here than the way they would in Real Life. The problem with this belief however is two-fold: the Internet is still Real Life, and if you act against established societal norms ANYWHERE, there’s going to be trouble at some point down the line. This basic understanding underpins a lot of the interaction I have with people over time: there’s a Real and then Internet and it’s all well and good until you lose control of either one or the other. In the last week, I’ve watched Internet take over a lot of people’s Real concerns with a detriment that frankly doesn’t come as much of a surprise. It shouldn’t make anyone amazed either, because when you decide you want everything all at once?

There are always consequences.

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Wisdom. Just add Cat.

Why do these internet images hold so much sway with people? What is it about Motivational Cat posters that makes the visual so much more persuasive than the reality? Is it because in these small, bite sized segments it becomes easier to cope with what we are asked of? As life becomes ever more complex do people look to the instant, the moments to provide what sometimes decades of conventional wisdom has failed to give them? Mostly, I think people flock to the Internet as a coping mechanism because, albeit for short periods of time, it gives them total control of their destiny where often that right is anything but theirs to wield. You are the Mistress of your Own Destiny online, and can hold sway over a court that is yours to move and dictate with blocks and ignores.

That’s all well and good until the past catches up with you, or someone bucks the trend of just walking away and challenges your supremacy. What happens then? How do you keep your space safe and untainted? Well, you don’t. Because there is no sanctuary in life, only respite. There are no ways to cheat death, or anger, or love. They happen, whether you like it or not, and most importantly of all when they affect other people and not you? There’s a chance that you’re beautifully constructed life will collapse around you. The measure of us as human beings is how you deal with the angry, and the dismissive, and the adoring and inevitably with the end of all things.

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BOOM. There it is

You are your own Universe, like it or not. I may not be a religious person, but it is not hard to understand why God is so important in so many people’s lives, because when there is another person in your heart and mind? A lot of life’s issues become a hell of a lot easier to deal with. God is your conscience, your mentor, and your yardstick. It’s easy to grasp why, in the early days of man’s fragile existence on the planet, having someone else in your head to deal with change became beyond significant. It gave monks a focus to keep knowledge alive, it drove artisans to think freely for the glory of a greater good.

Having only your own mind as a guide is a dangerous process, fraught with potential peril. It’s easy to see why so many view the Internet as dangerous, when so few people carry a moral compass with them when they stare at a screen. Because all mortal desires are here, hidden under the surface veneer of social media. The Internet may well be your heaven, escape in the form of freedom of expression, but it’s also a thinly veiled version of hell. Real and Virtual are no different from salvation and purgatory, for many people. It all depends on where you stick your frames of reference.

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SHAKE IT OFF KING EDWARDS

I’m not your friend online. I’m some random woman whose blog you’re reading. You can try and think we’re friends because we may talk online from time to time, but only after years and years and YEARS of knowing each other is it probably fair to use that word as a correct definition. I think we need a new word for the people we know only virtually, that Facebook can’t hijack and pretend to use as some magical glue that sticks the world together in their Social Media platform. Don’t get me wrong, I’m genuinely of the belief that you can be mentally and physically close to someone you’ve never met, but that involves BOTH PARTIES acquiescing, not just one compensating for the other.

For everyone else, we should be vriends. Virtual Friends, who you see and smile and wave at as you travel from Site A to Website B every day. A clear distinction between the real and the created, that people can use and feel comfortable with in polite conversation. ‘I have so many vriends but none of them became a friend like you.’ Then you have a definition between one place and another, and everybody knows which platform they’re working on.

If only everything were that simple to change.