Life Gets Better

Everyone who cannot understand why these kind of stories won’t go away, I have a question for you. Have you ever been physically groped by a random stranger without your permission? Have you been cat-called in the street? Have you had someone mentally manipulate you in order to get what they want? Have you been pressured into something you didn’t want to do?

How many other questions have I got that prove there’s a problem everywhere?

No, you’re not that person. It’s okay, I know. Except, worryingly, so many people have the potential to be just that. After yesterday’s revelation that the UK’s most prolific serial rapist is gay, there are questions to be asked about how we go about the business of relationships in the 21st Century. It’s not just sexual either: if someone pisses you off, just how nuclear will you go in order to cause them as much damage as possible?

The opposite of course is probably more dangerous: those who can’t talk about abuse, as it destroys them from the inside out. After a week of exercise as a means by which people might part with cash to help others talk about their mental health issues, there’s the understanding we all have a phenomenally long way to go. It doesn’t help matters, of course, when you have rich white twats trying to cheat the system from the top down.

The missing factor in all of this, undoubtedly, is respect. Those who feel that influence, power or simply ego allows them to take what they want, without consequence, have existed in history since that bloke in the cave stole that other guy’s favourite club. It might have been a woman, but let’s face facts, more likely to be a guy. Sorry, men, but this is your world, and as long as it remains that way, lots of stuff stays shit.

I know lots of you don’t like the term feminism. That’s hugely obvious wherever I go on Social media. That one guy whose music taste I dismissed, the bloke who got upset when I couldn’t do proper grammar, the pedants and the blinkered who only see their world as mattering. You know them. You see them every damn day. The problem is, blocking and reporting that isn’t solving the problem. It’s ignoring it.

NOTHING gets solved if we all politely look the other way.

At some point, somebody has to stand up and make the difference. All of the victims of Reynhard Sinaga. Harvey Weinstein’s accusers. Without these people, prepared to expose their lives to public scrutiny, nothing ever changes. If you want the change, all that crap about becoming it actually does work. No, really, IT DOES. I can speak from personal experience. Stuff improves, at a cost. You have to accept the consequences.

That’s the kicker, this is never easy, or stress free. If all you really care about in life is no pain or drama, really, you are doing it wrong. These things happen regardless, the key difference when you dictate at least some of the terms is the potential good it can do you long-term. It’s why getting fit really is as difficult and stressful as it can undoubtedly be, but the benefits… honestly, they beat everything.

You have to trust yourself to take a leap in the dark.

Lies

When I first joined Twitter, nearly eight years ago, people encouraged me to talk about my mental health issues in an environment that felt instantly welcoming. The truth, however, was not nearly as open as was first apparent. There was that DM by one particular person which still lives bright in my brain: just want to make sure you’re not lying about these issues to gain attention. Their ‘brand’ now commands a five figure follower count.

The best thing I ever did was to block them.

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In the intervening seven years and eleven and a bit months, I’ve learnt an awful lot about how certain types of people can be massively detrimental for mental health. There’s the type that do anything to get attention, including actions that are only executed in an attempt to incite anger or fear. Then there are those who obsessively retweet or like everything you do in the vain hope you’ll notice them… and the list goes on.

As a woman, it is especially galling when, after having had what you think was a decent conversation with someone, they immediately decide this must be an overture to trying to start a relationship. Forget that you’re happily married with two children, because that would shatter the illusion of ‘that perfect internet connection’ and then, with a heavy heart, you’re blocking and ignoring another attempt at inappropriate behaviour.

Don’t get me started about telling certain people that they’re wrong about their opinions.

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Today is about making people aware that there is help in the world for their mental health issues, a drum I’m happy to keep pounding for the rest of my adult life. The problem with such days, inevitably, is ignoring negatives and only accentuating positives. There is no one thing to fix everybody. Finding individual peace can often be a long and complicated journey. Take it from someone who’s still working that out.

To assume everybody who says they are suffering really is… that’s a tricky issue. I’ve come into contact with a couple of people for whom Munchhausen via Internet could be applied, but realistically one must never take the chance people are lying for attention. Eventually, if you are being deceived, the truth becomes apparent. That’s been true in every single situation I’ve encountered over nearly a decade.

We have to believe everybody is telling the truth, regardless of our own feelings.

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My gut’s pretty sound after 50 plus years. The ability to spot a wrong’un amongst the genuine sufferers comes from taking time to listen to issues, even when others think nobody is listening. Shouting into the void is what began my path to enlightenment, and if there’s the means to continue that expansion of mind and body with other people, absolutely it is worth doing the work. It’s basic common decency.

Everybody has the potential to develop a mental health problem. It is our obligation to help anyone who does, regardless of how we might feel about their motives. However, as help is offered, be mindful of your own mental health needs. The world is as much about understanding yourself as it is helping others: for every action, inevitably, there is a consequence.

It is a delicate balancing act, but so utterly worthwhile when it works.

Wherever You Will Go

Today, we’re going to talk about learning.

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Learning is not just a grasp of information, it is a combination of many, disparate factors. Experience counts for a significant amount of the process too: how things work, so that over time you can better understand the best means to optimise and streamline processes. By far the best way to learn, is to do. This, for me, means a fundamental change in approach to… well, just about everything.

Firstly, it is dealing with issues as they occur. Take this morning: on the way back from the School Run, for the first time ever, my petrol warning light came on. Normally I’ve programmed myself to always ensure there’s no less than a quarter of a tank at all times. This week, I’m fatigued and other issues have deflected this base level preparedness. Looking at the dial on the car, two thoughts presented:

Go home, you’re hungry and thirsty, you can get petrol when you go out again

OR

Go find the nearest petrol station and DO IT NOW.

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This might seem odd, using summat so trivial to explain the basic trouble I have with life, but it’s a metaphor. Doing the right thing was, for so very long, summat that would be ignored over keeping myself safe, and by that I mean happy and unstressed. It’s always easier not to tidy up the big pile of mess and just find summat easier to deal with… which is all well and good until the sum of your mess piles overwhelms you and everything else. It’s the deadline you’ll never make, or the scary thing that never gets finished.

Failure really is no longer an option.

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You see, I’ve only just learnt that failure is less about other people and you, but more about you and other people. It meant I went and got petrol, then came home and did the stuff that I didn’t want to do ahead of the things I do. Learning is prioritising the importance of other people’s desires on a par with yours, and then working out how the whole thing can be harmonised. My daughter can be critical of my housekeeping skills with absolute certainty she’s right, but if she’s not practising self care and eating the lunch I give her, that’s not accepting my efforts at support.

Arguing with a 14 year old is absolutely the best way to learn and grasp your own shortcomings.

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I don’t care who you are and how much experience you claim to possess: EVERYBODY can do better right now. Whether it’s recycling, food choices, personal habits, online etiquette or just living each day in a reasonably worthwhile fashion, somewhere in your personal existence there will be room for improvement. I accept the esoteric need to learn fancy stuff like a second language, but as I’m still unable to adequately communicate in the single language known, sometimes going back to basics has merit.

What ought to happen most, it occurs to me, is the process of gentle exploration of self before anything else of significance takes place. Three people, in separate situations this week, all have suggested that mental health is the key to true learning comprehension. Maybe, if we all possessed some rudimentary mental health support during childhood or even on a regular basis in adulthood, it would become far easier to recognise the warning signs when stuff begins to go wrong.

Maybe that would make it easier for more people to recognise truth when it is presented.

History Repeating

I REALLY need to make some new headers for the blog. I stuck a PostIt on the wall that says ‘Archive Late June’ and that would be now, so it’s probably the moment to schedule it… except yesterday’s penultimate counselling’s pulled the supporting brick out of a wall that was fairly precarious to begin with, which subsequently completely collapsed. Peering into the darkness, I discover an awful lot that was hidden within…

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The importance of visual memory for me is beyond significant, something that only came to light in my twenties. Going back to childhood memories for the first time, many of them deeply upsetting, has released a phenomenal amount of visual detritus that was previously forgotten. A lot of this is surfacing subconsciously too, which can be a bit odd to address, but effort is well worth the rewards.

It’s all a bit stressful too, if truth be told, but only until the new stuff’s addressed and then put away. Of course, it’s old stuff in the main, but occasionally that has consequences beyond the moment from which it has emerged. Yesterday’s moment continues to resonate from a particular point it was dislodged from, and once that’s settled down, everything’s gonna be better than fine.

So much now makes sense that before was just silence.

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The impetus now is to keep on pulling out bricks in walls, and going into places that previously were boarded up or left well alone inside my head to clear out what is no longer required. The stuff that remains, undoubtedly, is going to become fuel for some new and very interesting works of fiction and quite possibly beyond. I have a phenomenal amount now that can be said, what needs to be further refined are my delivery systems.

Finding the words to describe how I feel is remarkably difficult. I can talk forever, dispassionately about the details of so many things, but actually describing the minutiae of it all was pretty much impossible until about a year ago. Going into real depth no longer frightens me either, whereas before I’d get anxious with the process. It makes me tempted to go back and read a lot of old work with fresh eyes, especially when related to mental health.

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All told, this is looking like a really good [lace to be heading at the end of my counselling adventure…

The World is Not Enough

There has been a persistent, niggling worry in the back of my mind for some time. Is counselling doing any good? The only way to tell, of course, is to stick me in potentially stressful situations and see what happens. This weekend was the first major test of a lot of things, and I’m really happy with how the entire experience has panned out. Could really have done with better sleep patterns: with the combination of blood donation and memory dredging, missing rest should be no surprise.

However, here we are at the start of a new week and everything is considerably more optimistic than has previously been the case. I’m even getting cleaning done, slowly but surely, and that’s one of the biggest single issue in the house since… well, forever. Getting brain around the difficult tasks, sticking at them, and refusing to be distracted by other tasks that are more enjoyable but ultimately less practical.

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I’m back on the project work tomorrow, and today will catch up on the backlog of menial tasks. It’ll be smashing to have my husband back after a weekend away, and am really looking forward to getting back to a ‘normal’ timetable again. Routine is, like it or not, pretty soothing for someone like me who needs that sense of organisation to function correctly. You make of life what you can, and having a plan really helps.

Enough chatting, let’s get to it.

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Last night’s second Blaze class, as it transpires, really wasn’t that bad at all.

The key to this increase in relative effort was not to run. I walked through every treadmill section, keeping effort consistently high. The belief, of course, is that you need to do what everybody else does to hit your thresholds, but that’s utter bollocks. The nearly 400 calorie warm-up before this proves the point that fast is not my answer. Steady and controlled is the way forward.

I love running, don’t get me wrong, but there’s a growing understanding that it puts a lot of strain on my body in terms of keeping up a decent pace. Whether this will change as stamina builds, I dunno, but my walking pace is where it’s at right now. The treadmill will tell me that a 6kph walk speed will burn 150 calories in 30 minutes. Not according to my heart-rate monitor it doesn’t.

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Walk was between 6.35 and 7.05, and it was far easier to keep that rate constant than it ever is for me to run. Ignoring the calls of my trainer to push myself and go mental, but instead keep breathing and heart-rate under control meant last night I went for longer and was able to apply more effort throughout. The problem, of course, with such exercise classes is the desire to compete, but once that is disengaged from the equation?

Life gets an awful lot easier.

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It’s also a delicate balancing act between knowing enough work’s being done and just coasting, and that comes only after understanding how body works best. Feeling the flexibility and strength that’s now resulting from a month’s worth of fairly hard work, it is totally acceptable to not guilt myself out over the other people running when I’m not. There’s a clear, obvious indication of how well all this is working out. 80% effort is distinct progress.

No, it doesn’t need to be flat out to be beneficial.

Honesty

This week’s going by quite fast, but the progression within is more than acceptable. I can now do dips at the Gym (and will be going back to practice those later) and my upper body strength is… well, coming along nicely. I tweaked a bicep after Monday, but everything appears to be fine today. It’s gonna be some running and some lifting, therefore, followed by balancing and core work. There’s also gonna be cycling tonight, because London to Southend is not very far away.

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After that, there is a PHENOMENAL amount of poetry to be written, and short stories to be planned, and a lot of thought over how I schedule stuff during August. Most of that will happen next week, on reflection, but for now there’s a calm over content which is quite reassuring. Yes, there was also an annoying (but predictable) fuck-up yesterday, because it wouldn’t be an application process without me making a mess of something. Hopefully, I’ve now got that part of the journey better covered.

I’m also grumpy. It’s not a bad feeling, in fact it is in places funny, but to share it would make more people unhappy than it would allow me to feel better. The key between Old Me and New Me is that instead of just saying what’s on my mind and ignoring the consequences, there’s the desire to just let it go, without the need to make my point. Yeah, it’s a bit hard to cope with right now, but tea and distraction will make everything better.

This energy can then be directed elsewhere.