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.

Somebody’s Watching Me

Occasionally, someone will retweet something into my Twitter feed I can’t see. If that person is someone really liked, and there’s a desire to read it, it’ll be time to fire up the Internet of Words feed for a quick shufty. Some people arbitrarily share the block filters of others (which is easily done via the default interface if you know how) and it has become a common tool, for example, to allow the more extremist ends of the discussion spectrum to identify and highlight those people who might be worth provoking for a reaction.

Having pissed off a few people in my time, when a block happens it is no real surprise. I know the people responsible for that ire, and that’s totally fine.

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You won’t end up being friends with everybody in life. This is something I’m still trying to get my daughter to grasp: the popularity contest vibe that places like Instagram create is all well and good, right up to the point that something divisive comes up in conversation. When historical and often unpalatable social beliefs surface in tandem, you know what’s coming. People use blocks in many different ways, but by far the most popular reason now appears to involve excluding large groups of people from conversations that the individual wishes to maintain control over, whilst still presenting a public front.

Effectively, life becomes a public conversation where the responses are edited.

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If I started arbitrarily deleting responses to my blog posts, I’d become a pariah overnight. I know this because I walked that path and it happened: lessons were summarily learnt. Assuming the people concerned still exist as active posters, there is never a desire to go out of my way to check whether that’s the case: obsessing over shit like this makes you as bad, if not worse than the people already doing just that. If you encounter someone who’s got a block on and it makes no sense, the chances are they just took someone else’s list for a quiet life. Except, by doing so, they create an impression of the truth that only works for so long, or in the particular sphere they inhabit.

Ironically, this becomes a good way to work out who are the decent people on Social media.

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I go through cyclical phases of blocks and mutes: the latter tends to happen when it is obvious that a person’s life is more important than being interactive in yours. If, after someone is muted and their voice isn’t missed, that’s when I’ll go ahead and unfollow. However, there are a handful of people that if this were done to they’d 100% make drama out of my choice, which used to cause something of a quandary… because these people create drama out of everything, and I’d like my choices not to be a part of that.

One day, perhaps the lesson will be learnt, but until then it will be someone else’s task to present.

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If you live in communities, there has to be give and take. All of us, like it or not, are not without faults and shortcomings. Managing yours whilst at the same time maintaining the illusion of being inclusive is not the way to live. The key must be to change, adapt and accept that, like it or not you have to take the good with the bad.

In time, I hope to find the means to do this more effectively.