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.

Friends will be Friends

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 6:
Learning to listen is important.

Advice

If you are lucky enough in life to achieve your dreams, however small or large they may be, a moment will undoubtedly occur where someone will present you with the means to help you enjoy that experience more. Normally, these people are the individuals who have already experiences a portion of those dreams, and are now off pursuing other aspirations a little way up the corporate ladder of achievement. I was given a massive piece of advice at my reading last night: it’s the outward breath that matters. Just like exercise, learning to control that  is a big deal. This nugget will go with me for the rest of my life.

My best mate told me how to not freak over people in the room with me. My husband just reminded to be myself, and was incredibly supportive of the journey. All of this advice is offered without prejudice, and is so immensely useful for someone who is only now learning how to interact correctly with the world. That’s why, over the next few weeks, I’ll be stripping out people who don’t seem to care about the stuff I do, and in some cases, are only interested in the sound of their own voice.

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Friendship needs to be a reciprocal process for it to work properly. That means, when  this is done, I gotta write some thank you letters to those who have been hugely helpful in getting me to this point. Their support and understanding is as much the reason that this all works, to be honest. Remembering that is a really significant part of a process that is increasingly lost via the Internet. Real friends do exist out here, of course, and anybody who tells you otherwise is an all out liar.

Also, I can see you people pretending you’re doing that, when you’re so totally not.

Talk Talk

It’s been over a decade since blogging started as therapy. Yesterday came the realisation it has become something else entirely. That revelation seems a good way to mark Time to Talk day in the UK:

DAY 4:
Sometimes, it is up to you to make the difference, FOR NO REWARD.

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I get grief in my family, from time to time, due to the enthusiasm in reminding them, and indeed anybody else who sticks around long enough, that mental health issues don’t go away just because you’re having a good day. There is sometimes an assumption that, like that niggly back injury or the persistent nuisance caller on your mobile, that just ignoring the problem means eventually you’ll forget about it or it will just vanish on its own. That’s not how this works. 

If someone gleefully informs you they’ve ‘cured’ themselves of the mental issue that was preventing them being happy, there’s a better than average chance they don’t have the first clue what they’re talking about. In time, sure, just as there will be a means by which Altzheimers and Asthma can be eliminated thanks to the exploration of human DNA, there could be a moment when scientists isolate the genes that cause depression or anxiety and choose to switch them off… but even that wouldn’t work for everybody.

Mental illnesses are incredibly difficult things to universally treat.

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There is more to this whole situation than hoping bad stuff just goes away or finding the means to eliminate your problem completely. There is CHOICE, and that’s where listening comes in. When you ask someone to talk about their issues, they don’t just sit there and say all this stuff whilst you’re on your phone or pretending to listen. YOU ACTUALLY HAVE TO LISTEN. By doing so, there’s the chance you’ll care more, begin to understand or find yourself wanting to make sense of what you’re being told, and that’s as important as helping the other person feel better.

You’re not just providing a service by listening. You’re becoming part of both treatment and solution.

I’ve been using a number of hashtags and Twitter accounts to try and get my message out this week, and if you’re reading these blogs it should be fairly obvious that it’s not part of a drive to get my follower numbers up or ‘promote’ my brand. However, one of the people whose blog I’ve tried to rope in to distribute the message messaged me this morning with a reminder: if you don’t follow us, we won’t retweet your message. Effectively, give us your support in return for listening.

That’s absolutely not how ANY of this is supposed to work.

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Promoting other people’s attempts to improve their lives is not about what YOU get from it. This is not about suggesting that it’s a service either, and those who use this as means to further their careers are, at least in my opinion, playing with fire. I’ve learnt that to my cost in the last year, and the lesson is simple: don’t be the talker. Learn to listen. The most important thing you can ever do for someone you care about is be that person. Let them trust you enough to feel an ability to be honest. If that happens?

The entire world can change for the better, in a heartbeat.

So, as this day is all about encouraging people to share their issues, understand that as the person on the other side of the equation, you are granted a great responsibility, and with that (as the wise people say) comes great power. Don’t squander or belittle this task you are given. Make it your task to ask the right questions in response. Learn about what your friend is going through (I hear the Internet’s a great place for learning about stuff like this) and, most importantly, be understanding. 

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10 years ago I started talking about myself to random strangers. Now, these words are beginning to create a legacy of my journey, this trip and arrival as a person who is happier and healthier because of the truths such conversations revealed. It is now a new journey, to discover exactly what I am, to fill in the holes that exist in my life. Without talking, none of this would have happened. However, without listening to both myself and others, far greater truths might never have been accepted.

Every day is a school day. Whatever happens, be ready to learn.

You Wear It Well

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.


It’s been a tough 24 hours. I’ve been forced to think about a lot of things that really weren’t wanted, but that’s often how this journey goes. There’s not a choice as to what you can ignore or run away from. It becomes a testament to internal strength built and your own ability to cope. It is a salutatory reminder of today’s pretty accompanying graphic.

DAY 3:
You remain the arbiter of destiny’s final course.

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On my Social media friends list are those who happily follow others who have verbally abused me. These people have accused me of being disruptive and argumentative, that my views are contrary to what is required not only in their spaces, but in life generally. The way I think and present myself is part of the Internet’s overall problem, which is a point that probably bears reinforcing at this juncture. Being the contrary opinion to anyone with prominence is your #1 best way to start a fight anywhere.

Except, that doesn’t happen any more.

There are, I’ll grant you, moments when the validity of calling out those people who others believe to be decent and honest seems like a great idea… then comes the reminder that everybody does stupid shit. Lots of us fail to learn from our mistakes. It is, amazingly, a big enough world  to be able to just put distance between me and the abusers and move on. There are those who’d argue this isn’t the answer, but on reflection there’s a bigger issue to address, that is often overlooked.

You won’t be friends with everybody, however much you try.

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Bad stuff happens to everybody. How much bad stuff ultimately depends on not only an individual’s perception, but the amount of time you’re prepared to remain in a toxic relationship. There are, of course, many ways you can be held against your will and if that is the case, it’s already time to get out. The trickiest issue with online relationships are the boundaries: what might seem an incredibly simple solution (just stop messaging them) to one person becomes an impossible task for somebody else, and here is the lesson to learn.

I watched a lot of people in the last 24 hours lament other people’s reactions: calling them exaggerations, not understanding why some people will become as angry as they do. Then there is the counter: why haven’t you spoken up previously? If it matters that much, why aren’t you doing more about it? All of these words show that those involved don’t truly grasp the issues at play. They need to stop making the same mistakes. As my abuser above points out: silence is not agreement.

Silence is the mistake we must all stop making.

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I was targeted by a number of anonymous Twitter accounts in 2016 and, on reflection, there’s a good chance it was the same person behind them all. The email a popular blogger wrote me as a response for a request about his actions is printed out and kept as a permanent reminder: stop making the same mistakes these people do. I can’t reasonably expect to expose and champion every time someone fucked up on line, because everybody is human. What is more realistic is to focus on the stuff I’m capable of changing.

The key to growth and development isn’t being stuck with the same mindset from birth to grave. It is, and always will be, a process of evolution and adaptation. Other people may not change, but without this process of reinvention there would be no point in my mind to existing at all. So, it is time to learn from this week’s events, to suggest others could learn a lot by doing the same, and to carry on forward.

That way, not stuck here.

Only Myself to Blame

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 2:
Now the hard work begins.

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So, how do I become a better person?

It’s a fucking minefield out here in the Internets right now: abuse, random attacks, duplicity… how does one even begin to live in such a world of wickedness and deception? Well, the simplest answer (at least for me) is to adopt the Fox Mulder School of Thought:

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Now, there are those who will counter that, at some point, you have to have some kind of mutual trust with people to develop meaningful relationships. This is undoubtedly true: assuming all men are predators or all women are victims is just asking for trouble, quite apart from being patently untrue. Handing over a part of yourself only to (potentially) be hurt as a result is the lesson we all get given as kids, after all. You fall down, in order to learn to get up and carry on.

Except, there’s a subtle difference between doing that on a playground surrounded by a couple of hundred kids you don’t know (with maybe your class of 30 tops that you do have some contact with) and doing that on the Internet, where (potentially) ALL THE WORLD SEES YOU. Except, of course, that’s not true either, unless you’re Piers Morgan (shudder) or someone with the rarefied position of being PROPER famous.

Everything else is in your imagination.

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The person I wish to be is fact checking the shit out of EVERYTHING anybody says right now. She’s challenging those people who post stuff without thinking so that it’s clear we’re all on the same page. She is rejecting those people she considers cruel (however well-meaning) and ultimately, SHE IS LISTENING. The person who starts their own drama because they feel aggrieved, left out or simply crave everybody’s attention will be trouble, undoubtedly, at some point.

How can you tell if this happens? PAY ATTENTION. Don’t just trust what you’re presented with as truth. Don’t get caught in the Cult of Celebrity. I’ve refused for a long time to be seduced by the idea of being anybody’s muse, however attractive that might end up feeling. It means that when you follow someone and their first response in return is automated that honestly, this is not about making friends or improving your existence. The Internet, like it or not, is as full of bad people as it is good, and I have to be able to work out the difference.

To become a better person, I am responsible, and continue fact checking all of you, all the time: it’s probably the best idea now you know this. Nobody else gets followed until there’s certainty mind is capable of doing that job better than is currently the case. I really don’t give a fuck if that means there’s never an increase in my online footprint. To learn you don’t just keep doing the same thing, over and again.

Progress means pain, and acceptance of shortcomings.

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.