Believe

Today is already quite important.

Loneliness is a big deal for me right now, which may seem incredible under current circumstances. After all, Lockdown is making people variously crave or be genuinely afraid of human contact. For me, however, the mental processes are different, and two incidents over the last 24 hours have finally allowed me to quantify why, right now, it really does feel like all I’m doing is yelling into a void.

It takes me a PHENOMENALLY long time to properly make friends with people. Sure, I can slip into conversations all day and night, hide in plain sight and never, ever feel as if those moments are anything other than totally natural. I’ve also become excellent at reading and taking stuff from other people in without ever needing to interact with them. That comes from decades as text as, in many cases my only contact with other people.

The problem, ultimately, is finding other people like me.

I attended a Time to Change Virtual Networking event yesterday, which was incredibly life affirming and made me realise, yet again, that I’m not alone when it comes to struggling with mental health issues. However, I’m not going to lie, there were moments where I felt unbelievably anxious and very alone indeed and, it’s apparent from distance, that’s because there is no individual interaction in a group of 80 people.

When I ended up in a Breakout room, or in a smaller group for feedback, the whole thing changed. When I’m talking to my local Hub or on a one-to-one with a fellow champion, none of the anxiety or disconnection exists. It is the need to talk to someone but, crucially, for them to share some kind of common bond. It isn’t just the conversation that matters. It is the possibility that someone might care enough to become a friend.

The significance of that realization is still resonating within me.

I have words that explain why I feel this way, that are accompanied by concepts that were introduced during counselling last year. I know full well why the emotions within me exist, and how in the past they pushed me to do things that were harmful and ended up hurting the people I cared about. So many of my issues drift back to never having the information required to be whole growing up. A lot of that was wrapped around my sexuality.

Understanding that I was attracted to both boys and girls several decades after those feelings first became apparent was part of my process of redemption. It has allowed everything to find its correct and proper level. It won’t deal with the consequences however, or make certain anxieties and phobias vanish. That is my job to address and deal with, and it is happening.

It may be self-indulgent, but honestly it should not be a surprise.

Knowing how my physical state affects mental well-being has been a revelation in recent months. Sleep plays a massive factor in understanding. However, more than anything else right now I crave empathic, intellectual connections. It’s why Patreon is so important as a creative tool, to allow me to explore the parts of my brain that so need to become as strong as my legs or arms.

It is why, on Bi Visibility Day, it matters to remind people that I am. It’s why those who malign social media need constant prompting that it isn’t the delivery system that needs work, but how people choose to use it. All of these things make life worth living. They give me purpose, paths and goals to achieve, and without them the Void is very big and it can become increasingly depressing shouting into it.

The problems are mine to fix. I cannot, however, do it alone.

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For all of you that were really hoping you could avoid politics in 2020, NEWSFLASH it never, ever left. You pretended (often vainly) to look the other way and hope you could just keep using Twitter to publicise your gaming stream, or post your screenshots. Of course, this is still utterly valid as a means of promoting yourself, but that’s part of the problem.

You are pretending that nothing is wrong, that you can just carry on as normal, which IS THE PROBLEM. I appreciate you have hopes, dreams, aspirations and desires, but if those are more important than accepting and acknowledging you are involved in all this shit, then you’re being selfish. There, I said it. What are you doing to change the way you think?

Visual metaphors are damning. It makes it quite easy to see who isn’t coping right now. Those who have to tell me that they’re doing something in case it wasn’t clear. I know your mental health’s not good right now. I know you think nobody cares. I not only understand this but accept that as part of a wider narrative.

It’s why so many of you have gone quiet. Tweeting counts as a visual metaphor too. I get that. Someone will undoubtedly turn up and remind us all to stop being so serious and lighten up, and they will in part be correct, but maybe they too will have missed the larger point at play here. We are in a period of SIGNIFICANT societal change.

That means, quite possibly, that your playtime is over for now.

Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. The choices made in the next four weeks will alter the next six months, and yet many people only seem to care about their own needs, NOW, and this is what has to change with speed… because, if it doesn’t, there is the potential for tens of thousands of people to die, and a Second Wave of COVID 19 to rise.

If all you care about is buying stuff, you are part of the problem. If all you care about is getting sport back, you are part of the problem. If all you care about are your own superficial desires, YOU ARE PART OF THE FUCKING PROBLEM and it is probably the moment to grasp that life and death are more important than entitlement and superiority.

Except, of course, you won’t, and never will.

Try a Little Tenderness

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Over the years, I’ve written extensively about my mental health issues: if you’re bored, go look up on the gaming blog the dates in previous years when Mental health days have corresponded with posts. Having spent time talking to professional media people over the last few months I realise a lot of those stories would not be considered as acceptable for general consumption, and not just because of their subjectivity.

It is easy to slip into stereotypical behaviour when you’re the one who’s struggling to cope, and the whole point of weeks like this is to try to alter everybody’s mindsets, including your own. Telling a story matters, of course it does, but doing so in a fashion that alters outlooks and challenges stigma means thinking long and hard about language, and how other people will react to your words on a page.

Language is the key to so many things.

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I’m still caught up using insults that will undoubtedly resonate with those of my generation, but which are woefully cringeworthy in the modern world. It helps a lot in this regard to have a 15-year-old daughter and a 19-year-old son who constantly remind both me and my husband just how jaded and dated our language can be. Having a decent digital friends list is also an advantage.

This isn’t just about listening either, learning is vital. I possess the world’s most pathetic learning curve, so there are still insults that slip out, especially when stressed. Unlearning historic behaviour is a tough ask: however, if I can be taught to run from scratch, can find the means to beat personal bests posted when I was considerably more physically able? It’s doable. People can change.

The bigger issue, of course, is if they want to.

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This week I’ve produced quite a lot of content in relation to the MHAW Theme of Kindness: there is a lot of history for me, online, where my own anger has superseded the rational. Many people have decided I was the villain too, and sometimes, they were right. Admitting your faults, especially in writing, is a tough ask for many, but an important part of the process to grant both redemption and healing.

Being kind to yourself, ultimately, is the hardest task of all.

The Trouble with Us

I’ve been blogging as therapy for over a decade.

Things were pretty basic at the start, it must be said. It was more a diary or, in the case of talking about a video game, list of what had been achieved. However, over time, stuff evolved. Honesty replaced cautiousness. It was easy to tell which days I struggled with, there was no writing. Making that connection, believe it or not, took a bit of time and effort to accept. What seems obvious at distance is often invisible up close.

When I landed a paid gig on the back of my game writing, suddenly there was legitimacy where before had simply existed enthusiasm. Writing like an adult had been happening for some time, but honesty never went away. As I began to lose faith and enthusiasm for the subject matter that had once sustained me, reality very much crashed the party. I’d been using a virtual space as a crutch: walking unaided had been possible for years.

Stepping away remains one of the most complicated things I’ve ever done.

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I watch the world right now, struggling with a concept that once was all I ever wanted to do. There’s a joke doing the rounds right now: all us gaming introverts have been training for social distancing our entire lives. I’d accept the comment, to a point. Outside may have been a physical impossibility for me, at least for a period of a year in the past, but things got better. I love being outside now.

Except last weekend, a walk made me feel physically ill: looking at other people, not getting that what they were doing was potentially dangerous, not being able to rush up and tell them (for obvious reasons) and BOOM brain overloaded. It has taken this long… that’s four days, in order for my subconscious to have a chance to accept that you don’t get to change that. People have to be stupid. That’s what they do.

Some things never get to be changed, that’s alway the way.

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Instead of talking about the C-Word, it is the best time now to discuss how I am learning to deal with change. This is something, if you read these blogs over time, it will become apparent I fucking suck royally at. Take last night, for instance: husband’s been working at home all day. Some bits of this were high stress, because he as HR is responsible for a lot of people’s lives right now. He decides to change his mind over evening exercise and not tell me.

Previously, this would cause a bit of a meltdown, and last night it almost did, except brain’s got the memo that reaction times really have to keep being up, and personal care has never been more important as it is now. Everybody got what they needed, there was only minimum stress once it was accepted that being in bed at 9.30pm wasn’t a kop out, but best way to deal with what I knew had been coming since Saturday afternoon.

More people need to start listening to their bodies.

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Exercise is vital to continued wellbeing, and if there’s no walking, part of that equation is broken. I’m not sure whether morning or evening is going to be best, but it will restart tomorrow, because there’s no way that good mental health survives long term without something happening in that regard. It won’t be the park. I won’t walk past the Hospital. Maybe there could be some actual planning of a 5k route.

I could possibly work up to being able to run.

There’s an idea.

What We Leave Behind

It’s the first properly cold day of the season, and I am reminded of a moment that had, for many years, been previously lost in a haze of a past that was often uncertain. There’s been a lot of that of late, recollections of things that had been forgotten, buried under what can now be identified as historical trauma. Sometimes it’s TV shows or snatches of a song that was lost under stress. Very rarely is it stuff about being a kid.

Maybe that’s why I end up playing out so much of my adult life with wonder.

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Tomorrow I’m going to go try and have a chat with the management of my health club about the mental health consequences of their policies, amongst other things. The club, as a rule, is only really interested in what it’s done well, or what it needs to fix on a cosmetic level. Actual discussions over ethics and consequence don’t really seem to be registered or indeed acted upon. I do not hold out much hope.

However, as has been previously stated, I have to try. I was not given a choice, mental health issues are what they are. There is a choice therefore: accept your shortcomings, work on your strengths, and for all the time in between find a way to use rational debate and common sense to explain yourself. Tomorrow, we’ll see if that path will provide salvation or not.

It is only recently that having control of my existence has become really important. I am a realist, when all is said and done: sometimes, stuff is just best left alone. However, as is becoming apparent as more of the past emerges to challenge me over my actions and motives, not everything benefits from remaining where it is. A lot of that stuff should be thrown away, or removed with a sense of purpose.

As the world alters, inevitably you do with it. It’s apparent those people for whom this is not an option, or who believe that there is nothing to be gained from even trying. They are, inevitably, perfect as they are. I’m really, REALLY glad that will never be an issue I’ll need to struggle with. As a perennial work in progress, may there never be a day when it’s okay to let arrogance supercede a sense of proportion.

There is just so much that needs work and improvement.

Don’t Stand So Close to Me

Yesterday I took my first steps to becoming a Time to Change Champion. It is a process that will be better detailed on the work blog, because poetry needs to be part of the process too. For now, an important epiphany has resulted from a couple of hours in a lovely church annex: difference is perfectly fine. It isn’t like this wasn’t a realisation before, either: it is okay to admit to strangers you are flawed.

By doing so, you become further empowered to do good.

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What has become increasingly apparent is the level of awareness other people have of such personal shortcomings. Ignorance is the biggest single obstacle to overcome when trying to teach anybody anything: wilful ignorance has almost become a fashion accessory for some individuals in the modern world. As long as I am not inconvenienced, what harm does it cause not to be bothered?

Those people will never be reached on massive platforms like this. They continue to be joyfully obsessed with everything that matters to them. Those are not the people who will ever be reached unless you can get them on their own, free of distraction or influence. The best work, undoubtedly, is when unused nerves can be struck, or an unexpected response can be stimulated.

This is where I feel I have a real chance of affecting some change.

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As I said, go follow the work blog if you really care about such things. It will undoubtedly be mentioned in passing here, especially as I start training in January. You can also expect a few changes in other places too, because I am well aware that to make these new directions effective, there has to be places to relax and enjoy myself.  Plans are already in place for some new directions…

This is exactly the right thing to be doing.

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Yesterday was Regional Shopping Hub (with the realisation that there were a number of retail units, even in this mecca, that were covered with hoarding, therefore not in use.) One new unit was opening November 1st, whilst another was about to close. One of my favourite retailers has downsized. The ridiculousness of Brexit, plus changing patterns in buying, have altered the shopping landscape for good. Welcome to the mini-brand store.

An election, let’s be honest, could not have come soon enough.

It’s Halloween, and it seems only appropriate that I start the Journey to Redemption today. I feel this is an especially grandiose title for having to pull my fucking finger out, eating an actual healthy diet and sticking to it… because once I hit the actual levels of red blood cells and cholesterol that should exist as a healthy adult there will be absolutely no point in going back to old habits.

Journey to Normality doesn’t have quite the same ring of excitement and danger, now does it? Maybe that’s why so many of us find comfort in food and indulgence, because the world is either mind-numbingly mundane or ridiculously stressful in equal measure. There’s a larger, more endemic issue at play, of course. Finding happiness used to be the label so much got sold to us on… attaining peace matters more. 

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Many, MANY things will change, starting today.

Let’s go.

Waiting for the Man

Normally I’d write this blog early, preferably before starting work on the week’s project. Except, today that direction took precedent, then there had to be some PT (more of which at the weekend) and I’ve only just recovered sufficiently from that to be here and ready to write. Needless to say, it’s been a BIG DAY.

It’s my birthday this week: no, there is no celebration scheduled. I’ll go to the Gym in the morning, probably work on some writing stuff, maybe treat myself to a birthday cupcake. There needs to be pictures taken, and some made into blog headers. I can afford to go buy a couple of pairs of new glasses from the discount store down the road. All of this is a world and a bit away from how I felt this time last year.

I don’t think I’ve ever felt this positive ever for a birthday week before. Normally summat is bothering me, or there’s a moment of panic the World is getting away from me. This year, none of that: I am truly in the moment. Problems are dealt with as they happen. There’s less worry over everything than has ever existed up until this point. Truly, this is the land of new and unexplored possibilities.

It’s a fucking great time to be alive.

When I grow up I wanna be able to dance like this. I’d love to be a freerunner. All these things that (quite obviously) will not come to pass can at least be entertained in my head, whereas before there’d be just anger that time wasn’t being properly used and that everything was awful, and it was all my fault. I don’t want to go back to that past, the places that existed before. I know where the true joy lies for me now.

It’s great not to be on places like Facebook any more. The people who used to be part of my life are gone, truly history there is absolutely no desire to ever revisit. I’m not interested in my ancestors, or school reunions, or having those moments when others go ‘oh yeah, do you remember that time when…’ because I don’t. My life now is the last decade from time to time, yesterday maybe but pretty much now.

I am here, and ready to roll.

I’ve learnt the lesson. I’m never going back.

Big Time

This week’s been fucking mental, it has.

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The 5 of 7 days with exercise is working out quite nicely: ideally I should break on Tuesday instead of Sunday, which is easily fixed going forward. Thus far, Fitbit has recorded 369 active minutes and we’re only at Saturday lunchtime. Steady momentum, meet consistency. I’ve today also exceeded the MEP totals of September and August: not combined, obviously, but this will put me back on track for real progress.

With 12 days left this month, I’ll end up doing summat for at least nine of them.

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There are a number of key moments to cover: the most important came on Thursday night. That block of eight minutes may not look like much to you, but it represents an important realisation that if I wanna push, it’s there. The key is wanting to do so: eating better is definitely helping. Rest is absolutely vital, and making Tuesday one of my two days will make a huge difference. The biggest shift undoubtedly is psychological.

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The other key change this week is strength, and actual muscle mass. One of my favourite coats is now simply too small to go around my shoulders: arms are being forces to sit back from my chest thanks to improvement in arm definition and bulk. I could do with a couple of leg days as a result, if I’m honest, and Sunday will probably be the right time to go flex the running muscles a bit. I’m back to leg pressing 100kg, which is great.

Lungs continue to be the major sticking point in stamina, and cardio will always be my Kryptonite. It’s not a problem: sometimes, accepting shortcomings is the means by which you are able to become better regardless. I’m not winning any sprints any time soon, but response times are undoubtedly improving. The equation is all wrapped around active recovery, and that’s an ability that is is undoubtedly getting better over time.

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It’s important to note that Thursday and Monday’s sessions (above) were both at 75% effort but the output was a fair bit different. Undoubtedly fatigue will have had a hand in events. Again, rest and common sense need to be considered… but most vitally, I need to think less. This is becoming genuinely enjoyable, not just in single session, but every fucking time I walk in the Gym.

When did I alter? That’s easy: in a hospital bed. Alone, lonely and desperately tired, I found myself being grateful for the fitness already built or else I would never have been let go in three days. There was a quiet and determined promise made, early on a Saturday morning, as a woman lay opposite me, crying her eyes out. As long as I am capable, there will always be exercise, because this not only keeps me sane but helps me cope with the World right now. Without it, I would be broken.

It’s great to be strong. I love being strong. Long may strong continue.

Believe

There was a point, in last night’s Blaze class, when I lost confidence in myself. If you’ve been following this fitness journey, you’ll know that particular class uses heart rate to encourage greater effort, via a special wearable piece of tech. It then broadcasts said effort onto a screen where you’re placed beside everybody else in the class. All the instructors will also tell you it’s not a competition with anybody else except yourself.

The truth however is anything but.

Last night, at a crucial moment when I was flat out on a treadmill, looking up to the screen above showed everybody else in the max (red) heart-rate zone, with me in green. The mental v physical disconnect hit like a punch. By the end of the class, I was in floods of tears: fortunately for me, there were people there who not only helped me, but reminded that everything is relative, including the level of effort.

I underestimated the amount of work I’ve done this week. If I add up all the active minutes in the last four days (using Fitbit as my guide) it isn’t 225 minutes, but 353, and this does not include Tuesday where the watch was very intentionally not recording. So yeah, maybe I should factor that in when it gets to Thursday. Also, I did a Synergy Gym class before the Blaze one, and probably didn’t manage my energy output that well whilst doing so.

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Most sessions, my brain’s awake enough to see past the lie of ‘if you’re not in the red zone you can be working harder’ but a month’s worth of mental stress could not be dodged last night. The visual was, quite frankly, just too powerful to ignore. It’s the underlying problem with these classes that’s always existed, but nobody ever talks about. If you allow the red to fool you, everything can and does fall apart.

This morning, truth is far easier to rationalise.

There is nothing wrong with competition: it’s a healthy, normal part of sport. The concept’s there to give you an idea of how other people’s fitness compares with yours, but it is up to you to factor in the variables: weight, age, ability can’t be quantified as colour on a screen. Except I’ve seen what people do when they get tired in this class: they forget which lane they’re in. They forget what exercise they’re doing and just run on autopilot.

The numbers and colours affect mental ability in many different ways. Today, I used that as a basis for a poem. Stepping back, looking objectively at what happened, it is clear that my brain fell for the lie: this isn’t about effort expended, but a longer term view of the journey this is a step within. I wish my club did more work on mental health within it’s auspice and didn’t just assume members have that covered.

I suspect they’d not consider it important because it won’t turn a profit.

P.S.: This is also the problem.