This too shall pass…

OK, I’ll admit it. I’m struggling. My depression hasn’t left the building like I thought it had. The many and varied atrocities committed by our government, the precarious situation globally, and one or two personal stressors have got me down.

Don’t think I’m giving in without a fight. I have my lovely Tim and the wonderful Shelley G Shepherd, some fantastic friends and relations, who help buoy me up with their love and support (thank you all). I take great solace from nature, even stuck in the middle of this city.

But the world has gone so far down the wrong road, the current British government more than most, that my personal emotional resources are currently at a low ebb.

Because of the changes made by Ca-moron, Osborne, IDS (such a nasty disease) and their cronies, I’m going to have to stop being self-employed… just before Christmas. Not that we spend much on Christmas, but now we can’t spend anything.

I know “this too shall pass away”, but just at this moment I feel more like a mountain has been dumped on my head. I WILL get over it. I will continue to try and persuade people that we need a kinder, less judgemental world. There is (as Gandhi said) “enough for everyone’s need”, we need to sideline and marginalise those who are driven by greed. Not with hatred but with a sorrowing compassion. They are truly unhappy souls, I wouldn’t trade my depression for their unhappiness.

So, my friends, to all of you who are finding these times hard, know that you are not alone. We are the many (maybe even the legion) working for a better, kinder, more generous world. And know that I, and all our fellow travellers, are holding your hand.

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But I’m not going to let that stop me

I hate living in a city. It’s almost as if there is an inverse relationship between the population density and the friendliness of the people that you meet. Perhaps people feel overwhelmed by the number of potential friendship they could have and just shut down because they can’t cope. Perhaps this culture of envy and fear makes people afraid and hostile. Perhaps this culture that focuses on all the bad things and seldom even mentions the good things make people unhappy and shut off.

Anyway, whatever it is, I’m not having it! I know people don’t like it, but I’m going to smile at strangers; I’m going to talk to people I don’t know; I’m going to complement anyone I think deserves it. Tough.

I will not allow this world to twist me any more. It’s my life and I WILL smile, laugh and find beauty. Even when the media and political system make me both furious and sad. Even when personal tragedy hits I WILL work on the good memories.

There is always a primrose in flower, always a hint of blue sky, always a friend who will give you a hug when you need it. You might have to look for a good thing, you might have to wait an extra day, but it is there.

I’ve struggled ever since I came to the city. I’ve met some really nice people, but very few of them have been prepared to be friends. I lived in rural Cornwall before I came here and friendships just sort of grew, naturally.

I find the way some people won’t let friendship grow, peculiar. I find the way some people won’t even meet your eyes, offensive. I find the way some people pretend you didn’t just talk to them, infuriating.

But I’m not going to let that stop me.

People are our lives

I have a small problem with one of my shoulders. It’s not serious, most of the time it’s little more than uncomfortable, occasionally it’s painful. The doctor and consultant both want me to have physiotherapy. The local hospital can do it, but I have to wait “up to 26 weeks” before they will send me a letter inviting me to contact them to make an appointment.

So if you were wondering about how meaningful targets on waiting times are, I think I can confidently say, they are completely meaningless.

Now, I’m not criticising the people who devised this wonderfully creative way of keeping them and their staff out of the shit, I know how creative one can get when backed into a corner, I’m criticising the nonsense way of approaching health care as if it is a business rather than a service.

I believe the main reason that the NHS and all the other services are struggling so much is because they have been shorn of their most valuable resource, staff.

Business theory is that employees are your greatest expense, and that if you can “downsize” your staff then you will make more profit. This only works in businesses where the staff are not committed to their work, where they do not work because they love what they are doing, but where they work because they “have to”. And even then it only works in a very limited way.

For a service where care of other people is the raison d’etre most staff work because they care, then when they are put under pressure to work as if it is a business they lose their will to do anything very much.

As in so many other areas, the problem is much more with government and management psychology rather than the service itself. So much of modern life revolves around the mistaken belief that money and economic theory (and it is only a theory) rather than the knowledge that people are important… There’s not a society, a family, only the rest of nature, without people.

People are our lives: community; care; consideration; sympathy; empathy; friendship; love; without these things, we are nothing.

Good to Talk

Some people bring out the best in us, some people bring out the worst. Some people build us up, others bring us down. Sometimes we get it wrong about who does what.

In recent years I have had a crash course in the effects that the wrong people can have on our mental and physical well being. Firstly directly, and then indirectly. There really are toxic people out there, they make you sick, some of them don’t even realize that they have that effect on the people around them.

Some people are born with their brain short-circuited so that they cannot interact with other people in a healthy way, other people are so damaged by the people that they grew up with that they cannot stop themselves from damaging others. These people leave a trail of pain and destruction in their wake.

They don’t necessarily mean to. They just don’t know how to operate in a healthy, positive way. Some even convince themselves and the people around them that they are ok, that they are healthy and helpful human beings. Let’s face it, if you convince yourself first, everyone else is a doddle.

These are people to be pitied, they are in pain even if they can’t acknowledge it. They are still to be avoided. They need professional help, well meaning amateurs will find they have been drawn in and are being manipulated (professionals will not necessarily be immune to the manipulation, but it is their job, and they should make sure they have a decent support network to counteract the problems they come across).

So, if someone tries to undermine your self-confidence, even by extremely subtle means, be wary. If you find that a lot of your friendships have fallen apart since you met a new person, question why. Is it that you were ready to move on from your old friends? Or is it that this new person is trying to isolate you so that you have no one to call on? If you’re not sure, what does that tell you?

What do you make of it if someone has a knack for saying two words that then upset you for the rest of the day? Is it you that has a problem, or is it them? And if you think you have a mental health problem, please, please, please, don’t be afraid to talk about it.

Many years ago my teenage daughter said to me “everyone is messed up, in one way or another”. She wasn’t far wrong, we all of us have faults and weaknesses. Some can be worked out with just some life experience and one or two really good friends. Others need years of struggle, some even need medication (though I would always hesitate to take medication, it often treats symptoms rather than causes).

Be careful of your mental health, at least as careful as you are of your physical health. Be as kind and gentle with yourself as you would be of anyone else. And if you’re not kind and gentle with anyone, ask yourself why not. What are you so hurt and angry about? Perhaps your life would be happier if you could lose some of that anger? Perhaps it would be good to talk?

Taking Control of Our Lives – Part 2

So, we have been lied to and manipulated by the media, corporations, and politicians. So what? What can we do about it?

It’s hard to know what, short of insurrection, can make a difference. And why not insurrection? Well, for me, violence of any sort is an anathema. I will admit there are a few occasions when it is the best option, but those occasions are few and far between. As a general rule I would far rather side step violence and go straight to the negotiations that always have to follow violence.

Too many people get hurt in any insurrection for me to like it as an option. Too often the people who do get hurt are innocents, in one way or another.

But we have a problem if we are going to try negotiation in our current situation. The politicians, and others they have allied themselves with, do not believe that they need to listen to us. And, over time, they have proved repeatedly that they are strangers from the truth. They would say anything to get their own way. They cannot be trusted.

So, what can we do? If we are not to embrace violence and we cannot trust the word of the people whose behaviour is violence by another name?

I think there is something we can do. It is not a solution on it’s own, but it will make us stronger. We can disconnect as far as possible from the mainstream. We can ditch the TV; we can choose not to read newspapers; we can change our buying habits, so that we buy the things we need more than the things we want; we can buy locally grown, and made, food; we can reconnect with cooking and growing our own fruit and vegetables; we can start to believe in ourselves and our abilities again; we can develop our skills and crafts, so that we can make and do things for ourselves and those close to us, rather than being dependent on others who may not have our best interests at heart; we can make good and reliable friends. We can change our behaviour so that we 1) like ourselves, 2) like the things we do in our lives, and 3) we can develop our resources and friendships to help us get through the difficult years ahead… Until we can built a sustainable future together.