Last week saw a great event in Edinburgh, ‘Let’s Walk a Mile’ to challenge stigma and discrimination around mental health. I went up for this though it was preceeded by a bit of a personal mental health wobble midweek. Some very good and thought provoking books read but news of a sad death for Dave my partner.
Thursday flew up to Edinburgh for Let’s Walk a Mile, details here And it was very timely as I needed headspace after some mental health issues of my own the day before (see below). Several hundred of us met and walked along the historic Royal Mile. We wore our special t-shirts so everyone could see we what we were there for. I spent the walk talking to a young woman who had borderline personality disorder alongside physical health problems. She had recently been a hospital in-patient and revealed the grimness of life as a young person on an adult ward with a mix of being scared but simultaneously bored. We ended with a reception at Dynamic Earth next to the Scottish Parliament building. The idea of walking and talking is a great one based on the experiences of Chris Young who walks the coast of the UK engaging people in conversations about mental health issues. Gorgeous pic at the top of this blog was taken by my good friend Chris O’Sullivan and I entirely echoed his social media comments that he wore the t-shirt for the rest of the evening with pride.
Health and efficiency
When I write about health in this blog I usually talk about physical. I suppose the reason is that I’ve lived with my pretty fucked up head all my life and just got used to things like patches of depression and periods of poor sleeping. However sometimes I do have big wobbles and one of those took place midweek. Easy to know what caused it – workload. It is incredibly busy at work at the moment in terms of the projects I manage, the new Tech for Good stuff, and getting assessments sorted for the next Grants Committee. In the office all day Tuesday and Wednesday; for the latter I started at 8am and left at 7.30pm with a half hour for lunch so ten and a half hours of constant brain work. And part of that was an important Skype interview that didn’t work well from a tech perspective due to a dodgy headset. Suppose that was the tipping point that left me feeling a bit overwhelmed when I left the office. Key to recovery was dinner out with Dave, sleep (though poor quality), quiet reflection time, and a period out of the office on Thursday and Friday.
No news on weight because I didn’t feel like weighing myself. Gym sessions on the previous Sunday and last Saturday plus some reasonable long purposeful walks:
Sunday – Victoria to Oxford Circus and back
Tuesday – Oxford Circus to Victoria
Wednesday – Victoria to Vauxhall and back
Thursday – Walk a Mile
Friday – Victoria to Hammersmith Broadway
Saturday – Victoria to Oxford Circus and back
Saw physios for hand/wrist and achilles/calves on Friday. Tried to do some weight bearing exercises for the former but difficult – will I ever be able to do press-ups as well as I did? New exercises to continue to build strength of hand. And new exercises to build up muscles in my legs below the knees and ankles but still too early to start jogging again.
Dave, family and friends
Hoorary for August Bank Holiday Monday last week though it always makes me sad as it feels like the end of summer. On Monday itself I was not motivated enough to go to gym but in the afternoon Dave and I went to visit mum who was pleased to see us. Though unfortunately that night Dave had very bad news about the death of one of his aunts, someone who had looked after him as a child. Obviously both he and his mum were really upset. Good news on Tuesday night when I made contact again with my old friend Brian who is back in the UK and taking his camper van around the coast for long walks and cycle rides. Whereas I am energised and my mental health aided by cities, it is the countryside for him.
Books and reading
Some really stimulating reading last week. Started with a novella by Henry James, ‘The Beast in the Jungle’ (1903). I am trying to read more great writers and found this novella by the author who wrote the brilliant ‘The Turn of the Screw.’ For a short book it was actually quite hard work (as for Turn of the Screw if I remember correctly). The idea behind the story is actually stronger than the book itself me thinks. A man is terrified something major is going to destroy his life – the beast from out of the jungle. He shares this secret with a woman and they are friends until she dies. He realises he should be devastated by her death but isn’t and then understands that the beast that has destroyed his life is that he has never fallen in love (even with this woman who was devoted to him) and that he never will. Or that’s what I think it’s about. Perhaps the message is simply stop worrying and enjoy life.
I followed with John Michael Greer’s ‘Apocalypse. A History of the End of Time’ (2012). And this was good one to follow on from James’ novella as it is also about the dangers of rigid thinking. Based on excitement that arose around the idea that the Mayans had predicted the end of the world on 21 Dec 2012, Greer shows that up as pseudo-intellectual hype but then traces the history of apocalypse thought. His claim is that it has existed since the rise of monotheistic (one god) religion which he traces to Zarathustra and Zoroastranism. This mixed with Judaism (rule by Persia and the exile in Babylon) and Christianity (and even Islam and Hinduism) to create a common scenario that has been regularly identified umpteen times – Messiah, Apocalypse, Golden Age for survivors. And there is now not just the theological context but also the modern element of things such as the Year 2000 digital meltdown, flu pandemics, singularity (when computers are more intelligent than humans). I enjoyed this book which for me shows how our thought patterns can be controlled as in being convinced disaster is inevitable and building whole systems around this. And I am more determined to mix non-fiction reading in with my usual novels, novellas and short stories.
Next to a collection of short stories by Latin American writer Julio Cortazar ‘All Fires the Fire and Other Stories’, written 1966 and not published in the UK until 1979. A fascinating collection of tales which one has to remind oneself are not contemporary but written about 50 years ago. He does remind me of Hilary Mantel especially the way stories can be covered from several people’s viewpoints simultaneously and the way events meld together. Some very clever stories, quite ahead of their time: people trapped on a motorway (not dissimilar to J.G.Ballard), a family pretending people haven’t died, a flight attendant obsessed by an island, a man tricked into being involved in a murder, and two couples at different points in history being trapped in a fire at the same time.
I also read three short stories by the brilliant F.Scott Fitzgerald: ‘Bablylon Revisited’, ‘The Cut-Glass Bowl’ and ‘The Lost Decade’. He really is a great writer on that bleak period of the 1920s and 30s with the accompanying dangers that come from excess. Indeed a common theme of these stories is people making big mess-ups in their lives due to alcohol abuse.
I have told you about my Skype meltdown; big learning is do an Echo / Sound Test Service with the headset to be used in advance of an important link-up! Tuesday night I went with a work colleague to the BBC radio theatre to be in the audience for a live recording of BBC Click. I know this as a 15 min tech programme that goes out on BBC1 on Saturday mornings plus interesting video clips to see on YoutTube. But it is also a radio programme on the BBC World Service. The programme we attended was about drones and very interesting though they are noisy and there wasn’t too much in-depth analysis. Indeed, the whole live radio event felt both modern and old-fashioned at the same time. Usual digital struggle of trying constantly to get on top of my mass of private and work emails. I did spend some time sorting and deleting simply to ease the pressure which was quite therapeutic although not dealing with the root problem. Final bit of news was my restarting on Code Academy and realising what a bloody great resource it is.
Again the only thing to report is DuoLingo sessions but that does keep me in touch with this development goal.