It is widely agreed that people should be open about their mental health problems as a means to making them better and that nothing should be held against people for having such problems, indeed nearly everyone will experience poor mental health at some point in their life. And I write this blog partly in terms of assisting my own mental health – it is like a diary reviewing the bad but also good in my life so that I can move to a place where my head is more constanly in a pleasant place.
In terms of shittiness (is there such a word?) last week rated pretty highly at around 8.5 out of 10. I am a big champion of transparency and I am not ashamed that I’ve had a breakdown and take medication to try to improve my mood – basically I realise now that I have lived with depression all my life. And no-one has the right to penalise or think less of me for any of this. Much of my depression is based on beliefs taught when I was little. I think I would be a much stronger person now if I had realised earlier on that people are not always nice, should not always be excused, and that challenging is nothing to shy away from.
I am More Than Just One Aspect of my Life
My mood this week has been really influenced by work but I go no further ‘on the grounds that I might incriminate myself’ – LOL. The problem is I have let one part of my life overtake the other parts. I have always been incredibly committed and loyal to every job I do, and gain much of my own personal self-worth (and good mental health) through doing a fine job. Indeed, it is totally normal to my way of thinking to always go more than 100% to do whatever needs to be done – my sick record is always exemplary. And yet sometimes when I get knocked back I am left wondering why I put so much status and emphasis on this? I am more than just a work-horse and the nature of capitalism is ultimately that we are all there as cogs to make the system work. My life would be easier if I could just see work as simply a means to earning a living but that goes against my world view.
Dave and Mum – Their Problems and Support to Me
Poor mental health this week has also been linked to bad health news about someone close to me alluded to in previous blogs. In the spirit of honesty I should now illuminate that I was actually talking about two people – my partner and my mum. And last week there was news on their health situations. Dave was contacted on holiday the previous week to go in for an urgent medical procedure as soon as we returned. Yep that put a dampener on our holiday but we tried our best to put it to the back of our minds. Procedure happened last Monday and after a 3 hour wait it was confirmed that the problem was not serious. So good news though it still leaves a mystery as to what is causing his problems? On the same day in the afternoon I went with mum to another hospital where it was confirmed she needs elective surgery. This is made complex by no guarantee of success, her history of DVTs, and a flat without lift access. We’ve put a final decision off for a few months but the operation looks inevitable.
Important to note that Dave and mum continue to be big supporters of mine despite dealing with their own issues. Poor Dave had to starve himself on the previous Sunday all day and was no way as half as ratty as me when I had to do the same thing in the past for the same medical procedure (another friend of mine has just had an operation and can’t eat or drink for 7 days!). And really nice to catch up together on Deutschland 83 and Benidorm episodes missed whilst we were on holiday. Spent a large part of Monday with mum (at hospital and home) and Dave came over on Tuesday night and she made pancakes to mark Shrove Tuesday. Dave is giving up chocolate for Lent, I’m giving up nothing with the way I currently feel.
Physical Manifestations of Poor Mental Health
And I think what else has made this week so dreadful has been the symptoms of depression itself. The main one has just been the amazing sense of tiredness, I feel absolutely exhausted. Obviously this is all connected – external problems lead to tiredness and the same tiredness exacerbates other problems in reality and perception. I’m actually finding it really hard to get out of bed – this is unusual for me and a clear sign of depression. I am also having really weird and emotional dreams – it’s classic textbook stuff. As is my current need to eat, I feel hungry all the time. And I am having to ensure I don’t drift into retail therapy and collectomania. I do wonder if linked into all this is still a mourning period for the death of one of my best friends James from cancer (so fucking unfair)?
On the Other Hand…
In trying to re-establish good mental health it is widely accepted practice to try to identify the positive stuff as well as the negative and, to be honest, there was good stuff last week.
People Powered Health
Went with a group of work colleagues to the Big Bang Data exhibition at Somerset House (see below). Before I this I attended NESTA Health Lab’s ‘People Powered Health’ conference. A decent event though, to be honest, a bit of grandstanding and it did feel like an academic conference. I would rather have had more input from clinicians on the benefits of the new interventions, more patient feedback on how they used the new tools, and more details on the actual health changes – case studies are useful but I would also have wanted some more quantitative evidence of benefits.
Brilliant Friends in Real Life and via the Internet
It sounds a bit naff to say one is ‘blessed by something’ unless you are religious however I am blessed by the friends I have counting many of my work colleagues as well as people I know outside work. Previous Sunday was the birthday of my old mate Brian and it was good to exchange banter by text as he journeys around Europe in his camper van (and yes I do envy him a bit). I would definitely argue some that I rely on contacting some of my brilliant friends via texting, Facebook and Twitter – these social media friends mean as much to me as face-to-face ones. And face to face contact came on Wednesday afternoon with my mate Dominic who is involved with the abstinence-based projects I support. A really nice person with an impressive life story.
My Beloved Digital
Digital is something I am very good at. Not as a developer but as someone who is enthusiastic about it and can see its potential. In terms of my beloved digital, the main stuff last week was the Nesta conference and the Big Bang Data exhibition. The latter was good and one needs to allow about an hour and a half to get round it – we arrived with about an hour to spare and ended up being ushered out at closing time. If you know about data – collection, analysis, dangers, potential, etc then this won’t tell you too much extra. However, an excellent intro and still useful for those of us with awareness. I was particularly impressed with historical evidence of people using and presenting data i.e. Florence Nightingale on what causes the death of soldiers in Crimea (and it was actually hospital care rather than on the battlefield). A gripe that if one uses tech to present then please make sure it works – some stuff that either didn’t function or did so only very slowly. Other digital stuff focused on was potential projects around girls/women and tech, trying to identify continuation funding for HullCoin, and discussions around the Tech Innovation group I run for the Association of Charitable Foundations. Also had to give attention to some of the briliant abstinence-based recovery projects I manage.
Health and Efficiency
Three gym sessions on the previous Sunday thenThursday and Saturday just gone. No time otherwise with accompanying people to hospital and work commitments. I cancelled the appointment with my physio regarding my achilles/calves. It was too soon since we last saw each other and I’m really not sure that his treatment is working – six months of physio and only slight improvement. Back to see him later in March. Weight on Tuesday was 13-9 which is not bad (with holiday and depression) but nothing amazing – pretty much sums up my life.
Books and Reading
One of my other great loves is reading and this helps keep me sane. Two books read last week.
First Totempole by Sanford Friedman. Read because I found I had two copies so one should go to Exchange and that seemed to be a sign to read it before it went (such logic makes sense in my head). Classic gay literature published in 1965. Semi-autobiographical though with a fair amount of fiction thrown in. It is the story of a young Jewish boy growing up and discovering he is gay with the climax being him falling in love with a POW during the Korean War.
And then I went onto the second book of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation trilogy Foundation and Empire This follows on from the first book read last week and is classed as classic sci-fi. However I actually felt it was showing its age with things like people smoking, everything on paper, the supremacy of atomic power, and no aliens. It is also surprisingly hard work to read as a story. It is a sort of galactic soap opera based on the fall and rise of different space empires. However there are some ideas well ahead of their time such as machine learning and it is so clear to see sci-fi it later influenced – Star Wars (evil galactic empire), Blake’s Seven (rebels against the system), Star Trek (the danger of over-reliance on computers), etc.
Interestingly I have noticed that I don’t include books listened to on my ipod – I wonder why? Is it because I don’t think they are so ‘worthy’ or it takes less effort to listen rather than read? My ipod did stop working the previous weekend, just ceased letting me recharge it. Based on Dave’s wise advice, I queued up at the Regent St Apple store on Sunday 11.30 until opening at 12 – very old school. But once inside staff were great, agreed said ipod was fucked (‘it’s what we call a dead machine’) and replaced foc because it was only 4 days over its one year warranty. The main stuff I listen to are Doctor Who stories and a good audio book is an art piece in itself. Main stories listened to last week were a sixth Doctor story with Iris Wildthyme The Wormery which didn’t quite work, a fifth Doctor one including Harry Houdini (Smoke and Mirrors) which was OK but the treat was The Tenth Planet – the audio version of the TV classic which was William Hartnell’s last appearance and the first one for the Cybermen. The image at the top of this page is of a classic cyberman, in many ways more scary than their later incarnations as you can better see the original humanity.