Should I Stay Or Should I Go Now?

The title of this blog is actually also the song title of one of my favourite songs by The Clash and I think very apt for how some people may be feeling this week as the EU referendum looms on the political horizon. Whatever your opinion (if you have one and let’s face it, most of us do) it’s safe to say suddenly there appears to be a lot of financial, economical and immigration experts in our midst. The truth of the matter is most of us have very little knowledge on the whys and wherefores for going or leaving and feel as if we are stuck between a rock and a hard place.

As the campaign gathered momentum I realized I’m an ‘INNY’. Is it because most of the ‘OUTY’ brigade cite immigration as their reason for leaving? I’m not denying the tone of their argument has appalled me but also the fact that their fears appear to be on the whole unfounded. There are far more pressing issues than the movement of people throughout Europe and anyway, statistics have proven that Immigration is a good thing for our country.

Patriotism has evolved into something rather unappealing for me; it often smacks of defence of an archaic system that no longer serves this great country, an ugly outpouring of narrow minded nostalgia. We are no longer an Empire and all the better for that. Our ability to tolerate, embrace and welcome different faiths and cultures is diminishing fast amongst a large percentage of the population and it pains me to witness this. We now live in a global village, the world is indeed a much smaller place than it was before and we need to accept this fact and work towards making the world a better, fairer place for all. We can’t do that alone, on our tiny island that has become so dependent on the support of Europe. I’m not wanting to turn this blog into a political rant but you will have to forgive me, it’s difficult to avoid when writing about such an important issue concerning the future of this country!

I’m angry too. Angry that we have been given this huge responsibility when our capacity for understanding the whole system is limited. It feels a little like a surgeon asking the patient how to perform his operation!

I’m sad about this pivotal moment in our history. About the huge divisions it has exposed between us. Friends are being made and lost on this I’m sure. The campaigns taking place have become little more than mud-slinging. The fiasco on the River Thames being a particular low point as a millionaire ex-pop star had a nautical stand off with a bigoted, privileged politician about fishermen and their plight. Did either of them have a clue about what they were arguing about? I’ll hold judgement on that…..just about.

The horrific murder of a young aspiring MP made the nation gasp in horror. Not on our shores? I’m afraid so. From our very smug standpoint of tut tutting at the ridiculous gun laws in the US after the appalling attack on the LGBT community in Florida,  we were suddenly in a position to know how they felt. We are incredulous that something like this could happen here but happen it did and there is no way back from this. It has exposed the underbelly of vile racism, reared its ugly head and threatens our society; a distasteful, subliminal message that has been drip fed in the media. We are better than this. We can’t let this define us. We have to remember that we are supposed to be a tolerant, welcoming nation.

If you do happen to be an expert on all things EU, I’m pretty sure you would be voting to stay on Thursday,  given the information I have been able to glean from the many articles I have pored over recently. If you are voting to leave, I sincerely hope you have very firm reasons for that and have come to your (somewhat questionable) conclusion with a clear, unbiased head that has no room for racism, bigotry or misguided patriotism.

Posted in observations in life, The world in general, War veterans/Remembrance | Tagged | 2 Comments

Staycation? Don’t Mind If I Do

There seems to be a newfound love in Britain of the ‘staycation’ (those who like to globe trot look away now and continue reading your Rough Guide book collection, all is well).

For some, a holiday on home shores tallies perfectly alongside a foreign jaunt, discovering new places in Britain being just as challenging and exciting as the annual getaway to distant lands….well, maybe just a fortnight in Fuengirola but you get my drift. For others, the decision to ditch the short motorway dash to an airport of choice and subsequent flight to a chosen destination has derived from the numerous documentaries showing our island/s in all their glory; from narrow boat holidays on waterways to camping, forest villas (I know, more ‘Scandinavian breezeblock dwelling’ but they’re fab all the same) to yurts, the diversity is there and there is definitely something for everyone. If hotels are more your style –  bespoke boutique B&Bs, five star luxury or country pubs cater for every kind of traveller. We really have got it all.

Apart from the weather. That as the saying goes, is in the lap of the Gods. I think we must have several weather gods given the unpredictability of something everyone talks about.  The one topic of conversation in every bus stop, bar, department store and high street newsagents up and down the land is The Weather. If I have never set eyes on you before our chance encounter at a random location and may never again, you can guarantee there’s good odds on us discussing the current rain/sun/snow during our brief spell spent together waiting at the bus stop/checkout queue/waiting room. It’s not unfair to say we are a little obsessed with The Weather.

That intensifies during a Staycation. Investing a good portion of our holiday fund (perhaps even all of it) on our chosen accommodation, we feel justified in expecting our summer holiday to be spent basking in warm (hot, if you’re particularly optimistic) sunlight. I’ve enjoyed many sun soaked vacations in Britain and there is nothing more glorious. It’s like hitting the jackpot. You know it’s possible but can’t hide the europhoria when you realize the high pressure is there to stay. For a week, at least!

I’ve had a couple of rain lashed weeks away too. Weeks spent convincing myself I really could muster the courage to engage in overseas travel (anxiety creates feelings of dread akin to major surgery in my irrational brain when I think about being so far away from home shores…..but that’s another subject)  in order to partake in a little guaranteed Mediterranean sun.  Plodding through rain puddles in flip flops you are determined to wear ‘because you’re on your summer holiday’ and expertly diving between shop awnings, mingling with the hardy Bermuda shorts tribe and annoyingly well prepared Berghaus brigade (and fitting rather too snugly somewhere between the two) as you all snake along an impossibly narrow sidewalk to window shop is a character building exercise, make no mistake.

When the clouds disperse, there is nothing quite like the sight of a sunlit valley in Wales, or a glistening lake in Cumbria; the world looks squeaky clean, washed by rain and maintaining the lushness of our green and pleasant land. It’s at those times you kind of forgive Britain for its unpredictability, weather wise. Without those narrow isobars and Atlantic fronts we most certainly wouldn’t have the beautiful scenery so admired and envied across the world.

Global travel is definitely here to stay and humans in general will always have an inbuilt desire to explore foreign shores. For those privileged enough to be able to indulge in travel, it’s important that as countries are ticked off the ‘to do’ list, time is also spent enjoying all that our own beautiful country has to offer. Recent devastating floods have left some of the most beautiful locations that rely heavily on tourism, struggling to keep their businesses open as the unrelenting rain swelled the rivers, bursting the banks and destroying idyllic villages and picture postcard town centres. So if you are one of the ‘jetset’, try to set a little bit of cash aside too for even just a weekend in Britain.

I’ve just had my passport photos done and as soul destroying as it was (do I really look like THAT?) my renewal application will be getting completed soon. Will I use it? Who knows. I have a few more destinations at home to see first…………Northumbria, anyone?

Posted in observations in life, The world in general, Vintage/culture/seaside | 1 Comment

My Dog Skip

Twelve years ago yesterday, 21st April 2004, a tiny little Lhasa Apso came into the world in Rochdale, Lancashire. He was just one of a litter of puppies brought into the world in order to sell – dog breeding can be a lucrative venture as I’m sure you are aware.

That very same day, I hugged my (then) three young children as they sobbed uncontrollably after my daughter found her beloved pet rabbit had died in his hutch. Despite the driving rain and howling wind outside, my husband performed a very swift burial for said rabbit in the garden – not an easy task in complete darkness! Although it was obviously a traumatic experience for my kids, I didn’t regret it and was sure they would survive the upset – I guess I considered it character building. If you don’t count a goldfish called Gretel that curiously changed it’s appearance several times during it’s very short life, Pippin the rabbit was their first real pet. My eldest child was barely school age when she won Gretel the goldfish and death wasn’t a concept I particularly wanted to discuss at that time and yes, I flushed the first two dead Gretel’s down the toilet with the furtiveness of a serial killer – don’t worry, I have since confessed my sins to my disgusted children.

Pippin belonged to my middle child/daughter – she actually insisted we bought it a lead as she was convinced she would be able to take it for walkies. That resulted in a chaotic hour in the garden with the poor rabbit doing a very convincing Buckaroo impersonation as it tried to free itself from the harness. Admitting defeat, my daughter contented herself with keeping Pippin within the confines of a hutch and a regular, frenetic run around the garden….we averted a near disaster when, in a moment of temporary insanity I thought it a great idea to house train Pippin. One chewed telephone wire later, the house was designated a no-go area and it languished in it’s ridiculously expensive hutch in the garden. I’m not completely heartless, we brought it into the garage in the winter months….

Anyway, Pippin died on the day Skip was born. We like to think he is the rabbit re-incarnated…..Buddhism at it’s best. From lowly rabbit to Tibetan Terrier – maybe the elevation to it’s new life a kind of reward for putting up with a mundane existence stuck in a suburban garden as a rabbit in the previous life, who knows? We didn’t get Skip until he was four months old. He was the last of his litter, the dog nobody seemed to want……..*unashamedly plucking at heartstrings…..

I’d never had a dog so the acquisition of a tiny bundle of black and white fur that emitted both liquid and solids anywhere and everywhere was a complete shock to my system. Several weeks of 6am starts, with me blurry-eyed and wondering what had possessed me to succumb to my husband’s reassurances that bringing a puppy into the household was a fantastic idea ensued; this was worse than the exhaustion I had experienced with a new baby, at least most of their bodily secretions ended up in a nappy!

Then there was the chewing of, well – anything and everything. Long gone were the days of leaving newspapers unattended, shoes discarded in the hallway…..nothing could be left within reach of Skip’s tiny gnashers. The early morning starts were well organised – luckily it was the school summer holidays so we all took turns. It was a great exercise in shared responsibility for the kids and they soon learnt that those cute bundles of joy were demanding, their doggy needs had to be met and therefore that would take precedence over playtime, tv shows or lie-ins. It really did them no harm and I think was an essential life skill that hopefully built their characters.

Getting a dog made me more aware of other dogs; one day I found myself oohing and aahing at a puppy outside the supermarket – I did it before I could stop myself and spent the entire shopping trip in a state of shock. I suppose it’s a little like having a baby – once the maternal instinct kicks in there’s no going back!

Skip comes with us on holiday. He’s not that fussed to be honest; usually he gets into a mild state of confusion. On one particular trip, we hired a converted barn that had the bedrooms on the ground floor, rising to the lounge and kitchen above – in order to appreciate the views. Great, you say. Not for Skip – he’s barred from the bedrooms at home and we spent the week trying to persuade him to join us upstairs, as he grew grumpier by the day. I think he just wants an easy life but then again, who doesn’t?

His twelve years with us have gone so fast and so much has happened in that time; the signs of ageing grow more apparent with him……although he’s not the only one, none of us are getting any younger! The cataracts on his eyes grow more visible, the blue casts across his pupils ever more apparent. His short legs are more bowed, and he sleeps. A lot. He’s quite deaf too, poor thing. Where once he would come bounding into the hall as soon as the car pulled up on the driveway or a key turned in the lock of the front door, now he barely moves. He simply can’t hear us. We have to be careful not to frighten him so I gently tap his head as I approach him while he, yet again, lies sleeping. He jumps up temporarily startled but then, realizing there’s no immediate threat, goes back to sleep.

His energetic moments invariably involve food – usually someone else’s. Dog food just doesn’t do it for him – give him some chicken and you’re a friend for life. He’s a great character – loving, funny and completely loyal…….apart from when there’s chicken involved, obviously.

Bringing Skip into our family is one of the best decisions we ever made. I think it made us all a little less selfish and experiencing a dog’s complete loyalty to those who look after it is priceless. We’ve spent a ridiculous amount of money on dog beds, dog toys, dog grooming (he definitely has his hair done more than me, no question), vet bills and surcharges on holiday accommodation; every last penny is well spent and I envisage many more years to come…….and I’m sorry Skip  but you’ll just have to get used to the holidays!

 

jane and skip

Posted in observations in life, The world in general | 3 Comments

(Un)Social Media?

Social media comes in for a lot of criticism – rightly or wrongly? It depends I suppose on what the individual uses it for. The prime aim (apart from making some Jewish guy enough money to live on for a couple of centuries) is to connect. Strip away the reasons for that connection (career, family ties, social occasions…….and perhaps some I won’t go into in this blog!) and it leaves a basic function. As humans we need to ‘connect’ with other humans (barring hormones, personality disorders or a strange desire for solitary confinement). How we do this has changed dramatically, irreversibly and in a way nobody could have predicted before the arrival of the World Wide Web. Did Tim Berners-Lee and Robert Cailliau really know what they were heralding when they gave us the internet? I can’t imagine they did – at least, not on the scale we have today and the impact it has had on society in general.

I myself don’t use Twitter, but do a daily scroll on Facebook and Instagram. Why? Good question. Some days, I think it may be a chip planted in my brain while I was asleep one night because I often find myself sitting staring at my phone screen, zombie like and with no idea how I got there. That does disconcert me a little but fortunately I’m aware of it – self-help is still effective and I can now discipline myself to resist the urge to pick up that little metallic thingy and stare blankly at it every time I sit down. Go me.

I think I border on the cynical Facebook user…..actually, there’s no border about it. I become animated when I see a post based on someone’s ignorance. Likewise, I wouldn’t normally choose to share a coffee with anyone holding extreme views so to discover them airing their homophobic, racist or downright offensive opinions in my living room is ridiculous……..deleted. Yes, but what if that deletee (I just made that up) lives around the corner from you, or works at the desk opposite? You see, we couldn’t have predicted the many predicaments we land ourselves in when accepting that person who seemed so nice, so unassuming and easy-going……….

We all have our bug-bear. What one person ‘Likes’ another may roll their eyes at. That brings me to that great dilemma. The LIKES…….did you know there is a ‘thing’ about LIKES? Reading many articles dedicated to the etiquette and possible faux pas in social media, you get the feeling we have created a whole host of complex personality disorders by joining the likes of Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. As we speak, somebody somewhere is crying into their mid-morning latte at the discovery they didn’t get a heart on their Instagram photo. To gain a heart, you need a certain number of people pressing the little heart on your uploaded photograph……..

Apparently, Facebook has it’s own LIKE issues. Friends have fallen out over the lack of LIKES they had, when another friend may have had more. This is playground stuff and brings us back to the age old desire to be noticed, envied, admired. Only now it is played out in front of us, on that screen we stare at automatically (and possibly involuntarily?) each day. It’s ability to unnerve and destabilise us, regardless of age, gives psychologists much food for thought and the opportunity to study this phenomenon for many years to come. How do teens feel about their middle aged parents sharing their lives across the pages of Facebook? Especially if it may seem they have much more exciting social lives! What if you’re tagged into a ‘check-in’ (don’t get me started on them) and your lie (“can’t come into work, got the lurgy, cough cough”) is exposed for all to see, or your status declares your devastation at the death of an iconic rock star when all who REALLY know you remember your hatred of every record they made?

This is all tongue in cheek, of course it is-who am I to police social media and to criticise ? Although, if there’s a job going Mr Zuckerberg, I’m your man………………..

On a more serious note, it has been my own experience that social media can be a great place – a medium for those who otherwise would not have had their voices heard. You have to wonder how much information we would be receiving from the mainstream media if Facebook/Twitter etc didn’t exist, how recent events in Europe with regards to the refugee crisis may have been whitewashed, or diluted for the eyes and ears of the world. Problems have not necessarily been solved on our planet because of social media – but highlighting them and knowing they are there is surely the first step towards enlightenment and motivating us all to try to make the world a better place?

I believe that sharing and discussing world issues on social media is healthy – for those that want to that is. It is not for me to criticise or demean anyone who uses it for other purposes. If it annoys me, I try to move on – barring racist, homophobic, sexist or downright disgusting posts, which I duly report. What I have found is that whilst I enjoy sharing and airing political/environmental/social topics, it has invited comments to the effect that Facebook etc is intended for lighthearted topics only. Who wrote that rule? That is intimidation surely – nothing ‘lighthearted’ about that at all.

Social media is fairly new and evolving – it may even have a shelf life and eventually phase itself out. Somehow I doubt that, so for now we will all have to try to get along in this crazy, unreal world of  Posts, Likes and Shares!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Mental Health Awareness, observations in life, The world in general | Tagged | 1 Comment

Bucket List, Schmucket List

I am a person who writes lists. All the time. I write lists about lists; to-do lists, done lists. You name it, I have a list for it. The only one I haven’t compiled (let alone completed) is a Bucket List. When there doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day, days in the week etc for my own (very humble) lists, the Bucket variety seems a tad ambitious.
I equate writing a Bucket List with the unfortunate people who have been given a less-than optimistic prognosis health-wise; in that scenario I can quite understand a sudden desire to get all those things done that we keep meaning to do. Whether it’s *cliche alert* swimming with dolphins,climbing a mountain – or even hitching a ride on the back of a pickup truck in Nashville (No? Just me then). For those who are given the worst news anyone would ever want to hear, it’s perfectly understandable to realize that Time can be your enemy. However, I suspect very few terminally ill people do actually rush out and complete their ‘Bucket List’. For a start, they are ill, time-deprived and probably mainly wanting to spend precious time with their loved ones.
The phrase ‘kicking the bucket’ is a light-hearted referral to dying – derived from the ‘good’ old days when some poor souls were hanged for their misdemeanours(“stand some poor old soul on bucket, tie noose around said persons neck, kick the bucket”). Not such a light-hearted phrase when you discover it’s grisly origins, is it? Therefore, a Bucket List is inextricably linked to death.
That’s why I don’t like Bucket Lists. Life is for the living, so the saying goes. I get that….what’s the point of setting yourself tasks that you might just regret not doing if you were ever in the position of knowing that you weren’t going to be around for much longer? The more outrageous amongst us might just have “run naked through town centre singing Nessun Dorma” as say,number five on our Bucket List. That might be an option if one is going to pop one’s clogs imminently. Somehow though, I don’t think such an eccentric venture would be viewed with enthusiasm or approval by the unfortunate individuals who witnessed it, especially if the culprit was in exceptional health!
Seriously though, forget the Bucket List. What are the best memories you have? I imagine the highest on the list are the random, spontaneous moments that didn’t seem so significant at the time yet have remained so vivid and special that it’s a joy to have them called to mind again and again.
I remember watching a sub-titled movie with my Dad one rainy Saturday afternoon; the two of us bored and restless. Me because I had nowhere to go and nobody to go there with. My Dad because the racing had been cancelled, his incomplete betting slips discarded in frustration. We inadvertently stumbled across an obscure Russian film on BBC 2. Our initial reluctance to watch a rather sombre black and white epic disappeared as we both became drawn in by the plot. I won’t bore you with the details. In a word it was SAD. So much so that I cried at the end….and I swear I caught my Dad wiping a tear from his eye too. The rest, as they say, is history. I now drive my family insane with my obsession for dark, Nordic, sub-titled dramas. That to me, was a special moment. I didn’t have ‘watch obscure Film Noir with Dad one rainy Saturday afternoon’. It just happened and it has stayed with me all my life.
It seems like yesterday five year old me was sitting in a city centre cafe with my Mum wiping my mouth with her handkerchief, putting it back in her large leather handbag and clipping it tight shut with the brass metal clasp. We went back out into the store and I continued following her around, mesmerised as her high heels clip-clopped on the highly polished floorboards. The sub-conscious is a marvellous thing. I obviously didn’t know at the time how vivid the memory would be but I’m grateful for it nonetheless.
The point I am making is this. Don’t make Bucket Lists. Do that thing that you want to do. Just don’t list them like some kind of ‘to do’ challenge. If you don’t make a list, you can’t berate yourself for being such a procrastinating, pathetic wimp.
The general ethos amongst us these days appears to be a ‘live for today’ attitude. You Only Live Once. Really? How do you know? What if you live more than once and your next life is based on what you accomplished in your previous one?

“So, what did you do in this life?”
“I lived. For today.”
“What did you do for others?”
“Erm…..well, it’s like this. I thought You Only Lived Once, so I was so busy living for today….”
“Right – in your next life you’re going to be a gnat….learn from your mistakes. Next!”
Maybe Buddha put it more eloquently, but a satisfactory, fulfilling life resulting in true happiness really does derive from helping others. Not necessarily from living a hedonistic, over-indulgent life. Fond memories are not designed, life doesn’t work like that. It really is those seemingly insignificant moments we remember when we look back. The times when we connected with others and just simply enjoyed their company.

Bucket Lists have been done to the death (pun intended). In the quest to have the most original Bucket Lists I’m sure some may have even met an untimely end. How ironic.

“Note to self: the Sahara marathon wasn’t such a great idea.The End”.

There’s nothing more ‘middle-class’ than a Bucket List. For most of them cost money, lots of it. They invariably involve travel to exotic destinations. In reality, a Bucket List is a luxury few can afford. I’d hazard a guess there are those who have actually gone into debt to complete one. Does that mean the more financially deprived have less of a life? I think not. Don’t make a Bucket List; and more importantly, never EVER re-mortgage your house to complete one……………

Posted in The world in general | Tagged | 5 Comments

Liverpool is finally finished

Please don’t think I’m being negative with that title; it’s the complete opposite. Liverpool has gone through so many stages over the years, most of which have led me to claim that I would enjoy the city ‘when it’s finally finished’ – meaning done…..complete.

I’ve never stopped going into town. From the ride on the top deck of a bus or occasionally an even more exciting trip via the less regular train service into Exchange Street Station as a very young child, to the wanton destruction in my teens of fine buildings (luckily many of them survived the 70’s penchant for the demolishing of what seemed to be anything historical by kipper tie-wearing bureaucrats whose obsession with ‘modernisation’ knew no bounds), then despair as political infighting and extremism created financial meltdown and Liverpool appeared to be abandoned. Bereft of hope, credibility and it’s reputation.

I had a recurring dream in my teens of going into town and, veering off the usual route through familiar streets, I would wander down towards the derelict dock buildings. My late father was a ship repairer and in my dream I would meet him as I passed; he asked me why on earth I was in that part of town. Then I would walk with him towards one of the many stark yet imposing warehouses that line the River Mersey. We would discover a wonderful arcade of exclusive stores and marvelling at their existence, promised to let others know they were there. I had that strange dream many times so imagine my amazement when, several years later, I stood in astonishment in the amazing Albert Dock. It was exactly as I had seen it so many times. I’m not sure why I had that dream and sceptics would argue it was nothing more than coincidence. My dream began to include talk of twinning Liverpool with New York and a vision of a huge screen at the Pier Head declaring this. Growing up with an obsession of all things American (it’s fine I’m over it now), perhaps it was down to wishful thinking. Whatever it was, I’m glad my dream came true and the culmination of so many years of ‘hard knocks’ have now led to Liverpool most certainly being ‘finished’.

Yet although the developments are not over yet and there is a continuous programme of refurbishment and construction, I do feel Liverpool has finally arrived. Rather, it is back where it always belonged – one of the most beautiful cities in Europe and beyond. Our history of poverty, slavery and maritime excellence are a strange mix and we hold our hands up in shame at the slave trade and our part in it. We took a battering during the second World War and, after relishing in the spotlight during the Merseybeat era, we rode out the recession with Scouse staying power. Through it all, the humour, wit and resilience that makes Liverpool’s citizens a particularly affable lot enabled us to take all the knocks on the chin. We have grown up, we’re sophisticated yet fun – sarcastic yet friendly. Liverpool is living proof that racial integration works – our vibrant, culturally superior city would not be what it is otherwise. Bill Bryson once said that Liverpool always felt like ‘some place’. I know exactly what he means.

It was only recently we witnessed the amazing, emotional sight of the three Queens making their ‘salute’ to the Cunard Building at the Pier Head to mark 175 years of transatlantic travel. Next week, we are in store for another treat; Transatlantic 175 promises to be a visual, musical and gastronomical delight, celebrating the links and cultural influences from across ‘the pond’. How fitting that it’s held over the American Independence weekend – in some respects Liverpool has more in common with New York than any British city. Our thirst for music, art and anything deemed slightly different is insatiable but for 4th and 5th July I’m sure there will be many satisfied Scousers plus a wonderful eclectic mix of visitors from further afield, making up the thousands that are expected to attend. What a fitting way to herald Liverpool’s status as a world class, dynamic yet ultimately friendly city.

Perhaps my dream was a bizarre coincidence and nothing more. However, I would like to believe it has some significance; my youngest daughter is working on T175. Her role is project co-ordinator of The Very Big Catwalk – an attempt to break the Guinness World Record of the largest number of people taking part in a catwalk. It’s being held at the Pier Head. With a huge screen projecting the proceedings. Coincidence indeed………..

Posted in The world in general, Vintage/culture/seaside | Tagged | 4 Comments

Mental Health Awareness Week

Above any other form of health issue, mental wellbeing is an issue that is largely misunderstood. It carries a stigma, one that perhaps we are all guilty of perpetuating knowingly or unknowingly – “don’t tell her/him, she’ll go MENTAL!” – we’ve all heard it, most of us have said it. What it implies is a lack of control, perhaps even a negative response to a situation. I do believe that a huge number of people perceive mental illness as a weakness on the sufferer’s part – almost a condition that is brought on through one’s own fault or even fabricated for attention. The difficulty is, I believe, that mental illness and (genetic) personality disorders are confused as one and the same thing. I don’t think they are – experts I apologise in advance!

Mental ILLNESS implies a condition that can be improved, hopefully cured. That’s the good news. Personality disorders are, in my humble/ignorant(?) opinion, something that is written into a person’s DNA. I’m sure someone may put me straight on this and again, I apologise for my ignorance…….

However, it is apparent that some of us are more prone to mental health issues – be it through nature, nurture, trauma etc. and the key is to recognise and try to understand why people suffer with depression, anxiety and a whole range of complex, life-limiting problems that cripple self-esteem, confidence and the hope of leading a full life. If you find it hard to understand, that is infinitely more acceptable than allowing your ignorance to scoff, ridicule or refuse any sympathy for these conditions.

Fear is fear – whether it is fear of real danger or any situation where you find yourself in a blind panic; the symptoms are all the same. Fight or Flight – heart racing, nausea rising in the throat like an erupting volcano, limbs turning to jelly rendering you immobile and frozen to the spot. It could be facing a particularly hostile interview panel, diving off a rock into the sea, facing surgery………………or sitting at home watching TV. That’s the erratic, irrational nature of fear. Some situations warrant it in order for us to release the adrenalin needed to help us through a tricky situation, whilst for those who suffer with panic attacks, sometimes there are no triggers.

My first panic attack occurred whilst sitting on a bus on my way to school when I was in Fifth Form. A lovely sunny day – I was grateful for two free periods in the morning and enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and a pleasant stroll to the bus stop in the early summer sunshine. One stop away from school and suddenly my heart began to race ferociously. My vision blurred as I tried to distract myself by looking out of the window, confused and scared at what was happening to me.

Once you experience that kind of fear, you don’t forget it. Your mind is very clever, and associates that terrible moment of impending doom with where you were and what you were doing. Hence, getting the bus to school the next day was filled with blind fear and gut-wrenching trepidation.

I think fortunately we have come a long way since my mental health issues began. I didn’t know what was happening to me or why; just that my everyday, carefree life was over and suddenly I was afraid of everything; this resulted in severe black moods that jeopardised my faith in life itself. I now believe it was a mixture of emotional stress, hormonal imbalances and shyness. Had I sought the help I needed maybe it would have enabled me to rid myself of chronic anxiety for good but I chose to get myself through it, rightly or wrongly. Now, rather than resent what happened to me I am grateful for what it taught me. I do hope it has made me a more understanding person – and the thread of anxiety problems that have woven their way through my life have given me a ‘think outside the box’ philosophy that has held me in good stead.  We are a product of our thoughts and our interpretations of those thoughts; the first step though, is a clearer understanding of mental health issues, an acceptance that we are all susceptible to them at any time and that seeking help as soon as possible is the key. Too many people suffer in silence, too many sensitive souls have passed before their time after struggling through life became a burden too heavy to bear. Mental Health is not possible for all, just like any illness that is prevalent in the world, but changing our attitudes towards those who suffer will enlighten and educate everyone so that we can all learn to recognise problems and get medical advice sooner rather than later.

“No matter where you go or what you do, you live your entire life within the confines of your own head” (Terry Josephson).

Posted in Mental Health Awareness, War veterans/Remembrance | 3 Comments