Tag Archives: mental health

Liberal England: How can a #Liberal talk to a #Hate Addict?

The wonderful Jonathan Calder has published my piece on what Europe’s oldest poem, the Iliad, can tell us about hate addiction.

How can Liberals argue with people who are getting a kick out of hate?

The Iliad on Jonathan Calder’s Liberal England Blog

 

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#Chiraq

Guest Post from Herbert Agyemang in St Albans

dear reader,

 Every Christmas, I often relieve the ennui of HOME ALONE, and the other wholesale lassitude that stifles, by re-watching  old stacks of DVD’S and even streaming and reviewing new movies online. Bah humbugged, and flu-bug notwithstanding and cocooned from prying eyes, my lounge, my personal Library : my four walled and floor to ceiling high book-shelves  have seen me assiduously  watch at least 10m times or more { 10  times, just in case I missed a skit or something } the latest Spike Lee joint. CHIRAQ. On each of those 10 or more occasions, I have come away with this:  I am not a professional film critic by any stretch,  but I don’t think I am wrong to suggest here that in his tragicomic turn,  CHIRAQ, Lee brilliantly invokes Greek playwright Aristophanes’ ‘Lysistrata’.

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#UKIP Myth: Toy Story

When Leo sits down with his Toy Story jigsaw puzzles a cold hand grips my heart. Sunday evening, I want to feel cosy, and he brings out those garish, creepy figures.

But there’s no escape. ‘Come, Mummy,’ says my two and a half year old, extending the beckoning hand that can’t be refused.

toy story jigsaw

Added to the first horror of sorting out four jisaws that have been jumbled together, I then have to pore over every limb of these gruesome zombie like objects: the corpse with the drooping eyelid (Leo calls it ‘baby’); the giant locust crossed with the Incredible Hulk (Leo calls it ‘green man with yellow pants’); the sickly pink fluffy monster (‘teddy bear’ to Leo), the leathery octopus, the eight-eyed monster…. I want to hide these four jigsaws (once we start we have to do them all) in a cupboard, but his favourite babysitter gave them to him for Christmas, so it wouldn’t be diplomatic.

I wonder if this is how Ukippers feel about the European Union: weird alien creatures they don’t want to understand. And I sympathise.

But I have to learn from Leo who assumes that everything around him is animate, and in some way connected to the world he already knows, and so he can relate to anything. The doll is a baby, the eight-eyed monster is a different kind of frog.

Maybe even Farage is just a different kind of frog.

Maybe we can relate to the Other without losing ourselves.

#Pilgrimage in #Terror: Day 3

Day Three, For Dave Mugridge. Roncesvalles to Burguete.

2012_Roncesvalles_18_Sepulcro_de_Sancho_VII

Being a student suited Dave. We were all lonely, lazy and languid then. He inhabited benches, wrapped in a large grey coat. Looking at photographs now I see how young and blooming he was. The light shone in his mane of chestnut hair and the vivid blue eyes were fringed with long lashes. At the time, he seemed older than us, like a man who had Lived. Perhaps it was that his skin was slightly pock-marked from a brush with acne and that gave him a wolfish, battle-scarred look. We discussed literature and his sallies with girls over chocolate Hobnobs in those cold student rooms.

One day in his final year he paid me a visit in my room. The mist was hanging outside the Victorian stone windowsills, turning the afternoon violet. He was serious and awkward. In a low voice he told me he was ‘HIV Positive’.

‘Ah-ha?’ I said neutrally. I thought it was important to show that one of his good friends wasn’t alarmed or disgusted.

He looked at me bewildered. ‘Do you know what ‘HIV Positive’ means?’

Some fluke, some twitching in the DNA, gave Dave haemophilia back there in the embryo. Neither of his parents was a haemophiliac. When he was in his early teens, Dave had to have a blood transfusion. That was in the 1980s, when Mrs Thatcher was declaring, ‘There’s no such thing as society.’ Before Dave had ever kissed a girl, he was infected with Aids. Someone well-meaning gave him life and death.

After we graduated, Dave shared a rented house with a group of friends from university. They were turning into young professionals. He was not. He had enough money to live on and too broad a horizon. This group of student friends, spread between three or four rented houses, hardened into one of those adult gangs – Were they a Nineties phenomenon? – professionals who lived together, spent their Friday and Saturday nights together, and eventually married each other.

Between the members of his gang Dave moved like the invisible man, unable to drink as his liver weakened, entertaining them with stories of his own foolishness. We all heard about the latest woman to be the object of his love and desire. He would pursue to the point of intimacy and then flee in terror. Once a girl clung on and he couldn’t flee. But as the relationship developed he started to wash his hands obsessively, taking on a guilt and dirt that didn’t belong to him. ‘You can still use them for fantasies,’ I suggested. He laughed, shocked.

Dave didn’t work. While he still had compensation money he couldn’t take it seriously. He tried once. He bought a suit and worked in the Government Statistics Office. His boss was a nice, earnest man who had high hopes of Dave. But Dave had his own room and was thus able to put his head down on the desk and go to sleep in the afternoons. A week came when his boss wanted him to go to Wales to tell the civil servants there what the Stats Office was up to. Dave took the train and faced the row of grey suits. He had nothing to say.

Towards the end of our twenties, Dave’s compensation money began to run out. And it was this that forced him to use his talents. He taught English in the prestigious Catholic comprehensive that was educating Blair’s boys. But the virus started to kick in. A boy shouted at him in the corridor – ‘Aids man!’

Dave looked in the mirror and saw how thin his face was. But research had produced a miracle drug that kept men living years longer: it gave him cancer of the liver. He didn’t know this until April. He kept on going into school, facing classes. In the evenings he came home and threw his clothes on the floor in heaps, too tired to sort them out.

After he was taken into hospital his friend Adam walked into his room and found piles of jeans and good quality jerseys, full of moths.

******

‘It is a very kind act to take a friend’s hand and show him or her the pleasure you have in something,’ says Natalie Goldberg, the writers’ guru. This was Dave’s gift. His enthusiasms – about certain musicians, certain writers – made him almost frightened. ‘Will I talk about this?’ he hesitated. ‘Let me know what you make of him. I think – I hope you’ll like him.’

We discussed the then-popular TV adaptation of Pride & Prejudice, for an hour. ‘Do you think,’ I asked, always earnest, always wanting to know what happens after the end of the story, after the chicken has crossed the road, ‘Do you think they got on after they were married?’

‘Like rabbits.’

He was my personal tutor in culture, introducing me to the Shuttleworths and Colonel Blimp, and Queen (Mama, I don’t want to die. Some times I wish that I had never been born), and Star Wars. That was a formal event. I took a day off work and went round to his shared house in Kilburn. We sat in while the sun shone outside, munching houmous, pitta and iceberg lettuce, imbibing Luke Skywalker. Now and again he would freeze the video to check I was following, or draw out the hidden meanings. Then we walked on the mown grass of the park, near the railway line. Meetings always ended more subdued than they began, with him starting to talk about his troubles – love life, work, health – and then hating us both for the serious turn of the conversation.

I confess those depressed endings scared me off. There was a year when we lost touch. I am walking today partly for that.

Then April, the first spring of the new millennium, Adam appeared in the front garden. He brought a pale blue letter from Dave.

I visited him twice, but after that he didn’t want to see me. There were too many crowding for his attention, people who mattered more, and he tired easily.

He quite soon made the decision to give up the chemo. In his hospital bed he converted to Evangelical Christianity. His sister, who was already a convert, introduced him to a local evangelical pastor. This bible-based faith was something he had been putting off for years. In student days, he would get inveigled into attending evangelical dinners and then run away afterwards, traumatised. ‘Why does it bother you so much?’ I would ask him. ‘Just put it out of your head.’ ‘Yes,’ he would say, unconvinced.

It was awkward to get news of him in hospital. I didn’t like bothering the nurses and feared discussing his worsening condition with his Dad.

In the end there were letters: tiny skynotes, addressed in his own increasingly spidery hand. I felt as if I were receiving words from beyond the grave, so far apart were we in prospects and daily experience. I didn’t know what to say, twiddled my ink pen sitting in cafes, etching some kind of empathy onto the void of white A4 sheets or just nattering on about my day. Then back through the British postal service came these miracles. I treasured those letters as if they were love letters, knowing that one of them must be the last. And yet there was nothing intense written on either side – we had no great words to say – just a couple of friends continuing until the whistle blew.

Thank-you loads for your letter which reached me today. You continue to lead an interesting life but I hope it is not getting in the way of your writing… I am full of regrets that I haven’t achieved (written) more but I am currently collating everything… ‘Blasted’ is a good word to describe this disease. I feel very angry and frustrated at the loss which will take place when I die. Still I have nothing to be too ashamed of or regret I think… I am moving towards a sense that it is all God’s will really – hard to accept – but ultimately true...

Later, when the morphine doses were raised, the writing shrank to a minute size and he went over his letter underlining certain words in a different colour: I’m glad you write, it gives me simple plans to complete. I sometimes feel so sad but I’m sure I’m doing the right thing here. It’s hard to wait for the end, equally its scary to think about it – meanwhile when I put strategies into place to deal with these feelings hallucinations get in the way!…. Woozy, Dave. Woozy he may have been but the post-code was always accurate.

The last card is John Constable’s Hay Wain and it’s faintly baffling.

Dear Katy – he alternated between the ‘ie’ and the ‘y’ spelling – This card is taken from a postcard book bought from National Gallery by Claire for me – and it’s about the only one I could bear to part with because they are all so beautiful – wonderful colour reproductions of Renaissance stuff…. My story is not getting written. I seem to be very busy with guests…

With returned good health have come all manner of political difficulties dealing with family and friends – it seems tough on me but politics never goes away, it seems. Now the crisis seems to have passed no one, including me, quite knows what to do with me. I have a deep sense of frustration at still being alive, to tell you the truth, but perhaps God still has plans for me down here. I found myself evangelising a nurse today and thought ‘Lord, please make that my last one!’

love Dave

The grip with reality was loosening and yet I wonder if, in amongst the veins and the lymph glands brimming with morphine and toxins, you knew that that was your last card. It is the only one you signed with love.

******

The pilgrims had marched out of Roncesvalles before dawn, leaving the monastery emptier than an empty building, scoured and sterilised, all atmosphere washed away by the nightly flow of guests. The massive interconnected cloisters stood stony silent among their groomed lawns. As it was a special holiday and there were many visitors, the museum was shut. In a telephone box near the restaurant three Filipino women were trying to sleep. We were disappointed, Sandra and I, that there wasn’t more of a gung-ho saint-thumping Catholic ambience, something to give us instant spirituality. But then maybe the point of a pilgrimage is to start from a state of godlessness and move towards God…

Struggling with #depression

@Nick_Sutton22, of the #Liberal Democrat #Mental Health Association, uncovers student mental health issues.

Nick Sutton

Nick Sutton

University, for many, is a liberating, exciting experience. University gives you a chance to be independent for the first time, to get away from home, to meet new people from a range of backgrounds and throw yourself into new experiences in a new place in a different part of the country.

However, for many including myself, it can also be extremely daunting. I still remember seeing all of my belongings sitting in my front room ready to be carted off. Before then, I had been putting it off in my mind that I had to go and had not considered what it would be like to be leaving. I had a happy, settled home life, with a close group of friends, a great girlfriend and a loving family. Suddenly, I had to leave.

I arrived at university and quickly met a vast array of people, all of whom I had assumed seemed to be having a far better time than me. I got through Freshers Week by the seat of my pants but soon I panicked, feeling like I hadn’t settled properly. One thing that there is no warning of before starting university is that, if you are not careful, you can spend a lot of time on your own in your room and the first few months of university for me were incredibly disorientating and isolating. My moods began to change. One minute I felt calm and in control, the next I was in floods of tears. I would often count down the hours to the end of the day until I could go to sleep because when I was asleep I wouldn’t feel so low. I had stopped eating properly and had lost a stone in weight over the course of only a few weeks.

One of the worst things about this time was that I was no longer rational, no longer in charge of my own emotions. I often found myself breaking down and crying but I could not explain why. Sometimes the trigger was very minor, like a misinterpreted text, but most frightening of all was when there was no trigger at all. It felt like a thick black fog was following me. Sometimes it would get smaller and sometimes get bigger but it would never leave. It was only when I visited home and talked with my girlfriend that I finally realised that I was depressed.

https://www.papyrus-uk.org/help-advice/about-hopelineuk

Samaritans Tel: 08457 90 90 90

One in three people will suffer with a mental health problem in their lifetime, yet less than half of us will ever get any help with it. It is frankly bizarre when mental health problems are so common and so normal that there is so much stigma that prevents people from seeking help with them. We need to change the way we see mental health. It needs to become normalised in people’s views and when seeking help it should be seen no differently to seeking help with a physical illness. This is a process that has been championed by many, including our own Norman Lamb, Lib Dem MP for North Norfolk.

Depression isn’t just being a ‘bit sad’, it is an illness. Depression is the most common of all mental health problems in the UK, with between 8-12% suffering with it over the course of a year. And like an illness, it cannot always be controlled. It is possible to have good days with depression but this does not mean it leaves. It can be crippling and can stop you from doing anything.

I confided in very few people. My close friends, my family and my girlfriend were all hundreds of miles away. I felt at the time I also could not talk as I did not understand what was happening in my own head, let alone begin to tell someone about it. One very hard thing about suffering with a mental health problem at the start of university is that your anchors are not there. You worry that if you talk to your newly made friends about not being fully settled that they would judge you, that they would feel that you not being settled would somehow be a reflection on them as people. Even worse, I would worry they would get scared and decide not to be friends with me anymore. I only really opened up to my girlfriend, who, despite being hundreds of miles away and also settling at her own university, was brilliantly supportive. Without her help and her understanding I know that things would have been a lot worse.

I came back to university after my trip home and things started to get better. I knew what was making me low and I started to do something about it. I got out of my room more, socialised more, tried to make more friends and forge closer friendships. I stopped constantly worrying whether I was more or less settled than other people and began to enjoy university life for what it was rather than what I thought others thought it should be. Slowly but surely, the black fog began to lift and I started to enjoy my life at university. My moods were under control, I was more sociable and jovial and began to feel like me again.

My advice to anyone who is in the same position as I was is to be open and to talk more. I bottled up my troubles. I was too scared to be open and talk and resisted going to seek help. If I had done that when I had started becoming depressed, my problems would not have become as bad as they did. I do not want people to make the same mistakes that I did.

Having a mental health problem does not make you strange, it does not make you a freak and it does not make you different. You only have to start to scratch the surface to realise how common it is. Do not believe the stigma. There is nothing weird about being depressed and it does not have to be like that forever. You can get help and people will listen. You are not the only one who has been where you are.

Be open and talk. It can be more powerful than you think.

Nick Sutton, President, Exeter University Lib Dems, and an executive member of the Liberal Democrat Mental Health Association

@nick_sutton22

A new take on mental health

In One Swift Summer, a London park is a collection of human souls suspended in space, watching each other, occasionally interacting and colliding, starting to matter to each other. Above them, other beings, followers of an utterly different existence (`this unspreadsheetably wild otherness’) soar and swoop, build a nest in a listed building, feed their young, are persecuted by a gardener, are saved…

The hero of One Swift Summer, ex sex worker, ex murderer, ex jailbird, has redeemed himself and gradually redeems others, through selling them ice creams and through his art: `By drawing swifts, I draw our thoughts, which fly here in our inner sky, no less large, no less blue….’

In amongst his wisdom learned the hard way there is also humour, as when an American tourist asks for a `large’ ice cream and is fascinated by the smallness of his helping, vows to tell everyone back home not about Kew’s majestic rare trees but about the size of a `large’ ice cream in these parts…
One Swift Summer teems with quotes you want to pin on your bathroom mirror. It is the answer to a life `stuck on the District Line, stuck on Sudoku.’ Read it on the train, read it instead of Sudoku.

http://www.amazon.co.uk/ONE-SWIFT-SUMMER-R-Askew-ebook/dp/B006AXFPEM/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1422534250&sr=8-1&keywords=one+swift+summer