I’ve been trying to improve my life, like we all do. Since working in a job about helping people live full lives, I’ve been even more aware of what I can do to fill my own life. This blog was one of those things, and so was a sewing project, that died.
When is the right time to shelve things? When is the right time to give up?
One of my goals last year was to make a dress. In a fit of nerdy enthusiasm in 2014, I’d bought a pattern and fabric to cosplay Cersei from game of thrones, and then in a fit of typical nerdy procrastination, worked on it super sporadically for the next 3 years, lugging it with me from house to house.
By the time New Year 2017 arrived I was utterly sick of this dragging, lingering, stagnating project. I resolved that this year I would finally “take no prisoners”, it would be the year of getting things done with, including this God. Damn. Dress.
I reframed my dress-making goals to something more realistic and specific; that now, I would make it merely for the sake of finishing something. I would give up on the dreamy optimisism of it looking nice, or wearing it, or enjoying the process, I would simply make it as an excercise of willpower.
This didn’t work.
I took a deep breath, ground my heels in, and rebranded again: this time, I would it for the sake of making a horrible test dress.
Again, it didn’t work. The final goal was to make not just a horrible dress, but to make the most horrible dress ever. Not to put pressure on myself to try and do it well, but to just get it done to no standard at all.
Surprise surprise, it didn’t happen.
The only real decision left was to let it go.
I gave the extra fabric and the scraps and even the pattern to a friend, to see what she could salvage, and accepted that I would never succeed in making the dress.
In a similar vein, this is what I’ve been doing with this blog. Not entirely shelving it, not entirely working properly with it. I’ve tried different approaches with it, and now I’m beginning to question why I’m even setting it as a goal.
I enjoy writing, but I feel self conscious trying to write where other people can see me.
I enjoy thinking about topics that I don’t see written about, I enjoy working through my thoughts. I used to write lots on scrappy sheets of paper about the injustices and hypocrisy of the social justice vs manosphere world. But then I stopped; unversity finished and I predictably stopped, like a cliche.
I don’t know what my next approach will be. I’ve tried making a schedule, I’ve tried making a rule, I’ve tried writing down topics that I feel inspired by, I’ve tried to just follow inspiration, I’ve tried brute force. I don’t know what I’ll try next; but today I was going to retire this blog. After writing this, I’m not sure if that’s the lesson I need to take.
I’m ending the daily blogging, I don’t enjoy it and I think it comes across in my writing more than any improvement does, and that dis-encourages me. What the next approach will be, I don’t know.
post note: Also, editing is the hardest shit. I never know when to stop writing, and when I start trying to edit things and cut down things again, I realise I kind of want to completely rewrite something completely different now, and I kind of worry that one day I’ll just completely disappear off down a rabbit hole of editing and rewriting my own work. One can only hope I’d ever actually end up working that hard….
We’re all familiar with the commercialised images of a woman in a bath with cucumber on her face; branded as “me time”. But if your time isn’t being spent on building yourself up for you, then who else is your time for? You could argue that “me time” is a way for capitalism to repackage and resell you your own leisure, which it took away from you in the first place.
Empty time, by comparison, is what I call the time when you are doing nothing. You’re not indulging yourself, but not working for someone elses’s ends either. It is the conscious choice to spend time doing nothing, definitely not consuming. Many people already do this in their “me-time”, for example meditation and the practise of mindfulness is a common past-time. Continue reading ““Empty Time””→
This morning, all talk is about hung parliaments and coalitions, and I wanted to think a bit about the last coalition, the torys, and about media.
A thing I feel like a lot of people forget from the hung parliament result of 2010 was that the Lib Dems could have kept Labour in power if they had wanted to, they even negotiated with them before siding with biggest single party; the tories. The party line was about respecting the country’s decision (a line that comes back into politics like a zombie when we get to Brexit, hooray.), but it cost the Lib Dems their integrity. They got a lot of hate then for moves like going back on university fees, and they still do. Their party now is back to a tiny fraction of the game, yet again. But it didn’t have to be that way, so people who say that they held back the tories (which they did, to some extent), are forgetting it was them who also handed them the reins.
What’s funny is, that most people are not Tory billionaires. For most people, the benefit of voting tory is about image and ideals more than their actual real lives, in fact at the expense of their lifestyles, with cuts to public services that enable people to live in communities like parks, libraries, public swimming pools, etcetera. It’s about reducing the deficit, being taken seriously on a global stage, having military policy and also again about reducing the deficit; the deficit that no one in the general public has personal experience of, the deficit that’s a series of numbers in the treasury.
That’s not to say it’s not important to undestand the basic laws of efficiency and balance, but more to say that people don’t entirely vote for what directly affects them the most , and that’s counter-intuitive.
It’s most likely to do with the hugely rich media barons who run headlines about deficits and national image and shameful politicians; people who do not have the general publics best interests at heart but rather our wallets. Attention-grabbing disaster headlines are better than stuff like “wow, schools are much nicer places to be when there’s more funding in them”, and Tory-voting plebs keep those tax loopholes nice and loose for them. But try telling the general public that; the temporarily embarrased millionaire would rather cut the society they live in to ribbons than admit that perhaps it is not them who will benefit from the UK being in a strong trading position; we would rather pretend to be linked up to the bigwigs than admit that they are nothing to do with us.
At work, all of the mentally ill and in-recovery people I spoke to were not planning on voting. It doesn’t affect their lives, they mainly said, and all the politicians were bloody the same. It’s these people who are most affected by cuts to public services, and who also have the least belief in their power to make a difference, so have essentially accepted their learned helplessness. (That’s not to mention a guy I spoke to who seemed keen on voting, but said he hadn’t voted now for years, and also hadn’t recieved a ballot. Another young man also hadn’t got his ballot paper, and although our seat turned in favour of Labour, I’m also concerned this is something that shouldn’t be overlooked by care homes and mental health services in general.) It’s probably not a surprise that the mainly working class mentally ill who live in a recovery bed where I work mainly read the cheap newspapers like Daily Star, which are the most sensationalist, and make politics seem like mere theatrics and not a human effort for democracy.
The LibDems in 2010 were the king-makers, and in doing so, undermined what they stood for by trying to stand up for what the British public wanted. Labour 2017 have said they will not make a deal to create a coalition, because they don’t want to make these same mistakes, they want to continue standing for their values and let these carry them through. That’s “not how democracy works”, but if democracy isn’t letting elected officials vote on policy, as opposed to party, then what is it? We should trust our elected politicians to do better than the general public, kept uninformed and biased by a press with motivations that are suspect at best. We should be able to trust elected politicians to be able to see the difference in reality, and image, and not only image as the newspapers want us to believe is the most important part of politics.
There is no point in having power if you have to sell out to do it; and there is no point in democracy if it is allowed to simply end at the polls. We should have the guts as a nation to move beyond that idea, we have another 5 years now to figure this out.
It’s the day before the UK elections and you seriously cannot get away from it anymore. Everyone and everywhere is now a hotbed of political discussion, households everywhere have solved the refugee crisis and produced cutting edge political arguments over and over, but it all culminates in tomorrow’s vote.
I went to a wedding yesterday, so I didn’t write, and I’m “writing” that day off in terms of my daily-day-off blogging.
Today I’m making some points about the upside down of society. Locks are designed to keep the other out; not wearing your pajamas is designed to keep you looking respectable; Sunday’s are designed to be peaceful quiet days and goddamn bras are designed to keep you from being knocked out when you’re riding a bicycle barefoot and in your pajamas. Welcome to my morning.
Instead of having a lock and clothes and shoes and my decency, I locked myself out whilst trying to be productive and do the bins. I had my cutesy over-sized tea stained Spice Girls T-Shirt, and full length winter-white creamy deer pajama trousers from Fatface; and that was it. Forgetting that the door now locks behind me, I’d failed to bring out my keys.
First, I of course hoped it actually hadn’t shut. Second, I hoped someone was about to come through the door. Neither of these things happened, so I had to start actually thinking; I tried the intercom for a couple of my neighbours, as I had left the flat itself open I only needed to accesss the communal hallway. I tried the backdoor, but it was steadfastly and diligently shut. I tried all the other neighbours. I got nowhere.
Taking stock of your options when you have literally only two items of clothing which you are currently wearing is pretty quick. You can’t ring anyone, you would have to ask a stranger. You also can’t check anything on any websites, without again asking a stranger. You can’t walk anywhere far, because you have no shoes, and also look completely innappropriate, so you’ll be in pain PLUS you’ll be judged. The estate agents that I rent from is just 3 minutes down the road, so that was an option; but could I face walking that distance in front of a busy road and relatively populated high street?
Cursing every single one of the other flat residents for not being in or being incapable of answering their remote control doorbells, I courageously made the trip only to then remember it was sunday, and it was of course shut, meaning I had to trudge all the way back, past the cars and the people again, back to suare one, i.e my door step.
My boyfriend has keys; eureka? But he was also in town, at work, 20 minutes walk away. I couldn’t ring him, and his break wouldn’t be until 3pm anyway. That would be pretty dangerous, considering the jacket potatoes I put in my oven just before fatally forgetting my keys… and then I remembered my bike, which remains my most important item because it literally rules my life. On a bike, no one can see that you’re wearing your spice girls shirt and your pj bottoms, right??
It did actually make me feel a lot more comfortable, even though I was whizzing past more people than before, because you are slightly hidden on a bike. Then I went over a bump and good lord I realised how important bras are for bike riding, jesus. Self consciously, I continued to make my way towards town, the 10 minute ride being just something I would have to do, like a cersei-style walk/ride of shame for the crime of forgetting my keys… and then I remembered my friends who live 5 minute bike ride away.
Praying that they would be in, I rolled up to their house, bringing my bike with me, because of course, I had no lock. (I don’t lock my bike up, and I keep it in my back garden, which isn’t locked. So shoot me, considering the trouble I get in, I’m happy to continue keeping it in this precarious situation!) When I heard their voices I realised that I almost cried; being on the street on your pajamas alone is a kind of isolating situation, and I hadn’t been able to even text anyone for help or sympathy yet at that point!
Armed with a set of borrowed clothes, bike lock + helmet and small drawstring bag for my pj’s, I left my befuddled and amused friends to go meet my boyfriend, who had now been alerted. The ride into town, with my illfitting helmet, tight vest as a makeshift bra, and VERY short dress (with borrowed panties, the most glamorous request so far today that was not at all embarassing to ask even from a best friend, not at all), should have been pretty uncomfortable, but it was a million times better from shoe-less pajama riding, and I didn’t even need to ask anyone on the other end to look after my bike, cos I now had a lock!
After all this, popping into my boyfriend’s shop and grabbing his keys was a pretty nonchalant affair, I just wanted to get home and rescue my potatoes and stop being the village idiot. As I rode home in my borrowed gear, I felt that it was the height of ridiculousness that such a tiny mistep, mis-action, can push you so firmly down so many rungs on the social ladder so quickly. I’d gone from normal morning, with all my resources, to suddenly desperate and begging from friends, albeit temporarily. Everything was dictated by external factors; that I already keep my bike (and own a bike) outdoors with minimal security, that my friends are lovely (and were in, and own bike parephanalia), and live on the way into town, that the lettings agent was shut because Sunday, that all the neighbours were out/asleep, that wearing sleepwear outside is looked down on and attracts attention, that tarmac is painful to walk on without shoes, that my boyfriend works in town and I can access his workplace at will, all of these things.
If things had been different, my morning would have got back to normal easier and quicker, or alternatively, way less easier and with more difficulty. The flat could have caught fire from the burning jacket potatoes, I could have been forced to borrow a phone from befuddled strangers, I could have spent the entire day in my pajamas but not in my house. I could easily have spent a lot more time curled up on my porch trying to pretend this horrendous and also really stupid situation wasn’t happening to me; and I wouldn’t have blamed “me” if I had. It was an awkward, mildly amusing and embarassing morning, and I did what I could, as anyone else would who made such a silly and stupid mistake.
I think it’s worth thinking about how external factors shape our lives, how there are always ways we are both lucky and unlucky, have options and have them taken away. At the end of the day, all we can do is follow the options we have and hope that we’ve chosen the best one, whether we’re locked out, or the ones holding the spare set of keys.
One thing I think about a lot is ways to design my life to improve it; for example, this month I am starting on a system of cash-buying, so that I improve my spending habits and awareness. But I’m always painfully aware of how lucky this makes me; these are some thoughts on that.
Whilst I was planning it out, I found my diary from last january, when I moved out of my parents home and money was a LOT tighter, but I was incredibly excited because finally it was all my own money and my own choices. In this diary, I’m making choices to eventually get a bike, to eventually get a job that I don’t have to commute to, choices that I have now, in the space of the year, more than fulfilled.
Another way that I can “design my life” is that I’m currently taking driving lessons. Because I have enough money that I am able to save, I have been able to pre-book my theory test, and bulk book my lessons. These are some more obvious things that people with a lower income or higher outgoings (e.g with a family, or hiked-up rent costs, or debts with outrageous inflation) would not be able to do, let alone choose to do in order to improve their near future.
In my work, I see a lot of different kinds of people coming to stay to destress and hopefully de-escalate a mental health crisis. Some of them have money; they have cash on them and come with a nice suitcase with enough things for their stay for the next few days. These are relatively rare though. More often than not, people come who don’t have money for a pack of fags, who didn’t bring anything else, who can’t afford the bus, and these people are quietly heartbreaking. Yes, they spent their money on something, but many of these people can’t work, and I don’t blame them. Employment is hard enough as it is having my full health and mental functioning, I would not like my chances as an anxious depressive who barely finished school and has turned to drugs to try to cope with life, bouncing along to the coffee shop to fill in their trite (yet also somehow demanding) little application forms (“Give an example of when you gave great customer service!”).
On the less obviously tragic side of things I find* you have a disctinctly female kind of crisis. These come in two forms. Young women, somewhere around 20, with plenty of things and normal sounding lives and coming in after a suicide attempt. Or mothers, who have been holding it all together and now they really aren’t sure they can leave the kids at home alone and also they feel worthless and terrible. (The worst is when these mum-types go home, and don’t stay, because they think they are letting their family down. You can’t stop them, but it’s never fun.)
Again, it’s the people least able to change their lives who really need to change it the most. Young girls feel completely trapped, even as they are supported by their parents, and though it’s a mental and emotional trap, it’s one I recognise (or perhaps project) from myself; I didn’t move out of my family home after university, in fact I moved back, to save on rent, to make myself more secure. I spent 5 months back home, and a lot of that time was spent crying or travelling away from it; not because it was a bad place, but because it wasn’t working for me. Yet I felt, (and I assume others also feel) that I owed it to my family to save the money, to make the effort, to not hurt feeelings.
Eventually, I had to move away, because I felt that I would either end up killing a member of my family, or myself in that situation. It wasn’t comfortable emotionally, but I was lucky practically. A series of lucky hires from managers who inexplicably liked me and wanted to give me a chance meant I had got to a job I could reach from my boyfriends house, and having a boyfriend gave me an automatic place I could stay whilst I found a place. The next stroke of luck was a SHOCKINGLY cheap houseshare room that was completely tiny but neat and perfect. Only because of this combination did I get my freedom.
The mother’s entrapment is as obvious as it is cliched as it is depressingly common, women are expected to tie their entire being to motherhood, and be glorified for it for one day of the year. Too many don’t realise how limiting this is, how unhealthy and unnatural, so too few people bother to fight against it, almost no one appears to consider that parenthood should be an equal burden, and that hands-on motherhood is no more or less of a blessing than hands-on fatherhood would be.
Ultimately, it’s the cages we put around ourselves and eachother that are the hardest to breakout of. The economic cage is one a lot of us live within, and to liberate other people is an impossible thought, cos we ourselves are trapped by our rent and our bills and our debts etc. However, if we can, we should. Our lives are worth it, and the people with the least fortunate lives are the most trapped. We cannot free the person who believes the answer is in the bottom of the beer can, but we can help by looking to see where we can make a difference. The landowners who rented me out that houseshare might have just been trying to fill a tiny box room, but it made the world of difference to me. The people who care about their jobs and genuinely want to help people, make a huge difference to the people they help. The people who run charities and the political parties that care about social security, make the world of difference to people who are running low on choices, if they are still able to believe they have a right to them.
If we don’t look out for protecting people’s choices, it only gets harder. People easily judge others who have far more limited options than themselves, and people begin to judge themselves and put themselves in boxes, even when they have the “choice”. Yes, maybe there’s a chance we ourselves might not have options, but that shouldn’t be the motivator, that should be a reminder that we are lucky and we should use our choices wisely, because we are lucky enough to have them.
*Disclaimer: This is my opinion, the holy grail of mental health is that everyone is an individual, and my colleagues would likely argue that this isn’t a trend, but hey, it looks like one to me, and it works well for my point, so tough.
Today I wanted to work through some thoughts I had about bias and context. Recently, I went from a modern day blog about (mocking) hardcore misogynists, WeHuntedTheMammoth, to watching a BBC4 documentary about women in Restoration England, (cos as we are aware, I am the biggest snob/nerd), followed by an advert for Handmaids Tale, and by accident, I realised we seriously need to talk about confirmation bias.
It’s kind of the unspoken monster in the corner of internet or even real debate. Everyone is kinda aware that it’s there, but no one wants to look right at it or admit it, everyone would rather get on their sounding boards and say their piece. I feel that it’s the biggest single obstacle to cooperation that there is.
On the Internet
If someone thinks that women are evil and that society should contain them, then the truth is in the eye of the beholder. All the evidence of misogyny because evidence for misogyny; women have been hated for thousands of years becomes proof of inferiority, not unfounded discrimination. It’s mirror opposite to the intention of this material, another example that comes to mind is the inanity of video responses to Anita Sarkeesians now infamous video games feminism videos:
This trend extents to other areas too, like research about racism. One of my favourite tumblr discourse adventures was when I was “debating” someone about anti-black racism, and they pulled up a source to say that black people and specifically black babies were less scientifically fit, something to do with birth rates and survival.
I inconveniently cannot find the file anymore, if you wanted to trawl through the wreckage of my tumblr discourse page you might find it, eventually, but today is not that day. (Note: I really did enjoy that page at the time, but for the reasons listed in this article I rarely bother taking part in it anymore.) but he linked me to an scientific journal that explained that systemic anti-black racism was probably behind these differences, which he was using to say were in fact inherent proof of inferiority. The goggles were firmly fixed on, all related evidence was now either conspiracy or consolidation.
Ugly bigotry is not the only place we see this, though it’s common and it’s easy because there are strong feelings either side. Other places where this confirmation bias comes in are common, for example parenthood; All childhoods are viewed through the lens of parenting styles, in gender, in ability, in moral character. Similarly in institutions, like prisons or care homes, prisoners or patients are sometimes seen through a moral lens as “difficult”. In the state, especially when it comes to social security, lower classes are viewed through a lens according to what political end of the spectrum you are.
Confirmation bias sees antagonism where there isn’t, and can conjure it up through force of will; think someone is “bad”, but no one else sees it? Treat them (subtly) like shit until boom, like magic, they misbehave or underperform, bam, your point is proven. You see this circle over and over again; the gender pay gap is a flawless example of this. Evidence that “women aren’t hired at the same level as men” could be interpreted to mean women are terrible lazy employees, which would make not hiring them a very sensible option, which would then help to cause a gender pay gap, starting the cycle again.
When you look for antagonism, you can help to cause it. In this way, you enter yourself and the opposing side into a battle that neither of you might want, but both feel you have no choice in. This is never going to be a helpful or productive environment, it is beyond evidence, and is personal biases made real and reinforced through the antagonism they both create and sustain. You shape the evidence according to your beliefs, then shape your reality according to those beliefs.
The truth is that seeing any ground as a battleground will end in the fighting you already have decided is necessary. The only way to get around this, is to to address it in ourselves, which is actually easier done than “said”, and takes a long time. It’s hard to say because even when we doubt ourselves, we know that others will doubt us more; so we aren’t eager to rush in with a nuanced view that will get melted down even more in the discourse that follows. If we want genuine nuaunced discussions, more peaceful interactions about practical solutions and goals on the same page, we first have to believe that this is a possibility. We have to believe things are neutral, so that they are, so that we can see them this way. We have to believe peaceful outcomes are possible, so that they are.
In the example of the state and other institutional forms of this self-reinforcing confirmation bias, it’s about defining things in a neutral light, not an emotive one. Interpreting situations as neutral allows us to break free of our confirmation bias just a little. If we consider that a woman’s sexy blouse isn’t proof that women are evil harpies manipulating the world through breasts, then what is it? Just a blouse? Then we feel there is no action needed, and the situation de-escalates. Instead of a fight about her blouse, the woman goes about her work day, and someone is mildy sexually frustrated, and the situation ends there. The autistic kid is bad at eye contact? If we see that as okay, we don’t fight them to make eye contact, and the situation de-escalates. The kid goes about their life without fighting themselves to make eye-contact they don’t need. Mentally ill but without medication? If we see it as okay, we let that patient be less sedated without seeing this as a loss, then that patient goes about their mental illness without fighting staff about medication.
There obviously are situations where it is not actually okay. We can’t simply tell each other what these are, because everyone will see things differently. We can try and work out what they are, looking past each other’s blind spots and possible biases in a gentle co-operative way, and that’s what is trickier to do, but still much easier and more productive than becoming slaves to our own confirmation biases. We all make choices in our beliefs, and this then shapes how we view the world and evidence about it, the best way to then work together is to be honest about this, and admit that we really aren’t all seeing the same thing, to try and come to a peaceful cooperation instead of getting bogged down in our own little worlds.
(Wow, so that was a little longer than expected and I’ve been sat here at least an hour and a half…next time, I’m putting a limit on, and hopefully that will make my writing a little bit more focused!)
Edit 29/5/17 I originally had more detail in this, but I’ve taken some of it out to protect confidentiality a little more and make it less identifiable.
My work is in mental health, and I get very excited about it, so first, here’s a bit more about my work, because I will be talking about my job a lot more in future, and I want to be clear on what I do, so it doesn’t look like I think I’m a social worker or someone way more qualified that I actually am.
First, you don’t need a specific qualification to do my job, and it’s mildly above minimum wage (£16000 quoted salary, also quoted as £8.20 per hour before tax), making it an entry level role, but one that requires direct working with vulnerable adults, so there is a lot of paperwork to make sure you stay on the right side of the law. You get plenty of training in this, but less direct training in specific mental illnesses, because your primary role is to “support” recovery, making me a “Recovery Support Worker”, which sounds really more fancy than it is. (Part of providing “support” is basic running of the home; cleaning bedrooms when tenants leave, cooking meals in the afternoons, etc.)
The house itself is a “care home”, but specifically, it’s a “rehabilitation and recovery for mental health” home, meaning most people are meant to stay for 18 months and then move on, however Lesson one of mental health recovery work: everyone is an individual. If someone is happy and stable, their social worker isn’t going to rush to rehouse them, and the company I work for isn’t going to push them out, because the room is paid for and the client is satisfied. There are rules and expectations, but the reality is that they can be flexed, if management deem it safe and appropriate to do so; I’m glad that is their job and not mine, because it seems like a pretty fine line to walk.
There is another kind of rehab/respite, called a “crisis” bed. “”These “crisis bed” people are constantly changing, and are one of the more dynamic, interesting and also most chaotic part of my job. Depending on who you’ve got in “on crisis” will pretty much always determine how smoothly that shift is going to go, however, it does give you a pretty great insight into a huge variety of people going through mental health crisises at any one time.
That’s basically my job in a (rather large) nutshell, there are other more juicy sounding bits, like being a key worker, and making recovery plans, and taking daily records/notes, but most of these are exactly as they sound;
–key worker just means you are the main point of contact, responsible that someone is on track with their recovery, like a personal tutor at university or school. (The less-often used “link worker” is their back-up, and frankly, less important.)
–recovery plans are the plans about someone’s recovery, about what the staff have to do, whether it’s remind someone about a goal they made, or follow a certain routine to help someone get into a new habit. They get reviewed monthly and are ideally meant to be made with/by the service user, but this varies, there’s also no fixed way that they get written.
–daily records and notes are just notes on a computer to show that we saw that person, and didn’t just ignore them all day, and did our jobs. We can also look back through them to track changes, but the tagging system is a little hit and miss, we’re pretty much at the mercy of our IT systems design.
That’s essentially my job, and in future, I want to go more into why I like working in mental health, what I’ve learnt from it, and why I think where you work is so important for your personal growth, but right now, the weather is nice and people are coming over for a barbeque, so I’m going to finish up, and get back to here on Monday, when I have…Yet another day off! 😀
Some feedback and a clarification from my last post; a couple of irl followers of mine said they didn’t really get the point I was trying to make in my last post. If I’m honest, I didn’t know either, so I’d like to clarify that I am not focusing on making articulate points just yet. For now, my approach is to go first, grow later. Enjoy the unstructured mess that follows, maybe one day I’ll start using proper structures.
Today is a super hot day and I do not feel like being inside. I don’t really feel like being outside, but I guess that’s the only other option. Work was very satisfying and summer-y yesterday, as the long-awaited garden centre trip finally happened which means people can finally start growing plants at the House. Planting sounds like something which should be amazing for mental health, and I am glad we’re finally getting underway, but like with everything that has a tonne of potential, it only works if people are well enough and motivated enough to enjoy it, so I’m hopeful but not exactly expectant of a blooming vegetable garden in the coming months.
In my own garden, I’m working on a greenhouse. Although of course I’m poor (or rather, trying to follow Raptitude’s approach to money and minimalism but half-heartedly, so I buy things cheaply and then feel sad about it) it’s not technically a greenhouse but actually a “grow rack”, and it’s already shown itself to be a far cheaper (£23 as opposed to £500) item, having first lost it’s plastic cover because it blew away in a strong gust, and then just today fallen apart and spilling all my newly potted plants. Hooray! To be fair to the grow rack it is VERY hot today and the plastic feels almost more flexible than it usually does, and now it’s all been put back together it feels like it’s gonna hold up…as long as I don’t move it.
I’m not really in a mental health space today, it’s too hot for big concepts beyond ice lollies and sunshine, and I’m not at work again until Sunday, which I’m hoping will not be quite so hot as we usually cook a sunday roast… *insert joke about cooking the staff instead here*. Generally, work seems to be going well; new management means a couple of things are changing now, like how we provide meals for residents. Instead of a structure for everyone of 3 days being provided a home cooked meal by staff, 3 days shopping and being paid back for cooking your own meal, and one group cooking session, the new system will be to cook meals for everyone until they choose to be responsible for cooking for themselves, and at this point they will be reimbursed. Lunches are now going to be made instead of given out as disjointed sandwich ingredients, and cereals/tea and coffee will be upstairs in people’s communal kitchen so people don’t need to ask us.
What’s mildly frustrating is that none of this is rocket science, even our manager admits she has been fighting for this system for ages, because not everyone has been cooking their own meals or even coming for ours, but I’m not too concerned. I’ve learnt in the last few months to let my job be simply a job, even though I enjoy what it stands for. I’m not doing anyone any favours by trying to also be my own manager, that’s not in the job description and it distracts from the actual work. I’m excited to see what happens in the new system, but it won’t be my responsibility however it goes, which takes a lot of the stress and the tension out.
I’m beginning to melt now, so I’m going to go outside. I’ve got to put oil on the back gate, so it doesn’t squeak, and if it doesn’t squeak, hopefully no one will lock it to stop the squeaking, and if no one locks it, it will be easier for me to get in and out of the garden, fingers crossed! I’m also going to try and do some collage, but it’s pretty breezy, so that might be a bad idea. I have the day off tomorrow again, and I’ll probs do something radical….
(Like be british, and moan about the weather, perhaps!)
It’s a beautiful day here, and I’m up my own rear end again with a new book to read, called Thrive, it’s a sturdy social studies book about “The power of evidence-based psychological therapies”, and so far, I’m 2 chapters in (and yet I’m still not a sponsored book reviewer, wtf?).
It’s essentially so far setting itself out to be about persuading funding authorities of the power of psychological therapy, as the tool to fight the so-far ignored sixth giant of Churchill’s five (Want, Idleness, Ignorance, Squalor, and Disease); Mental Illness. Which lines up pretty well with my own beliefs, that mental illness is really one of the biggest things holding society back right now. Their book of course focuses on CBT and similar hard-evidence based treatments, which is fine, and makes sense from a funding perspective and will be interesting for my job to find out about.
Personally, my own ultimate goal would be to change the cultural value of mental health entirely, to a culture and world where looking after society’s mental health led the way. I believe that people can’t live happily for long without a percieved meaning; I mean, even places where the standard of living is high suffer epidemic levels of unhappiness and social dysfunction, as anyone who has worked in retail could tell you. Perhaps in the absence of feudalism and oppression, it’s time to find a new goal beyond getting the shiniest hair and the highest heels; or beyond getting the girl who has both of those if you happen to be a male assigned person.
I think most people really are searching to be happy, and capitalism is only too willing to tell them what the answer will be; this new perfume, this sexy woman, this new sexy car etc. But in my own mental health journey, I have at last let go of worrying about this epidemic (what a great word, what an all-encompassing word!) as my own problem. I’ve always “over-analysed” and people have always been falling over themselves to let me know this, but damningly, they’ve never been able to really pinpoint what the actual problem with that is, or where to draw the line, leaving me buzzing away with problem after problem and “solution” after “solution” (that I’m also damningly unable to exercise, what with not being president of the world and all.)
I went into mental health support work with a skeevy cheeky ulterior motive, to find out about my own mental health, to measure it up against the people with real problems and their solutions, to find out what the answer was that all these seemingly sane people couldn’t or wouldn’t find the words to properly spell out for me. What was that missing piece that made me feel so unhinged and wild and brain-racing whilst everyone else was fine to be alive? Over recent years as I became a young adult with my own responsibility for my health and the freedom to be my own hypochrondriac, I found endlesss possibilities; OCD, ADHD, Anxiety, Autism, “maybe i’m just really really smart”, “”maybe i’m just really really stupid”, “what about is it my parents fault”, “ah no it must be capitalism’s fault”, “ah no i could be an Empath”, Sociopath, Schizotypical, Unique personality, you name it and I was probably it? Maybe~?
Amazingly, incredibly, this dodgy little tactic of mine actually bore fruit, as most of my ~zany~ schemes actually tend to do. A few months into the job (a surprisingly day-to-day business involving cooking, cleaning, dispensing medication by reading the prescribed boxes, and reminding people most of the time), we were bundled off to do a course in personality disorders including a piece about schema therapy. Now, I don’t think I have personality disorder, but more importantly, I don’t think it’s important anymore now, and the other part of the course explains why.
Schema therapy, as it was outlined to us, is about looking at your childhood, and how it causes distorted world views i.e Schemas, e.g a child who is hit and hurt a lot believes that the world is a frightening and cruel place, because their childhood world was. They act accordingly; very anxious, or very cruel, or very detached, to try and cope with the world that they feel. My schemas weren’t clear; I don’t think they ever really will be to me, but I finally understood the concept, that the black and white thinking examples are caused by something that was genuinely real, but no longer is, and that in the new “real” (adult) world, tones in between could now become genuinely real. Distorted and panicked thoughts were genuinely the bedrock of my childhood world, but now, I could start to leave them behind, I didn’t need to continue breathing that brand of reality.
I’ve not had a hard childhood, no harder than most people’s is, and I’m not more sensitive or more brash that other human beings, in fact, working with a variety of mentally ill and recovering individuals is helping me to see that we’re all prone to the same kind of demons. One person’s hyperactive mania is pretty recognisably similar to someone else’s obvious mania session, anxiety and suicidal ideation and social isolation look the same on all the different faces that I have seen wearing them. The difference is about how long we wear them, how easily we recognise them and have the power to intervene and stand up to the tidal wave of emotions and thoughts that they generate before they snowball (yay for mixing metaphors, woop woop!).
There is a woman at work who lives in her own world of paranoid ideas and delusions of grandeur, proclaiming facts about the hideous gender bias in the world. I used to agree with her, and almost envy her in her insane insight, almost wishing that more people could hear her wisdom, garbled and peppered as it was with strangeness, only making the parts anchored in reality feel even more tangible and unjust. But now, a few months later, and she is still on the same hymn sheet as before, and my envy has disappeared. All the energy, the light and the noise, is on loop, trapped in herself over and over. She’s been ill for several years now, and all that mental noise is both a reflection of and a symptom of her unwellness. Creative, wild and beautiful, it’s still just noise until one day she’ll (hopefully) get well enough to do something about it again.
This lady’s unwellness demonstrated to me the pointlessness and unhealthiness in my own ruminations, my over-analysing, my fascinations with finally working it all out. The wide eyed man with the infectious humour and earnest serious pleas in his manic episode for the mental health system to completely change, in the same way, saw me learn about myself. The important thing is not in your head, your head and mind are not a reliable place for change and work to happen, but merely a vessel that hopefully, if you are lucky enough and well enough and sane enough, you can turn into a reality. Until we can do that, it’s all just static noise that’s bogging us down.
This blog is about my journey growing up with an undiagnosed autism spectrum disorder, my struggle to overcome my disabilities, and the many angels I met along the way who have made me the person I am today.