from winter to white nights…

So. What’s new? It’s mental health awareness week. I wasn’t aware of this until a range of unrelated things led me to google mental health week (which is in October) I’m lucky in that I’ve never personally had to deal with extreme mental health issues – unlucky in that while remaining mentally ‘strong’ a certain toll has been taken on me physically – and my condition is, I believe, quite a mimic of depression – I describe it as  a ‘physical’ depression – when active, an extreme lethargy caused by physiological things ( a compromised immune system leading to inflammation and bleeding) so that even if I’m in the happiest of moods my body tells me otherwise. Thus I have quite a lot of sympathy for people who experience what I’d call ‘real’ depression.

I fell into working with people labelled with mental ‘illness’  quite by chance but over the years, I became amazed, then interested at just how many of our symptoms were in fact similar. And convinced that diet has a lot to do with it (and stress of course, there’s always stress to factor in) And most importantly developed a belief which is working it’s way into a theory about the role of creativity in maintaining mental balance.

But it also has made me realise a lot of things, foremost amongst them how unfair it is for the stigma of mental ill health to be so much worse than that of physical ill health. I’m not suggesting that there isn’t a kind of stigma attached to my ‘condition’ (Ulcerative Colitis) because there is – but it’s mainly because people don’t like talking about ‘bottoms’.   Even less do they like talking about the mind it seems and fear and ignorance keep stigma to the fore. So I feel it incumbant on me to ‘speak out’ for mental health issues – be a mental health advocate whenever I can.  Today’s the day.

As I say, I’ve worked with and been friends with people diagnosed or ‘suffering’ from mental health problems.  I’ve got family members who I know have had undiagnosed mental health problems for years.  The 1 in 4 statistic is conservative in my opinion. We are all on a spectrum – but the focus for me definitely comes down on the side of looking at how to look after our mental health, not how to classify or label mental ‘illnesses’

That’s by way of a  long introduction into my work of this week, culminating in a blog post on the indieebook review site.    I’m beginning to see (or at least to hope) that in this brave new world of epublishing there IS scope for actually raising awareness, finding like minded people and generally ‘stirring things up.’   So. This week, following some conversations with folk who were ‘feeling the stress’ in their lives and reading three ebooks on subjects relating to mental health issues: Thank you Stu Ayris and Sherry Ashworth,  I got my arse in gear to compile an ‘awareness’ blog.   And start planning for something bigger and better in October.

All this has been hampered only by my commitment to finally getting The Threads of Time ready for ebook publication with FEWER mistakes than in former incarnations. Going back to a book which, while published 9 years ago was in fact written 16 years ago and I guess I haven’t read in over 7 years, is both interesting and challenging.  Despite the mistakes which I KNOW I wouldn’t make now (but not all of which have been resolved, or I would have re-created it instead of  ‘conserved’ it – and since its subject is archaeology I should be most aware of the differences there!) the story still gripped me and I found more depth to the writing than I remembered.  (Maybe I’m a more enlightened reader now. Maybe I was a better writer then than I give myself credit for) It was, after all, a first novel. By a screenwriter.  We do things (especially punctuation, differently) I also realised it deals quite strongly with issues of the mental health of the main characters!  Paul, after all, may be having a nervous breakdown. It’s one explanation for the events he becomes embroiled in. And as for Diane…. well… jury’s out on her mental state.  I hadn’t remembered, and hadn’t considered the novel as having anything to say about mental health – I wrote it when my experiences of ‘mental health issues’ were limited and unconscious. It was only after I ‘studied’ mental health for an OU diploma, that I realised that close family members had actually been suffering (and I believe they were suffering) from mental health problems for a long, long time.  Too long for me to do anything about it.  Maybe we all have some level of mental health problem. Maybe we all need to be more aware of that and look more closely at how we can reduce mental stress on those we know and love.

Time for reflection has been tempered this week with the fact that it’s changed from being WINTER and I mean winter, to WHITE NIGHTS in one short jump.  I don’t like the dark.  It’s not a fear, not a psychosis, I just don’t actually like it when it’s dark. I don’t like going out in it and I don’t like it. I don’t mind going out looking at the stars before bedtime, but generally speaking, I don’t like the dark. Where I live in the depths of winter its dark from 4pm till 9am. That might make one sad, stressed or generally depressed right? Not me. I just make sure I live my life inside during the dark months. Writing mainly.  And reminding myself that the pay off will come. And the pay off has come. As it does every year.   When I was a teenager I was desperate to go to Leningrad (as it was then) to experience the ‘white nights’  I never went.  I don’t travel now and post communist Russia holds little appeal to me.  If I went to St Petersburg I’d want to go in the 19th century, and that’s not possible right?   However, where I live now (North East Scotland) is actually on the same latitude (or is it longitude?) as Leningrad/St Petersburg and guess what – we get WHITE NIGHTS TOO.  Here we are at the end of May and it’s light from 4am till 11.30pm. SERIOUSLY LIGHT Like you can read a book outside light (or you could if it was ever warm enough to be out that time of night!)  In a months time we’ll be lucky to get 2 hours of dark some time between midnight and three.  I love it.  The plants love it too. We have a short growing season but this week the light and the sun has got everything close to back on schedule after the prolonged winter.   Mental health GOOD.

But lots of outside work to be done and shifting from a writing most of the day schedule to a ‘doing things outside’ most of the day schedule is always a bit of a frenetic thing.  The job that has been hanging on for quite a while is painting and then erecting the SWING SEAT into the ‘Garden of Supreme Harmony’ which is far from Supreme and/or Harmonious at the moment but in another year, or two years or….. well, a work in progress.   However, by the time you read this blog I’m hoping that I’m going to  have :raised awareness of mental health issues,  helped fellow writers log up some sales, AND am sitting on the swing seat – with wi fi access  READING a book  either on Kobo or a real live paperback.

Not bad for a weeks work.  I think I’ll take the weekend off.


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