Mid-December already… we say it every year, but where has the time gone??
As another year draws to a close, now seems like the appropriate time for some personal (but publicly shared) reflection.
Away from the workplace, much of the past two years has been dominated by my attempts to raise awareness of mental health issues and stigma through a series of what turned out to be fifty-four “challenges”, as well as a willingness to share my personal life experiences.
2015 was the year in which the condition I have had for probably four decades was identified as dysthymia… for so many things to suddenly fall into place after all those years was a massive deal for me. Subsequently I have spoken about my condition and how it can affect/has affected me on live radio and, even more recently, in front of my work colleagues. It wasn’t an easy thing to do (maybe that’s the point…), but much as a diagnosis of “depression” felt like both a heavy burden and an unwanted label, the realisation of what I actually have… and who I actually am, has been as much of a release as my symptoms will allow. It felt right to share… because you just never know when your story might a strike a chord.
Like everyone who is reading this (well… providing you’ve read this far), there have been any number of ups and downs over the last eleven months--such is life I guess. Elaine has certainly had more than her fair share to deal with; yet she conducts herself with such incredible dignity. I am both extremely lucky and immensely proud to be her husband.
If I was to pick out a couple of my most memorable moments from 2015’s “challenges”, facing England badminton international Rhys Walker definitely stands out. I hadn’t played for ten years, I’m totally unfit, and my hips are completely shot; but for forty minutes I gave everything I had to try and compete… and it felt fantastic. Meeting the Olympic gold medallist Ann Packer (now Brightwell) was another wonderful experience. I would normally shy away from meeting people for whom I have so much admiration, but Ann was lovely—and it was the perfect way to bring the challenge project to an end.
As a sublimely gifted couch potato, my highlights from the world of sport were the stunning performance of England’s women to win the EuroHockey championships, and Glen Durrant proving that nice guys can finish first by lifting darts Winmau World Masters Trophy just a few short weeks ago. And finally, my enduring sporting image of 2015 is of Scotland netballer Gemma Sole (below right), piping her team mates onto court during the World Cup in August… a wonderful moment.
I would just like to thank everyone who has supported my work for Mind and Time to Change these past two years, and to wish Merry Christmas and a healthy and happy New Year to: all my family, and the friends I have made… through any of my varied challenges; from my time playing cricket for Gateshead Fell and Chester le Street; from watching Gateshead FC and Gateshead Thunder; members and fans of Killing for Company, Epic Problem, The Karma Heart and This Elegant Chaos; friends from St Peter’s and Newcastle Polytechnic (as it was way back when…), those who have helped me with, bought, read (and hopefully) enjoyed my books on Doctor Who, Marilyn Monroe or Marie Prevost; to my friends from the local Muslim Community, work colleagues past and present, everyone I’ve got to know at Grangetown Netball Club, new friends at Netball Ireland, and anyone I may have inadvertently overlooked (for which I apologise)….
I’ve got to go now… I’m playing darts against the “Silverback” Tony O’Shea later this evening. My recent form can best be described as “crap”, but maybe, just maybe, I’ll be better tonight.