On 7 March – in precisely 6 days –I will reach the milestone (of sorts) of being 20,000 days old.
10,000 days came and went without me noticing back in 1991, and the likelihood of reaching 30,000 (the date for your diary is 23 July 2046) is frankly minimal, so I might as well get the bunting out for the “big 20,000”.
I’ll probably have to make the decorations myself … I’m not sure the high street card shops do a roaring trade in balloons and banners for this particular occasion; and fire officers have already warned me not to even think about putting candles on a cake.
Probably best to keep it low key then…
Would have been a big cake though…
So as of today, I am the ripe old age of 19,994 days old … 19,994 days and 19.992 nights (I stayed up all night once back in ’82). My mind should be overflowing with memories from so many days; so how come I’ve forgotten so much?
If I could somehow add together all the random memories that float around inside my head, how many days would they add up to?
Is it wrong to feel almost “cheated”?
I want to recall so much from when I was a child … all the times I spent with my wonderful grandparents and relatives who have long since passed away … more moments from my teens … things I’ve seen, experiences I’ve had. Surely those memories must exist somewhere, but how do you retrieve them?
Have I tried so hard to block the darkest moments from my mind, that some of the happier times have just faded away completely? I have some photos, but do they trigger “real” memories, or just images of what my mind wants me to “remember”?
I look at the picture of me when I was 13, and even though the features are undeniably mine (and I wasn’t responsible for the haircut), I actually feel like this and other parts of my life were lived or experienced by someone I no longer recognise.
I don’t want to change the things that have happened in my life (even the “bad” things), because ultimately they all led me to Elaine … I don’t want to be a teenager again … all I want is the ability to remember; to get some sense of the person I was … the boy who shaped the man I’ve become.
And maybe then I can think about that cake.
Following on from yesterday’s blog which revealed that Grangetown Netball Club’s amazing Prem 1 squad will be getting involved in raising raise mental health awareness over the forthcoming months, I have one further netball-related “challenge” – and I’m definitely going to need to ask for some help.
Within the 100 challenges I completed between 2014 and 2018 were a number that came under the general heading of “meeting” … meeting someone: someone born on the same day as me, a primary school classmate, an Olympic gold medallist, a punk legend, a Coronation Street actor, my local MP, someone who has had a no.1 record, a Rio 2016 medallist – and so the list goes on.
Arranging to meet someone you either don’t know or haven’t seen for 30 or more years can take a huge amount of planning, and often a considerable amount of driving … whilst the actual meeting might take anything from a couple of hours to a matter of minutes.
That said to have the opportunity to spend any length of time in the company of someone who has achieved something remarkable, or someone with whom you have any sort of past connection is genuinely special… moments that can create lasting memories (and in some cases even friendships).
And when someone who (as an example) can show you a small case containing an Olympic gold medal would rather talk about your reasons for wanting to raise mental health awareness, than their own incredible exploits on the track … well that is the very definition of humbling.
So, on the basis that Grangetown Netball Club’s Prem squad will be helping me to try and show that it is fine to talk openly about mental health and ask for help if you’re struggling, I thought it would be a nice idea to maintain a netball theme for the 2019 version of this kind of challenge: “to meet six Super League or international netballers”.
Not just any six though … I could do that by attending almost any Grangetown Prem 1 fixture. To make it a proper challenge, six names will be picked at random from a list of 50 outstanding athletes (although it could have easily been 100 or more), and my task is then to try and arrange to meet them at some point during 2019.
On the right is the alphabetical (by first name) list – there are four current players from each Super League team, a few overseas-based internationals and a couple of high profile former internationals.
There are some obvious problems. There are no Super League clubs anywhere near Middlesbrough … some of the players are based abroad … and perhaps the biggest obstacle of all is that meeting me is likely to be at the bottom of anyone’s “to do” list – but I suppose if it was easy, then it wouldn’t be a challenge.
I have asked Becky Oatley (who I have already had the pleasure of meeting), The Netball Show (Andy Lamb) and Courtside Comments if they would pick two numbers each between 1 and 50. I have used a random number generator to shuffle the list, so they would have no idea who they were selecting.
In numerical order, these are the six numbers that were chosen: 7, 21, 24, 37, 42 and 46 … and with a suitably dramatic drum roll, the corresponding players (to whom I apologise unreservedly in advance) are: Maryka Holtzhausen, Tamsin Greenway, Kathryn Turner, Rachel Dunn, Lindsay Keable and Maria Folau.
The serious aspect to all of this is that I will not be able to arrange anything without asking for help. I’ve suffered from a chronic form of thankfully mild depression for over 40 years, and I wouldn’t be coping anywhere near as well as I do if I hadn’t gone to my GP … and asked for help.
To some degree I am affected every single day by my condition, but I’m loved, supported and most of the time, I’m strong enough to fight. My life changed the day I first spoke to my GP: please never be afraid to ask for help…
In 2004, I was formally diagnosed with a form of depression (now recognised as dysthymia) from which I had suffered since my early teens … in 2011, I first opened up about my condition and how it affects me … then, in 2014, I began a series of over 100 challenges to raise mental health awareness; to show that it is fine to talk about mental health, and to ask for help if you are struggling.
Those messages remain every bit as relevant and important in 2019, and after five years of pushing myself, emotionally and physically (from performing stand-up comedy to rowing a marathon and plenty in between), I will continue sharing my experiences, trying to raise awareness and challenging stigma … but now I will have the support of Grangetown Netball Club.
Mental health does not discriminate. It can affect anyone, of any age, at any time … and no one is immune. You might feel embarrassed or ashamed; you might feel that no one feels the way you do, that no one will understand, or you might think that no one will listen; but whatever the situation, however hard it might be to find the strength say those first words, there’s no need to feel embarrassed, you are absolutely not alone; and you need to know that people will listen, and people will help…
Back in 2014, I asked Grangetown Netball Club if they would help me complete the challenge of “playing goal shooter in a netball team”. They did help. I played. I was rubbish … but everyone was so welcoming and supportive that I stayed in touch, and now write match reports and articles on behalf of the Premier League squad, who have developed into one of the best club sides in the whole country.
You might think there is no link between me missing shot after shot on a netball court and struggling with a mental health condition, but when I approached Grangetown and when I first sat down in front of my GP, it was to “ask for help”.
The connection might seem simplistic … but for me it’s incredibly powerful.
Netball is a fast, exciting team sport, with those at the top of the game being some of the finest athletes on the planet. Grangetown Netball Club’s Prem 1 squad is flying the flag for elite women’s sport in north east England, and it is wonderful that they are willing to get involved and support raising mental health awareness.
The plan is to see if various individuals or clubs would be willing to arrange a handful of “challenges” involving me and some of the Prem squad; it could be netball-related, it could be any other sport (for example a penalty shoot-out against a professional goalkeeper…); it might even be in a recording studio!
Whatever the challenge happens to be, the aim as always will be to show just what can be achieved by asking for help; then use blogs, photos and videos to highlight and reinforce the all-important messages. If you are struggling, you don’t have to suffer in silence; it’s fine to talk about mental health (whether to a friend, relative, teacher, colleague, GP…), and asking for help is not only a sign of amazing courage, it is also the first step on a road that can lead to really positive outcomes…
Well that was some weekend of netball … South Africa turning England over, before losing out (slightly controversially) to New Zealand; England then producing three great quarters to defeat Australia, but the world no.1 still doing enough to win the Quad Series.
As with all my netball reports and articles, I’m not claiming to be any sort of expert, I’m just venturing a thought or two on a sport I have watched for years; one in which the top sides contain some of the finest athletes on the planet, athletes who are capable of producing the most amazing skill and sporting drama…
With England due to host the netball World Cup in just a few months’ time, yesterday’s fixtures showcased everything that is great about a sport that whose popularity has already grown so much since England’s incredible last-gasp victory in the 2018 Commonwealth Games gold medal decider against the previously all-conquering Australians.
Given the quality of South Africa’s performances over the weekend, and the introduction of Jamaica’s Sunshine Girls, it is reasonable to suggest that there are now five squads with the ability to challenge for World Cup honours. The sides ranked nos.6 and 7, Malawi and Uganda, are more than capable of causing an upset along the way, and I’m really interested to see how Northern Ireland and Scotland fare against the world’s best.
Back to the Quad Series though, and I thought South Africa were superb against England. They seemed to draw the Roses into a really physical game and Roses weren’t able to solve the problems posed right through the court. It was absorbing to watch, and absolutely the right result. The South Africans probably should have won again yesterday, but a compelling clash with New Zealand went into extra time courtesy of a goal calmly-converted by Ameliaranne Ekenasio … several seconds (or so it seemed) after the final hooter should have sounded.
Maria Folau eventually netted the “sudden-death” winner for the Silver Ferns, but it takes two sides to serve up a classic; Karla Pretorius was just brilliant at goal defence for South Africa, and it was no surprise to see her named as the player of the tournament.
England and Australia produced another fantastic game. Australia looked on top after 15 minutes, but Tracey Neville made changes that arguably altered the course of the match. It was fascinating to see how much of an impact the coaching team could play in proceedings; and the contrast between how England struggled to adjust to South Africa’s style of play, yet overcame the challenge of the world no.1 side was fascinating.
Even to my untrained eye, Rachel Dunn’s shooting (and movement) was pretty much faultless; and she was an easy choice for player of the match. My England player of the tournament would have been Geva Mentor – not just one of the (if not the) best netballer in the world, but one of the finest athletes around in any sport.
Yesterday’s games will have boosted all four nations in their respective preparations for the World Cup, but haven’t helped this observer pick a likely winner. Australia weren’t at full strength and I would assume they will start the tournament as favourites; and of the other leading contenders, I think England have the greatest depth, variety, and therefore potential in their squad … but what do I know?
As well as the action on court, I have really enjoyed some of the summarisers, pundits, or whatever is the appropriate term. From the netball I’ve watched over the past few weeks, I want to mention four people … not just for their expertise and insight (which are taken as given), but for the way they are able to engage the audience. It cannot be easy to educate new viewers without talking down to them, whilst still giving the depth of analysis that those with more knowledge of the game will want to hear…
This is just a personal opinion, but Tamsin Greenway, Cat Tuivaiti and Dan Ryan are excellent both behind a microphone and in front of a camera. The fourth person is Ama Agbeze, but with all due respect to the England captain, I’m hoping to be watching her rather than listening to her when the World Cup gets underway.
Until then, it’s all about cheering on Grangetown in Prem 1 and London Pulse in Super League for me. It’s been an amazing twelve months for netball, locally, domestically and internationally … but I wouldn’t bet against it getting even better.
Back in 1999, professional rugby league arrived in north east England in the form of Gateshead Thunder. The newly-assembled squad was made up almost entirely of Australians, all top-class athletes, but not all household names outside their home country.
The prospect of the sport expanding away from “traditional heartlands” was not universally welcomed; and there were those who suggested that Gateshead Thunder would play in front of small crowds and achieve little on the field…
I’ve played and watched so much sport over the years, but rarely (if ever) have I seen one team make such an incredible impact. Under the guidance of Shaun McRae (another Aussie), Gateshead Thunder produced some sparkling performances on the field, which resulted in a sixth-place finish in Super League – just two points and one position outside the end-of-season play-offs – and home attendances increased throughout the summer to an average of nearly 4,000.
What was truly special was the rapport between the Gateshead players and the fans. The “Thunder Army” (as they quickly became known) had no rivalries or prejudices … they just loved supporting their team. And even when outnumbered, they were rarely out-sung. There was barely a let-up from the terraces, especially away from home, and I suppose the most memorable example was the final game of the season, away at Warrington, when 300-400 Gateshead fans gathered behind the posts and chanted and danced their way through pretty much the whole 80 minutes. It was the first (and so far last) time I’ve ever been part of a conga inside a rugby ground…
When the hooter sounded, the players didn’t just come and applaud the fans; they would often clamber over advertising boards and accept the handshakes and hugs from the crowd (I was always a manly handshake man…). Again, this was something I had simply never witnessed before; and not surprisingly, it only made the bond even stronger.
The highlight of 1999 (and one of my all-time favourite sporting moments) was the 20-16 win over Wigan Warriors in a game played at Tynecastle Stadium in Edinburgh. The game had everything. Three great Thunder tries, a seemingly inevitable fightback from the reigning Super League champions, and some unbelievable Gateshead defence to hold off the Wigan onslaught in the closing minutes … all played out against an incessant barrage of noise from the Thunder faithful. The celebrations (both on and off the field) that greeted the final hooter remain etched in my memory. It really was amazing…
Sadly, history will relate that Gateshead’s Super League dream “died” in November 1999 when the club decided that joining forces with Hull was the best way to resolve ongoing financial issues. Those memories are etched in my mind too…
Some said: “I told you so”; others were much more sympathetic; but the legacy of our original squad is that they created a spirit and resolve to refuse to let the Thunder die. The club reformed – a number of times, as it transpired – but despite many ups and downs (and there have been plenty of the latter), professional north east rugby league, and the Thunder name, still exists.
Rugby league is one of the (if not the) most intense, physical team sport. Physical strength and toughness is a given, but rugby league is very much at the forefront of player welfare, which includes supporting those who have some form of mental health condition. It takes a lot of courage for anyone to admit they are struggling and need help, but I can certainly appreciate why someone in such a tough sporting environment might be reluctant to speak out.
That said mental health issues can affect anybody. No one is “too big” or “too strong”.
You might feel like you are alone, but you aren’t.
You might feel you can’t talk; but someone will listen.
You might feel like no one can help; but there are people who can … and will.
In order to try and combine the 20th anniversary of Gateshead Thunder and the great work that is being done to raise awareness of mental health issues in sport in general (but rugby league in particular), I have decided to undertake a third “road trip”.
I’ve done a football club in each of the four Home Nations in one day, and six county cricket grounds in eight hours … the 2019 event will take in 10 (or maybe even 11) professional rugby league grounds in eight hours. The clubs will include Leeds Rhinos who were Thunder’s first opponent in Super League, Warrington (who were the last) and Wigan (but not Edinburgh..!).
I’m looking at a date in mid-May when no games are scheduled. There is a lot to arrange, but hopefully I’ll be able to get a bit of publicity along the way, and maybe meet up with an old friend or two on the day.
More details will follow, but the first (draft) plan is as follows: Castleford, Wakefield, Dewsbury, Leeds, Bradford, Huddersfield, Rochdale, Oldham, Salford, Warrington, and Wigan (in that order).
There are other possibilities and I’m open to suggestions. In fact, there are only two things I can say for absolute certain. One, I will be wearing the original Gateshead Thunder away shirt that belonged to Deon Bird (in fact I will be proud to wear it); and secondly, when I get home, I will raise a glass to “Big Niall” Mercer, one of the original Thunder Army, a great bloke, larger than life, who was taken far too soon.
I don’t want to end of a sombre note though; so I will leave you with this exchange between Big Niall and a barmaid after Thunder had played a game away to Swinton Lions back in the early 2000s:
“Can I have a bottle of red wine to take out, please?”
“I’m sorry; we only serve wine by the glass…”
“How many glasses in a bottle?”
“Can I have six glasses of red wine, please?”
“But can you leave them in the bottle..?!”
This is my final offering of 2018 – not a bumper year for blogs (in fact I’ve probably written more netball reports), but I shall endeavour to go out on a high…
After nearly five years of undertaking challenges to try and raise mental health awareness, I decided to take a break soon after the publication (in April) of my book about the challenges and my own mental health experiences.
Over the subsequent months, I have struggled to come to terms with the scale of revelation. And even though the hope remains that the story of a life with a chronic, albeit thankfully mild, form of depression can have a positive impact on readers, the process of evoking long-hidden memories and committing them to paper has taken its toll.
The latter half of 2018 has been a time of increasing introspection and retrospection. I’ve found it impossible to fully understand how deliberately and deeply-suppressed dark thoughts can be recalled (admittedly with difficulty), whilst countless memories of happier times remain lost in the recesses of my mind.
I can remember fleeting moments, not dissimilar to a series of mental photographs, but even though I know the person in the image is me; I cannot associate the memories of that boy or younger man, with the person I have become.
That makes me feel so sad … and sadness is an emotion I have fought so hard (and for so long) to keep hidden. I feel like I am somehow failing mentally. There’s no element of self-pity; it’s simply a reality that for most of the time stays behind the mask I present to all but my closest family and friends (for whose love and support I am constantly grateful).
That said I have become increasingly aware that this period of self-analysis, soul-searching – call it what you will – flies in the face of the message I’ve tried so hard to highlight … and (recently less successfully) live by: it is fine to talk about mental health, to talk about how you’re feeling, and to ask for help if you are struggling.
A line needs to be drawn; and the start of a new year provides the perfect opportunity to regroup and regain some much-needed physical and emotional strength. That strength can then be used to try and support others … and for me in 2019, that will involve using the themes of netball, rugby league, and music as my focus:
Even writing this blog has made me feel more positive. Whatever happens over the next few months (and never fear, there will be updates), all I want to try and do is show that it is fine to talk about mental health and, even though the prospect can seem daunting, it is possible to find the strength to ask for help. You are not alone.
Here’s to 2019 x
The person bowling in this seemingly random cricket photo is actually me, playing for Gateshead Fell at Chorley during the 1995 semi-final of the National Club Knockout– one of the most memorable moments in the moderate career of a distinctly average sportsman.
It was my only experience of playing in front of a four-figure crowd, and although we were (soundly) beaten on the day, this photo always helps me to recall memories from 25 years of playing a game I love.
Injury forced me to retire in 2004; and two years later I moved to Middlesbrough to be with Elaine … a whole new chapter in my life. The thought of becoming involved in another sporting club, cricket or otherwise, never crossed my mind; but then, totally out of the blue, along came Grangetown…
It’s over four years ago since Gel arranged for me to have a go at playing goal shooter as part of a series of “challenges” I was attempting at the time. It’s fair to say I was rubbish, but as I drove home that night - after being given the all-clear by paramedics - I sensed there was something very special about the club.
Gel knew I did a bit of writing and asked me if I would be interested in doing a few match reports for the Prem squad. I started coming to watch the occasional game, and the rest, as they say…
From the sidelines I’ve seen the squad relegated to Prem 3, gain promotion at the first time of asking, play wonderfully well to lift the Prem 2 championship, and have the most fantastic start to life in Prem 1. It’s been brilliant…
More than that though, I’ve been welcomed into the club, and accepted by the players and coaches, even though I have no family connection to Grangetown; and my two daughters are actually older than the overwhelming majority of the squad (apart from Gen … obviously).
My younger daughter plays netball, and my love of the sport grew from watching her; but I can honestly say that I’ve felt every bit as much enjoyment, excitement –and even pride – from seeing this group of girls develop into one of the best squads in the whole country.
Nothing can ever match the feelings you get from playing competitive team sport, but being accepted as part of the “Grangetown family” comes pretty close - and this blog is simply my way of saying THANK YOU.
Seven years ago tomorrow, I had the “breakdown” that led directly to me writing the blog in which I revealed that I’d suffered from a mental health condition since the mid-1970s.
So much has changed (almost all for the better) as a result of that blog, and the subsequent work I have done to try and raise mental health awareness; but the reality is that I still have the same condition – a mild, but chronic form of depression – and it still affects me to some extent every single day.
Most of the time, it’s fine; I just need to find the best way of dealing with the feelings until they pass – and they do pass. However, there are occasions when I recognise I’m struggling, and I’m just not strong enough to fight off the negative thoughts and feelings.
Such has been the case these past couple of days. I’m able to talk when I’m at home, but if I happen to be at work, I still instinctively go quiet and isolate myself – I’ve really needed my trusty mp3 player this week – but when the emotional release comes, as it inevitably will, it can be really difficult to hide what is (or at least feels) glaringly obvious, from those around me.
Although I know that support is there, I’m equally aware that nobody comes to work to see me in a state, and on those rare occasions when my condition temporarily gets the better of me, I’ve become very good at making sure no one notices.
And no one noticed this morning…
I know that I keep saying how important it is to speak openly about mental health, yet seem to have done the complete opposite – but luckily I was able to reach Elaine by phone to get the reassurance I needed. That said, maybe the instinct is to avoid a whole group of people realising something’s not right, as opposed to the security that comes from a more private conversation..?
Seven years ago tomorrow was the “worst” (and I accept it’s all relative) day that I’ve ever had with my mental health. I will never forget how I felt that night, and it’s right that I don’t, because I never want to take the support I received (and still receive) for granted, or forget just how far I’ve been able to come .
As the nights close in, the temperature drops and working weeks just seem to get longer and longer, it always helps to have something “to look forward to” … a holiday, a concert, meal out, even a quiet bottle of wine and a couple of episodes of Corrie.
The fact that Elaine works quite a few late shifts and the occasional Sunday makes the time we can spend together even more precious. Ruby (quite rightly) is our main focus of attention, but we’ve also planned a couple of nights out … and as much as you’re probably not interested, I’m going to tell you about them anyway.
Later this month, a singer called Nicola Marie is performing at a pub in Normanby called (and this might surprise you)… The Normanby. I understand this young lady reached the “judges’ houses” on The X-Factor a few years ago, but as my reality talent show viewing began and ended with Hear’Say, I’ll just have to take it as read that she has a really good voice.
Nicola Marie will be performing a Madonna tribute – a type of act that is apparently very much in “Vogue” these days … ahhh… comedy to “Cherish”.
Think of a fish … any fish…
What? “Like a Sturgeon”?
The same venue is hosting a comedy night in early December. My own stand-up “career” (in the loosest possible sense of the word) ended at Elaine’s insistence at The Stand Comedy Club in Newcastle back in 2016, but on the basis that I won’t be allowed anywhere near the stage, you can have this one for free…
A man was rushed to hospital after a German sausage became stuck in his throat. Doctors managed to remove the object, but admitted that they’d definitely feared the wurst…
These two events are pretty much on our doorstep, but in between there’s an hour’s drive up the A1 to Gateshead to see a band called Epic Problem. It will be great to catch up with Mackie, Jake and Morry … and although it’s fair to say that their particular brand of music is not Elaine’s cup of tea; I would like to think I’m still in credit having sat through the Bay City Rollers, Bucks Fizz, Showaddwaddy and Jackie the Musical over the past couple of years.
(And yes darling, I know Cheryl et al were actually really good; and Leicester’s finest put on a decent show too … but “reputation” and all that…)
Fast forward to February and a slight change in tempo with a performance by Anita Harris, a singer who back in the day was one of the biggest entertainers on the planet. We met Anita a couple of years ago –and she was lovely; she’ll actually be 77 next year (on 3 June – we share a birthday if you want to start saving up for my present), but still looks absolutely amazing.
Much, much later … in 289 days’ time (give or take), we’ve got tickets to see Grease at the Sunderland Empire – starring Peter Andre…
... as Frenchie.
I made that bit up.
At this point I must reveal that back in 1978 I went to see the movie at a cinema in Hinckley (it’s in Leicestershire) with Auntie Florence and Auntie Betty. Forty-or-so years’ later I will have Elaine for company; I did ask if she wanted to go with a friend, but she replied: “No … We go together.”
“Like rama lama lama ka dinga da dinga dong…”
“Yeah, that’s fine; just us two then.”
“As shoo-bop sha wadda wadda yippity boom de boom…”
“Yes love; I get it…”
“Chang chang changitty chang sha-bop. That's the way it should be…”
To my continuing shame, it remains unusual for me to read anything longer than an average social media post; and so completing a 781-word article relating to World Mental Health Day is an achievement of which I’m actually rather proud.
The piece was written by Lucy Nichol, a gifted and insightful writer, and a fellow Trigger author (included as an unfounded implication of my own ability), and discussed the need to use mental health conversation to drive change – raising awareness is all well and good, but people still need access to services (the right support at the right time).
Lucy makes her point(s) as knowledgeably and eloquently as always, and I accept that the undeniable impact of funded/not-for-profit campaigns (such as Time to Change) are limited by an emboldened line that it would be politically unwise to cross. She argues that campaigners and supporters have greater ability to highlight and really push the need for whatever change is considered necessary – but this actually made me question whether my efforts are enough.
I have so much admiration for the more “high-profile” campaigners who have the energy, strength, determination – as well as credibility and whatever is the best word for “approval” or “reputation” – to take a personal cause and pursue it for the benefit of the unseen, unknown sufferers. Lucy cites Hope Virgo as an example, another fellow Trigger author (further reinforcing the unfounded implication…) and one of the bravest, most inspiring people I have ever met.
When you realise what Hope has faced, battled and (as far as is possible) overcome, you would think that it would be enough to simply share her story; but this young woman is prepared to go not just the extra mile, but the extra however many miles there are between John O’Groats and Landsend (on a bike) to help spread her particular message.
The magic number is 874 to save you looking it up…
I have spoken openly and honestly about a condition that is chronic, yet mild enough to be almost embarrassing in comparison; but all I have ever tried to do is encourage people to talk, and not to be afraid to ask for help. I suppose that rather naively infers that whatever “help” is required will be readily available and deliverable, but clearly that is not always the case. So maybe my “message” is flawed..? If services are not adequate, then surely I should be doing something more..?
My response … well, quite simply I don’t have the same level of knowledge, energy, determination et al as the Hope Virgos of this world. I do what I can to raise awareness whilst also trying to manage my condition; the symptoms that affect me (to whatever extent) every single day of my life – and have done for over forty years – and I’m just not sure I’m capable of “more”.
It took me so long to find the strength to visit my doctor and “ups and downs” and “bad days” notwithstanding, my outcome has been so positive. I was listened to … I wasn’t judged … I was helped … it took some time, and a bit of trial and error with the treatment, but I eventually reached a point where I felt able to share my experiences in the hope that they might prove the catalyst to a process that can eventually lead towards “recovery” (whilst recognising all conditions and recoveries are different).
Many years ago, as an average cricketer and equally average captain of Chester le Street 2nd XI, I tried to give the club’s developing youngsters the chance to perform in challenging match situations – finding ways to try and win, rather than a way not to lose; but recognising that if things didn’t work out, there was always a chance to learn for next time. One of those teenagers went on to play county cricket, and messaged me some years later to say that he always remembered how much he’d learned from me in those early days.
Remarkably kind words, but all I did was support him (and hopefully others) to improve to a point where someone with greater knowledge and experience would be able to guide them to the next level. And in a sense that’s how I view my efforts to raise mental health awareness. There are people far better-placed to help those most in need, and whilst there are undoubtedly service issues, the full extent of those issues will never be known unless people feel empowered to talk and ask for help in the first place.
If I’m playing a part, it is certainly a very small one; but whilst I may not feel able to raise my head very far above the proverbial parapet; I salute all those who can … and do - amazing people making a real difference.