For World Mental Health Day

This time last year I posted a poem for World Mental Health day that could be considered deep, and perhaps even meaningful. This year, I shall swerve that, in favour of something I hope will make you smile. Sometimes the simplest things can lift our mood after all. Hope you enjoy it.

Very Bad Dog

Lucky will shed fur all over my chairs,
Lucky will at scratch the door,
Or run like a lunatic up and down stairs
Then flop in a heap on the floor.
At night he will curl up, all snug on my bed,
So we are both lovely and warm.
Until an insistent paw pats at my head
To signal the first light of dawn.

Lucky will loiter around by my legs
To show me just how much I mean;
Yet this is truly the way that he begs,
It says his food bowl is too clean.
He’ll wave his long tail and gaze into my eyes
To ensure that I quite comprehend
That I must not skimp on the portion size,
After all, he is my best friend.

He’ll sit on my lap whilst I’m reading a book
And then disappear for some time
Returning with the most insouciant look
As if to ask,‘What? I was fine!’
And tho’ I will scold him, my dear little mog,
He’ll not be much troubled by that;
For these things – which would make him a Very Bad Dog –
Simply mean he’s a Typical Cat!

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A Glowing Review

Last week, I told you that my friend Jill Grey was due to speak at Writers Aloud, telling us of her new book about caring for her husband with dementia. Those of you with good memories may also remember that I said to expect a glowing review of the evening in due course. Well, here it is!

I can say without any fear of contradiction that last Wednesday evening at the Goytre Arms pub was one of the best we have ever had – if not actually *the* best. Jill was both entertaining and composed, punctuating the account of publishing her book with personal anecdotes from her life with husband Chris. The reading she chose to illustrate her talk was a perfectly pitched balance of humour and pathos, providing an insight into the struggles of caring for a loved-one, whilst not losing sight of the humour that can be found in such situations. Many folk present noted how well Jill spoke, managing to project her voice to the back of the room without it losing any of its characteristic gentleness.  (A skill which I lack, and to which I certainly aspire.)

After the necessary break to recharge our glasses, a number of the gathered crowd then then had their turn to entertain. The usual eclectic mix of poems and prose arose from the usual eclectic mix of people present, carrying the latter part of the proceedings along with ease. We were also pleased to welcome some new faces to our little band of writers which, along with a good turn out of the ‘usual suspects’, made for a very well attended and enjoyable evening.

I personally had a fabulous time and judging by the words of thanks and positive comments I have had from people since, it would appear that I was not alone in this. It has admittedly set the bar pretty high for the next Writers Aloud evening, in October, so perhaps I shall hand the responsibility for co-ordinating that one to someone else!

Any volunteers…? 😉

For World Mental Health Day

Limitations (of the Medical Model)

Hormones and synapses, chemical reduction,
Swallow down backwash, bitter little pill.
Am I nothing more than simple deconstruction?
Blister packaged coshes keep the voices still.

Body and soul, I’m all in this – together,
More than just components, product of a brain,
And, whilst I applaud science and endeavour,
A seeking, slicing scalpel would look for me in vain.

Leave me rest, now. Let me find my feeling,
Do not drug me sober; don’t drown out my light,
Let me laugh and cry. Please. Let me find my healing,
Don’t tie my hands with tablets in this fight.

In synchrony of spirit, flesh and bone,
I’ll seek solutions, ones to call my own.

Mad Man Knitting

I woud like to introduce you to a brave and inspirational man.  His name is Gregory Patrick, he lives in the US and knits teddy bears to keep a roof over his head, and over the head of his little kitty, Mario (actually a she-cat!)

I did ask Gregory if he would like to post as a guest on my blog, receiving an explanation of certain ‘artistic issues’ in his response:

As for a snapshot of myself…..Hmmmm. See? That’s where I have a small problem. I have a VERY hard time condensing myself! That’s why I write and write and write…..I babble on with my words. You’ve seen some of my blog posts. They can be LOOOOONG. I can do my best, and can hope to do my best to do a smaller version, but I totally allow YOU to do one if you wish. :)”

Having been given such permission, and given that this dear man is knitting as hard as he can to honour his orders, I have opted to write a little about the impact that Gregory has had upon me and mine.

I initially came across this talented knitter due to being part of the Love Bomb community (see their FB page here .)  At the time, his life was very chaotic, the only real constants being his feline companion and his ability to create very adorable knitted bears.  I began to follow his blog and gradually things began to improve.
 
Some time later, Gregory offered to send bears to people really in need of cheering up, one in every ten created.  This act generosity from someone still very close to the bread-line themselves is just one example of the way in which Gregory rarely – if ever – thinks only of himself.  I was on the verge of buying a bear for a member of my immediate family, who was and remains very unwell, but decided to ask if he would gift one instead.  I offered to go ahead and purchase one, especially if there was someone more in need of the free bear.  However, true to his nature, Gregory swiftly knit up a sweet little orange bear and dispatched him to the UK with in a sturdy box.  This was very, very much appreciated.

So, you see, this is a man who has battled against the odds, and is still battling.  I encourage you to go and visit his blog here.  Perhaps you can add an encouraging comment whilst you are there, or even buy one of his little bears.  I am sure Gregory – and Mario – will thank you for it.

Sean’s story

I was born in the London Borough of Havering in 1963. It may help if I tell you that it’s a stone’s throw from the location filming of TOWIE. My father had his job transferred from the famous Ford’s Assembly plant at Dagenham to their Axle and Transmission plant in Swansea and that’s where I lived from 1966 to 1996. I was always a drifting, emotionally disparate child, given to my own company and a penchant for Hammer House of Horror movies. I didn’t make many friends at school and was easy pickings for a tobacco addiction that basically plagued me periodically, until 2005. This wasn’t the worst of it, as when I hit my teens I began experimenting with the Ouija boardAt first it was fun to ask; “is there anyone there”. One day however we received an answer which I shan’t detail, but which is still terrifying to this day.

I began to suffer depression and was placed on medication from the Summer of 1981 onwards. I attended University in 1988 and gained a first degree; a BA with honours in History. During my final year I met someone and had a stormy relationship that lasted until the early summer of 1993, when she left me. My depression worsened and I began to hear voices urging me to kill myself; a clamour that grew so strong that one night I determined to do it, having set out from my parents’ house to the much more humble part of Swansea, where I lived. my journey took me past a Baptist church where I heard the evening hymns filtering like missionaries out of the vestibule. I crossed the road and the last chorus came to meet me. I hesitated to enter the worship arena itself as it appeared to be packed. While I stood there regarding everyone through glass frosted with faith and expectation, the Spirit of God spoke to me; the intimacy of which will remain private. The secretary of the church invited me to step inside as the tannoy took the preachers sermon to heart. I declined her offer, but resolved to return the week following. If the rest is History, then history brought rest

This wasn’t the end of my problems however as sickness refused to desist from my life and my depression increased, even when I left Swansea and got married in Chesterfield in the Summer of 1997. I’d already been sent to mental hospital once in South Wales and now four more referrals followed in frightening circumstances. The love of God and my redoubtably loyal wife kept me alive as I was ready to end it all on several occasions and actually consumed two bottles of sleeping tablets one night in 2005, forcing an emergency trip to the nearest A&E unit. My way out of this (so far as I’ve ever found an exit) is to write: therapeutically and creatively. I’ve now written several self-published collections of poetry on many subjects from religion to crime and diets to intoxicating drink. 

I turned 50 this year and faith is occasionally difficult. I can only hope to keep believing as if I refuse to do so, I would be left with myself, just as I was in 1993….

My Story

In addition to providing an opportunity for others to tell their stories, I intend to weave my own tale into this weblog.

Having run the gauntlet of mental illness and emerged into a place of relative mental health – whatever that may be – I hope that my experience can provide some encouragement also. If nothing else, the fact that a former ‘service-user’ is now in paid employment for a ‘service-provider’ must prove that a return to health is possible.

I am, however, getting ahead of myself in revealing that particular piece of information. Way ahead of myself.

Watch this space for my earliest memory. Coming soon!