The Elephant In The Room Is Becoming More Visible

Featured


Image by John Hain from Pixabay

This latest blog post is a complete shift away from the usual subject matter that has formulated my posts since I started blogging in 2011.  I have been prompted to write about the once taboo subject of mental health; the reason for this will become clear in due course.  Those of you who have read my book, Eyesight To The Blind, will be aware that mental health issues formed a big part of my earlier life, and for those of you who may be new readers I will give an extremely condensed summary of my experiences before I continue with the post.

For many, many years, no matter where I found myself in the world and in whatever capacity, I always felt that I didn’t belong; like I was in the completely wrong place.  I also felt, for no apparent reason, the most excruciating emotional pain that made me feel as though I was the worst person in the world.  This would normally be triggered by feelings of loneliness and worthlessness.  In addition to that I would experience paranoia (although at the time I would have vociferously denied it) and could often withdraw into myself, especially if I felt that a group of people were excluding me.  When I finally found out, by accident no less, that I had depression, which was in 1996, I estimated that I’d been living with this “thing” for around 28 years.

Now that I had a name for what I’d been experiencing I was able to go about the task of tackling it.  Notice that I have not said that “I suffered” with depression; I will clarify in due course.  I lived with this condition at a time when it was not understood and not spoken about.  If you said you were depressed it meant that you were hacked-off because your team lost on Saturday.  If you happened to persist with this notion of, “I’m depressed”, you would be ridiculed, told to man-up or pull yourself together; after all it’s only girls and sissies who get depression, isn’t it?

I initially went to my GP and asked for “happy pills”; he duly obliged, but I couldn’t stop drinking and we all know what happens when we combine the two.  It’s not exactly a marriage made in heaven.  After an experience that I never want a repeat of, I finally decided that enough was enough; I was simply tired of feeling awful.  Plan “B” was to flush my pills down the toilet, grab depression by the scruff of the neck, look it square in the eyes and (apologies to any minors, religious people, or people of a nervous disposition who may be reading!) knee it in the bollocks.  It worked a treat, I’d got to the point where I was recognising triggers, which is something you can’t do when you don’t know what you are experiencing.  Whenever a trigger reared its head, I simply acted in the opposite way to what I’d always done; for example, if I was feeling excluded I made a point of interacting with people.  However, I wasn’t quite out of the woods..

Around three years later, for a period of approximately two years, I had an experience in the workplace that caused me to be off work sick for a period of six months, with an acute stress related illness.  This was my real turning point.  I was full of hatred, anger and blame, but it was during that six-month period that I learned the root cause of the problem.. it was me.

I was defining myself by my illness and blaming the world for the way I felt.  It was only when I realised that I was the only person who could change my life that my life actually changed.  I realised that who I really am is something that goes way beyond my illness.  I could have gone on blaming other people and circumstances for ever, but no matter what I perceived that others had done to me, no matter how much I hated and blamed, the only person hurting was me.  Yes, I took certain actions, and I’d be happy to go into more detail if anybody reading this is interested; just contact me via the contact form below.  But the reality is, that all along the solution was within me.  I just had to experience what I now refer to as “my great adventure with depression”, in order to arrive in that awareness.  Now to the whole point of this post.

I think it’s fantastic that there is now a much greater understanding and awareness of what is an awful illness.  It’s amazing that more and more people are not afraid to talk about it.  What is especially refreshing is that so many famous sports stars and actors, past and present, are going public and sharing their experiences.  It proves that depression does not discriminate; it will make its home in anybody regardless of their status within society.  The elephant in the room is most certainly becoming more visible.

The concern that I have is this.  While it really is a great thing that so many are opening up about their experiences; especially with social media being so big now, it gives people a platform from which to share.  I see so many negative posts being churned out.  So many people it would seem, are defining themselves by their condition.  This is why I never say that I “suffered” with depression; I always say “I lived with”, or “I experienced”.  When we use “I” or “I am” in a sentence, we need to be very careful what words we use after because they really are defining.  The mind is such a powerful thing; we ARE literally what we think.  So, when we are constantly affirming that we are worthless, useless, inadequate, a victim etc, that is exactly what we will be.  I don’t know what the ultimate answer is, but I suppose that everyone in their own time will make the natural transition in the way that I did.  I just want to finish by saying two more things.

I’m not in any way trying to say that my experience is definitive.  We are all unique (thankfully) and we all have our own pathway.  I’m also not suggesting that the people tweeting and posting negative stuff are wrong.  It is what it is, and we are all at different stages of our journey.  In many cases they don’t know how to reach out in any other way.  I’m simply trying to highlight how harmful it can be when we define ourselves by negatives.

Finally, I wasn’t going to mention any individuals, but I’m going to mention the ex-footballer, Dean Windass.  He was an absolute beast in his day and still looks quite fearsome, but he is one of the many brave souls who are bearing all to the world.  The reason I mention Dean is because he posts regular videos on twitter.  Those videos are never rehearsed, they are completely raw; showing his humanness, and he always says how he feels but also he regularly sends out the message that if you are having a bad day; reach out to someone!  These days there is always someone who will listen respectfully, so don’t suffer in silence!

Like Dean’s videos, I hope that this post has reached out to you, that it has made at least a modicum of sense and that you have been able to take something from it.

Don’t forget, if you want to ask any specific questions about how I dealt with and beat depression, just get in touch via the form below.  Later people…

 

Painting The Blues

Image


Cosmic Womb 22/05/20

As well as trying to get to grips with my cigar box guitar during this time of great change, I have dusted off my oil paints and given them another outing.  Since I started in 1997, virtually every painting I’ve done has been an experiment in trying to find the perfect technique to create the perfect end-product.  I’ve tried acrylics and gouache too, but they just don’t seem to do it in the same way that oils do; they simply don’t capture the vividness of the colours.

This painting I did today is probably the closest I’ve ever got to achieving my artistic goal.  As you would expect, the photo does not do it justice; there is so much incredible detail that has to be seen close-up.  However, I’m really pleased with it and thought I would share it with you all.

Stay safe and happy!

And Now For Something Completely Different

Video


I thought that I would share with you another one of my interests.  I’m a very lazy musician, I love guitars but 6 strings is too many!  I have acquired a custom built, 3 string cigar box guitar.  It was made by a real craftsman here in the UK.  I’m still getting to grips with it, as it is a bit smaller than I anticipated and I’m struggling a bit still, to stop the box moving as I’m playing.  But I’m getting there with it slowly.  I’m also currently waiting to have a crystal glass bottleneck slide custom made, but the virus situation has put a spanner in the works with that for the time being.  Below are some pics and a video; don’t forget your ear plugs!

Peace Descending


I was not even born when Ramana Maharshi left this earthly life and I didn’t even hear of him until roughly the last 10-12 years ago, but the impact he has had on my life has been amazing.  Of course, he was no mere mortal, but even so, his influence on me defies all logic.  Today, for example, I finished reading The Mind of Ramana Maharshi by Arthur Osbourne, for the fourth time.  The penultimate chapter covers the great sage’s mahasamadhi.  As I was reading it I felt very tearful; not out of grief, but because I was so touched by the graciousness shown to his devotees throughout his time in Tiruvannamalai.  The book managed to convey this to the reader very admirably.  Even in the last hours of his earthly life he was still giving darshan.

I have found that whenever I feel that the world is getting to me, and I feel myself getting sucked in by the tricks of the ego, a bit of Ramana Maharshi always brings me back.  I always get such a feeling of peace descend upon me when I read about his teachings and life.  For me, the main message that flows from the pages is that The Maharshi radiated such peace, and it is as though I am touched by that very same peace as I read; everything about him was just pure love.

There aren’t really any words to explain this kind of thing properly, and I’m sure some people reading this will have had the same experience with their own particular life influences and will understand what I mean; words.being completely unnecessary.

It’s Only Wine


Image by Unsplash

A rich landowner was very well loved by all those who worked for him on account that he was a very caring and compassionate man.  The man’s pride and joy and one real vice, was his wine cellar; of which he was immensely proud.  He had wines of all vintages from all over the world, reds, whites, dry and sweet, before dinner, with dinner, after dinner; you name it, he had a wine for the occasion.  Amongst all of his vast collection, there was one single bottle of an extremely rare vintage that he was waiting to share with the right person.  Many a time he was on the verge of sharing, but it never quite happened.

 

One day the governour of the state visited him but the man thought to himself, “I can’t open this vintage wine and share it with a mere governour.”  Soon after, he was visited by the Arch-Bishop, but “no” he thought, “this man just wouldn’t appreciate it.”  He then entertained a member of the royal family, and as they supped he also felt that this royal simply wasn’t senior enough to taste the rare vintage.  Even when his son got married, he was tempted then to crack open the bottle and toast the happy couple, but again had second thoughts, believing that none of the guests, or indeed his own son, were appreciative enough to taste the rare vintage.  Eventually, the man became old and died and the rare vintage remained undrunk.

The day of his funeral came, and because he had been so kind and popular in life, all his employees and the peasants of the neighbourhood were invited to attend a great celebration of his life.  All the wine was brought out from the cellar, including the one, single bottle of the very rare vintage.  The man’s family shared the wine with everyone present.  However, the peasants and indeed the family, knew nothing of vintages and to them all that was poured into their cup was wine; plain and simple wine.

So it is in life too.  No matter what status we are given by others, or whatever status we award ourselves, it all eventually comes down to the same thing.  Death does not discriminate; it takes all of us eventually from our physical bodies.  I am a firm believer, especially now I am older, that status is very superficial and holds no importance, except that which may be contextual.  The greatest people I have ever known and been inspired by, have been those, that in the worldly sense of the word, had little or no status in life.  They were people who were simply kind, caring and compassionate.

In Zen, death is considered to be part of life, a stepping stone to the next experience.  I hope, my friend, that you drink and enjoy the wine of life that is your experience and I hope your chosen vintage is love…

Balloons

Video


Whatever you are doing at this moment, I hope you are keeping safe.  I have decided not to make a personal comment on the current situation because the world and his cat has either suddenly become an expert on all things medical, or they are giving their take and perspective on the spiritual reasons and implications for what’s happening.  Instead I am going to share, what I believe, are a couple of lovely things with you that I found on the internet.  Firstly, I found this on the facebook page of Swindon Spiritualist Centre and Healing Sanctuary (author unknown):

A teacher brought balloons to school and asked the children to blow them all up and then each write their names on their balloon.  They tossed all the balloons into the hall while the teacher mixed them from one end to the other.  The teacher then gave them 5 minutes to find the balloon with their name on it.  The children ran around, looking frantically but as the time ran out nobody had found their own balloon.  Then the teacher told them to take the balloon closest to them and give it to the person who’s name was on it.  In less than 2 minutes everyone had their own balloon.  Finally the teacher said:

“Balloons are like happiness. No one will find it looking for theirs only. Instead if everyone cares about each others they will find theirs as quickly as possible.”

Secondly, I came across this video from the wonderful Rupert Spira:

I really appreciate having you as my blog followers; thank you!

Enfolded In The Love Of Spirit


Photo by Aidan Roof from Pexels

Those of you who read my post Impermanence will know why it is quite rare for me to write about my work away from writing.  However, I felt compelled to share this post after I had what was quite a beautiful experience earlier this year.  If you’ve read the post I referred to above, you will be aware that I have two jobs with the same organisation; one that is a part-time contract based in our main building, and the other, which is on an ad-hoc basis working in the community.  So it happened, that whilst I was at my day job one Friday in February, I was asked if I would be able to work that evening; just three calls in the community.

Around half an hour before I was due to meet up with my colleague for the evening, I received information that we were to make an extra call.  We had taken on another patient on an emergency basis; I must confess that when I read the patient notes I did not feel that the person would be long for this world.  All of our calls were logistically well placed, so we didn’t have far to drive between each one.  The emergency call was the last one; logistically, it fitted perfectly in that order, but also, because it was a new patient, you never know what you are going in to, so it made sense to deal with the “devil” that we knew first.  The idea of a first visit is that you explain the service to the patient and any family members present (what they can expect, what we provide etc.), do what ever they need you to do at that time, then the following day the service “proper” starts.

It was dark and raining, and the property was in a village that neither me nor my colleague were familiar with.  The first thing that happened was that sat nav took us up a dark country lane where there were no houses.  We managed to find a turning place and drove back down to the village and parked up next to the phone box.  The idea was to call the house and use the phone box as a land mark from which to work from.  It was explained to us where the house was, but parking was at a premium along the narrow lanes, so we had to park some distance away from our destination.  When we eventually got to the house, we were met on the steps by a teenager who informed us that the patient had indeed died around an hour previously.

In these cases we always ask if there’s anything they want us to do.  Sometimes the family just want to be alone with their deceased relative.  Other times, we perform a task called “last offices” that means we give the deceased person a wash and clean them up if necessary.  It also involves putting fresh garments on them, if the family so desire, and combing the hair and positioning the body in a dignified way.

When we entered the house it was quite chaotic; there were many people milling around in various states of mourning, also several other comings and goings and to cap it all there was also two boisterous dogs.  In all the chaos we asked if they wanted us to do anything and it was decided that we would simply wash the hands and face, brush the hair and position the deceased in a dignified way.  Eventually, after a few minutes of people walking in and out of the room, we were left alone to carry out our work.

As we set about our task, I was suddenly aware of the most beautiful presence of spirit.  It came very close and enfolded me as I went about my work.  Regular readers will know that I advocate a non-dual existence, however, I also understand that while we are here in the world we will have the experience of duality.  This particular experience demonstrated to me that the apparent “poor soul” who departed this life, was guided home by a Love whose beauty is way beyond the comprehension of the human mind.  It was also interesting to note, that before we carried out last offices, a lady in the house (who I took to be the mother of the deceased) said to me, “I know she has gone to a better place.”