Wednesday, 3 November 2021

Thought for the Day - and Why I Don't Drink

My thought for the day is how little any of us know about anyone else's experience. That's why emotional distress is so hard to understand and to treat, because we just don't know how much anyone is suffering. Especially if they choose not to speak about it and even if they do.

I have come to this conclusion while thinking about something that happened the other day while I was doing my food shopping. I was at Aldi, in what is generally considered to be the worst area in our town, although I used to live there and never encountered any real problems (apart from being burgled, once). 

Anyway, I was at the checkout when suddenly there was a kerfuffle, lots of shouting. I didn't see what had actually happened, but the security guard was at the door, yelling and swearing at someone outside. I mean, effing and blinding, no holds barred. The man outside was saying that the security guard had broken his leg, the guard said he was going to effing break the other one. From the look of him, he could have done it easily. 

Then the guard came over to the checkout and started sounding off at the cashier. 'I got him on the ground because he pushed me,' he said. 'He had this down his trousers.' ('This' was a bottle of something, it looked like ether vodka or gin.) The cashier shrugged and said that was fair enough. As I left the store the guard was back at the door, yelling at his victim again (if victim is the right word) who was limping off across the road. 

Now, I think it's pretty clear that the security guard had gone over and above his necessary duty, even if the man had pushed him (which he might or might not have done. He looked very drunk, it wouldn't have been much of a push). I mean, getting the guy on the ground, causing him physical injury, getting so angry that he turned the air blue...it was all too much of a response. Disproportionate to the offence, definitely. 

Well, it was over, and hopefully no permanent damage done. But what this made me think about is how addictive alcohol must be. Luckily for me, I don't drink (partly because I feel sometimes that if I started I'd never stop). But my mother was an alcoholic and several members of my family have substance abuse issues (although I doubt very much that they would think of themselves in this way). I know lots of people who are dependent to varying degrees on alcohol, I am sure I am not alone there.

I used to drink a bit when I was young. I don't miss it. I found it much harder to give up smoking. Alcohol was never really necessary to me. So I don't think I fully understand the issues involved in addiction to alcohol, the pull it can exert on a human being. Witnessing that awful situation yesterday made me think, my God, that man needed that drink. He was desperate enough to try to steal it, desperate enough to try to fight for it. It was only about ten o'clock in the morning.

What had happened to him? What had he been through in his life, to get to that degree of desperation?

And then I wondered whether my mother had needed alcohol to the same degree as that poor man. I think she probably did. I think I have perhaps judged her too harshly, by taking my own standards and applying them to her. I don't think she could have helped herself. I don't think she was ever actually capable of putting her children's needs before her own. I am very lucky never to have been in that situation. 

Which is why, I think, emotional distress is so hard to understand. It is all so subjective. Even if we are very close to someone, we never really know what they are going through. 

Which is why I am passionate about better treatment for emotional distress. We should not be judged, labelled and diagnosed by people who think they know the workings of our mind better than we do. Helping people in distress should be done compassionately and force should never be used, in any setting and for any reason. 

Tuesday, 2 November 2021

Quickly...

I have to start cooking the dinner soon. The evening meal in our house used to be at five pm; we kept nursery hours for many years. This was because we had four young children and also because I am and have always been a hungry sort of person, and used to be disciplined enough not to snack between meals, which meant that I was ravenous by mealtimes. 

The discipline has gone AWOL. I snack a lot and so I don't get ravenous any more. Also, the children have grown. Two are now adults, away at University for a large part of the year, and the other two are teenagers. Huge, hulking boys, in fact. If they ate dinner at five o'clock, they'd need another meal at eight. 

So we eat at seven. The boys still have a snack after school (for snack, read chicken sandwich or similar) and they come down to snack later. The change of mealtimes...where was I going with this? Oh yes, quick blog, about to cook.

I can't now remember what I was about to write. Oh yes... I have been working today, after my fashion. I wrote around a thousand words of a novel, a respectable amount, in between walking the dogs and letting the dogs in and out of the back garden about a million times. And going to visit my elderly client, and having a PCR test and sorting out the washing and so on. 

I used to think it wasn't a sacrifice, looking after the family, that I couldn't be doing anything more useful or enjoyable and I wouldn't have had much of a career anyway. Recently, I have started to see things differently. I wonder whether if, for the last 22 years, Paul had spent his time nurturing the family and doing all the washing, cooking and cleaning, I might have achieved something. If I'd had a back-up person so that I could focus on my career as he has done...

But it wouldn't have been possible. I needed those children as much as they needed me, perhaps more. I couldn't have delegated their care. I can only begin to let go now because it is screamingly obvious that they don't need me like they used to. I am more reluctant to let go, even now, than they are. 

And, of course, I am only able to think in terms of what I can achieve in my career because I have them in my life, because I have 'achieved' parenthood (or did I have it thrust upon me? Or both?)

And of course, I am not free yet, just more free than I was. I do have all day to get on with my writing (after the house stuff and dog stuff and care work stuff is done) but I still has to cook the dinner. 

(Deliberate error, I find it amusing.)

And bye for now. I'll write another blog post tomorrow. I'm trying to get back into practice. Hopefully tomorrow I'll think of something interesting to write about (smiley face emoji). 


Monday, 1 November 2021

Back in the Game - soon to be out of it?

Well, I have been sitting at my desk writing. It's progress. I have also been tweeting, but that's all part of the fun of being a writer. Smiley face emoji. 

I went to work this morning for the first time in a while, because my elderly client has had Covid. I think I wrote here about that yesterday. Anyway, he said he was sure he was over it and I needed to start earning again (self-employed; don't work, don't get paid). The first thing I did when I arrived was to carry out a lateral flow test (poor old thing, who wants to be woken up to that). Horror, it was positive. Additional horror, he coughed directly in my face as the swab tickled his tonsils. 

I was wearing my mask, but even if I wasn't a hypochondriac I would be sure that I have contracted the virus. So now I can't visit my other elderly client (I only see her once a week for an hour, but I'll miss her) because I might be incubating Covid. She's not willing to risk it and I am glad because I wouldn't want to put her in danger. 

When I finished work I had to do M's shopping, so I dropped that off (I shopped carefully, masked etc) and bought a few things for our household too, in case I am about to be housebound. 

I'll do a lateral flow test daily, I'll soon find out.

I wish I'd waited a few days before going back. M did need some food shopping and he was desperate for a shower (I don't assist, but am on hand in case he falls, he hasn't got the confidence to do it alone). But I wish I'd thought harder, because if I have the virus it'll mean I'll have to take another ten days off work, during which time he'll have to manage without me. Plus, my family might catch it, spread it, have to isolate etc. 

Ah well. The thing is, government guidance is that carers can work, as long as they have been double vaccinated (which I have). This puts pressure on us to help our clients, because we know how they rely on us and we don't want to let them down. M kept telling me that the girl on the phone, when he called in with the lateral flow result (the first one, a week ago) said that I could work, and he found it hard to accept that actually I couldn't, due to members of my family visiting because another family member is very unwell... I held out for as long as I could, and I wish I'd waited until I was sure the virus was out of his system. 

And this is how bugs spread, despite our best efforts.

Maybe I'll have extra time now, to write those words. 

Sunday, 31 October 2021

Almost a year later...

Sometimes I can't believe how long it has been since I last wrote a blog post, and today is one of those times. I mean, almost a year? And what have I actually achieved in that time?

I'm still working for the old chap who prompted that last, angst-ridden post. We still get on fine, no issues. Well, the only issue is that he currently has Covid; he came back from a mini-cruise with his son and daughter-in-law last week, and they all have it. There are personal reasons why I haven't been able to visit. I am doubled vaccinated, but I can't risk passing it to certain members of my family... I'll skip over the details, but I have had some time off, and another carer has taken over. I'm back to work tomorrow, although looking after M still doesn't really feel like work. I look after another old person too now, just for an hour a week, and I've had a couple of other care jobs over the last year, which have fizzled out now.

Because what I have discovered is that although I am very caring, in some ways I am too caring. I get too emotionally involved, the work of caring takes its toll on my physical health. I am approaching my mid-fifties, I really need a sedentary job. (I had a full-time job for a couple of months on Census 2021 this year, as well as caring for M. I was 'in the field' knocking on doors, asking why people hadn't returned their census forms. I thought the work would make me fit, I now realise I have gone past that stage. It half-killed me.)

Back to the point of this post. The other week, a carpenter came to the house to do some work. He'd been before to do another job. He had worked incredibly hard the first time, and he charged £200 for the day which I felt was fair enough, although steep. I have only ever earned anything near that amount once in my life, and it was for three days only. Tradesmen of any kind are expensive though, I know that, and as I said, fair play to them.

But the next time, he worked for only two and a half hours, then said he was going to call it half a day, announced that his day rate was £220 and that half a day would be £120. I nearly fell over. I did speak up, telling him that he'd arrived at nine and it was now only half past eleven, and that wasn't actually half a day. I mean, he hadn't even finished the job; he'd said he wanted to get home as his cousin was staying. 

So anyway, the carpenter said he didn't want to upset me, and so he'd call it £100, which I stumped up, somewhat resentfully. But he's a good chap, I mean I don't think he intended to rip me off, so I had him back once more for what I hope is the final time. I checked the daily rate before he came, it was back to £200. I specified that I wanted him to finish the job he'd left half done the last time, as well as the main job. And he did what he said he would, and that is the end of that. At least for now; because in fact I might need his help again, but it won't be for at least six months because I have run out of funds.

The point of this long-winded story is the thing that occurred to me while I was mulling it all over, as I have done a few times since. Because the carpenter did tell me the charge for his work in all innocence, I am sure of that. If he wants to call two and a half hours of work half a day and charge accordingly, he believes he is entitled to do so. He knows the value of his labour.

At no point does this young man think; I am only young, I can't charge £200 (or £220) for a day's work. Nor at any stage does he say to himself, I can't be a carpenter, I should be a carer or a cleaner. No, he trained to be a carpenter, he has the tools, thus he carpentizes (yes, I know it's ungrammatical, I think it's amusing) and he charges accordingly. And people like me think, fair play to him, I am fair game, this is what it costs me to get this work done.

And I drew a parallel. Why, I asked myself, do I never think like that about my trade? Why when people ask what I do, do I say I am a carer, or a home-maker? Why, when I do admit to being a writer, am I then too embarrassed to say I write about mental health, why do I tell people that my novel isn't very good, then let them know that I don't actually do much writing, because I procrastinate a lot of the time? Come to that, why do I procrastinate? Why don't I finish my projects? 

I need to change. I quite often say that in this blog. I say, I am going to write more, or I am going to campaign about mental health more, or do a MA in mental health law, or an MA in novel writing (I actually did do that one). I am prone to calling myself to arms. And then a year later, I find my last blog post, in which I resolved to do whatever, and I realise that I haven't done it, or not really, or not properly. 

What annoys me is that this inability to follow things through is supposed to be a trait of 'schizophrenia'. I mean, as if half the population haven't started novels then not finished them, or gone in one direction and then tried another... I mean, it's human behaviour. But because I read that it's supposed to be a 'schizophrenic' trait, I will conquer it in the end, because I don't want to prove 'them' right. 

I mean, I have followed a lot of stuff through. I have raised a family of four children, I have been Kennel Club registered to breed puppies, I have published a number of books and there is probably more than this to add. I've held various jobs down over the years. I have definitely achieved some stuff. 

But I still thrash and drift, I don't apply myself to the thing I feel I am here for. I don't stand up and say 'I am a writer', and more importantly, I don't write enough words. I am dissatisfied with my output.

I hope that, a year from now, I'll have made some real progress. Because the stupid thing is, I have a sedentary job. I have a trade. In fact, I have a vocation. And now that my other vocation, that great pull on my heart and my time, motherhood, is pretty much over and done, I can concentrate on the other thing that matters. 

Almost a year later, it's time to write some words.  







Thursday, 12 November 2020

Murderous nurses and other phenomena

I am upset today. I’ve been a little emotional for the last few days, actually.

I attended an online mental health workshop event on Saturday which unsettled me. Don't get me wrong, the workshop was wonderful. All the best people, in my opinion, are against the traditional mental health outlook and the speakers on Saturday were some of the best of the best. PCCS books, who publishes all the author speakers, deserve a huge shout out for all the great work they do. They look at the issues in terms of emotional distress, not mental health, which is the only humane vantage point.

We heard from Rachel Freeth, who trained as a psychiatrist and now works as a counsellor, and  has written a book 'Psychiatry and Mental Health, a guide for Counsellors and Psychotherapists' and from Helen Kewell, who was speaking about her book, 'Living Well and Dying Well, Tales of Counselling Older People'. 


Another speaker was Joanna Moncrieff, who has written 'The Straight-Talking Introduction to Psychiatric Drugs - the truth about how they work and how to come off them.' And finally, Mary Boyle and Lucy Johnstone told us about their book, 'The Power Threat Meaning Framework - an Alternative to Psychiatric Diagnosis'. 


All of these authors have really valuable insight into the failings of our current mental health system and brilliant ideas about how it can be improved. 


So why did I feel unsettled? Because I realised during the course of the day that I haven't got over my diagnosis of schizophrenia, and I know I need to. Or maybe I don't - perhaps the sense of injustice I feel about it will prove useful, if it helps prevent others from being diagnosed in the future. In the meantime though, I am still distressed about it, even though I know it is meaningless in my life. I'd like to be calmer and more philosophical about the issue and sometimes I think I am - and then something happens to make me realise how much it still affects me.


The diagnosis undermines people in so many ways. It undermines a person's credibility...are you to be believed? Are you to be taken at face value? Or are you a schizophrenic? It goes to the essence of self - if you are to believe this assessment of yourself, you are no longer a human, you are a 'schizophrenic'. 


All diagnoses, in my opinion, are erroneous. It's so much better to look at things in a different way, to ask 'What happened to you?' instead of asking 'What's wrong with you?' and then deciding, 'It's this!' 


There are no objective tests, after all, and how can the existence of one type of illness as opposed to another be decided on the basis of observation of behaviour? I remember years ago, when I was not much more than a child, nineteen years old, in hospital, ranting about 'sisters under the skin'. 'That's very profound,' commented a nurse. 


'Someone else said that,' I told her. This probably went in my medical record as evidence that I was hearing voices - but I was merely quoting the lyrics of a song and didn't want to take the credit for them! (I'm not saying I wasn't very ill indeed - I really was - I did and said all sorts of ridiculous things, some of which I may have forgotten, which would probably be a mercy).  


The 'Power Threat Meaning Framework' book sets out an alternative to diagnosis. In the meantime, as Lucy Johnstone said in her talk, those of us who have been struggling with them just have to think how silly they are, but perhaps play along if we need benefits or other help that is dependent on a particular label.


Personally, it's the sense of injustice that bothers me most. The idea that someone has labelled me unfairly and yet won't retract that label despite all the evidence against it... The idea that young lives are still being ruined by this issue, despite all the evidence...


Anyway, you may say, that's all old hat. We've heard it before. You said at the start of this blog post that you were upset today - well, why? What's all this about murderous nurses?


Well, in the news today is the case of a nurse who has been arrested for the third time for murdering babies - and this time she has been charged in court. Presumably there is sufficient evidence to convict her now - although of course we must remember that anybody who has not been proven guilty must in the meantime be assumed to be innocent.


But the case is shocking. The girl looks so sweet, so innocent - the epitome of a caring nurse. How can she have committed such heinous crimes. How could anybody?

 

I recently started a very part-time job, looking after an elderly chap. I’m devoted to him already – he’s so kind, so grateful, so clever and interesting. In fact, going to visit him doesn't really feel like going to work. I'm basically just going to visit a friend, making him breakfast and having a chat and then getting paid for it. Let's call my new friend M.


I didn't tell M about my diagnosis when I met him and accepted his job offer, because for one thing I wanted the work and for another, I didn't want to scare the poor man to death. However it was on my mind, as it usually is. I know I'm as safe as anybody else, safer perhaps. I have the correct insurance for the work, and I have an enhanced DBS form. But I'm aware M is vulnerable because he's elderly and needs personal care, and I'm glad his son and daughter live locally and can safeguard him. (I asked him for their phone numbers and called them both to introduce myself before I started work, because I don't want anyone to think I'm potentially taking advantage of anyone's kindness, never mind them thinking that I could be potentially dangerous... I always remember the father of one of my daughter's friends, whose wife is wheelchair bound, saying nobody would choose to be a carer if they weren't hoping to be left some money on their death. I think this is an appalling viewpoint - but I won't go into that here because I don't want to digress further).


Anyway, my employer's previous carer left due to mental health problems. When he told me about this he was not at all judgmental about her, and after he'd spoken about it on several occasions I felt that really I should tell him I’ve been there too (it took me a few weeks to tell him and I still didn’t divulge the whole story or the diagnosis, just said I'd been in hospital a long time ago due to a nervous breakdown).

 

We often discuss the news, and this morning he brought up the subject of the nurse who has allegedly killed eight babies and attempted to kill another ten. It started me off – he said she must have something wrong in her head, I said that of course she must, anybody must, if they are capable of harming another human being. But then, I said (I’d already been thinking about this because I read the article in The Times online this morning before work) I bet they’ll diagnose her with something. (My best guess is schizophrenia. And then all the other people with 'schizophrenia' (including, apparently, me) will feel even worse than usual… are we unstable too? Are we capable of murdering babies? Etc. And if we don't think it of ourselves, there are other people who will think it of us.)

 

I've said it before - it shouldn't need saying - being mentally ill does not mean you have a criminal propensity. It's a bit like drunks perhaps - some of them get violent under the influence, some get soppy, some of them just get extremely inebriated and wet the bed or whatever. Lose control of their bodily functions, I should say. But of course crimes committed under the influence of alcohol - and there are a lot of them - can be attributed to an external cause, whereas 'mental illness' is seen as inherent to the person.... Although it's my opinion that people who abuse alcohol are often self-medicating their emotional distress...

 

Anyway, I went on a bit and then M (my employer) said, ‘Do you think someone can do something without realising what they're doing?’ (because this is what the article in his paper had said happened in this case).

 

‘No’ I replied, 'Although the mental health people would probably say yes.' But then later (going around Aldi doing the shopping, somewhat distracted) I thought maybe you can do things without realising, if you’re very ill. I mean, as I have said, I did and thought some ridiculous things when I was mad (and I really was mad). Some of them might have been erased from my memory, as I have said. Others have certainly not been. But – and it’s a big but – I know I never would have hurt anyone. And anyone who does hurt anyone should not be treated differently on the grounds that they are 'mentally ill'.

 

I think there were turning points in my own illness and my treatment and diagnosis. I remember at the start of my first period of hospitalisation, when I was in an isolated room and visited at intervals by teams of nurses, mostly men, who would pin me down on the bed and inject me with drugs because I wouldn’t take them orally (this is really the most brutal of violence and I am sure if anybody had said ‘Take these tablets or you’ll get forcibly injected again’ I’d have done it, but the choice was never presented in that way) – I remember one day I threw a bowl of water at a nurse. Not the bowl, just the water, and it was only luke-warm (I checked first). I remember my thinking very clearly – this was all so bizarre, it must be a dream, I could check by throwing the water at the nurse, see if it was really wet, but of course I should check first in case it was real and the water was hot and might hurt the nurse… 

 

That was the only ‘violent’ thing I ever did – but perhaps it was enough to earn me the diagnosis. And of course, there was the 'sisters under the skin' thing and probably other similar misinterpretations of my behaviour and/or speech. And then much later, after my second breakdown, when I in my mid-twenties, attending a day hospital, I was stupid enough to provoke a psychiatrist who was speaking to a colleague as I stood nearby. He was using medical language and I said something to the effect that he wasn't as clever as he thought, anybody could understand what he was saying... I could see the anger in his eyes and was quite pleased with myself for touching a nerve. Stupid of me, and a little unkind too.

 

The thing is, as I have already said the diagnosis discredits a person. There could be anything in my medical notes - it could say 'Louise did X, Y, Z and she has forgotten'. I would never even know what had been said about me (I did once ask to see my medical records and eventually got them, but some of the notes had been left out because of 'third party interests' or some such thing). 


The mental health team recently refused to even meet me and talk about the diagnosis when the GP referred me at my request, earlier this year. I appealed to my MP, who promised to refer the matter to Matt Hancock - but then Covid-19 happened and for some reason the global pandemic appears to have taken precedence...

 

It’s not all about me. It really isn’t. You could say that things worked out for me – I have the life that suits me now. I have my four lovely children, my wonderful husband, our happy home. I’m still anxious at times, I might never have thrived in an office or another work environment. 

 

But it all still matters, terribly. It’s about the young people who are still being labelled in this way – about their parents who are being led to believe that there is something seriously wrong with their kids, and that they should take anti-psychotic drugs for the rest of their lives (and let’s not forget these drugs have many severe side-effects and shorten lives by an average of twenty years). Under another, more equitable system, these people might recover and go on to flourish. 

 

‘It’s not fair’ I said to M this morning, and then I shrugged and added, 'But life isn’t fair.' And things could always be worse. I can't bear to imagine how I would feel if it was one of my babies who died in intensive care... my eldest was premature and was in special care for a month after her birth. If anyone had harmed her while she was there, I don't think I could have coped. I think I'd have gone mad and I don't think I could ever have recovered my sanity, or gone on to have more children. I literally cannot conceive the degree of distress that parents must feel at the loss of their baby and my heart goes out to all the parents involved in this case.

 

And yet. I feel I need to keep on with my 'mission', if I can call it that. There's so much that needs fixing around the question of mental health diagnosis. As Lucy Johnstone said in her talk on Saturday, it's all about power. And she's right. It's about abuse of power and injustice and it needs to stop. 


The problem, as I see it, is the way the criminal justice system has become enmeshed with the mental health system. The two things need to be separated once and for all. I've written about this before here... I won't go into it at length now. But I think it's crucial to the issue of injustice in the system and I think that a proper analysis and reform would go a long way to solving the various problems.


I'm not going to give up. I am ideally placed to do something about all this. I have nothing to lose. I am no longer young, I've long since given up any idea of a prestigious career…my husband and my kids love me, understand what I’ve been through and know the truth of who I am. The children are all old enough to appreciate the importance of the issues involved. 

 

The only issue is that I still get upset about it all on occasion. As I said at the start of this blog post, I find it difficult sometimes to be calm and dispassionate on the subject of  mental health/emotional distress. I can even be a little paranoid – I worry that people might think I am mad, or even worse, believe that I capable of evil, even though there is no reason why they should (apart from the silly diagnosis). 


Well, so what if they do? Why should I care what people think? 


I have a job to do. I need to shed light on an important subject, and I'm just going to get on with that, and do it to the best of my ability.  

 

Friday, 30 October 2020

Twitter/Resilence/Responsibilty for self

 I've just dipped my toes into the Twitter water. I like Twitter, always have - at it's best, it means that you can have an intelligent conversation with people you've never met and are never likely to. 

At its worst though, Twitter means that you get vilified and shouted down for expressing the 'wrong' thoughts, as happened to JKRowling recently. I thought that was so unfair. That author is a great force for good in our world, she does a lot for charity...she should be allowed to say what she thinks, as we all should be, without having to justify and explain herself later. As a society, we should encourage civilised debate.

Anyway, I only had a quick look at Twitter just now, and said hi to a couple of people. I was trying to cook dinner for the family at the same time (it turned out surprisingly well considering how social media sucks you in). I typed 'mental health' into the search engine to see what it threw up, find out what was on people's minds...

And, from what I saw there, I got to thinking... It's great that so many people are more open about their mental health nowadays. I mean everybody suffers to some extent, at some time in their life, from some degree of emotional and/or physical malfunction. The two are usually intertwined. Those facts are immutable and it's astonishing that they have taken this long to be expressed and acknowledged.

But at what point should we be just getting on with life, even when it's difficult? Hang on, let's go back to the first thing I read on Twitter or this blog post won't make sense. The Twitter post said (I paraphrase) that if you wake up with a low mood you are just as entitled to a day off work as if you have a physical illness. 

Is this right? I mean, should you be off work with a headache? A cold? (Pre-Covid you'd almost certainly have gone to work with a cold, post-Covid definitely not). Sometimes I wake up with a headache (or in a low mood) and after an hour or so I feel better. Surely we should just try to shrug things off, some of the time at least? I mean, people with severe disabilities go to work, and are rightly admired for doing so. So should people with, say, anxiety, get a free pass?

I am perhaps not the best person to speak about this, because I used to shrug everything off, crippling anxiety included, and I ended up having several serious breakdowns. Also, I don't have a 'proper' job myself - I work very part-time out of the house (for just one hour each day) and then I write from home. There are probably days when I'd feel I couldn't cope if I had to head out to an office.

But nowadays I do like to think I'm more resilient - and I don't think I'd have developed that resilience if I hadn't pushed through some difficult life experiences. I'd like a day job, sometimes, just to prove that I am capable (although I know I shouldn't keep trying to prove that...to some invisible monitor who is actually just the inner me). 

Moving on. Another Twitter post was about obesity and the government stance on 'fat' people. The poster said (and again I paraphrase) that this was an example of fat shaming and would negatively affect people's body image. Is this true? Or do people need reminding sometimes that they should look after themselves better, guard their health, for their own wellbeing? The Prime Minister certainly had a wake-up call when he contracted the Covid-19 virus and I think he now genuinely wants to send this message. More controversially, perhaps, we as a nation need to safeguard the NHS - and obesity with its related diseases look as though it might become the single issue that sends the NHS finally crashing to the ground. If each of us takes personal responsibility for our weight (and other aspects of our health that are within our control) collectively we'll prove to be far less of a burden on the organisation that we all love and appreciate.

I know weight is difficult to control. I think a lot of the problem, for women in particular perhaps, is emotional eating - we use food to comfort ourselves. But we can lose weight if we try hard enough, and if we get the right advice and support it's possible to make huge changes very quickly. Personally, I favour the Blood Sugar Diet advocated by Professor Roy Taylor, and modified by Doctor Michael Mosley. 

I didn't reply to either of these posts on Twitter, because I didn't want to offend anyone. Things get pretty political on Twitter and often it's impossible to reconcile polarised views. But they did make me think - and wonder what other people's attitudes to this might be. Comments welcome as usual. Or maybe I should just head back to Twitter and have the courage to plough into the debate...

Wednesday, 28 October 2020

Advertising

Hi, all. Just wanted to write a quick post about advertising, since that's what I've been doing recently. I'm using Amazon Ads to publicise 'Surviving Schizophrenia' and it's been quite a learning curve. I'm enjoying the process though; I'm finding it immersive. It's good to have a project.

Shouting out about my work makes me feel a bit odd in some ways - but I have felt for a long time that my memoir could be more widely read and that if it was, it would help more people. I'm not just being vain - there are now more than 150 reviews of my book on Amazon, almost all of them five stars, and a lot of them saying how helpful it has been to them.

I think I'm right to be proud of what I've achieved. My second memoir, Surfacing, is not as well-written as the first and I've been thinking of revising it for some time - it's more of a self-help manual than a memoir in some ways. As time has passed I've thought a lot about what has helped, and what hasn't, in my journey to recovery and so I have some useful material to add to that book. I've been talking about doing this for a while though and still haven't got around to it!

When I look back over the the ten years since I published Surviving, what seems to be lacking is continuity. I have done various things - some work for mental health charities, some writing for a local magazine...I've written a novel and some children's books. Also various other short books. Oh, and I studied for a Masters degree in creative writing. I think there are probably some other things I have forgotten...

So, I do seem to flit around. I can't help wondering whether, if I'd devoted all my attention to writing about mental health over the past ten years, I would have been further forward in my career. 

But then, my career wasn't the thing I was striving towards. What I've wanted more than anything was to be a good parent, the best I could be, to raise a happy family, and that is where the bulk of my efforts have been directed. I've also spent quite a lot of time caring for my mother... 

So caring for others is the unifying thread, the continuity in my life - except that now I am not needed at all by my mother and not constantly by my children. So where do I go from here...? Whatever I choose to do I want to get it right, if at all possible. I haven't got time to keep meandering down different paths.

It has to be writing, that's for sure. I love caring - it's why I've made a reasonable parent, and I love my new part-time job looking after an elderly gentleman. He's so kind to me, so sweet...so grateful for everything that I do. It makes me feel that my efforts matter, that I'm making a difference to his quality of life, which is so rewarding.

But I need to write...it's what I'm here for, I'm convinced of it. Write what, though? I got enthused about writing children's books recently, but that seems to have worn off quite quickly. I tried writing thrillers - I self-published my novel Into Thin Air, written under my married name of Louise van Wingerden, but it met with more of a whimper than a bang (although this was before I began to learn about Amazon Ads, I also think it has the wrong cover for its genre...it's not a badly written book, I'm sure of that). I'm not sure that thrillers are my genre though. Maybe romance...although I am reading a romance novel at the moment and have become rather bored, which is not a good sign! Or maybe I should come back full circle and continue to write about mental health?

All comments gratefully received, although of course I might disregard them and carry on my merry way of trying this and that until I discover what is the best writing route for me. Seriously though, all comments really would be gratefully received.