Changing My Mind

“Wish I could go back and change the years…”

– Ozzy Osbourne, Changes

I need to make a lot of changes in my life and lifestyle or I’m probably not going to make it to my 50s, unless I’m some thirty-five stone stroke survivor, shoehorning myself into a mobility scooter and being regularly warned by the police not to chase the pigeons in the centre of Carlisle.

I don’t want to be that man, even though the pigeons thing sounds fun.

I’d like to live a long, healthy and happy life, but unfortunately I’m miserable most of the time, I’ve had a headache for three months and I frequently think about ending myself.

How do I move from this negative haze of suffering to that shiny, spangly positive existence with friendship and laughter and adventure?

It’s pretty easy, really, and that’s quite annoying.

I have a few pressing financial issues that scare me a bit too lots, but when I meditate or catch my thoughts and use that as a trigger to engage in conscious awareness, the bills really don’t matter any more.

It’s only when I think about them that they seem important and I begin to get stressed.

While I meditate, the bills fall away from my thoughts and are entirely not an issue at all, but if later, I were to pick them up and read them again, I’d end up tossing and turning (not a euphemism) in bed for hours, wondering how I’m going to pay, thinking how much of a loser I am to be in this position, thinking I should buy a tent and some other camping basics and go live in the forest, with the squirrels, and if I can’t handle that, either, at least I’d have a lovely view when I merrily hanged myself.

What is causing this pain – this emotional stress and anguish that I feel?

Is it the bill? Do the Inland Revenue imbue their parchments with an intangible sense of doom?

No… once again, the culprit is my fucking brain! My own brain! It’s my brain that’s thinking all these ridiculously negative thoughts, throwing them at me when I’m trying to sleep, like some bus hijack gang throwing random passengers out of the emergency door to slow down the cops.

My brain (who I don’t get along with most of the time, to be quite honest) is the thing that makes me panic about things; it’s the same thing that gives me the heebie-jeebies when I see a big spider, even though the spider has done absolutely nothing except be spidery and unusually large; in confidence, it’s the same thing that spontaneously still believes in vampires, witches and ghosts when I’m having to walk down a mountain in the dark, and when I reach the tree line and walk into the forest, everything suddenly looks a lot like The Blair Witch Project in the light of my headlamp.

My brain is an idiot and it bullies me. It sells me fake news. You’re likely in a very similar position, even if you haven’t had extensive mental health issues. Any fear or doubt or drama you engage in that restricts your potential to experience a full and wholesome life is cooked up and served to you by your brain.

Practicing conscious awareness (mindfulness, as the Buddhist lot call it) helps us to put our brains in their place again; showing them that, actually, they’re not the boss of us… we’re the boss of them!

They’re supposed to do what we say, but we’re so often in that semi-conscious auto-pilot mode – just trudging along through life and trusting our brains will do the right thing – that eventually that state of being has become the norm to many or even most people in this world.

All of our emotional pain… all of it comes from the brain. It doesn’t matter how much you think someone else has hurt you… the pain is inside you, created by you. There’s no ethereal link between victim and aggressor, so it’s not as though the aggressor will feel increasingly sad and ashamed of themselves the more their victim cries in silence, alone.

Fortunately, we can turn the negative ramblings of the brain off simply by engaging conscious awareness, and it’s really not that difficult to do. It takes a little practice, perhaps, but once you ‘get’ it… you walk through a gateway into a new world of opportunity and adventure.

Conscious awareness is simply a case of engaging the senses, which in turn overpowers and silences the mad ramblings in your mind.

Look at things. Listen to things. Touch things (not other people – not without permission!) Taste things; rather than just eating, make the food the focus of your awareness and savour every mouthful.

That’s all it takes. If you’re in low spirits, you really can, right now, allow yourself to let go of whatever it is that’s causing you pain and distress, and focus your mind on something far more beneficial to your life – living in the moment, at peace with yourself and all those around you.

I know, from long experience, it can be difficult to ‘flick this switch’ during times that really test us, but once you open that door for the first time and find that there actually is peace within, if we choose it, the door never closes again and, as if by magic, the doorway is never far away when you need it.

So that’s how I’ll be able to move from this rather grim life experience of the moment into something brighter and more comfortable – and I don’t mean I’m stoically preparing myself for another three year of bleak hardship until I get my own house and a record deal. I mean that, right now, when I’m aware of my thoughts – as I am more and more frequently again – I’m able to dismiss anything negative and just get on with the task of writing this blog.

Over the course of these two pages (aka wall of text), I’ve actually moved my mindset from negative to positive. While I was frowning when writing those first few words, now I’m actually smiling and feel recharged.

It really is that easy.

If there was a switch device for sale – available in all the fancy stores – that you could simply flick and turn on contentment and happiness, or flick back and feel emotional suffering… it would probably sell in extraordinary number, don’t you think? Would you buy one?

Well, the thing is… you already have one.

I’ll write more about how to ‘engage’ conscious awareness in another blog, soon, but in the meantime, stay in the moment… and beware the Moon!

The Lure of Suicide

“Suicide is painless, but it brings on many changes…”

– M*A*S*H

I’m genuinely very surprised and confused when people tell me they’ve never thought about killing themselves.

The lure of suicide has been with me almost as long as I can remember remembering, including (I literally just has a flashback this moment) when I tried to hang myself from the banister at the top of the stairs in my old house. I must have been eight or nine – around the time my ex-dad left.

The woman from across the street laughed about this. She jollied that I was tall enough already and didn’t need any more stretching.

She was (and still is, as far as I know) a lovely woman, but I remember how much it upset me that she joked when I was obviously hurting, emotionally.

The thing is, I’ve always been tall and I didn’t judge the knotted sheet right and my feet were pretty much on the stairs when I dropped. I ended up with some friction burns around my neck. If I’d been a few inches shorter, or had tied the sheet a few inches higher, none of you would ever have heard my voice or read my words – unless, I suppose, I became a ghost writer? (B’dum-tisssshhhhh)

Here’s what I think: kids shouldn’t try to commit suicide.

It was the early 80s and there was nowhere near the awareness and treatment of mental health conditions, in the UK, back then. I know that now it looks pretty shite – the government have cut budgets so much that people are actually killing themselves due to lack of care – but it was even worse back then. You couldn’t even look up advice on the Internet, because it wasn’t invented until about a decade later.

I remember people would talk about Spike Milligan almost in hushed tones, because he had ‘manic depression’ and occasionally spent time in comfortable hospitals. The stigma back then was pretty savage. That glorious, genius, hilarious mind was almost overshadowed by the fact that he was a ‘loony’.

I did see a child psychologist when I was at Junior School, but I don’t recall any great, positive change in me – though he was a lovely man, who looked astonishingly like Richard Gere, and I had a little fire of hope in my heart that he’d marry my Mum… especially if he had a car!

(My family didn’t have a car, when I was a kid. Or a home telephone. We used to have to go up to the call box at the top of the estate to make, or receive, phone calls. I still remember the number – 60849. It was removed maybe 20 years ago, probably because the kids in the village used to call the emergency services out so much.)

There was a man on a bus, in Merseyside, that I wanted my Mum to marry, too, around that time. (I don’t mean I wanted her to marry both of them.) That guy, a Canadian, was touring Europe, and it’s the only time I saw my Mum flirting – and she was good at it!

I always loved seeing my Mum smile and hearing her laugh. I honestly can’t recall – even though I’d say I have a very, very good memory, what with being a ‘unstable genius’ and all – any affection between my Mum and ex-dad, before he left. There surely must have been lots of affection in the past, what with me being the youngest of five of their children, but all I remember, towards the end, are the arguments… the dark clouds in the house when ex-dad lost all the grocery money at the bookies.

Excuse the swears, but I really fucking hate horse racing! I love horses, but whenever I see or hear anything about horse racing (and my gosh, the names of horses are constantly trending on Twitter) I seethe a bit… internally, rather than at people… because of the damage it caused to my family, and the damage was HUGE.

This is obviously all stuff that mixed up my little-boy-brain. I see and hear things, now, about absolutely tragic cases of young girls and boys taking their own lives, and it really shakes me to the core. I have such empathy with them… I can’t help but feel such heart-ache and sorrow for the depths of sadness they must have fallen into before they reached the confused and deluded conclusion that suicide was the only option.

I want to be part of helping to stop this; suicide is a disease that could and should be eradicated from our Earth… and also on Mars when we colonise it. And Titan.

I know I’ve been a fuckwit now and again (Reader’s Voice: “Now and again? 947 times… so far!”) over the past few years, but I was going through some really heavy emotional stuff and it took time to balance out again… and I am balancing out again, thankfully… and from that balance comes a familiar sense of peace; echoes of the tranquillity that hugged me like an old friend when I experienced my ‘Awakening’ in 2010.

I know ‘Awakenings’ sound like bullshit to people who haven’t had one, yet, but just Google the subject and you’ll find thousands of stories about people who have gone through the same, sudden, spontaneous experience.

Whatever the ne’er-do-wells and naysayers say, it happened to me and it changed my life. I believe that I can help others find that same peace within themselves, because it really is there, even in chaos.

When I was sitting off the path in my local woods, ready to garrotte myself during some heavy bout of depression, I heard a woodpecker and felt the warmth of the Sun on my face in a parting of Cumbrian cloud. That’s all it took to break the anthem of agony in my head. I didn’t kill myself. I went home.

I am older and wiser, now, after my ‘psychological tsunami’, and even though I may not have been quite the full loaf for a while, and felt for a long, long time that suicide was the only choice I had left, I’ve learnt from it all and I need to start writing it down coherently, because I know from chatting with people on Twitter and Facebook and there are so many people who have been through or are going through their own personal living nightmares.

I want to help them. I have a plan, but it’s going to require a little time to come together because of finances and stuffs, but I’ll get there. It’s a damn good plan!

In the meantime, perhaps I can help with my blogging? If my writing were to help prevent even one suicide (I’ve actually been told by around a dozen people who’ve said my writing hit them at ‘just the right time’ and pulled them back from the edge) then that would be splendid.

If any of you are feeling on the edge, you’re most welcome to contact me. If not me, talk to someone else who cares. If you don’t know anyone who cares, get a cat or two?

Suicide is 100% preventable. I truly believe that. It’s time for the last shards of stigma to be swept away and for mental health issues to be discussed without shame or embarrassment. This is something we can actually do; something we’re doing by talking about depression through social media, and by checking on our friends when they seem down.

Also, we need the awareness to check ourselves when we’re really low. Conscious awareness should be taught in primary schools. It would most certainly help a lot of kids in their lives ahead.

That lure of suicide is always going to be with me, I guess… unless I have some major hypnosis or a brain transplant. This may sound contradictive, but the rumination of suicide has been part of my life for some 35 years.

Today, I’m doing okay.

I hope you are, too. If not, please get in touch with someone who’ll listen and help you.

I’m here, too, most of the time.

I wrote this years ago and have posted it before, but it seems very appropriate now:

Head down, undefeated,

the soul gains strength;

Is not depleted.

Raise your face once more to the Sun.

The better days have come.

 

Pan

“Women and cats will do as they please, and men and dogs should relax and get used to the idea.” – Robert A. Heinlein

Pan is the most adorable little kitty I’ve ever met, and I’ve met quite a few over the years. All have had their special, outstanding qualities, but Pan is the one that melts my heart the most, because she’s rather sensitive.

The first time I realised she was such a nervous little cat was after two hours of searching my flat, and walking around the building a few times, just in case she’d ‘escaped’ (all of my cats are house cats).

Fretting after even pulling out the washing machine to check if she’d snuck behind there and got stuck, I eventually noticed a ‘bulge’ in the curtain, beside my computer desk. She was hiding… and, oh, it broke my heart to think that any little kitty should feel the need to hide in OUR house. No kitty should ever fear being hurt in our house. That’s the law!

Anyway, I noticed after that that whenever she was stressed in any way, she’d go straight to that spot behind the curtain. ‘Stress’ could literally mean me doing tidying around the house; if I even opened up a bin liner, she’d be off to her little safe place until I stopped being peculiar again.

I read up on a lot of websites to see what I could do, and was quite worried that there was some unseen ‘dominance’ in the flat and maybe the best thing to do would have her rehomed, but the thing that worked was actually much simpler and quite lovely… whenever she got stressed, I’d go lie down on the floor and poke my head under the curtain and spend some time with her. I’d stroke her and tell her that she shouldn’t be afraid. Of course, the words were useless, because she’s a cat and cats don’t listen to words much, but the physical act of ‘being’ there with her would bring on the purrs.

Again and again, I lay on the floor with her… through window-cleaner assaults, through the terrible lawnmower attacks, through unexpected household chores, and I think it helped her.

Now, when the window-cleaner comes, she sits on the window-ledge and hisses at those motherfuckers, and that makes me so damn proud.

I totally love it when Pan loses her shit, too, and her other four family members decide to get out of the way, because Pan isn’t quite right today!

She’s my little hero.