Tag Archives: personal

For Anyone Having That Difficult Conversation About Mental Health: I See You, And I’m Proud Of You

The thing with mental health struggles is that it can be happening to anyone.

And it’s everyone.

 

It could be the man who’s got to middle-age with the mantra of Be Strong and Men Don’t Cry and Man Up and when it’s in your head you just don’t think about that, you know? It’s not something you realise is ingrained until one day you have to accept that maybe you’re not ok, you’re not feeling your best, you’re a bit down or a bit grey or just feeling like you don’t want to go on and not even Think Positive! is helping, and you wonder if everyone feels like this.

And then you make an offhand comment to your friend, your colleague, your neighbour – and you keep thinking. Keep talking. Keep realising that it’s ok to talk about.

I see you. It’s hard to talk about something that’s meant shame and secrecy for most of your life, and it’s hard to realise that actually, you can be not ok and yet still be ok.

It’s hard, and you’re doing it. Take a moment, and just take that in. You can do it. You are doing it. I’m really proud of you.

 

It could be the parent who’s got to retirement and has just kept going, kept soldiering on because that’s what you do, kept ploughing away at all the hard stuff because that’s what life is about and then something happens that just knocks you flat, and makes it so hard to even get out of bed in the mornings. Maybe it’s not something you can just struggle through – or it’s something that keeps reoccurring, keeps coming back, and you think, “I gotta do something.”

And you talk to your children and your partner and your friends, or you read, or you go to your doctor. And you admit that something isn’t quite right, and you need help. The people around you will help – they’ll listen. They’ll do what they can.

I see you. It’s hard to talk to people with different life experiences; children that you knew so well and then had to let go; partners who have been there forever and yet still have things to learn; strangers with knowledge that can help you. It’s hard. And I’m really proud of you for doing it.

 

It could be the person who’s always known that they don’t experience the world in quite the same way that others seem to; known that slights seem sharper, defeats more bitter, emotions more damaging. Known that maybe they get knocked down a bit more easily, and it’s harder to see the path some days. But it’s hard to get people to understand, sometimes, or to get them to see that everything’s linked – maybe it isn’t just the surface problem that needs fixing, or the immediate tears that need drying. But it’s just something they cope with, day after endless day.

And they realise that they can change. That there are ways to cope more easily with the ups and downs, hard as they are to learn. That the way their brain sees the world is as much learned as it is experienced, and that even if we can’t change what happens, we can change our reactions. That there are tiny things that can’t change everything, but can just change enough.

I see you. I see you struggling, and learning, and every single day you are fighting. I am proud of you.

 

It could be the person who’s been there, done that, got the scars. They know. They’ve seen how far their mind can go down a rabbit-hole; they’ve seen what the weasels will do, faced down every bad-case scenario, fought off the worst of the demons…

And then they step up and face another day. Face the same battles under different flags. Win some, lose some, keep fighting the war.

They have to have the conversations that say, “This is me and this is how it works, for all that I wish it didn’t, or wish it would change, or don’t wish a single thing different.”

And they have to have the conversations that say, “I’ve been here. I know. Trust me.”

For everyone who still gets up every morning, despite knowing the battles they might face. For everyone who pulls out the sword again, and whacks the same weasels over the head again. For everyone who knows that it’s not going to get better, and carries on regardless.

I see you. I know you. And I know how hard it is.

I am so proud of you.

 

This is from someone who knows how hard it is, sometimes, to have those conversations; to admit defeat, or weakness, or confusion; to try to explain what’s going on inside your head when you don’t understand it, or the fog or tiredness or clouds have simply got too thick.

I see you. I see you trying to make a difference, and looking out for yourself, and trusting in yourself.

I see you fighting. And I’m so, so proud of you.

Poetry: Stephanie Bennett-Henry

I have discovered Stephanie Bennett-Henry’s poetry, and it’s beautiful. You know when you find something you just want to have already read and devoured and keep inside somehow despite the fact it keeps just slipping out (because human and brain and memory) and it’s just…argh?

That.

“Whatever happens, wherever you go, whatever you do, remember this: No one can take the fire out of your soul, the stars from your eyes, or the passion in your heart. Those are yours forever.” Stephanie Bennett-Henry ©2013

2 People + 1 House = Not Enough Bookshelves

I mean, there are NEVER enough bookshelves. We all know this.

But this is a bit more of a specific “not enough bookshelves”, because my partner invited me to move in with them (EEEEEEEH *Kermit flail*), and their second question (after “really? You really want to?” with a huge smile) was “are we going to have enough shelf space?”

And, uh…no.

It’s a small flat. There’s limited wall space. Other things have to go on those walls (pianos, guitars, desks, paintings, a kitchen. Y’know, minor stuff.) There are a lot of shelves for such a small flat, yes, but…

Not enough.

Or at least, not enough for a pair of people who, between then, work in publishing AND love books AND hoard books AND have had sixty years to collect A LOT OF BOOKS.

Tsundoku - "buying books and not reading them"

I actually lucked out at this stage. I’ve had three house moves in five years, and each time, my book collection has been slowly whittled down – books that I’ve read and don’t want to read again; books that I hated; books that I once loved and now don’t feel I need to keep; books that I picked up and never will get round to reading. (I’m horribly realistic when it comes to my time.)

Basically, I now keep books with two criteria:

  • will I NEED it again? And this is from the classical studies scholar in me; I do pick up books for reference.
  • do I LOVE it? Do I want to keep reading and re-reading and have it because I will take it off the shelf again?

I have no time for “but I should have a copy.” I have no time for “but it’s a classic!” I have no time for “someone gave it to me and I feel guilty…”

Nope. If I don’t value it, then it’s gone.

(That’s not to say I don’t have a TBR pile and a pile of “ok, I’d like to read these” and a pile of “I have read this and enjoyed it but haven’t yet got round to making a decision on keeping it” but if someone gives me War And Peace (Extended Edition With Extra Notes) I will smile politely and thank them and give it to charity, because ain’t nobody got time for that.)

And that means that my books only fill one-and-a-half bookcases, unlike my partner’s, which fill most of the flat – and they haven’t quite finished bringing all their books from storage yet.

So… something gotta give. And it ain’t my books.

(Mutual decision, thankfully. I don’t want a relationship to end on THAT argument!)

Grant Sneider: my bookshelf

My partner has never had to be ruthless with their collection. It’s actually a heart-breaking process to see someone have to learn how to choose: to decide what to keep, and realise that they physically can’t keep all the books they’d like to. But it’s also freeing – to realise that even if a book came with obligation and guilt and anxiety, to be able to say, “I don’t want this book on my shelf” or “not today” or “I’d love to, but I don’t have time” – it’s a curious kind of liberty.

To have to say to non-fiction: “If I need this subject again, will I come here? Or will I go on the internet/talk to someone/go to the library if, for whatever unexpected reason, I do need this topic?”

To have to say to fiction: “Am I seriously, honestly, going to prioritise this over the hundred other books that I actually WANT to read? Am I really going to pick this up over the one next to it? And if, at whatever future point I do decide I actually want to read it, could I just go to a bookshop/charity shop/the library for it?”

And it’s working! It’s been tough, but slowly – surely – the book collection is being whittled down to books that really need to stay; books that are loved, and wanted, and needed.

And the others: pre-loved, but they’re now off to better homes.

(P.s. if anyone wants some books… Oxford’s charity shops might have additions to their shelves soon!)

(P.p.s If anyone needs my new address, ping me a message on the usual channels – I can still get mail from my old address, so no worries if you’ve sent me anything. And Peter is staying with Jodie; I couldn’t split those two troublemakers up! My housemate is taking good care of them, by which I mean “catering to their every whim, as is proper when you are owned by two cats.”)

Writing: Home #2

I was given a writing prompt – “home” – for a trip to Amsterdam a while back, and I’ve been musing over it since. This is the latest scribble on the subject!

Home is the sunlight golden glow, and the ripple of winds across the grasses.

Home is the gate where I leave a kiss waiting for you, if you’re not with me.

Home is the stack of books waiting to be shelved; the scribble of foreign tongue waiting to be learned; the scrabble of song waiting to be released.

Home is the spire that pinions the skyline; the pylons that march overhead; the gentle hill that tugs me on.

Home is a city of familiar potholes and unfamiliar tongues; of nooks and recommendations; of drizzle and traffic and smiles.

Home is the spiderweb of cracks that is slowly weaving into the word; here.

5 Happy Things: August 2019

August 2019! What’s been happy this month?

1.Meeting People

We had a street party yesterday, and it was a bit scary…but not too scary! Which, for me, is a definite success. I could only manage about 2 hours of talking to people, but I did it, and talked to everyone, and met a tortoise and two cats (ok, yes, and some people.)

And I ate SO MUCH – we’ve got an incredibly international community so everyone brought a national dish (we made scones) and it was so good. I was very very full afterwards! (Pavolva is WIN.)

2.Getting Stuff Done

I’d been putting so much off until After WorldCon, because ARGH planning and stress and it was just easier to delay it. And now it actually is After WorldCon, which means I have to Do All The Things.

And I am getting them done! Or at least planning for them! Which is epic. Admittedly I put so much off that I now have a ridiculous list but still, getting a few big things crossed off is really nice. There is Progress!

3.Amazing Authors!

The Calculating Stars by Mary Robinette KowalSo we had Mary Robinette Kowal over to the office before WorldCon, and then Derek Künsken this past week… they were both charming, lovely, signed a whole bunch of books and kept us all entertained with witty stories! I did get to bribe Derek with chocolate and confuse him with slang, along with stealing Mary Robinette for a meeting of the World Dominations & Cake Club when we got to hear the first chapter of her new book, so I am definitely in favour of author visits.

Also, we get to give them lunch, and books. It’s a weird world in publishing sometimes… “hey, you wrote a book for us, do you want all of these – none of which are yours – to read in return?”

But then I suppose we do push books on everyone, so…

4.Aniseed Jellies

My partner and I have had serious debate about the best type of Liquorice Allsort, but I think we’re agreed that it’s aniseed jellies… and I found out a few weeks ago that they come on their own! A friend at work has been supplying me, and it’s the worst.

And the best.

NOM.

5.A Happy Song

My current dance-around-the-room-while-putting-washing-away song.