Ch-ch-changes Revisited

Amongst today’s emails – just the usual hundred or so, was the regular Monday one from Bernadette announcing this week’s Senior Salon. It was a little different from the norm, however: Bernadette was giving us the sad news that it was to be the last Senior Salon. Looking back, I would guess that at least half of the blogs I read most often and, in particular, comment on, are those to which I was introduced by Bernadette. I understand perfectly why she feels the need to call a halt, and wish that I had the time and commitment to take it on for her – but, as you will have long-since recognised, I’m not the most organised or regular of bloggers! But I will always cherish those bloggers who, through our Senior Salon introduction, I now regard as friends – some have even joined me on Facebook, which is great!

This got me thinking to a post I wrote a couple of years ago. I think I’ve since recycled it, but it seemed a fitting way to mark Bernadette’s final edition of the Salon by sharing it again: it does, after all, talk about how important blogging communities can be for us. So, Bernadette, thank you for all your hard work and commitment, and I’m glad that I’ll still be seeing all your new blog posts and what you share on Facebook (and thanks for the Instagram follow, too!).

For a final time, this is my post Ch-ch-changes:

Has it ever struck you how much we can become creatures of habit? Although we may live varied lives, and have many things to occupy our time, at the core of this is likely to be a foundation of what for each of us is our ‘norm.’ Wherever we may be, and whatever we may be doing on any given day, we will most likely be framing that activity in the context of a routine of some kind. At its simplest level, this can be something mundane, such as what time we get up in the morning, whether we have breakfast or not, and if so whether we have it before or after our morning ablutions, that kind of thing. However free-spirited we may believe ourselves to be, we all have our own behaviour patterns, whether or not we recognise them as such. Since I retired nearly three years ago my routine has changed – I don’t have to worry about being up and ready in time to catch the train to work, and I don’t have to compress the things I would rather be doing with my life into evenings, weekends or holiday time. But there is still a routine there, it has just adapted to the change in my circumstances.

So, what happens when something knocks that norm? How do we adjust to it? If something big happens to us – a major family event, perhaps – we tend to take it on, challenge it and manage the required change. Births, marriages, deaths and other events in the family have a massive impact, but we try our best to deal with them, to cope, and to move forward with our lives. I have recently had such a change with one of my children (who are both adults, but still children to me!), who has needed help and support, both in the practical sense and also in a more spiritual way. For me, the realisation that this has made a difference to my life has manifested in several ways, a very simple example being that I have seen and spoken to my ex-wife more often in the past few months than in the whole preceding eight years since we were divorced. I’m not presenting that as either a good or bad thing – our divorce was perfectly amicable and we are both content with our outcomes – but it brought home to me the sense of family changes and the impact they can have. But I don’t intend to say any more about that: it is too personal, particularly for my daughter, and isn’t for publication.

Let me instead give you a much less important example – less important in the great scheme of life, that is, but it has nevertheless made me think. I’ve mentioned before that I have been invited to become part of the Senior Salon, run by Bernadette of the Haddon Musings blog. Since Bernadette started this six months ago it has developed into a vibrant community of bloggers of a certain age, with a wide range of interests, and it has become a part of my routine to take part in it. I enjoy the range of interests that fellow bloggers share, and it has got me into the habit of posting at least once a week so that I have something new to offer. Yes, I still have my hiatuses but they are fewer. And if I want to think of myself as a blogger, regular posting is kind of important, right? The Salon starts each Wednesday, with an email notification that the new link up has gone live. This email usually arrives around 7am UK time and my Wednesday norm has become a morning trip to see my lovely nurses for my regular bandage change, followed by a return home, breakfast and my thoughts turning to converting the ideas that have been stumbling around in my brain into a post. Or, like today, I sit at the keyboard and pray for inspiration – you can tell, can’t you! Ah, but I can see you thinking, today isn’t Wednesday. Correct! Have a prize! I didn’t get the email yesterday, and so I spent the day watching the Euro 2016 football instead. Tough job, but someone has to do it. Nor did I get the notification today, and I began to wonder if perhaps Bernadette was ill, and unable to set up the Salon this week. But there it was on her blog, so all was clearly well with her. From our interactions on our respective posts I thought it highly unlikely that I had been banned, so I checked my WordPress settings for the blogs I follow. Have any of you ever seen this message:

“You have blocked all notifications for blogs that you follow”

I certainly hadn’t come across it before, as it seems to me to be a very strange thing to do. What is the point of following blogs if you don’t want to see what people are saying? To be honest, I didn’t even realise that the setting existed. Fortunately, WordPress also kindly told me how to change it, which required no more than one box to be unchecked, and normal service has been resumed. But it left me with a few thoughts. How could I have changed such a setting when I didn’t know it was there? Do I have a maleficent alter ego who creeps into my blog when I’m asleep and changes everything? Are WordPress operating some kind of practical joke to see how alert we are? (in my case, not very alert, apparently!). Why did this matter to me anyway?

There were two main reasons as to why it mattered. The first was that it made me realise how unobservant I am. I probably get around 30-40 emails each day announcing new blog posts, and I hadn’t realised that I saw none of these yesterday and, so far, today. I pride myself on being intelligent, aware and alert, but clearly I’m not as good as I thought! The second was the change in my routine. In six months my Wednesday has shaped up as I described it earlier, but yesterday was different. Every time I checked my emails I looked for the one telling me that this week’s Salon link was live, but to no avail. Yet still I didn’t spot that something was amiss. A change, albeit a small one, had taken place, and it was a little disconcerting. I had been taken out of my Wednesday routine and it just didn’t feel right. My regular habit had been broken. I’ve found both the problem and the solution, and will be enjoying my usual participation in the Salon, although I am coming ‘fashionably late’ to the party this week.

Am I being stupid to think this way about it? Am I building it up beyond its importance? You might think so, but I don’t. Our routines and habits are important to us, however trivial they may seem to others. The sum of all our little pleasures – like reading other people’s blogs – adds up to the whole of our enjoyment of life. Every little part has its place and its importance. A wise man once said:

So the days float through my eyes
But still the days seem the same

But in its own little way, yesterday didn’t feel the same. Strange thing isn’t it, this life and the way we live it.



Having just gone past the fifth anniversary of starting this blog, something happened here for the first time yesterday: I was trolled. Whilst I’ve always thought that could happen on social media, particularly Twitter and to a lesser extent Facebook, unless you make your posts private, I’d never really considered that it might happen to me in the blogosphere. If I were writing controversial stuff maybe I could expect it, but apart from occasional jibes at Trump and Brexit my posts are, I think, uncontroversial to the point of complete blandness! So I wonder what prompted someone to attempt to post this comment on my recent reblog of Mental Health Matters:

I say ‘attempt’ as my blog is set up so that I have to approve any first time commenter, so it is entirely at my discretion what to do with this. I gave it some thought, and wondered whether I should just approve it in the interests of free speech. But I rejected that, as I wanted to make more of it. I have edited the screenshot to remove the identifiers, but as he/she/it (hereafter referred to as ‘it’) only identified itself by a set of letters that makes it difficult to follow up. I searched the WordPress Reader and found one blog with the same set of letters as its name: as it had no posts and just one follower it was a bit of a dead end, though. But opening up a blog in that way would give it access and the ability to comment on other WordPress blogs, so that may well be it. I wonder if any other mental health bloggers have also been visited by this charming individual?

The troll isn’t identifiable by country, but the way the comments are worded, with all the typos and errors, is redolent of the typical commenter who supports the likes of Britain First, is rabidly pro-Brexit and/or a Daily Mail reader so if I had to bet on it I’d go for the UK. Then again, a lot of my readership is from the US so that’s also a possibility. Beware, they move among you!

Now here’s a strange thing. Either the commenter was too stupid to realise it – or just didn’t care – but, as any blogger will know, comments when viewed in your Dashboard identify their email address. And someone with that exact same email address followed my blog yesterday. Go figure! I must be so ‘hillarious’ that it wanted to get repeat laughs. Or maybe it wanted to see what I’d say about them. Sorry, troll, but I’m not going to give you your 15 nanoseconds of fame by identifying you to the world. Nor will I be approving any comments you make in response to this, so save your knuckles the effort of dragging them across your keyboard.

Now to address the points it made. There is nothing fashionable about mental health, and a trope, by the way, is a figure of speech, such as a metaphor, and mental health definitely isn’t that! It’s good to know that for five years I’ve been tedious and wallowing in self-pity: somehow, that realisation had passed me by, as it had to everyone else who has ever commented on my posts. If such posts are so laughable to the point of annoying you, why read them? There can only be one answer to that: because you are an uneducated bully who likes to attack people you think are weaker than you. Sorry mate, that isn’t me. The reason I write about mental health issues and occasionally draw on my own experience is to highlight the need for much more support to be provided for sufferers. I worked in the field for 20 years, and came across many instances of how damaging such illnesses could be, not just to those who were ill but also to their friends and families. Too little is done about this, far too little. Mine is just one small voice: I have no influence on this other than to share my views in the hope that this becomes part of a groundswell of opinion to ‘encourage’ governments to devote much more resource to mental health treatments.

On the charge of being self-centred, I plead guilty. But then again, apart from blogs which post fiction or are themed to a particular topic, that charge could be levelled against a huge number of bloggers. We write about things that are familiar to us and that we believe to be important: there wouldn’t be much point in doing it otherwise. So maybe, troll, you haven’t quite yet grasped what blogging is all about. Come on, give it a go; I’m sure we’re all sufficiently tempted by the words you wrote to me to see more from you.

Feeling sorry for myself? I don’t in any way feel like that, thanks, and if you had taken the trouble to read what I’ve posted you’d have seen that I first wrote about my own illness a year after it was diagnosed, and four months after I was well enough to be back at work – so I was way past that stage by then. But you don’t want to know that, do you? Like all bullying trolls, you wouldn’t want facts to get in the way of your prejudices, would you?

I’ve said in several posts that one of the things that needs to be done is to provide education on mental health issues. This is both to help people recognise it in others to whom they are close, so that they can support them, and also for a wider audience, to enable them to understand how debilitating mental health problems can be. My troll could clearly benefit from this, if it had a sufficiently open mind to take it on. I hope that happens, but I’m not holding my breath.

The troll branded those of us who blog on this as ‘mentalists.’ Just for the record, this is what a mentalist is:

I’m now off to practise my mind reading and telepathic skills – all part of turning myself into a superhero! After all, I need to be strong and powerful, not self-centred and self-pitying in my me-me-me world, don’t I? I hope no one else who writes about mental health comes across this idiot, or anyone else like them. I’m way past the time where this comment could have been hurtful to me, but others might not be so fortunate. I really pity the person who made this comment: their ignorance is now displayed for all to see, and if anyone needs help it’s them, not me. I’m not going to change because of one negative, uncaring comment, and I hope that every other mental health blogger can ignore this type of thing and carry on doing what you do. I’d rather read your words than those of morons like this.