Why Do You (Still) Pretend To Be Normal?

In these strange days of pandemic and lockdowns, many articles have been written about what life may be like when it is all over. Will we ever go back to being as we were, or will we have adapted into a ‘new normal?’ It was therefore a bit of a coincidence to see that I had posted this a year ago today, and I thought it worth sharing again for newer readers, or for those who might have enjoyed it so much the first time round and might be so bored in lockdown that they would welcome a chance to see it again.

As you will see, the main part of this is a reworked version of a post I originally wrote in 2013, but I haven’t really changed my view in the intervening seven years. Normal, for me, may still very well be different from what passes for normal for you or others: I’m pretty certain that Numpty Trumpty’s version of normality is miles away from mine, for example! Whatever (to get in a plug for my WOTY), it is a concept that I think we might all be revisiting in the months and years to come: “do you remember what life BC was like?” Let’s revisit this in a year’s time and see what we think then!

A couple of footnotes:
1. Mention is made in the previous posts of Men’s Health Week – it is coming around again, this year from 15-21 June.
2. BC, in case you needed reminding, stands for ‘Before Coronavirus.’

Take It Easy

A fellow blogger – Stevie Turner – published a post on Monday about the odd phrases that people have entered into search engines as a result of which they have landed on her blog. Her post is called ‘WordPress Search Terms,’ and can be found here – as with all her posts, I recommend it. I’ve often marvelled at some of the weird and wonderful things people search for. In my case, I once wrote a post for Think About Sex Day – yes, it really does exist – which gave me the opportunity to use the word ‘sex’ in the post’s tags, giving rise (or not, ahem) to countless disappointed people since then. I commented on Stevie’s post that my all time favourite was someone who had found my blog by asking ‘why do you pretend to be normal?’ I’ve always hoped that wasn’t aimed specifically at me, but…

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The Time Has Come…..Again

I was going to post for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW) anyway, but this post from last year popped up in my Timehop feed, so I thought I’d share it again as many of you are new readers and probably won’t have seen it before. At least I’m posting this year while MHAW is still live!

A quick personal update, to get that out of the way. I did move flats and am now coming up to 11 months in the new place. It took me a while to feel settled, but I do now, and my mental health has definitely improved. I haven’t felt the need to seek out the services I mentioned in last year’s post, but somehow I doubt that the general situation regarding provision in this area will have changed much. Physically I have now been moved on to the next stage of treatment, which can largely be managed by me, rather than my having to go for weekly hospital visits. This is a huge step forward for me: if only I were allowed out to celebrate, or there was anywhere to go!

If you have a moment, please click on the link in last year’s piece to the Mental Health Foundation (MHF), as the link takes you to this year’s MHAW materials. As I said in Tuesday Tunes 9 this year’s theme is ‘kindness,’ which I think is especially appropriate. In these pandemic days we need to be more kind towards each other. My Facebook news feed has contained many instances of kindness to others, and I expect yours will have been the same. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to do something which will brighten someone’s day, and this can be beneficial for the mental health of both parties. The MHF have many useful tips and resources, so I hope you take a look. If you have longer, there is a very well-written piece about why kindness should be a driving factor in public policy – governments would do well to read this and heed the advice!

I hope you have a chance to reflect on the theme of kindness, and that it will help you and someone else that you know: friends, relatives, other loved ones….

Take care, stay safe, be well and be kind – to yourself and others 😊👍

Take It Easy

Lewis Carroll: Through The Looking Glass

Funnily enough, I won’t be talking about any of those things in this post, though there is a temptation to think about when pigs might have the wings to fly. But I’ll pass on that, for now. The ‘many things’ I have in mind are the reasons why I have been away from here for some time. I’m sharing them to show how easily what we believe to be the equilibrium of our lives can be unbalanced. Last week, when I began writing this, was Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW), and that seemed as good a time as any for a post which has mental health as its underlying theme. MHAW is organised by the Mental Health Foundation, and you can find out more about it from their website. I wasn’t really following their theme for this year – how our body image…

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#TimeToTalk Day 2020


Tomorrow, 6 February, is #TimeToTalk Day. The day is run by the Time To Change organisation, and is all about opening a conversation: this may be with someone who might need support; it could be to help raise general awareness of mental health issues; or it may be to help people be more sensitive and caring towards each other. I hope you join in – no special skills or resources are required, just be yourself and talk to someone. You may be pleasantly surprised at what happens.

Time To Change is led by Mind and Rethink Mental Illness. If you’d like to find out more their website is here, and there are loads of resources available for you. I was particularly taken with this poster:

There are many other resources there too: from quizzes, games and puzzles to prompts on how to start a conversation. Please take time to visit their website: it is very informative and you’ll find helpful tip cards, like this one:

A couple of years ago I wrote a piece for Time To Change, but they didn’t use it – probably because I submitted it too late, and not in the way they prefer! But it gives a potted version of my story, and why I believe this to be so important, so is worth sharing again, I think:

I was diagnosed with depression in late 2011. After months of treatment, both with medication and counselling, I finally returned to work more than nine months later. Perhaps ironically, I worked for a large NHS Trust which provided mental health services – though I didn’t live in the Trust’s catchment area – and whilst I had had a fair amount of involvement with service users in my twenty years there, most of the people I worked with hadn’t.

When I first returned, initial reactions were mostly of the ‘I haven’t seen you for a while’ variety. It was clear to me that only a few people knew why I had been off work, and I decided early on that the best way to tackle this was to be open and honest with anyone who asked about it. Not that I shouted it from the rooftops, but I wanted people to know and understand why I had been away, what it meant for me, and what it might mean for them. Some seemed apprehensive – I think they feared I might ‘have a turn’ or do something strange! The difficulty with any mental health problem is that other people can’t see it, in the same way they can see a broken leg, for example. This adds some kind of aura, a mystique, and can instil in some a fear of the unknown and unseen. I didn’t want to start some kind of crusade, but I believed it important to share my experience with anyone who asked. After all, to all intents I was the same person they had known for years, so why should they now treat me differently? Some might have had an expectation that I had changed in some way, and I wanted to reassure them that whilst the illness was a part of me I was still that same ‘me.’ People who have suffered a mental illness deserve to be respected as themselves: the illness isn’t a badge they must wear or, worse, a stigma to be borne as some sign of weakness.

I retired a little over a year later, and having already started my own blog I was aware how important it is for fellow sufferers to know that they are not alone, that others have shared something similar. But that isn’t the same for those who have been lucky enough not to suffer. I probably had around fifty conversations with co-workers in that last year at work, and made a point of telling them a few key things:

1. There is no shame in having been diagnosed with any kind of mental illness.
2. It can happen to anyone, at any time.
3. It is far more prevalent than people imagine, and it was quite likely that other people we worked with had similar problems.
4. Whilst some may not, many will welcome an initial approach of the ‘is everything ok?’ type. It does help to talk, and an informal chat can often be all that is needed to help someone.
5. Don’t be judgemental – people need to be heard, not given well-meaning ‘diagnoses’ by friends who aren’t qualified to judge.
6. Having been diagnosed doesn’t change who you are, and shouldn’t change how others see you.

I’d like to think that, in my own little way, I did something to help understanding and awareness. The important part of this was that it was on a one to one basis: I’m a great believer in the need for efforts to be made to widen the general population’s knowledge on mental health, and this low key approach is a good way to do that. Just imagine how many could be enlightened if we all had just one chat!

As it says in the image below, one in four of us will be affected by mental health issues at some point in our lives. That is a huge number and, as I said in the piece I wrote (above) there are often no visible signs that someone is suffering. Mental health problems can be all-encompassing, taking over your life, and it can be incredibly valuable to feel that there is support for you. So, will you talk to someone tomorrow? Please? Pass it on!