Tuesday, 31 July 2007

A Message of Hope

Hello Planet Earth-

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Radio 5 Live for broadcasting a feature on our Mindbloggling community. Thank you Chris Vallance, Rhod Sharp and the 'Up All Night' team. To have been considered as part of your 'Pods and Blogs' show was an honour for us. You have helped promote the 'voice' of Mindbloggling. We are most grateful.
A heartfelt thank you to Tony (Blueshawk), for so eloquently describing to the radio listening audience, the ethos of Mindbloggling. Blueshawk had a vision. A vision of a blogging community that would challenge the stigma of mental health distress. He actively promotes the positive interaction between us. Tony, you have my utmost admiration.
Special thanks must also go to Leigh (Radioman). Radioman has added an extra dimension to our Mindbloggling community. His excellent 'Sanity Fair' podcast was highly informative and thought-provoking. So Leigh, well done, thank you for your notable contribution to our website.
A very warm thanks to the people at the 'heartbeat' of Mindbloggling. Thanks Emma, Nat, Amanda and 'Domenica'. Your support in making this increased awareness happen, is truly inspiring. Without your encouragement and reassurance, this chance to tell the world about us, may not have happened. I appreciate your kindness.
A big thank you to all of the good people involved in our empathetic ethos. Keep blogging to the world your valid thoughts. You have the right to be heard. You have the right to be happy and live in peace. Those of you who have been undermined and ridiculed. Continue to use Mindbloggling as a platform to reinforce your self-worth. We do not need to be ashamed of who we are.
So thanks to Chris Vallance, who had enough faith in our noble project to deem it worthy of recognition. You have helped increase the awareness of Mindbloggling. Now we will seize the chance to reduce the stigma of mental health issues. We are all different, all equal. I am so thankful to be a part of this community. Undaunted, we dare to dream.
I thank you for your time. Warm wishes Klahanie.

Saturday, 21 July 2007

The Knight in Tarnished Armour

When I first met the lady that became my true love; Little did I realise what a painful, heartbreaking journey lay before us.
As the stories of her life began to unfold, the horror of her sad, desperate life touched me in ways that would define us both. For she was a young woman who had been subjected to severe sexual and emotional abuse. The trauma, the outrageous torment she had suffered, defied belief. I hoped that I could be her 'Knight in Shining Armour'. I was determined to rescue her from the cruel and unjust world she had endured. How dare anybody have the audacity to undermine and devalue her humanity. Her right to happiness and contentment became my obsession.
The years rolled by, we got married, we had a son. We tried to be happy, united in a common cause of not letting her past events dictate our lives. Sadly, the emotional scars of her childhood were all-consuming. The consequences meant that our marriage was virtually plutonic. I became too scared to touch her. Yet I loved her that much, I was willing to sacrifice a 'normal' relationship. I was resolute in her discovering inner-peace.
So immersed in her plight, I did not notice what was happening to me. Lingering deep within myself was a negative force that would begin to dominate my life. A series of events had started to take their toll on my mental health wellbeing. For not only was I consumed with the pain of my wife; I had also suffered many years of workplace bullying. Nagging self-doubts began to creep in. The 'inner-critic' took control. The relentless onslaught of my mental illness nearly destroyed my remaining shred of dignity.
My true love could not cope with the 'shadow' of the man who had once been her ally in challenging her emotional despair. She left me, she took our son, she divorced me. I was left to rot in a small English town. Yet, I do not blame her. For she doesn't understand. The lady I loved divorced herself from my mental illness. She does not know that my illness is only a small part of who I am.
I hope, that for a few magical moments, I was her Knight in shining armour. I look back on our past and reflect upon bittersweet memories. I am so sorry that my Princess never got the fairytale ending we both craved. It fills me with sorrow that I became 'The Knight in Tarnished Armour'.
However, I am determined to seek and embrace the power of love. I hope that she finds the peace and contentment in her new life that she so richly deserves.

Monday, 9 July 2007

Canoes and Contentment

Greetings Friends-
I have experienced some truly magical times in my life. Inspiring memories that resonate within me. Memories that keep me focused on the positivity that I sense and the positivity I try to share with others.
Many years ago, I discovered the peaceful satisfaction of exploring the lakes of British Columbia, in a canoe. I recall the harmony I felt with nature. Surrounded by awesome beauty, I was immersed with an overwhelming sensation of tranquility. In my solitude, yet not alone, I was at peace with the environment.
My senses were acutely aware of all the sights, sounds and feelings. The vision of the gentle, pristine waters of the lake, the wondrous backdrop of the snow-capped mountains. The reassuring sound as the water lapped against the paddle. The cool, refreshing breeze flowing across my face.
Canoeing was such an adventure. Paddling for miles and miles until I could paddle no more. Discovering a remote island on a remote lake and setting up camp for the night. Words cannot do justice to how I felt. It was getting dark, time to reflect on how great the day had been.
It was late May, yet earlier that day, nature had decided to create a most unseasonal snow storm. Late at night, sitting outside my tent, mesmerised by the glowing embers of the camp fire. I realised that, to me, life doesn't get any better than this.
The sky had cleared and a full moon shone on the lake. The light from the moon sparkled on the majestic snow-encrusted evergreens. That beautiful vista is captured so vividly in my mind.
Filled with such inner-peace, I retreated to the cosy confines of my tent. I lay there, snuggled up inside my sleeping bag. I listened to the sounds of the nocturnal wildlife. The haunting call of the loon, the distant (thank goodness) howl of the wolves. I drifted off to sleep. Never have I slept so well.
The next morning I portaged my canoe across the island. Portaging is carrying your canoe overland. Or as I look at it, walking around with a canoe on your head. Not the most flattering of headgear, but hey, I never had much fashion sense.
Lately I have been wanting to rekindle my love of canoes. Pollution-free, environmentally-friendly canoes. The preferred mode of transport of the 'First Nations' people of North America. I am only a short walk from Rudyard Lake, so I haven't got much of an excuse. I'm sure with all the terrible weather we've had lately; the rental of a canoe wil be no problem.
Canoes and contentment. I stay focused on healthy behaviour. How positive is that?
I thank you for your time.

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

A Near-Life Experience

There I was, yet again, in another drunken stupor. Trying desperately to numb out a series of events that almost destroyed me. I tried to suppress the sheer panic I felt due to the relentless onslaught of my mental illness. Abandoned by people I loved, alcohol became a substitute for real love.
Oh the evil irony. Here I was, a desperate man in a desperate world, using and abusing alcohol. Yet, instead of relieving my distress, the drink nearly extinquished the fading remnants of my dignity. In my all-consuming state of loneliness and despair, I thought that alcohol would be my best friend. It had become my worst enemy.
The phone rang. It was my doctor and he sounded most concerned. My ex-wife had, in one last gesture of concern, voiced to him her fears about my condition. My doctor arranged to come over and check me out. Upon his arrival, it was obvious to him that I was very ill.
During the previous three weeks I had nothing to eat. Everyday for those three weeks, I drank three, two litre bottles of cider. My only 'nutrition' came from the cider. My life had lost its purpose. I decided that it was best that I should die. For here I was, a man trapped in a small English town. No friends and the only real Family I had here had started a new life.
The ambulance arrived and I was stretchered out. Severely bloated and severely jaundiced I was rushed to North Staffordshire Hospital. It was the 18th of June 1998. This would be my fourth alcohol-related trip to hospital. What was happening to me? I have never been so scared.
In that first week in hospital I nearly died. I faded in and out of consciousness. Never had I experienced such a state of surrealism. It was almost like I had become a part of everything around me. I felt like I was everywhere and nowhere. My whole being was on the verge of major changes.
At the end of the first week my ex-wife and my nine year old son Tristan came to visit me. They would be my only visitors. For they were going off to Vancouver with their new Family unit. It was time for my former spouse to introduce her new man and their son to her Family in Canada. The emotional pain I felt upon them going was raw and deep.
At the end of the first week I received one ray of hope that would sustain me for the duration of my hospital stay. My Mother, so far away in Vancouver, had been informed of my situation. She managed to get through to the ward's reception. I was placed in a wheelchair and I painfully made my way to reception. Barely able to speak, I received comfort and reassurance from my Mother. I discovered within me a new resolve. I was going to challenge my issues, for I realised, maybe just maybe, my life could have a meaning.
So for the next five weeks I lay in bed, knowing that I would have no visitors. All around me patients were surrounded by visitors. I heard the laughter, I witnessed the tears. Yet people did not seem to notice me. In a ward so full of humanity, I was so alone, so isolated. The tears streamed down my face. My tears went unnoticed.
Yet through all my isolation and loneliness I grasped a new positivity. I had time to think, time to evaluate my life. I began to realise that I am a well-meaning, sincere human being. I had been suffocated by a negative environment. It was time for me to understand that I could make my life better. So during those five weeks in hospital I searched for inspiration.
Inspiration came in the form of my dearest friend Rob. Rob had died two months earlier in Vancouver, he was only 44. I had been distraught over the fact I could not attend his funeral. I took some comfort in the knowledge that my words of respect for him were read in his eulogy.
Lying in my bed, I looked out the window and stared at the trees. Every leaf on every tree became the spirit of Rob. It was a awesome experience, for in my mind I heard Rob say: "Gary, it's not time for you yet. Buddy, you're gonna' make it."
Slowly, at times painfully, my life has improved. When I left hospital, I left as a new man. No longer shackled by the evil irony of my alcohol abuse. Understanding that my mental distress was only a small portion of who I am. I left with a great sense of relief. Now I would try to live my life with positive anticipation instead of negative speculation.
Yes, I had a near-death experience. Yet at the same time I had a 'near-life' experience. For I had not been near-life for all too long. Life was passing me by. I tired of being a spectator. Although, still baring the wounds of a sad and traumatic past. I shall continue, undaunted, to embrace a more positive life.
I have not had a drink since the 18th of June 1998. I neither want nor intend to have another drink. I am liberated. That is so powerful.