Sunday, July 31, 2016

Mental Health and the NHS

Before I even get started I want to make something perfectly clear.. I am NOT having a dig at the NHS. I know plenty of people out there have their issues with the service, some quite rightly so, others just over expectational of what the service exist for, and what medical science is actually capable of.
Contrary to believe, not all lives can be saved, no all conditions resolved. Of course it is sad to lose a loved one, but blaming a service as mighty as the NHS is not always the right way to vent that feeling.
Mistakes have been made, lives lost for sure, and no that is not right. But on the grand scale, if we frown on the bad, then we should also celebrate the huge achievements of the NHS every day. But as usual, we are quick to complain, but slow to commend.

Right, now to what  I started writing this whole entry about. Not sure about its direction just yet, so lets see how it pans out. In short, I want to address the mental health service offered by the NHS. Obviously this is something I am quite familiar with, having been treated for depression and anxiety a number of times now, so I am not just grasping at straws here, and want to use some of my own experiences, and stories of others I know to try and put across a balanced opinion, so lets try this.

The first time I  suffered from a bout of depression was long before I was ever treated for depression. In the late 90's, losing touch with my daughter drove my to the brink. And thinking back about that now, reminds me very much of my most recent experience. Both dealt with by me with irrational amounts of physical activity, training twice a day 6 days a week at the gym. Good for the body, terrible for the mind.

Back then I was a lost soul, still in my 20's seeing my daughter torn away from me, and worst still, seeing my child move forwards in her life without her father, just like I had. Something I had vowed no child of mine would EVER go through. And there is was. One afternoon I found myself in casualty with a large gash on my hand, as a result of punching through a laminated screen in frustration. A scar I still carry today, and a reminder that physical reactions to feeling unstable mentally need to be limited and controlled. I didn't intend harm to myself, but ended up doing so. I never recognised what I was going through as being a mental health issue, so plugged on for the next year, finally slowly returning to my old self.

It would be another 10 years before I would see depression again, properly at least. As the condition of my mother worsened, and her need for a carer grew, I took on a new lifestyle. Combined with the recovery of a recent operation and a bad time at work, my mental condition dropped, and I soon realised I was in a very dark and desperate place, struggling to sleep, socialise, or even care about my own well being. On seeing a doctor I was prescribed Citalopram 20mh, soon rising to 40mg. Thankfully work provided some one to one counselling for me, and with the help of Peter my brilliant counsellor, I made a strong recovery, again, after about a year or so. Meds were reduced and phased out.

Move on another 5 years or so, and there we were again. A huge slump in mood drove me to possibly the deepest and most desperate point I have ever been in, long term. I have had huge lows, but never stayed this low. Seeing a new GP, I was back on Citalopram, and referred for counselling. This is where it really begun.

I was phone assessed by what felt like a very robotic and uncaring person, who decided my condition was mild and I should go to Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) For those not familiar with it, the only way I can summarise it is like this. You are taught to  identify points from early life which may have shaped your behaviour today, then to concentrate on what triggers your depression, and the cycles you go through which perpetuate the depression. Learning coping mechanisms, how to isolate each component, and on ways to avoid the spiral of depression. It sounds a bit hopeless and complex, but I must confess by the end I was understanding myself a lot better. In short, CBT isn't as bad as I first thought it was, but still don't believe it is for everyone.

As I was first introduced to the CBT service, I started to understand why some people were so frustrated with the NHS for their MH provisions, or at least the way they manage it. A few weeks after my somewhat uncaring phone assessment I received a letter to go to the Jenner Health centre for a one to one, with some vague information about this CBT thing. Having looked it up on the internet I was curious but not convinced.
On my arrival there I realised that not only was there no reception for the CBT dept (as noted in the letter) but there was barely a sign that I was even in the right place. Bad start for anxious people. My appointment was for about 12.00, but by about 12.30 I hadn't seen a single person on the floor or in the waiting room. Finally someone did come in, and was swiftly collected by a post natal class person. Now I am wondering if I am in the right place, anxiety levels rising.  Eventually someone came out to get me, apologising as we walked down the hallway. Little comfort for the way I was now feeling.

I was briefly asked about what brought me there that day, then pummelled with piles of papers about CBT. Being told that the things I was talking about were not of consequence, and that CBT only looks forwards. The past can't be changed. Tell that to someone traumatised by their past!
The following week, after finding peace with myself and realising this was the help I was getting and to go with it, I arrived at my appointment to be told I had been referred elsewhere, and was now to join a group therapy class. Anxious and depressed, great, lets go sit in a circle and talk about it. I was told this was NOT the case, but on arrival it was just like that. A circle of chairs and two counsellors.

At this point I was feeling hopeless. Speaking to the counsellors about how I felt, I was told nicely just to stick with it, but with no real foundation to it.

So I guess this is where my concerns first start. As humans we are capable of compassion and empathy, to a degree at least. But the line "I know how you feel" is used all too freely. If you have never been bound by the ropes of depression, or had your thoughts suppressed by the worry and voices in your head. If you have never just wanted to spend the next week in bed, and not wanted to see ANYONE face to face for weeks on end.... Then you certainly should not tell a depressed person "I know how you feel", you really don't.

I applaud anyone choosing a career in mental health. As far as the NHS goes it is hardly financially rewarding, and to some degree it isn't an easy role to fill either. It takes a strong mind to deal with such matters day in, day out. However I do sometimes wonder what the criteria really is for getting such a role, and how many sufferers of depression actually work in the service. Maybe it is counter productive to have sufferers working in the field, but from my perspective, I am in my element working with people suffering, as I feel I have more ability to understand what they mean when thy express how helpless they feel. Rather than replying with the "hmmm, hmmm, yes" I seemed to get a lot of the time.

So before I go on anymore, thank you to anyone who seriously takes on a role to help sufferers of mental health issues, not just depression and anxiety. You DO make a difference for sure. But I wonder would more funding, training, or better selection of staff, and a better understanding of the conditions make a bigger difference.

Do I think I could do better? Well that is a very good question indeed, and a fair one. I don't have any qualifications in anything, let alone psychology, I have no further education either. So academically I am useless. But is that what counts? Who can lead you through a forest at night the best, an expert map reader who has never been to this forest, or a local who lives there, but can't read or write? I think the answer is obvious. Sometimes qualifications and certificates are not the be all and end all. Sometimes its more about understanding and empathy to the situation.

Obviously there is some information required. Not every experience is the same, and not all people react the same way. Understanding the mechanism of the mind is pretty darn important too of course. So there is a balance to be found for sure. The right level of input from sufferers, the correct level of understanding of the situation from a psychological perspective, and carefully planned academic coursework and structured action plans. Question is, is this being achieved?

From my experience, possibly, in fact probably not. Counsellors arriving late to groups, not understanding the impact that has on the recovering mind. Mixed up piles of photocopied coursework sheets, sometimes not enough to go around. Depending too much on patient participation to get the course moving. Without solid contribution of stories from those attending, sessions sometimes stalled. In my instance I was happy to share deep and past experiences, but it was quite clear to me that many others were less comfortable (rightly so). Counsellors unable to directly answer questions on the subject matter at times, with others in the group having to fumble for answers til it was decided one of them was right.

It is not all negative of course, I came out the other end feeling better for it. My question is, who did what for me. Did I get back on my feet myself, did my sharing and helping others inspire me to fight back, or did CBT save the day? Honestly, I think it is a combination, but not a very balanced one. CBT put me in a room with people, something I was uncomfortable with, but willing to try. It also gave me the opportunity to tell my story. However the coursework was mainly thinks I have been through on my own free will. Identifying triggers, identifying drops in mood, coping mechanisms, understanding how society makes me feel.  So the actual learning side was lost on me.

That said, helping others in the group identify with their own demons, and give my own examples to help them better understand their own, that was something. By half way through I was looking forwards to each week, to see what impact I could have, and getting people smiling or sharing was a powerful drug for me.
This in turn enabled me to help myself. Both understand myself a bit more, give me a purpose and some self worth back. All in all the right combination was found, for me at least.

As the course went on, and people showed up from time to time, it became obvious that some people were back for the second or third time. That part was lost on me. Learning about yourself, understanding the functions of the mind, and the cruel tricks it plays is one thing. But re-learning over and over.... I don't get it. If you need help after completing the first course, surely you need a different approach. In this respect the MH system is a bit lost and misguided. I wonder what it feels like to be re-sent on a 12 week course just because you have become depressed again. While the lessons learned are powerful and enlightening, they simply cannot stop the body and mind from throwing your life into turmoil, it's just not that simple.

Now the elephant in the room. Medication!
Having grown up watching programs with mental health patience receiving mind numbing sedation drugs to keep their minds rested, I have long thought that all anti depressants are of the same nature, making you sleepy and non functional, and silencing the issues, rather than helping tackle them.
However it turns out they are not. They all do different things, some indeed are sedative style, but others help the body produce more of what is needed to balance your moods. Apart from some strange side effects during early days, life after that, once on the right dose becomes pretty darn normal. Apart from remembering to take a tablet each day, you are just you again, certainly with Citalopram.

I know quite a few others who feel exactly the same way about the meds.
Being serious for a second, look at it this way. In most cases you can come off them when the depression and risk of it reoccurring has passed, reducing the dose, until none is needed. I have done that successfully myself after my last bout of depression 5 years ago.
Think of it this way, if you have something important to do which requires your full attention, and have a headache, you grab some ibuprofen, wait 45 mins, and you are fit to do the task at hand. There is no stigma attached to ibuprofen, so it is socially acceptable. With mental health, it is the same, but sadly its going to be 45 days or more rather than minutes. Once the levels in your body start to level out, and you are able to think straight again, you can help yourself understand what the issue is, and how best to overcome it. Sometimes without clearing the fog, you won't be able to see the path out of the forest.

So I don't see them as a negative thing at all. And I really wish society would see this too. Alcohol alters the mind, so does tobacco, but somehow they are both social and acceptable drugs to use. "Overdosing" on them is common place, and abuse of them is an epidemic. But society seems to say that is ok. And yet at the same time frowns on simple, controlled, monitored medication taken by those needing that little tweak of the mind. I don't get it, not for one second. But then I don't drink or smoke, so how would I. Just as those who frown on medication for mental health don't get it, but still judge.

The drug side of the mental health treatment on the NHS seems to be aplenty. Churning out prescriptions many times a day, no scheduled reviews once prescribed. The face to face part, which in some cases is critical however seems very hit and miss. I felt that the whole process took far too long for me to get facetime with anyone. However it seems that this waiting time varies radically from borough to borough, just in London alone, so nationally, I dread to think what the variations are.
One example. I was referred in November 2015, and finally got face time in Jan 2016. To me, that was an eternity, and waiting for it was both scary and painful. Thankfully by that time I had started to find my own circle of support from a great group of friends.

For someone else I have gotten to know, they were referred at the same time as me, and here we are in August, coming on for a year later, and they are STILL waiting. Same are, different borough council, so different MH team and ethics it would seem. This is fundamentally where it all starts to fall apart.
I have all too often heard the term "NHS postcode lottery" and again wondered what the hell people are on about. But it would seem this is one example of this phenomena.

I just don't get how there can be differences in urgency, treatment, assessment, and over all ethics towards mental health from postcode to postcode. Surely the NHS as a whole, all the trusts combined have agreed a strategy for treating mental health. Moral codes of conduct, tiers of urgency and treatment nationwide. I don't understand how one body, overseen by one government, can be so fragmented, first into trusts, then into boroughs, and each fragment having its own ideals on treatment for a condition.
It also leaves me wondering if the same is true for others branches of the NHS, other fields of medicine. Should I move house to get considered more important by another boroughs health team?

Thankfully for me, in South London, under Lewisham, I cannot complain about any of the medical attention I have received over the years. Ultimately it has all worked out for me, and I am here writing annoyingly long blogs like this. But I has me now wondering about how different things are, and what can be done to make a change to the whole system.
I have read news reports for years which say the mental health section of the NHS is desperately under-funded, and spiralling out of control. I have also read reports of how people have been let down by the service, resulting in vulnerable people committing suicide, or harming others.

Somewhere in amongst that all is the answer. The right direction to take.
So my questions.

Why are counsellors photocopying literature for a course with a fixed program of learning. Buying paper,making thousands of copies on a photocopier, making a mess of things, and fumbling by. Is it not easier to have these put into booklets and handed out by every borough, every trust. Ensuring that everyone is receiving the same education on their condition. No missing pages, no topics accidentally overlooked. Surely it is cheaper to put it out to tender once, and print them all and distribute throughout the UK. Procurement for such things should be centralised. One of the faults maybe of the NHS being so top heavy and fragmented?

How many people working in the field actually have first hand experience of depression and anxiety. Statistically it is likely that most people working with cancer in the NHS no someone who has experienced cancer, so empathy is far easier to give.
However while depression and anxiety is at epidemic levels now, firstly it is in the shadows. Not discussed, never admitted, and sometimes denied by those diagnosed. So getting people to speak about it, let alone help in the field is really tough, I get that. But I am still curious to know how many are in the field, helping others understand. After my CBT course was done, I was hungry to help others, and as it turns out when I look back over my life, I have been doing this for ages.
I was shocked by the number of my friends who have suffered or still do, and touched by the positivity I received about my honest and open blog entries about the matter. I really didn't realise how wide spread it was, nor how secret it was.

I really wish I had the know how to start digging for information and understanding how things could be done differently, not only from my experiences, but from others too. If I had the time, I would dig deeper, and push harder to get heard, but for now I will carry on doing what I feel is right, and keep reaching out to others who are fighting their demons. Struggling every day against the voices in their heads, and the lack of understanding from the world around them.

I have more to say on this matter, watch this space. But in the meantime, if there is any official organisation I can lend my mind to, just call :)

Friday, July 29, 2016

24 hours without pain or meds!

Quite surprising really, but at the same time, I guess I have learned how to cope too.
Deciding yesterday morning that I would NOT take any more anti inflammatory tablets until I felt physical discomfort. Until now I have done the usual and stayed ahead of the curve. Taking them at regular intervals to keep it all minimal. There has definitely been some discomfort in that time, so it was not pointless.

However, I'm trying to go easy on my body, and avoid taking excessive amounts. I discussed with the GP how I should continue from this point re medication and what to expect from the recovery process. The decisions were simple, carry on doing what I am doing. Stretching, exercising gently, resting where possible and taking meds as and when required, when the sensations start to register.

This morning, as I was med free, I decided against taking the dogs on a walk, just in case I jarred something, and instead took myself for a gentle walk. Planning about 3 miles, which I am used to running in about 27 mins, or walking in 48-50, it took me just shy of an hour today. That included a couple of stop and stretches, as things were getting tight. But the pace was literally 3 mph. Expecting to suffer for doing this, I came home and got into some yoga stretches, releasing the tension from my lower back and shoulders.

It was a good decision, and within 10 mins of getting home, I was once again relaxed, with no tightness in my back. To the point where I am catching myself out bending down to do things with the ease I once did so. It's a good feeling to be able to get on with things without worry or pain.

That said, it's not all rosey. There is some discomfort still, and I know a lot of the current lack of pain is down to a lack of activity too. I'm not going to say I am healed or fully recovered, and won't be able to either until I have returned to running and cycling.
This weekend I will miss the Prudential 100 which I had so looked forwards to doing, but I know it is for the best. However I want to be back in the saddle soon.  I feel like I am really missing out on summer and some amazing adventures.

I won't be rushing though, once with this is enough for me, and my road ahead will include doing everything I can to avoid a re-occurrence of this. Having gained weight, I now realise how well I was doing. Yo-yo'ing isn't usually quite this quick, so rapidly regaining some weight really puts a toll on the body which has got used to being without it very quickly.
Needless to say I am doing everything I can to lose it again ASAP. Back to healthy(ish) eating already, Monday will show if it is working as it is my first checkpoint.

I am hoping that in the next 14 days I can forget about taking pills unless I do anything strenuous, and that in the same time-frame I can do some running at home on the treadmill, (and some cross trainer for quads and glutes), and some short and gentle rides on the bikes. At least start to normalise my activities, so as my body repairs, it repairs the right way, allowing for these movements. Rather than healing, and THEN getting used to joint movements all over again.

Tomorrow I have a review meeting with my chiropractor, who has been instrumental in this recovery progress. Releasing the tension in my back, allowing the muscles to come out of spasm, and start to repair themselves. Thanks to Noel for the recommendation. I should come away with exercises to do, based on my goals moving forwards. Some of which have already been discussed, and fit in nicely with the Track Yoga program I am following at the moment, which alone has had a big impact on my morning stiffness, and helped me start my day the right way.

All in all, this is the most positive I have felt for months now, and can't wait to get moving properly again. My Garmin weekly summary is really up on what it has been for weeks now.

Hopefully I can get the whole screen full of those bars in the next couple of weeks, and really start to burn some calories, and get the miles in.

Speaking of moving and steps, I have also discovered that 2 pairs of my trainers are possibly causing me issues too, turning my feet in, which would in turn stress my hips and glutes. Needless to say they are on their way to the bin now.
Its annoying and confusing though, as the pair of trainers I first started running in, Nikes in a UK 9.5 were pinching my toe after the first couple of months of running, but otherwise were perfect. Being logical, I replaced them with a UK 10 of the same shoe... Which has decided to have no inner support, and allows the feet to roll in.  Half a size, huge difference.

So now I am left wondering. Replacing another of my pairs of trainers, which are currently feeling OK, but wearing as if they are a tiny bit short... Do I go with the 9.5 again, or up them to a UK 10 too, and run the risk they will be totally different too. . Decisions decisions. Currently tempted to buy in both sizes and see how they both fair. Nike Lunar Forever are lovely ! I am sure I will do something totally irrational over the weekend. But will be discussing this with the chiropractor tomorrow also.

So that is me for now, on the mend, itching to get going, but all under control. Here's to upping the distances and speeds slowly and safely over the coming weeks, and riding properly by the end of August.

Thanks for reading, and take care of your back.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Ban roads!

After recently reading debates over Road safety for a number of reasons,  I have come to the conclusion that the best course of action would be,  BAN ROADS!
It has become quite clear to me that pedestrians are put at more and more risk on a daily basis by the drivers of these motorised monsters which tear up and down the strips of tarmac which were only ever intended for milk floats,  horse and cart,  and of course Sinclair C5's.

To combat this growing danger,  I am today launching a campaign to quite simply,  ban roads! There is no need for them,  they serve no purpose,  and society could get along fine without them.

Instead I propose that motorised vehicles are banned with immediate effect,  and all the land currently selfishly used by them be designated as stroller parking for selfish fuckin mums who want to stand three abreast while they bitch about the new mum in the group,  fucktards who wish to spend their time running around chasing imaginary friends Pikeymums or whatever they are called. And not forgetting those poor disabled folk hell bent on creating more disabled people by running people over at stupid speeds on their mobility scooters,  or in some cases "too lazy to fuckin walk"  scooters.

The time for the road is over. Who needs huge lorries delivering supplies to almost every street corner to Sainsburys,  Tescos,  Waitrose locals etc. The shops that were opened due to mankind's unwillingness to travel more than 200 metres to get their weekly shopping,  because it's their basic human rights to have a fully stocked grocery shop on the block they live on. Only to drive there anyway and park like a fuck knuckle,  because unlike the people who use the roads daily to commute and carry out their jobs,  these arseholes don't have a clue how to drive or park,  so just muddle their way through,  blaming everyone else.

Roads,  leading to other towns are no longer needed. There is a perfectly good transport system in London,  unless they are on strike,  the wrong kind of weather occurs,  or a sewer breaks! I am sure the system cheating,  address lying parents out there who do their 5 mile school run to another borough each day can just settle their kids into a local school instead,  who needs standards when you can have local and convenient. Eliminating the need for those pesky roads.

Roads are pointless now however you look at it. However I realise this cannot happen over night,  so would recommend the following measures until all roads can be resurfaced as pavements or green spaces.
1/ Traffic currently drives too close to the kerb,  which is dangerously close to the idiotic parents walking their kids along the kerb "for fun"  and are further hindered by earlier mentioned selfish arseholes parking strollers across them while they chant their spells.  A buffer zone should be drawn up with immediate effect,  placing at least 5ft between humans and cars. This is not to be confused with a generous pavement, as it would seem even with all this perfectly adequate space,  some cock wombles still manage to fall off this into the path of cars.
2/ vehicle lanes to be no more than 6ft wide. Most practical vehicles fit through a 6ft width restriction including vans.  Any vehicle bigger than this has no business being on the roads and should be banned immediately.
3/ All crossing points should be made alternate direction flow traffic, and no wider than 7ft. This will ensure that pedestrians can cross with almost complete safety,  while the remaining permitted traffic on the road they are crossing is guaranteed to be gridlocked.

I think that just about covers everything.

OK seriously now....
What I am trying to say by mocking these stereotypes is quite simple. People are getting far too self self-righteous,  and quite frankly selfish about what they feel they are entitled to.
Traffic shouldn't be allowed on MY road,  send it down theirs instead.
There should be more crossings,  because I am too fuckin lazy to walk 50ft from the station exit to the existing crossing point.
I want a pedestrian crossing with stop lights installed because I am too stupid to cross a road without one. (and even when you do put one in,  I won't use it)
School zones are dangerous.... Yes,  because parents park like that's,  put their kids safety in front of all others by parking on zig zags,  block pavements while chatting to people they haven't seen since the walk to school that day,  and generally behave like poor examples to the kids.

At the end of the day most road users use the roads because it is the best option for them. Commuting,  working,  serving the community. Delivering things we are too lazy to go to the shops and get ourselves etc. During the week there are very few people using the roads for fun. Because it's not fun.
That's not to say that some could avoid using them at peak times. School runs from 3 streets away,  lazy fucks that won't walk to the shops etc. Some journeys can be avoided of course.

The thing is,  pedestrian,  cyclist,  motorist etc,  we all have to share these spaces every single day. So instead of ranting on about you entitlement,  rights,  and how others should behave and treat you,  take a look at how YOU are behaving first,  take your OWN actions and safety seriously, then comment on others.

I walk,  run,  ride,  drive on Londons roads every day,  sure I get wound up by people's actions at times,  but my #1 concern and focus is always myself and my actions.

So cut the bullshit,  enough with the demands,  grow up,  accept the world we live in and make the most of it. And if roads and traffic REALLY worry you that much,  minimise your demands on the road network.

Depression vs laziness.

Laying in bed this morning, like a petulant child refusing to get up for school, I got thinking.
As I lay there, with the fan on, cool breeze, and just moving from one comfortable position to another, I thought back to a few months ago when my reasoning for laying in bed was quite different.

This led to a deeper thought on the matter, and quite frankly spoilt the moment, but was worth it.
A few months back, each morning I would wake, filled with doom and gloom. No good reason to get out of bed, and dreading what awaited me when I did. So for as long as I could, I would find excuses not to get up and start the day.
Raining, can't walk the dogs, being my favourite, however there were plenty more, from convincing myself I was too tired and needed more sleep, to deciding I ached in some way or form and should rest. The depressed mind is full of excuses!

Today however, and the last week or two have been different. I have instead basked in the "life if good" bed of laziness. Like a carefree bachelor with no plan for the day, I just wake and enjoy the moment. Rather than avoiding things, I schedule them in my mind, allowing just enough time to complete the required tasks of the day, whilst making the most of relaxing in bed.
Now I am not going to say that is an every day ideal, it really isn't. But I have to say it is nice to have the option, and to feel in control of it.

I am not scared to get up, nor of what lays in wait day to day. And that is a huge departure from the feelings of depression I fought for the first few months of this year, and previously.

So, with that in mind, I now understand the confusion and misinterpretation people have. When a depressed person says "I just can't get out of bed in the morning" and the person who has not experienced it says "Oh I know what you mean, I get like that". While I appreciate the attempt at empathy, there is a huge difference between being unwilling to get up and get the day started, feeling lazy and unmotivated, and the feeling of being trapped in your bed, covers tucked in, with no way out. Your mind refusing to let you out of the safety and numbness of your bed, to protect you from the day of dread and terror which awaits you.

It sounds far fetched I know, but the mind can play lots of tricks with you, and ultimately controls your actions.So when it says "we are NOT getting up today", you pretty much obey. When you think, I have nothing to do this morning, I am gonna have a lay in, its a choice.

In between these two stages, there is another I have been experiencing recently, and that is reluctantly staying in bed. Through illness or injury, I have spent a lot of time in bed in the past month too, resting my back and hips (most of the time), and fighting off a fever. Waking knowing your mind is happy for you to get out of bed, but this time it is your body, and having to make the reluctant choice to stay in bed, even though you have the mental capacity to be up doing things is quite a kick in the balls, especially when bouncing back from being trapped already.

I guess it is this stage which has spurned this entry more than anything. The line between both ends of the mental spectrum is indeed physical. Prohibiting activity, and leaving you to decide how much you care about resting and recovering. For once fighting the mental drive to get out of bed shows me that I have a lot of choice about my daily actions, and only when I am truly crushed by depression do I lose all control over my life.

That is a powerful message to me, and a reminder that without any visible signs, every drop of energy, drive and hope can be torn from you, and leave you as just an empty carcass of a person, just along for the ride.

I really do hope even just one person who knows these three stages reads this, just so I know I am not the only one who recognises them.
So, next time someone says they just can't get out of bed, imagine it as a physical injury, and give their feelings the same consideration you would if you saw them in a body cast, or with legs in plaster. The mind controls every movement we make, if it says no, the answer is simply NO. Even if you don't understand why.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Taking it easy!

What the hell does that even mean?
I really  do struggle with the concept at times,  especially when it is important.
Right now,  slowly recovering from a back injury,  I know that it is important that I don't try too hard too soon. However,  as with many other  things in my life that require patience,  I just don't get it.

As my back first started to hurt,  I should have taken it easy,  rather than seeing the pain as some sort of weakness. Stubborn and determined to prove I am made of stronger stuff,  I push on and ultimately end up with something that will take 10 times longer to bounce back from,  than if I had listened to my mind and body in the first place.

I was so caught up in the moment, and so blinkered by my goals and desires,  I totally ignored the signs,  pushed on and ended up in a right old mess.

But there is light at the end of the tunnel,  and the symptoms are slowly subsiding. With a combination of drugs,  stretches and yoga,  combined with a slow and steady return to being active,  I am making progress.
Alas,  once again my stupid mind is trying to bully me into pushing too hard.  So I am carefully watching the numbers,  and making sure that there is NO rush this time. If I have an active day like today,  the next is slightly easier.

It is a habit I need to break.  Rushing into things has always been a weakness,  and it is one I am determined to overcome. Lessons have been learned on many levels, and new ideals have been found. No more rushing.

Life is a journey,  not a race.....

This weekend I miss out on a bike ride I have been training for for six months now. My ego is screaming for me to at least try it, my recent progress tells me I stand a chance. But my common sense tells me that it is just not worth the risk of injury and spending the remainder of the summer unable to ride or run. And that is something  I just can't deal with.

Already gaining weight (and now fighting  it again) I know I don't want to lose any more momentum,  and need back on that wagon. So here's to slow and steady steps for everything in life,  and to being back in the saddle and also running again properly by the end of August.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

How we change.

There was once a time I craved the limelight, and the attention that came with it, these days I just like the conversation and back and forth that comes with staying in touch. Having wrestled for years with my identity, trying to decide who the real me was, I finally thought I had the answer.
Then new opportunities presented themselves just as I recovered from depression, and being out there again suddenly seemed desirable. Remembering all the positives that came with it, I dived in, but was soon reminded of the "pressures" and obligations that come with it.

Apparently it seems, all is not golden. As much as I would love to convince myself this is still where I like to be, it is only fair to say, it is not! Not to say that company and get togethers are a bad thing, they aren't. I have enjoyed getting back out there and remembering how cool it can be.... Occasionally!

Bouncing back from being locked away is a funny thing, and can give false signals about what we want. A bit like food, when you are really hungry you can over do it, and end up feeling a bit sick. I seem to have over indulged in my consumption of attention, and am now left feeling like I need a really long sleep and a break. Ironic that I have just returned from Spain, but still exhausted. The combination of pain, lack of activity and the spotlight has all culminated in the desire to lay down, curl up and have some me time. So that is what I am doing.

I don't feel it needs explaining much more than that really. It is my wish, and my need, and anyone who cannot understand or respect that probably misunderstands me, or thinks they know me better than they do.

I think everyone probably goes through these changes, a reshuffle of things that are important to us, and an internal reorganisation to make sure we are taking care of what matters, and not just being the person others want us to me.

With the first set of results from my back and hip pending, follow up appointment booked, chiropractor tonight, new meds to take along with my cocodamol, and a cycle ride I am more than likely about to pull out of, I think I have plenty of my own things to be getting on with, rather than worrying about what else is expected or wanted from me.

That is not to say that anyone I choose to engage with on a one to one basis is about to be dropped. There are people out there who I will always have time for, and hopefully they know that. If not, I will be making sure they do in the near future.

If you require more information email asksomeonewhogivesafuck (at)

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Giving in to the pain.

A couple of months back my back started playing up more than ever. Most noticeably the amount of times I would have to stretch my back out while  walking the dogs. From it being slow and delicate to bend over at the end of the walk to take my shoes off,  it became necessary to bend,  squat and stretch a number of times mid walk. At that point it all became enough and I went to see a chiropractor.

Prior to this point,  I suspended all running after my June 12th run at the Olympic Park. So to date it has been 35 days since I ran. And 28 since my June 19th London to Brighton Bike ride. Fair to say that the after effects of the run were not nice, but the bike ride impact wasn't as harsh.

Here I am after no training of any sort for 4 weeks,  now 2 weeks away from the epic,  long planned Pru London 100 Ride,  with no mental or  physical energy to think about doing it,  let alone managing it. Another day I had planned to see if I can manage a ride, and it's a no go.

In the last 4 weeks the situation has got worse and worse, to the point where today I have discovered that if I don't stand up straight, the pain is less. So since waking up today I have either stayed in bed, or walked around hunched over. Sitting awkwardly on the sofa now writing this,  my brain is convinced that going back to bed it the right thing to do,  as otherwise it means pain and discomfort.  So far I have resisted medication today,  as I am trying to get a feel of what is really going on inside my body. That and the fact I'm still very uncomfortable even on meds.

Right now,  this very second I am happy just to give up and do nothing. Avoid the shooting sensations and stabbing pains,  no more taking a shot to the balls. Just lay awkwardly and pretend all is well.

With a trip to the doctor booked for the 28th, something tells me I will be asking for an emergency appointment this week. Maybe even in the morning. It's just becoming stupid to try and hang on any longer now. One wrong move and the after effects stay with me for hours. That's no way to live for sure. Trouble is, having the get up and go to do anything about it is fast becoming a fight on its own. Mindset is still very much "sit still,  it will go away".

Thinking back the other day I realised that one of my falls from my bike a few weeks back was onto the hip giving me all the problems right now,  so was also contemplating going to a walk in centre or something, to get checked out properly to see if that started the progression of this problem in any way. I get the impression the GP will send me to hospital or refer me anyway,  so maybe cut out the middleman?

So hard to decide. I can control the pain by limiting movement,  so am not in immediate pain. Controlling and limiting movement for the next 11 days might be a bit excessive. A GP will send me for tests anyway,  so maybe hospital is the place to start. But then long term pain which doesn't require immediate intervention is more a GP thing,  right?

All a minefield really.

Meanwhile in the back of my head there is an argument going on. After all the sponsorship I have received and all the work I have done towards the 100 mile ride,  can I still do it a d save face? I did London to Brighton ok, so maybe this won't be so bad? Or maybe I will cripple myself by doing it? I don't want to let people down,  I don't want to be a failure to myself or others. I feel obligated to at least try. But to try and fail would be devastating.

How can one physical ailment cause this much unrest for me!

I am starting to think that this pain is bigger than  what the chiropractor can sort,  maybe something worse. Or maybe me not mentioning the accident might have pointed her in the wrong direction to treat me? Whatever the case,  I definitely need to speak to other people about it to get other possible issues checked out.

Guess tomorrow decides what I do next. Until then I am stuck stooping around,  eating convenient junk,  gaining weight again,  feeling disappointed and cheated.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

100 mile fit in 2 weeks?

I am left wondering if with all the pain I am having in my lower back and hips,  I can actually even consider taking part in the Pru 100 Ride at the end of the month.
Overall I know I have reached 100 mile fit,  but with the recent break from training due to injury /pain,  the question remains,  can I repair AND spring back quick enough?

It's a pain in the arse as I have been working towards this ride for months,  and really want it under my belt. I know I can cycle even with my back like this,  as I did the London to Brighton,  but do I try it. Is it worth starting when I know I might not finish?


Friday, July 15, 2016

Crowdfunding... NEVER again! Thanks to GOkey.

Two years ago, while reading the news on a tech website,  I saw a story about a new device which looked fantastic. At the time, with phones battling to be smaller and thinner, both battery life and storage was really starting to suffer. So this keyring sized device, offering a battery top-up as well as data storage options seemed the perfect solution.

The product was GOkey. Revolutionary, and as the interest grew, so did the ideas of what it could do. GPS locator, camera remote and so much more. The campaign on Indigogo can be found here.

As I read more, and watched the demo video, I grew excited about the idea, and started telling my friends about these too. Friends who I now feel I owe an apology to, for talking them into putting money into the idea. We are all now in the same boat, and I would prefer if it were just me, so sorry about that.

Offering from 8GB to 32GB of storage (not a lot by 2016 standards I know!) , a couple of colour choices, and micro USB or Lightning Connector connections, a small battery for rapid charging of your mobile device. That was all it took to get the masses paying into the fund, in the hope of owning one of these revolutionary devices. $1,216, 280  or  2581% of the original goal. With all that funding, it was clearly off to an amazing start, and would be off the ground and produced in no time..... Right?

Well, no actually. Instead of saying, right "GOkey Mk1, as advertised" and getting it into production and distributed, based on the spec which people had bought into, the company decided it could better it. Rather than getting the original out of the way, then moving on to the Mk2, they delayed the whole thing, and started a consultation process, adding more and more new features to it, drawing more battery power, redesigning the battery, and basically going back to the drawing board.

Now, when people put money into a project, they read the return, accept it, and go for it. Sure, things take time, tooling, production, final testing etc. We are all patient, right? Sure, but how long is TOO long?

Due to the changes along the way, the production stalled, the communications faded out, and the hype died. I am writing this 2 years after making my pledge for 3 of the devices, and have to say that it is officially TOO long now. In the past few months I did receive an email suggesting they were just sorting final production and to confirm my preferences for my devices. Preferences which have changed over the two years, including a completely new connection option. Yup, tech has moved on and USB Type C is now fast becoming the industry standard. THAT is how long this whole process has been in the making.

What was once a great basis for an ongoing product which could evolve, and have customers returning for the newest version, GOkey have not even created an one hit wonder. More a one attempt flounder (at other peoples expense)

I think it is fair to say that there are a few different groups left waiting for their GOkey

The optimists . Waiting for this groundbreaking device to change their lives/
The pessimists. Totally over what they signed up for, and just waiting for their defunct devices to arrive so they can give them away for Xmas 2017 or stick them in a drawer for eternity .
And the realists.... Those SO over the whole thing, they have given up on every aspect of GOkey. Accepted the fact that the product will never be worth what they paid, that they have lost their money, and actually reached the point of barely remembering what GOkey was all about in the first place.

In Oct 2015, I emailed the CEO, Doros, stating my disappointment at the eternal delays, and expressing that I felt the idea was fast becoming obsolete. Unsurprisingly the response I received disagreed with my feelings, and asked why I felt it was obsolete.

Politely I put together what I felt was an appropriate response to the question, which went a little something like this..


Maybe obsolete is a too strong a word, or the wrong choice. But since May 2014 I am sure you know yourself that portable battery stores have become far more compact and popular, as well as affordable. Numerous devices out there with a remote shutter option on them, including the increasingly popular and affordable smart watches. 
I realise and fully appreciate that GOkey offers a unique combination of all of these, so for that reason, maybe obsolete is too strong a word.

The other thing, which of course you have addressed in the process is battery capacity. With phones becoming rapidly larger and their batteries also rising in capacity, what would have given my Blackberry in 2014 a good boost, will have far less effect on my current OnePlus 2.

Don't take this as me knocking the device, I still love the idea of it, and will be happy when it finally arrives, but it just feels it has really lost its edge to me now. Maybe that's the time frame, maybe its tech marching on. Either way, I know, as I am sure you do all too well, that I am far from the only one who feels receiving it will now just be more closure than fulfillment.

Hope you don't take this too negatively.

Thanks for taking the time to reply.

I thought the reply contained a fair argument supporting my points made, and hoped they would be considered, and I would get an intelligent reply. Sadly all I got back was what almost seemed like a pre-written, generic reply.

It may seem a bit old to the people that first seen it a year and a half almost ago, but the sleek design and its unique practicality will make it a commercial success. The retail launch of course next year will be the judge of it. For now what is important is delivering a high quality product to the backers. I am late. I have to at least deliver on what I promised


Well, that was Oct last year. Fast forward to March 2016, and all backers received emails saying information on preferences was needed "before we can move forward". In other words, we still haven't actually started making them, don't want to over produce the wrong ones because no bugger will buy these retail when the campaign is over with. So once again, mid March, and still no sign of movement.

Now, its July 2016, two years later, and not another word from GOkey. It is fair to say that my days of crowdfunding projects are done with, and that this has to go down as one of the worst examples of how a great idea can be handled SO badly, that it just falls flat on its face. I have no doubt that backers will one day see a return for their investments. I fell most for the poor soul who threw $2300 in to get one of the great vale packages of 50 laser engraved GOkeys. The other who threw away $1150, and the 5 others who gave $490 each. There are many more quite large backers, all who must be pretty annoyed right now, or work for the company.

I have to summarise by saying this is one of the worst examples of customer relations I have ever seen. Deadlines missed over and over, lack of communication regarding these, and just hyped up "updates" about progress on the product, which then seems to fail, and so on. I am just curious now to see just how brilliant the product is that I have been waiting for so long. I doubt very much it will come close to making up for the disappointment in the way the whole matter has been addressed from the first delay.
Hopefully new upstarts will take this failed model and use it as an example of how NOT to launch your product onto a crowdfunding site.

Lesson learned, prepare to be burned!

It has even been over a year since they put an update on their Facebook page! That says it all really.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Oh bollox!

After my short bout of fever on my return to the UK,  my ongoing back pain is back in full effect,  and then some.

Having spent the majority of the past 10 days crouching,  bending,  squatting or just plain laying down. (contrary to what the sheer volume of pictures taken may suggest),  now I am back home and resting,  more issues have come to light.

After some careful research, whilst being quite concerned about testicular pain, new information has come to light. It goes by the name of "associated lower back, buttock, hip and testicle pain", and it's symptoms present perfectly. The downside of this research is that while its existence is clearly documented, treatment or proper diagnosis is not! With lots of  suggestions of various areas of the spine being to blame.

What I can confirm is that sudden onset of pain like you have just been kicked in the nuts is NOT nice. Out of the blue,  like a switch being flicked (or a testicle) boom, there it is.
Any change of gradient being walked on produces huge strain and pain on my lower back and abdomen. Cramping so badly I have to stop walking, or do breathing exercises like I am I  labour!

Today for example I tried to walk the dogs quickly up the road and back,  a normal 10 min walk took double the time. Unable to walk anywhere near my normal speed,  pausing or slowing to ease the pain as it sets in. Stretching out no longer seems to have the desired effect. Usually a crouch or toe touch and hold would ease it for a while,  but not anymore. Tried them all,  nothing.

Sitting / laying on the sofa now writing this,  I am constantly trying to get comfortable, with very little joy. Ball ache and hip pain while doing nothing is quite disconcerting to say the least. Just biding my time til I can take more pain relief,  and hoping the next pill works. It's rather hit and miss right now if they have any effect at all.

Annoyingly one of the best ways to get comfortable is to go to sleep,  so whenever the pills do work,  and I am relaxed enough,  they make me drowsy,  and I take the opportunity to go to bed. I spent a lot of time in bed in Spain,  and that doesn't look to change now I am home,  not any time soon anyway.

Now I have more information on the situation and can actually articulate to medical people what I am feeling, I hope this will help me head down the right path to find some relief from it. Not hedging my bets on it being possible to totally eliminate and cure the situation (but hopeful all the same), I am just looking for ways to manage it, to at least allow be to get back on my bike,  as I know running is a no go for me for a while yet.
Also to know what damage I will do if I participate in any activities is good to know. Much as it was with all the issues with my arm,  hand,  achillies etc.

Right now I am left feeling rather sorry for myself,  and like I have aged 30 years in the past few weeks.

I have chiropractor again next week,  as I missed my appointment yesterday due to my temp still being over 100f, it didn't seem wise to try and drive or endure the treatment. Maybe with  the new information I can present her,  she can use that to help. Who knows.

In the meantime, I am counting down the days to seeing the GP,  and gathering more and more information and advice. See if self help is in any way beneficial. If I can get to the GP any sooner I will,  but I don't feel it warrants a queue jumping emergency appointment right now. Braving it out.  Not sure if that's wise,  but fits with my moral guidelines.

So,  watch this space for updates on my balls! And of course back,  hip and buttocks.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Feeling ill mid flight

It has never happened to me before,  other than a flare up of gout just before departing from Orlando for London. That's just pain,  but this time is discomfort,  temperature and a mildly tight chest.
To be honest it feels like the start of flu,  but given how little I have mixed with people in the past 10 days,  I think it's unlikely,  unless that is what was starting to get Sally down for the past could of days too. Who knows.

Either way I feel really uncomfortable right now,  and am trying to stay cool,  hydrated,  and stretch out where can. Fire exit seat it a booked bonus, but I can't get comfortable without seeming really weird.

My head is a little light,  a bit wobbly,  but I shall see how it goes. Headphones on,  bottle of water at the ready, and aching like crazy.  Writing this as we fly (off line) and hoping I can just relax now and get back to Gatwick without having a spaz out lol.

I'm sure I will be fine,  but I thought I would pass the time that the girl from the middle row is gone to write this before relaxing again.

Adios for now.

OK just over half way through the flight now,  getting really hot and achy now,  so took my chance to pop to the loos.  The second I stood up,  I was instantly drained of all my body head and started shivering uncontrollably. Returning to my seat I wondered if I should put my hoodie back on. However as I sit here now,  the temperature is climbing rapidly again,  and my face is about to catch  fire.

Still not at the point of telling cabin crew as the last thing I want is a 7700 due to over excited cabin crew taking precautions.

Almost every joint is aching now,  however I sit there is guaranteed discomfort,  so guessing the girl next to me,  small as she is, is getting quite fed up of me now. I'm trying to be subtle.
Have popped tabled just on the off chance it might take the edge off.  Just want to get to the cat now and get home.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Time out for clarity.

Sometimes it is good to have a little time out, some "you time", in order to see things with the clarity they deserve.
Recently I have been a little blinkered by projects and other goings on, and have missed some things which deserved a little better attention. Diving head first into things at work, as well as other projects in the community, I have lost my mind in there somewhere. Over this weekend I have reclaimed my rights as an individual, and started to look after myself again.

Now you may think that with all the cycling, running, and events, I think quite enough about myself already, and to be fair you would probably be right, to a degree at least. There is a lot more to life than just beating the hell out of yourself day in, day out. Then of course there is the toll that has possibly taken on me too, and its impact on my day to day life.

Namely the back issues I am having. Following a second week with the chiropractor, I would love to say all is well, but painkillers still play an important role in my daily routine. Taking them at timed intervals rather than once it gets too bad, I keep the worst of it away. But trying to remain interested and active with all that going on has proven quite the challenge. A challenge which I have failed in so far. Failed might be a bit of a harsh word to use I guess, there is a lot of pain and discomfort involved. So avoiding antagonising it is probably a good thing.

At the end of the second week of treatment the Chiropractor said she feels we are making progress, but there is a long way to go yet. To some that might feel like I am being strung along, but being along for the ride tells me otherwise. Yes the level of discomfort is higher from time to time. But I quite happily believe that this is due to movement being regained in the joints, and everything releasing then spasaming again. For now, I am going with the flow, and hope to see some improvement in the coming month.

Of course there is also the 100 mile bike ride coming up at the end of this month too now, which for the main part I am not bothered by. I still believe cycling is not one of the major triggers for my back, if anything it helps it a bit. So that isn't a worry, for now.  There is also the lack of activity over recent weeks, which does indeed have a negative effect. I imagine my running is terrible night now, and even my walking has taken a beating. Needless to say I have gained some weight, which I am not happy with. Mainly due to my junk food binges to make myself feel "better"

Anyway, that is the physical side of things for me, then of course there is the mental.
For the first time in ages I feel like I have regained some control over my life. Not quite sure where that has come from. Just confidence to be my own man. Maybe it is a summer thing where all the things inside the body fire back up again and start to give you confidence and motivation. Maybe it is a combo of the meds, could even be the rest from the rushing around everyday. Maybe that is it, I have over done it?

Whatever the case, when I get back into living my life properly again, there is room for adjustment. Take it a bit easier on myself physically, and mentally.
The next week will be a telling time for me, seeing how my physical and mental state progress from now. Still in a relaxed state, not overdoing it or even coming close. Steps are down to a few thousand a day right now. Trying to go easy on my body. Thoughts are limited as distractions are good for me right now. In fact all feels well in Michaels World.

Bit of a weird entry, sorry about that, but needed to put my thoughts into words.