Wednesday, November 21, 2018

The pitfalls of social media.

The draw of social media to someone who starves themselves of contact with people is huge. The opportunity to communicate with others, without the need for actual personal interactions is hard to resist at times. But it is not without its risks.

From time to time I find myself withdrawing from face to face interactions with people, as it is just how I feel at the time. At times like this I like to keep in touch with the world, current affairs, and friends from the comfort and security of my own home. As any regular reader of the blog will know, keeping in touch is important to me, even if it is a boring monologue at times. Either way, for those important to me, it is a way of letting them know all is well, I am just having "a moment".

Unfortunately, as I have found over recent months, during various encounters, it can also be a bit of a lions den at times too. Speaking your mind is a tough one, as exercising your freedom to do so, also reminds you that others have the same right to do so. So taking offence simply at someones stance on something is not really on, and it is a case of sucking it up. Pretty much the rules of social media and the WWW really. 

Of course, there is expressing your opinion on something, then there is actively trolling, and trying to cause offence. That is a little bit different. I am no stranger to speaking my mind, and causing upset on my blog, I have been doing it for years, sometimes even to family and loved ones, and I don't see that changing any time soon. Speaking my mind is one thing I feel strongly about, and feel that everyone should express themselves, as long as it is in a factual and fair way.

What I take sincere offence to, is when someone repeatedly targets someone in such a way that it protects their identity, while trying to damage the reputation of the target. Slanderous and unfounded comments, posted in irrelevant and opportunistic places to maximise its audience and effect on the person. 

For me, I will honestly say that recent such attacks have caused me great upset. Not by what has been said, but because of the targeted way it has been carried out, and the justifications given when questioned on their actions. Before any one person gets too carried away, and their ego starts to inflate, this is not about ONE person, nor ONE comment. This is me speaking out against ANYONE who feels they are within their rights to attack someone online with no foundation. Facts are fine. And I mean facts, not opinions. But opinions tainted with spite are not facts, and should not be expressed, and certainly not in a manner in which its only intention is to cause upset, and in my case, instability in mental wellbeing. 

Mental health is not a laughing matter, not a joke, nor an excuse for poor behaviour. I would not, and will not use my condition as an excuse to say anything I say. If I make a comment, write a blog, or express my opinion in the moment, it will be done openly, in my own name, and not forced upon others by spreading it out of context. I like to feel that any comments I have made in the past about ANY person, has been able to be justified, and backed up by hard facts, usually in the form of written comments, messages or other such communications. 

I will wrap this up by saying, I am not against people expressing their opinions about me, god only knows how many people have done just that. All I would ask is that it is done honestly, openly, and not done to simply try and damage my mental state. 
Sitting up all night, running scenarios through your head is not a nice existence. And the less people who have to go through that because of the spiteful and vindictive actions of another, knowing they are having that exact effect, the better. 

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Strange behaviour

There are some very strange things happening recently. From being fat shamed, to mocked for mental health issues, it has been a rather interesting time to say the least recently.

My new friends Dennis and Mateo who come and go from the blog, and now more recently being trolled and insulted on social media. Sadly by someone who does it in such a snide manner, I can only compare it to a five year old sticking their fingers up at someone from behind the cover of an open hand.

Some confirmations made as to the identities of the sock puppets being used for various jobs has also been quite an amusing feat. Blocking an account bearing the names of two sock puppets used was the most telling sign.

Really does make my own mental health issues seem minor. Seeing such behaviour of an individual worries me, behavioral red flags flying all over the place. Contempt for their behaviour replaced by pity and concern. Ironic really.

Thankfully there are some amazing people out there who offer the balance when it is needed the most, for which I am eternally grateful.

Just thought I would throw this out there into the www.

Sleep well all, I know I will.

Friday, November 16, 2018

New beginnings.

Having recently engaged with a bunch of great medical students, as well as the Royal College of General Practitioners, I gave some thought into a fresh approach to the blog. Separating certain sections of the blog off onto a different platform.

New domain, new interface, and just focus on the personal and mental health aspects of the blog in one place. No mish mash of other entries, just plain and simple "ME"!

Fingers crossed I can get this set up over the weekend, and see about duplicating some of the posts from here onto the other one, and in future keep things separate.

I shall of course refer to the new platform on here from time to time, as I know some have found a lot of information, which has helped in all sorts of ways, from some of the MH posts I have made, so I will do everything I can to ensure that this remains easy to find, and is available to people.

I had an Instagram project of a picture a day for a year running from Oct 17- Oct 18 which has now ended, obviously. So I thought now was a good a time as any to get a new project running, and hopefully I can spend more time on it in the coming year. Something to sink my teeth into so to speak.

The plan is to get the domain and platform sorted today or over the weekend, just got to do a last little bit of research before committing.

Watch this space :)

Costa Coffe vs the local indies.

From the day it was suggested a Costa coffee would open in Forest Hill, there has been a very noticable objection towards it. Over the years the area has built up a good base of independent coffee shops, and businesses from where one can purchase a nice, freshly made coffee of any description. It is indeed fantastic to see that not only are these businesses thriving and even receiving critical acclaim in London directories, but also that they have such a loyal and passionate customer base.

Hopefully this customer base which has served them so well will continue to frequent their establishments, and keep the cash flowing, and customer base growing. For me however, the appeal has just never been there, for reasons which I will get into in a minute.

Meanwhile, the huge brand which is Costa, which lets face it, was once a small indie, but managed to get on the gravy train and boom, globally, has decided the time is right to open in Forest Hill. But why people cry, we have plenty of indies who make amazing coffee. So let's look at why.

Staffing for one. Most chains will have more staff in them than a small independent. This means there is a production line in effect, and when a few customers are waiting, generally it is a little quicker to be served. Not a hard fact, but an obvious occasional advantage.
Then of course there is the known quantity of their offerings. Unlike independents, Costa have almost a set menu, and something you can become familiar with. For some people this is important, for others less so. Either way it enables a customer unfamiliar with an area to walk in and order something they are comfortable and confident with.

For me, the big thing is probably the bit that puts the aficionados off. That is the space, and anonymity of the place. One of the most common comments about places like Costa is they lack character and the personal touch. Me, I like that.

Some people like to regularly meet friends, greet regulars and make lots of conversation. Enjoying the surrounding of a buzzing (literally) coffee shop, and all that comes with it. I am the complete opposite.

As I say, I appreciate where people are coming from with their doubts, unfortunately it seems the same graces are not offered the other way.

For me, I like to be able to go to a place where I can separate myself from the buzz, have a bit of space to myself and my mind. While others around me can enjoy their conversations, and mingle with their friends, I like to be able to unwind, out of the way, in a corner. Sometimes get the laptop out and do a bit of writing, while topping up with hot chocolate, the occasional coffee, and of course a slice of cake.

Not everyone is the same, we are all very different creatures, who thrive in different environments. For some that is a very personal experience in a small local coffee shop. Known by name, regular order, and families asked after. For others, and I am 100% sure I am not alone here, it is about being out, gaining confidence, experiencing the buzz of day to day life, while being at arms length from it all, and feeling comfortable.

Hopefully this is where Costa comes into the mix, at least for me. And I sincerely hope that anyone else who goes through the same emotions as me in society can feel the same way too.

For some this will make sense, some will mock, and some simply reject. But whatever the reaction, I just wanted to put my view across as openly and concisely as possible, and take a break from the mockery and jokes I make about the subject the rest of the time.

Here's to all our local independents thriving, and Costa sticking around for those of us who simply feel more comfortable being in a chain coffee shop.

I just want to add, in case I am not being clear enough. Anxiety and depression suck. Being able to get back into society at a gentle pace is key to recovery, and is something I am truly passionate about. Mental health is misunderstood by so many people, but those who do understand anxiety, will hopefully appreciate this a little more.

We are all different, choice is a wonderful thing, and we just got a little more choice in the area.

Friday, November 9, 2018

Education and enlightenment on anxiety.

Today has been a very exciting, educational, and rather exhausting day.

Many months back when climbing back to the top of the mountain from my trip to the depths of depression and anxiety, my GP contacted me and asked if I would be interested in playing a part in the education of some future GP's. In the form of group sit down sessions, and mock GP consults at the Royal College of General Practitioners in London.

The initial group session was a blast, with a GP I knew, and trusted, having been on a long mental health journey with her, however the latter, which started today was a whole different ball game. A new location, new people, and travelling on public transport at peak time, what could go wrong, eh!

I left early, and missed the most of the rush hour, so at least I would arrive quite fresh. That worked well. 30 mins early, a walk to get some fresh air, and all was well. Arriving on Euston Road, I went into the building and soon found my way to the right place. Handed a sheet with my schedule for the day, a voucher (which I was not aware I would receive until recently) and a heads up of what to expect and when.

Settling down in the waiting area, I was immediately in awe of the grandeur of the place, stunning and modern, if not futuristic. Looking for friendly faces to try and make conversation with, I noticed that a large number of people there seemed to know each other already. Awkward, new kid on the block in the house!! Within minutes, the ice was broken with a lovely guy Brian. Making conversation with strangers is really not my forte, but this just seemed to work, super friendly and chatty, putting all my fears about the day at rest, one by one.

What soon became apparent was that the majority of the "role players" were in fact actors, given a brief of their character and symptoms. I however, along with Brian and a few more had no brief. Brian explained that we were presenting as ourselves. This was soon confirmed by the briefing and a quick Q&A at the end.  Take my experience with depression and anxiety, choose an aspect of it to focus on, and work with that. Sounded simple enough, I know my mental health pretty well these days.

As the clock ticked down to the first group going in, I wondered what it would be like to try and role play a real life experience. The first GP came out and introduced himself, and reiterated the original brief, choose a symptom and work with it. I was ready!

Michael Snasdell..... the first student called. It was time.

In I went, to find not only them and the GP but another 3-4 students in there observing too. A group of strangers, excellent! Given anxiety was my planned focus, it wasn't hard to get my head into the role. Anxiety was very much present. Not in a terrible way, but at least in a way I am familiar with. So I guess if nothing else, it was an authentic performance.
As the first session went on, I opened up a bit, and really offered an insight into how I actually presented on the day when I really did go to see my GP for the first time. 20 mins in, the consult was wrapping up, and CUT.... Finally I can just be me again. Time for a debrief. I have to say I was impressed, thoroughly. Given the lack of experience in diagnosing mental health issues that the students apparently had, I was amazed at how comfortable I felt, and how realistic it all was. Certainly brought back some memories for me!

With four sessions before lunch, and four more after, I have to admit I was feeling rather exhausted mentally by the time the break came around. I grabbed a bit of the lunch they had laid on, then went out for some fresh air, space, and distraction from it all. My conversation skills were waning slightly by this point. Off to an exhibition over the road, then a stroll up and down Euston Road, taking some time to stare at the awesome St Pancras Station, before heading back in for the afternoon session.

Come the first PM session I was more prepared for the students, and if I am honest, a little harder on them, partially through not wanting to repeat the same story another four times, and partly as I could tell that I was presenting a little too easily. Sorry PM students, I did it for with your best interests at heart, and you all did an amazing job.

The afternoon was pretty much like the morning, if anything over with a bit quicker. Quick enough in fact for me to get out and away before the evening rush hour took hold, which was a huge bonus given how exhausted I was by the end of it all. After the final session  popped back to the first floor and spoke with Madeleine and Niki about how the day had gone.

As a whole it was a massive thrill to be giving back to a profession that is almost completely responsible for my recovery from various mental health trials I have faced in life. From telling my GP a couple of years back that I wanted to give something, anything, back to the health service, and help as many people as I could along the way, deal with their own mental health issues, here I was. Doing it!!
It doesn't get much better than that! Genuinely.

Knowing I will be doing a couple more sessions of this is a great feeling, and I would love to be able to continue to do this, and anything else I can along the way, to help with the battle against depression and anxiety.

I was a little rather touched at being asked for a link to this blog, for them to read, as well as pass on to the students who had asked about it. Any regular and long term readers of the blog will know that I have documented my most testing of times right here, and left it all laid bare for others to read, and maybe benefit from should the need arise. I am pleased that some have already given feedback on it, and found some benefit or comfort in what they have read. It was the aim all along,

A huge thank you to everyone from Dr Elizabeth Paul at my GP surgery for suggesting this, and putting me forward to do these sessions. To Madeleine and Niki the facilitators of the course (I hope that title gives you enough credit for the amazing work you do). Not forgetting of course the amazing students who endured a day of mock consultations, and what I believe were some of your first experiences at dealing with mental health. And of course, had to put up with me!

Going back to the experiences shared with the students, I kept it as near to real life as possible, expressing fears and concerns which the conditions had presented me with at the time. Even referring back to the blog at lunch time to make sure I was staying on track. Open and honest, at times maybe even seeming a little "un-bothered" about things such as death. I won't say it was nice to see some of them struggle a bit with the questioning phase of things. Having been under exam conditions myself in recent years, I know all too well what it is like trying to keep the structure of the scenario, while following the lead of the fluid situation. I am delighted to say that by the end of it all, it was a straight 8 for 8. I would happily have revisited any of them as a GP based on my initial interactions with them. Maybe preference towards one or two over the others, but that is just a personal thing, Professionally, bravo all !!

The debrief at the end of each session gave me the opportunity to feed back to the students in the room, not only the one doing the consult. As well of course as the GP mentoring them. This was my chance to offer them a little guidance on how the session had gone, any pointers for improvements for demeanor, and give any other trinkets of information about anxiety, depression, and dealing with mental health in general. Referencing this blog a few times, I explained that while there are drugs and treatments for certain aspects of mental health, the most important bits for me had been striking up a great rapport with my GP, which enabled me to touch base from time to time,and feel like I was speaking to someone who knew me. And of course the self help side of things, such as a diary and the blog, which I often re-read to remind myself of the journeys I have been on over the years.

I will be returning next month to do another session with some more students, and in the meantime will continue to seek out other opportunities to share my experiences and knowledge with the groups of people who are the future helpers for people like myself.

A massive thank you again to Elizabeth, Madeleine and Niki for this opportunity.

I will leave it there for now, but will sure to revisit this very soon when my mind is a bit more relaxed. I just thought it important to get this blogged asap, while it was all fresh in my mind.

Thursday, November 8, 2018

It is almost over, 2018 that is!

I'm sure some were quite excited by the first part of the title, sorry and all that. There is no let up with me.

As the countdown of days left in 2018 ticks down, and the mileage totals keep climbing, I can honestly say I am looking forward to Dec 31st a lot!
More time to be spent on the trainer in the pain cave, shorter commutes on the dark and damp roads, and hopefully a few more decent rides at the weekend with my bestie before the end of the year.

All primary goals met, secondary and mini goals remain, but as usual, I would love dearly to achieve them none the less.

So right now my attention is drawn to the right set up on the right bike for the commute.
Paolo with his 32c CX tyres and disc brakes is more than capable. 11 gears to choose from, wide tyres with a little tread to deal with the dampness under tyre. But the down side is weight, and rolling resistance.
Then there is Luigi, who has seen me through the start of the year, right up until recently. 25c roadie tyres, reduced contact with the ground, giving less rolling resistance. A bonus in most cases. Slightly deeper wheels, so less fun in cross winds however.

A few weeks back I ordered some lovely Schwable Marathon Plus tyres for Luigi, make him a bit more winter capable. But on trying to seat them, I found there were issues, and decided earlier in the week to ditch them, and get myself a new set of 25c's, nice slick road tyres.
Previously I have had concerns about road tyres and how capable they are at dealing with water and slippery surfaces. A ride in the Cotswolds the other weekend in torrential rain soon changed my mind on that.

So today, the new tyres arrived, so I got to it straight away and got them fitted. A quick once over for Luigi, and set up for the commute, and away we went.
Switching back to a single speed after spending a few weeks on only bikes with gears takes a bit of getting used to. No levers within the brake levers to flick while sitting in traffic, just bars and two brakes, along with a single crank, single rear cog, and a pair of pedals. All very different.

However, once you are moving, and you have remembered moving off takes a bit more effort, no cassette to flick your way through, all is well. Needless to say I did a better average speed to work today than I have for quite a while. I forget very quickly how much I love the simplicity of Luigi.

One thing that has changed is the saddle. Having swapped saddles around on a few of the bikes, Luigi has ended up with a Specialized Body Geometry Riva on there. He came with one, but this is a replacement, and it creaks !! Grrrr. Sadly finding a new replacement is a bit of a chore, but I am trying. Not sure if the Ronin replaced the Riva, but they look pretty similar. I am a believer in sticking with what you know (and were told worked for you in a bike fit). Decision on the replacement to be made soon, can't take that creaking for too long.

I also discovered at the weekend that the set up on Paolo needs some work. Just some small tweaks, but I am working on those, starting at the front with bar set up. It seems to be working.

I am really looking forward to less pressure on myself next year, less obsessing about distance of every ride contributing to goals far beyond anything I ever considered previously. I must NOT set a goal on Strava for next year!
More time on the yoga mat, more time spent doing casual runs, and not driving myself into the ground. All round wellness is the key.
A few decisions need to be made, like what regime to follow, if any, and how to divide my time between commuting, turbo trainer, and running. Not forgetting actual "get out there and ride" rides.
I think first up will be easing up on the commute, however I actually enjoy doing 2-3 times the required distance each way. Weird huh!

Well, lots to think about, lots of decisions to make... Let's see what happens.


  1. the state of being obsessed with someone or something.

    • an idea or thought that continually preoccupies or intrudes on a person's mind.

Apparently this is something I struggle with. Ironically it has been pointed out to me by a complete strange, over and over and over again, in a rather, well, obsessive manner. By a stranger, who has taken it upon themselves to let me know exactly what the rest of the internet thinks of me.

Very kind of them I must say, I appreciate it "Dennis".