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5 Quid for Life? In Search of a Campaign Name January 16, 2011

Posted by Phil Groom in Appeals, Death, Life, Mental Health.
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51 comments

FOLLOWING ON from my 200 People to Save Ali Quant post — to which the responses and enthusiasm have been amazing: thank you all — we’re now looking at a wider brief, at Ali’s request

How about if, instead of making this a let’s help Ali thing, how about a more general let’s help everyone thing? … let me explain my thinking: the reality is, as many of you will know, that I’m not the only one who’s made a deletion plan in case I fail my assessment. Over the past year or so (and obviously more in the past few days) I have heard from different sources of literally hundreds of people who feel the exact same way I do, this is just from people coming and directly telling me “I feel like this” or “I have a friend who says…” there must be thousands more that I haven’t had direct contact with. I’m nothing special, I’m not some kind of extreme case and I haven’t done anything to deserve to be singled out. All I did was write a blog post out of sheer despair, I thought I was so near the end that I had absolutely nothing to lose so I may as well write about it. So why not make some kind of central fund, not necessarily asking for a monthly donation to support people in that way but just a fund that could be used for anyone in my situation? It could be used to help people if they fall over at any stage of claiming benefits, to give people a safety net for example to help out while they’re appealing or if they haven’t been able to attend all the work-focused interviews and get sanctioned.

… and over at the facebook group we’ve been having all sorts of discussions about how to take the idea forward. The first thing we need is a campaign name, a name to grab the public imagination. This post is your invitation to help us choose one: the poll below lists some of the names suggested so far but please feel free to offer other suggestions in the comments. If you’re wildly enthusiastic about a particular name, tell us why in a comment or — even better — post about it on your own blog/facebook/twitter and link to us here to encourage your friends to join in.

The poll will remain open for three days initially, but I’m happy to review that depending on how the conversation goes. Now get voting, please:

  • Special thanks to Kate White, who suggested most of these.

Acceptance September 23, 2010

Posted by Phil Groom in Christianity, Church, Life, Mental Health.
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16 comments

THIS POST is for all my friends in the madosphere, those amazing people blogging, facebooking and tweeting their way through the traumas of mental illness: you know who you are and I salute you. But mostly it’s for Karita, whose recent posts DistasteStuntedHonesty and Lies – Part the Second and Honesty and Lies have set me thinking.

It’s a strange business, the way our society treats people with mental health problems, almost like lepers … perhaps even worse than lepers: leprosy is a disease that you can identify, pin down to a particular bacterium, and treat. But mental illnesses come in all sorts of guises and all too often, it seems, even health professionals don’t know how to deal with them and people struggling with mental illness find themselves sidelined or stigmatised.

Part of it comes down to fear, of course: fear of what may be lurking inside our own minds, sometimes hidden just below the surface, sometimes buried deeper within. Fear of looking into the abyss of the human mind and having to face up to the fact that when push comes to shove, we’re all the same. Then there’s pride: the foolish belief that somehow I am above these problems, that mental illness is a sign of weakness when in fact it’s simply part of being human, no more a sign of personal weakness or failure than cancer is a sign of physical weakness or failure. I think A Broader Mark summed things up well when she left this comment here the other day:

I’m beginning to suspect it’s their own pain that people can’t accept. Maybe they avoid looking at the pain of others because it reminds them of their own pain – forces them to see that they’re just as human as the next guy. Everyone hurts (almost always more than other people know, I suspect); it’s the human condition – there ain’t no escaping it.

It seems to be even worse in some Christian circles: many Christians seem to think that they shouldn’t be mentally ill, shouldn’t suffer from depression or anxiety or personality disorders or any of the other 1001 or more manifestations of mental illness. They’ve been taught to believe that Jesus will make all their problems go away and if their problems don’t go away then it must be their fault somehow because if they really, truly trusted in Jesus then their problems would be solved. Sing another sycophantic “God is Great” happy song and all will be well. Forgive my bluntness, but that’s complete bullshit. In fact, it’s worse than bullshit: at least with bullshit you can use it as fertiliser — but with complete cockamamy beliefs like that, there’s nothing useful you can do at all: you just have to throw them out of the window and hope there’s no one standing underneath…

Simple fact: Christians are screwed up human beings the same as everyone else. What Jesus offers to those who can or will accept it is acceptance itself and a bit of light in the darkness. What he doesn’t do is turn the light off or walk away or snuff out a flickering candle or break off a broken reed. Instead, he sits down beside the flickering and broken ones and gently puts an arm around their shoulders and says, lean on me. Then, together, with him wearing his crown of thorns that people like me awarded him for being our champion, they weep. Maybe they struggle to their feet and stagger a few steps together … he has bloody, broken feet because people like me smashed nails through them when he wouldn’t make like the God we wanted him to be, so it’s one hell of a journey…

But the important thing is, it’s a journey; and we’re all in it together. A broken god come to the rescue of a broken humanity. An impossible journey. But one that I happen to think is worth taking — and which I count it a privilege to share with anyone who has travelled this far with me. And if you, dear reader, aren’t religiously inclined, don’t worry about it: the god I believe in isn’t religious either and doesn’t give a fig about what you believe about him — what counts is he believes in you; and he does, my friend, he does…

Did I mention his hands are broken too?

Meeting the Mentalists August 25, 2010

Posted by Phil Groom in Life, Mental Health.
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28 comments

I’m sane, apparently. Well, I’m not on any sort of meds for a mental disorder, and so far I’ve always got on the train rather than thrown myself under it, although the thought does pass through my mind fairly frequently. And I don’t do self-harm either, though I’ve often wanted to take hold of a sharp knife and carve parts of my body away, but when it comes down to it, I don’t like pain: I’m just plain chicken, I guess.

But why am I telling you this? Because on Saturday I had the awesome privilege of meeting a group of my online friends from the madosphere: a group of people who blog, tweet and facebook their way through the traumas of mental health issues; and I fitted right in.

We met up at Baker Street tube station: @serial_insomnia, @magicplum@FindingMelissa and a few others, then went a-wandering in search of our fellow crazies in Regents Park, and we found them sitting in a circle under a tree. They opened up the circle for us and we sat looking at each other across the vast distances of our lives. Some talked, some listened, some did both and I guess some probably did neither but were simply glad to be, to be in a group of people who didn’t mind whether or not they were bipolar, clinically depressed or self-harmers or any combination of several dozen other disorders, who wouldn’t condemn them for having suicidal thoughts and wild mood swings or for suffering social anxiety or for having multiple personalities and imaginary friends or whatever.

Where was God in all this? Right there in the midst of us, weeping for all the traumas and all the might have beens and shouldn’t have beens and ought to have beens … screaming at the madness of humanity’s inhumanity and insanities … but not condemning, never that: only forgiving where forgiveness was wanted and offering peace and leaving space where space was needed. Or maybe that’s just me with my own imaginary friend? Why is it OK to have an invisible friend called Jesus but not other invisible friends? Why does our society treat people with mental illnesses like lepers?

And what about self-harm? Why does the church at large struggle to understand or relate to self-harmers? We have a God who’s big on self-harm: let’s face it, you can’t get more self-harming than God, can you? You’re all alone in the universe: you are the universe; and one day you have this crazy idea of creating Other … that’s just asking for trouble, surely? You know it’s going to end in tears and pain and bloodshed — most of it your own — and you go ahead and do it anyway, you give yourself away and you give yourself away and eventually you kill yourself by walking into a situation where there’s no escape and you get crucified. That’s self-harm big time and somehow it becomes humanity’s only hope and you throw everything, absolutely everything you’ve got, into this crazy plan and then entrust it to the likes of me to see it through. Crazy God: 100% certifiable.

The sitting-in-a-circle routine wasn’t really my scene, but I’m happy to say some of us managed to break away and find a pub whilst some others went boating then found the pub and we were all reunited in a more civilised atmosphere of Guinness, mutual empathy and connectedness. Unfortunately I had to leave before the evening was over — another party was calling — but my abiding memory is of meeting a group of incredibly courageous, lovely and likeable people who were (and are) brave enough to contend with their problems despite the failings and inadequacies of the NHS’s provision.

Anyway, that’s just some of the stuff that my brain has distilled out of the experience. If it gels with anyone else’s thoughts, great; but if not, no worries. To my amazing madosphere friends: I salute you!

A few reports elsewhere:

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