Monday, 19 July 2010

Blog 9: I'm mental. No really..... I'm proper mental.

Every day at work I speak to person after person claiming various things. Some things are true, and an awful lot arn't, but one of the most heard claims is that someone is suffering from Stress, Depression and Anxiety.

These are probably the least believed statements by me and many of my peers, partly because they are so prevalent that by law of averages a large percentage must be bullshit, and partly because claiming stress, depression and anxiety is relatively easy to do and it's a ticket to convenient benefits.

We arn't there to make a judgement on whether these people are genuine or not and in fact it makes no odds to us whether they're faking it. But the underlying fact remains: as soon as someone says Depression, most of us think of it as a quasi- illness. I'm no better than anyone else in this respect. I disbelieve the stories, I assume a lot of them are lying through their teeth. (On a side bar, I don't believe 90% of ADHD claims either but don't even get me started on that bullshit...)

The thing is I should be more sympathetic than most. If anyone should give people the benefit of the doubt in this situation it's me. Because I'm a proper mental. I suffer from stress, anxiety and depression and have for the past decade, and for years beforehand without confronting it.

I don't speak about it, other than to a select few people. This is mainly because most people (like me) assume that if someone says they have depression it either means they're preparing the ground to go on a long stretch of sick leave at work, or they're looking for a big dose of sympathetic attention, neither of which I want people to think about me. So I keep it quiet.

But now I'm here blurting it out for all 4 people who may just bother to read my blog and one or two of them may not know this about me already and may even tell other people too. Why?

The reasons I want to make it a bit more public are twofold. Firstly, occasionally you find out that someone else you know suffers with depression and has been really battling against it at a difficult time but has never spoken to you about it because they, like me, keep it to themselves. This is frustrating because when I've been suffering it's really helpful sometimes to talk to someone else. Not a big girly blubfest, but just to mention it to someone and feel free to talk about it can be very therapeutic. Fortunately I have some good friends in this respect, and I've been lucky enough to be there for other people. But there are times when good friends have been struggling and I could have helped but we were both playing the non-admittance game, and to be quite honest it's shit. Secondly, I'm too old to be embarrassed by this kind of stuff anymore. I am what I am, and I am who I am. And whether I like it or not this is part of me so I'm not going to bother keeping it quiet. If anyone has a problem with it tough shit. If you know me and you think any less of me, I don't care.

I first got diagnosed 10 years ago. Scared the shite out of me at first because I had no idea what was going on. I'd just moved into a new flat, a few weeks later had met Kerry and a few weeks later she'd moved in with me. Happy days, or should have been. But work was just beginning to turn shite at the time and with all the changes going on I think everything came to a head. I had a week where I simply couldn't function. I was exhausted and run down. I presumed I had a fluey thing and went to bed, expecting that after a day or two, I'd feel better, get up and back to normal. But that didn't happen. And so I went to the doctor who said it sounded like a virus and signed me off for another week. And than another. And then on the fourth week he ran through some questions. "Do you ever..." this, and "How do you feel when..." that. Then he asked me where I worked and when I said "Norwich Union" he just laughed and chucked a truckload of pills at me and wrote me a sicknote for work which said "Depression" and I had to suck it up and deal with it, because I was going to have to hand it in at work and become one of those people that I'd always been suspicious and skeptical of. I went back to work, relieved that I wasn't dying of some mystery disease, but baffled by the fact that this was what I had because I'd never thought of myself as being someone who would get depression. I didn't think I fit "the profile". But I went back in, rightly or wrongly, and those initial four weeks are still the only time I've ever had off sick from work with depression.

It really didn't sit well with me, not just immediately, or for the next few months. I developed horrendous panic attacks which would show up for no reason and which would render me a sweating, breathless lunatic. I remember having lunch with Kerry one day and suddenly saying "sorry, have to go" before dashing out the door because I thought I was going to pass out if I stayed where I was for a second longer. Proper fucking nutcase stuff.

For months I kept going over it in my mind: how did I get here? I thought I was mentally strong, now I'm a fucking basketcase. What triggers are there that set me off? Surely there's something I can do to get rid of this? Some way to put this bloody genie back in the bottle. But there wasn't. And after a long time I realised this and came to terms with the fact that it wasn't going away.

It's with me for life now. My Black Dog (If it's good enough for Churchill, another mentalist, who coined the phrase, then it's good enough for me). And I'm fine with that. I can manage it. I have down periods, and then I have ok periods. I still sometimes have panic attacks which I keep quiet about because nobody wants to see a big sweating freaky mess so I'll keep them to myself. But otherwise it's just a normal part of life. A pill a day keeps the total wobblies away.

But I can cope. I've been lucky to have Kerry who's been amazing, putting up with my madness, my freakouts, and my sometimes overwhelming snappiness and melancholy. Love that woman. I've also had various friends, some who are non-mentals, some who are up-front mentals and some who are closet mentals who've helped me and who continue to do so.

Anyway, I've decided that whilst I'm definitely not making a song and dance about it, I'm moving from the closet out into the open. I'm a strong proud mental man and I don't care who knows it. And hopefully if anybody else is where I was 10 years ago and needs to talk about it, they'll feel they can with me.

Thursday, 8 July 2010

Blog 8 - Start the day the right way.

Got on the bus this morning behind the usual collection of Eastern Europeans coming into the City to scab benefits and college kids spouting rubbish.

Went to go upstairs and in front of me was an attractive blonde 17 year old wearing a short floaty skirt.

God bless the bus driver because he jolted away from the stop so suddenly that the girl in front tripped up the steps (she was fine), her skirt flew up, and revealed that she had decided to embrace the day commando style. Far from being embarrassed, she brazenly stood up, smoothed her skirt back down, gave me a wink (facial), and went to sit with her giggling friends.

Carlsberg don't do Bus Rides, but if they did...

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Blog 7 - Nostradamus Head

A while ago (Feb 2009) I posted the following on the Pink Un Message Board. It got a good reaction at the time but looking back, I think a lot of our recent England World Cup shambles have vindicated the points I made here.

Plus it's an easy way to post a quick blog and I'm a lazy bastard...

The downfall of our game - a rant

The FA and the Premier League need to take a lot of criticism for the part they have played in creating situations like Saturday, where you have a team in dire need of points to fight relegation, and the majority couldn't summon up the fire and the fight to take the game to the opposition when the game was there for the taking. Obviously Norwich's woes aren't solely due to the players who couldn't produce on Saturday, but I'm talking in a wider context, as the same lack of fight can be seen at so many clubs up and down the country and even with the national team, and it's a growing problem that undermines football in this country.

One problem is that players no longer think of their being part of a club or area because their careers are so transitory. Even if you sign for a club permanently (e.g. Jason Jarrett for us), if you don't gel into the side immediately chances are you'll be lobbed out on loan to get gametime within six to eighteen months, at which point you'll have to move into a hotel for probably three to six months, leaving whatever family you have behind in a place they haven't lived for very long. Then when you do return, is it for first team football, or another loan spell away, in a hotel, while your Missus and kids cry on the phone about you never being there again? Eventually, you'll grow to resent the club that's loaning you out, and the clubs you're being loaned to.

Or if you are lucky enough to get into the team as a regular (e.g. Sammy Clingan) you're then at the mercy of the teams fortunes. If you find yourself doing well (and if you're a regular pick you can't be doing too bad with the size of most squads these days) then a bigger, richer team will be looking to sign you in which case you're moving again. Or at best, your team may be in line for promotion, in which case your stay is likely to be extended, but then you have the worry of whether the club will try and buy someone with experience of the league above who plays in your position. If your team does badly and gets relegated then you'll be looking to move to stay in the league and salary bracket you fought to get to in the first place. And if you do get to said new, bigger club, see paragraph above. And worst of all is when you're playing for a club who should be doing better but continually find themselves at the wrong end of the table, whose fans moan and are constantly negative, and who apparantly have no money and a paper-thin squad of loanees...

Players however have themselves to blame for this state of affairs by appointing agents who have routinely created monsters from young talented boys who go on to holding clubs to ransom, threatening Bosman escapes, sulky strikes or whatever it takes to get what they want. The more arseholes clubs see, the less they fancy committing to a contract for another potential nightmare ego, and they take the soft option, as City tend to do, of trying before you buy. Nine times out of ten it doesn't pan out because either the player is every bit as much of an arsehole as the rest, or is disillusioned even before he walks in the door, hating the lifestyle of a short-term traveller, and will probably consider he's doing the club a favour by being there and will only put in the effort he deems neccesary, which won't usually tally with the supporters, and the loan fails.

Add in the factor that thanks to the travelling rule for youth academies, small clubs who made the most of their youth systems like Norwich and Crewe have been completely shafted at the expense of Premiership clubs who now swallow up all the promising youth in the country (and in increasing numbers) and most youngsters are drawn into the role of traveller at young ages anyway. Live in Cambridge? Don't worry, that's only a short flight to Manchester airport. Based in Macclesfield? Don't worry, you won't have to play for Macc, because you're in range of Manchester and Birmingham and Villa and Man U are both taking on 100 youngsters this year. And whereas a few years ago it would have been ridiculous to travel these distances twice a week for training and then again for the game at the weekend, don't worry, because the potential pay rewards are so great that Dad's willing to risk his job and take time off to drive you. Or if you're really talented, the big clubs might even send a car for you.

Because of the vast numbers that now go through the big clubs nets, most of the players at Championship level and even a large proportion of those at L1 and 2 will have learnt their trade in a big clubs academy. This means that they will have been brought up to see how to carry themselves as a pro and as a man, by the current crop of Premiership footballers. So what we all end up with are over-privilaged young men who look upon their livelihood as more of a lifestyle choice than a profession. The look is as important as the job itself. Making friends with celebrities, appearing on Footballers Cribs and queing up for your crack at Danielle Lloyd is the day job, and in between that you try and fit in training and the odd game. And when the fans criticise your lack of effort, you sulk and move to another club, and another location where there are a whole new bunch of nightclubs and wannabe Danielle Lloyds desperate to look at the ceiling of a footballers crib for a night. Repeat ad nauseum.

Look back 20 years at someone like Gary Mabbutt, a one-club man, model professional and someone who had to cope with regularly injecting himself with Insulin before matches and training just to get onto the pitch. Could the modern footballer summon up the willpower to conquer such a problem? An everyday life situation for the hundreds of thousands of diabetics out there, but what would happen to Ashley Cole tomorrow if it happened to him? I imagine a barrage of "coping seminars" and three months off on full pay (funded by the fans) to get his head around it followed by a heartwarming hour-long special on Sky where he weeps comforted by Cheryl whilst we all discuss how brave the little soldier is to be even thinking of playing football again. Frank Lampard's mum dies (not pleasant, but not a totally unusual occurrence for a man in his thirties to have to live through) and shirts with "Pat Lampard RIP" are paraded around Stamford Bridge by his teammates on the day he missed the game due to her death. Admirable team spirit, and I have no complaint about his missing the match but for Gods sake!!! Would it have happened twenty years ago? An outpouring of emotion in a football ground for the passing of someone's mum who contributed nothing to the game of football except for the fact that thirty years ago she pushed out a boy who is now on the fringes of the England team and who can't take a penalty in a pressure situation? Of course not. Unthinkable.

Unfortunately, the players, the agents and the clubs have created the modern footballer and we, the fans, have to suffer through him. We have treated our young like little boys and we can't then expect them to become men. All the young talent is chauffeured into the big clubs, pampered and promised the world, the majority then get kicked out or sent on loan to places that don't pamper as well, and they look on it as an unwanted setback, an ordeal to get through rather than relish. Bitter and resentful, the lower clubs sieve through them by virtue of loans, prospecting for the odd nugget that contains both a measure of talent and residual integrity from before they got involved with the professional game.

Where have all the good men gone? We've let the growing wealth of the game, and in particular the big clubs, emasculate a generation. In the words of the England vice-captain and leader of the Champions of England and Europe, "You've been Merked".