Even When The Clouds Cover The Sun It Is Still Shining

At the times when we feel #hope is fading fast, it’s good to remember that there is hope, it’s just that we can’t always see it.

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Add A Bit Of Colour?

“Where’s the photo?” You may ask.

There isn’t one & for a good reason.

It’s very easy to make statements like this but without a reference point or completion (e.g., photograph to illustrate what I’m saying).

In leaving-out the photo much of the impact of what I am saying is lost.

Just made me wonder how often I say things in life that are not supported or enhanced by what I do.

Until next time …

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Confidence: From Within or Without?

Confidence doesn’t always start from within: sometimes it needs a kickstart from outside.

That’s why I disagree with the “think positive & everything will be well” brigade. We can think as much as we like but some things only begin to take balance & resolve when we are given a new perspective on an old problem, by another person.

At that point, “I could never do that!” has a chance of becoming “I never thought I could do that!”

Until next time …

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UK Government Does It Again!

I just read with interest how, once again, our UK government have proceeded to make decisions that affect the wider British public … without consulting the wider British public.

In their wisdom, they have appointed the head of a ‘successful’ inner city school to help decide on sex education for 5 year-olds and upwards. 

Great!  But why was there no public discussion or canvassing of opinion before such a wide-ranging decision was made?


It seems that with alarming regularity, our politicians are making sweeping and increasingly significant decisions about the UK, from the safety of their ivory tower and without getting their hands dirty by asking some serious questions of the people that put them in power.

Perhaps it’s because they are afraid: afraid to face issues that others really care about and actually carry feelings that go against the politically correct norm (whatever that is).  Abortion bills rushed through ‘because of lack of time’.  What a great reflection on our society that we don’t have time to discuss the very thing that makes society live … life.  Please tell me what’s more important … MP’s salaries?  Christmas dinner?  The new car?  Choice of buffet lunch? 

Or is it that they genuinely don’t care?  Have they lost sight of reality?  Are they unreachable?   Do they weild too much power without true accountability?  Are they amoral?

Or do we keep quiet on issues that need to be raised and debated?

Yes! I am cynical.

We’re told, “Be polite”, “Don’t cause trouble”, “Enter into honest discussion.”  

But I ask, “When is this really reciprocated?”   My answer is, ‘Near to Election Time’ when they really fear the consequences of public apathy and the possibility of not getting back into power; when they need our support.  That’s when issues suddenly open up for ‘public debate and discussion’!  But until then, we have to put up with minority groups who shout loudest or carry a disproportionate amount of power dictating what the average person in the UK suffers, shaping a ‘future for all’ which does not include all and is far from rosy.

Come on Westminster!  Please stop insulting and fearing the electorate that put you in power and speak to us. 

And if it’s just good old British arrogance you suffer from … get a life and face reality. 

There’s more to this country than your parliamentary careers and public image.  Spin may flow smoothly from the doctors’ lips, but at some stage you will be taken down by the whirlpool it creates. 

Why can’t we have some transparency and accountability?  Or is there just too much to hide?

There is nothing to fear in open debate unless the fear is what will be seen by debating openly.

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‘Once in a Lifetime Offer!’

I read the other day that over 89% of the business books that people purchase and download go completely unread.

Of the remaining 11%, only 1% of those who read the book will actually implement any of the ideas they find in the book – even if they are well aware that doing so will cause immediate and drastic improvements in their lives.

And of that remaining 1% who attempt to use the ideas, an even smaller percentage will use the ideas correctly.

So, the average person has less than a 1% chance of benefiting from any book they download or buy.

I was staggered.  But then, after thinking about myself, I wasn’t quite so surprised.

The power of marketing is to prompt the ‘impulse buy’.  People pay professional copywriters hundreds, even, thousands of dollars to write compelling script that leads us to the big sell; making a decision to buy. And before we know it, our credit card is debited!  They know the power of words, images and a compelling argument. 

And clearly, for the majority of people this tactic works. 

We buy some low-cost product that we promptly forget about, whilst the seller repeats the process to hundreds or thousands of visitors … and makes a very healthy profit … mainly on people’s impulse buying.  We think, “I can’t do without this”  when clearly we can, or there would be a much greater percentage of people who would digest and apply every last morsel of information from those unread business book downloads!

In a world of ever-increasing speed and convenience, increasing pressure to possess and have, increasing messages of “You’re not successful in life unless …” it is little wonder that so many are drawn in by these ‘Once in a Lifetime’ offers.  We’re afraid of losing out or missing a bargain, when in reality, we’re spending money and gaining nothing … and in the process we join the queues of people on the credit and debt trap.

“Buy now; pay later”.  We’ve all heard it.  But if we haven’t got the money now, will we have the money when the bill comes through in 12 or 18 months?  It’s easy to think “Yes, of course we will!”  Unfortunately, if we fall for the salesman’s slogan once, there’s a good chance we’ll fall for it again.  So, in 12 months we don’t have one item to pay for; we have two, three, five, ten …  and at that point we’re stuck.

I don’t honestly have many real answers to this, and I’m certainly no financial expert, but I would like to share with you some principles that I try to apply and have worked for me.  So please, make of them what you will:

  1. Whenever possible I pay in full at the time of purchase.  If I use a credit card I always try to transfer money from a bank or building society account to the card and pay it off.  Yeah! I know the economists will tell you this is ‘bad practice’ because you lose the interest on your money, but honestly, unless we’re talking about thousands of pounds, a couple of weeks interest on a hundred or even a thousand pounds is worth nothing compared to our peace of mind.
  2. If I feel that I’m being drawn into a sale I’m unsure about I either make sure I have some time to think (the salesman worth his salt will grant this time; the shark will bite with “Oh! The offer finishes today”).  For online offers, if I’m reading the script and feel like I’m being drawn in, I take ten minutes, twenty minutes, an hour, or whatever is needed to walk away, have a coffee or tea and really think about what is on offer:  Will I use the product or information?  Do I need it?  Do I need it now?  I try to be very much aware of the ‘call to action’ line that so many marketers add to their copy: “Buy now!”, “Why wait?”, “Do it now?”, “Can you afford to wait?”  The answer in nine out of ten cases is nearly always “Yes I can thank you!”
  3. If I am going to ‘Buy Now; Pay Later’ I make sure I have the money in the bank and transfer it to an account where I won’t access it until payment day.  That way, I benefit from the interest and from the peace of mind of knowing that the money is there, ready to do its job when needed.
  4. If I’m shopping for larger or more expensive items I try to take someone with me who is not emotionally involved in the sale and can see things more objectively.  If they’ve got experience in the field of what I’m buying, all the better.  But their role is one of being objective; seeing things as they really are, without getting involved emotionally.  You’d be surprised how much easier it is to say “No” when you have someone with you who can help focus on what is going on without themselves being involved.  Marketers and salesmen know that the strongest pull on people comes not from facts but when our emotions are engaged. They craft their copy and words to appeal to our emotions whilst bypassing our reason and logic.  Reason/logic combined with emotions are a powerful force for common sense and keeping out of unnecessary transactions!

I know this may seem obvious but if it worked every time, many salesmen and online marketers would be out of a job.  They know our vulnerabilities and target them.

Enjoy shopping; buy books, read them and apply their knowledge; enjoy the bargains; benefit from ‘once in a lifetime offers’ but do so from a position of security and control. 

And if all else fails and you’re not sure, practice saying “No”.  The world will rarely come to an end if you do miss a bargain.

Until next time …

My Zimbio
KudoSurf Me!

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The Great Power of Valuing Others

[Building Relationships Can Feel Like Driving Into a Tunnel]

Building Relationships Can Feel Like Driving Into a Tunnel

Probably one of the most destructive mantras of the 21st Century is ‘Do What You Want.’

This notion that we are islands in a big sea & that somehow just following our own path will make us more significant or happier is quite absurd.  If we do what we want, when we want & how we want we remain an island in that big sea & from personal experience the island builders are amongst the most discontent groups of people I know.

Now before you flip open your laptops & write a long list of objections, please let me explain what I am trying to get at.

We human beings are like the junctions in a spider’s web; what we do & how we do it affects the other parts of the web. Think of the newsworthy instances where individuals or groups do what they want without regard for others: London; Manchester; Paris; New York; Florida & a host of other cities have hit the headlines for exactly those reasons. People have decided on their own aims & executed their plans with devastating effects on the rest of us.

Okay, so our lives & our actions may not hit the international headlines but the effects of what we do & how we act will impact far beyond ourself.

Think back to the image of lots of islands in a big ocean, each island desperate to make itself bigger, more significant, more important, more [insert your own outcome here]. The tragedy is that in trying to be a significant island we remain isolated & largely insignificant in the bigger picture.

But Stuart, these are two totally different scenarios

Ae they really?

If we want to do what we want, when we want & how we want, we have no option but to involve others in some way in order to achieve our goals.

If we buy something, we involve others.

If we sell something to make money, we involve others.

If we make a career decision, a business decision, a friendship or relationship decision, plan a holiday, go on holiday, travel, read, write … we involve (& need) others.

Sure, we may be carving out a path for ourselves but we need others in order to do that.

We may like to be hermits or independent but we live in an interdependent society. We need others to survive, to a larger or smaller degree, whether we like it or not. We are indeed like the joints in a spider’s web: our joint (we) will affect the rest of the web (through the connections & relationships we have) … & vice-versa.

So, rather than thinking of ourself as (or acting like) an island in an ocean of resources, isn’t it better to look at those islands as a network or web where building bridges & communication links allows us to not only enjoy the fruits of the ocean, but also do it more effectively & efficiently.

If I need to buy something from you & you have the product or resource but won’t sell it to me, we both lose out: I don’t gain the resources I need & you don’t create wealth from the sale.

The big problem for many is that when we start talking about interdependency we must also talk about relationships, which in our technologically-driven world (economic & social) are easy to overlook.  We are a species that increasingly hides behind our doors & keyboard.  It is safer & less threatening.  We send a text or e-mail rather than picking up the ‘phone or calling round to see people.  We air our grievances in the rocky, nuance- (& potentially emotion-) free medium of text rather than sorting it out face-to-face.

Technology may change, communication methods may change but the same basic driving principle still underpins every transaction we complete: the better the relationship, the smoother the transaction & greater the mutual benefit.

Another 21st Century tendency is the avoidance of pain points: we don’t like dis-ease, discomfort or fear & yet the only real way to grow & overcome those issues we struggle with is to face them.  We actually need these things to grow.  If you never make a mistake you never learn.  If you never make mistakes then perhaps you are not trying often or hard enough?

So, if we take up the challenge of working & living interdependently & we take on the challenge of learning how to use the mistakes we make to overcome obstacles & avoid future problems, I believe not only will we achieve so much more but we will also be more content & fulfilled. We can’t expect to get on with everyone, but neither can we expect to live & operate independently & be truly successful. Even if it can feel a bit like driving into a tunnel, the tunnel does end in the light again (& often helps us to avoid other obstacles or dangers along the way).

When we realise the great power & mutual benefit in operating as communities & webs, rather than islands, we will begin to reap the benefits of the relationships we have & build new ones, confident that we are building a better future; for ourselves & for those around us.

And that is why I believe that there is great value in valuing others.

Take care until next time …

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Depression: 7 More ‘Insider Secrets’ – Why It Isn’t What It Looks Like!

[Please Handle With Care]

Please Handle With Care

Following on from my last post, Depression:  7 ‘Insider Secrets’ – Why It Isn’t What It Looks Like! I continue my insights into why people struggling with depression may display certain behaviours & how ‘what you see‘ is NOT ‘what is really going on unseen.’

Although there are many common traits with depression & its manifestations, this is my personal experience & other people may react differently.  I hope that some of what I share may help those of you who suffer to recognise that you are not alone & help those of you who know someone suffering to appreciate just how complicated seemingly simple things can become & why we don’t always say or do what you expect.

  1. What we say isn’t always what we mean:  Depression is not selective in its choice of victim & it sucks on our mental energy like a leech!  Although it may suppress our interest in communication, we do still talk & when we do, we use the same language that we would normally.  I have held in-depth conversations on neuroscience, music, arts & more, only to go home & collapse in a heap, either through mental exhaustion or emotional overload. The problem is that we try our hardest to help others feel comfortable in our presence, whilst shielding them from what is going on inside our head & in so doing, we burn up huge amounts of energy.  We may string words together in a sentence yet, at the same time, be struggling to understand basics like who we are. Whilst we ‘hold it all together‘ externally, internally we retreat to a world where our thoughts move faster than Formula 1 racing cars, but all in different directions.  It can be a strange & scary place.  Despite our best efforts to carefully construct what we say, this energy deficit can (& often does) lead to a momentary lapse of concentration, at which point we could say almost anything (& usually do).  Unfortunately, when this happens we also fail to notice what we have said.  It certainly does not engage or alert us emotionally.  So, whilst we happily continue our conversation we can  leave the listener confused, angry, hurt, offended etc without realising it. We only find out after the event, at which time the damage has been done. If we do discover that we have caused a problem, we are often gripped with icy fear, desperately trying to remember context, sentence construction, timing, setting, what was said before, what was said after & by whom. But rarely can we make any sense of it, so we lose sleep, withdraw from contact & are gripped in the claws of over-powering guilt & anger against our self  which can dominate our life for days or even weeks.
  2. If we are asked to explain our words or actions we will probably get it wrong:  Expending lots of energy is not good for what we say.  But neither is it good for our memory, especially short-term.  It also makes understanding of the context almost impossible.   So offering an explanation for our words or actions can be incredibly difficult.  As a result, it is usually easier to simply conclude that we have blown it again & retreat into our world of self-condemnation.  In short: we try to remember but can’t, so we either don’t offer anything or we get things horribly wrong which can make things worse.  If we are silent when we have screwed-up royally, please understand that it isn’t arrogance or pride or failure to acknowledge our mistake (we are intimately aware of all of these things), it is simply that by staying silent we feel that we can cause no further problems, pain or offence … & therein lies the problem: the other party is often waiting for an explanation & get none.  The result is that both parties end up badly hurt.
  3. Fear of loss is a powerful driver:  In the world of commerce, fear in the workplace kills motivation, breeds suspicion & arouses anger.  In the world of the depressed person, fear is a powerful master that paralyses action & convinces us that there is no way out. We are afraid of many & most things: our job (if we have one); our friendships; our family; our decisions; our future; our now. The most powerful fear in my experience is that we may lose any of the these, very quickly, because of how we act or through what we say or don’t say.   By losing these we lose our anchor, our reference point, our reasons & our direction.  Fear can be a brutal master in the mind of a depressed person: if we do something good it will go wrong, usually when we least expect it; if we have friendships, we will lose them because of what we may do or say; if we have a family they will desert us because they can no longer cope with us as we are; if we make a decision, it will all go wrong eventually; there is no point in looking to any future because we either won’t make it there or it will all go belly up & life will be more difficult than it is now.  ‘What ifs‘ can also lead to poor (or non-existent) decision-making.  The result is that we do not always make for easy company even though we may try very hard to be exactly that!
  4. We are not always good at showing what & how we feel:  Probably the most common emotion we express is none at all! This isn’t some act of being devious. It is usually because we cannot access our emotions & if we can access them, we cannot or are too afraid to express them.  It is all part of the protective mechanisms that we put in place for others & for our self.  Sometimes, when we are particularly ill, we can become ‘dissociated’ which is where we are looking in from the outside at our situation, our actions & what we are saying & we are unable to engage with it: we are our own spectator.  This can be a scary place as we really don’t feel anything or know how to react.  Life can be monochrome or monotonous. Emotions can be extinct.  It is often the hardest time to handle, both as a sufferer & for the outsider.  It is also very hard to describe to someone who has never experienced it.
  5. Depressed people are vulnerably human & humanly vulnerable:  Our malfunctioning mind & distorted thinking set us up for pain. We make mistakes-a-plenty in both word & deed, yet we have neither the energy or mental capacity to handle the consequences of our shortfall.  Just occasionally we allow people close enough to really know how we feel, but that can be rare because it is such a risk.  Nearly everyone I have spoken to who has struggled with depression has an experience (or several) where they have been badly burned by trusting the wrong people.  In my case, I shared some sensitive personal information with a friend as I was looking for ways forward & thought they could provide some insight. It was only when another friend absent-mindedly mentioned elements of the conversation to me a few weeks later that I realised my mistake & by that time it was too late.  Sure; I should have been more discerning with my choices, but the reality for a lot sufferers is that, as mentioned above, we lack the mental resources to make wise decisions & in some cases, having a person who is willing to listen is such a luxury that our mouth opens before our brain engages.
  6. Depressed people really do care about others, often too much:  It is probably clear by now that when we are depressed, we can think too much about others & not enough about our self.  We focus with great detail on what we can’t change (situations, others, what we have done) & not enough on what we can change (especially our responses to our failures). We will expend a huge amount of energy protecting others but invest little in our own health.  When we make mistakes they can be quite momentous, in our own mind at least.  We obsess about them; we try to resolve them; we look for answers: yet we fail.  From the outside, our actions can seem like we don’t care about others but that is rarely the case (although those who have suffered physical or mental abuse can find relationships very challenging for obvious reasons).  Any punishment we may wish to mete out is usually focussed at ourselves.  Please believe us; we really do care, a great deal, about you our friends, it’s just that all this other stuff can make that difficult to see.
  7. We live to get through the day rather than to enjoy the moment:  Survival is a major focus & just getting through a day, unscathed, is often a luxury.  My counsellor once described depression as being like a car running out of fuel but keeping running on the fumes until they dry up.  Getting the engine running again (especially if it is a diesel) can be very hard work: it sometimes takes dismantling, repairing, refilling & persistence to get the engine started again … & this is a great analogy for a person suffering from depression.  Recovery (being able to function normally day-to-day & appreciate enjoyment) can be long & require a lot of input from different places & people.

Depressed people need support & understanding. We are broken & need fixing.

When I spent 3 years on crutches & over 2 years in various leg casts (left, right & both) I had no problem with people holding doors open for me, offering lifts & generally being helpful.  My problems were highly visible & prompted action.

When I was seriously depressed, much of my pain & incapacity was hidden. People told me there was no reason to be depressed, to brighten-up, to smile more: the assumption was either that I could do something about it or because it wasn’t visible it was less significant.  Some friends denied any problem existed, usually because I was the ‘last person they had expected to go under‘ & therefore, they too were vulnerable if they accepted it was real!

I am not trying to make excuses for our behaviour & I am not saying that our mistakes don’t cause pain. These thoughts are always at the front of our thinking & often drive our behaviour.  The thought of failure, letting people down or hurting others can cripple our thinking & prevent us from taking any action.  When we take action we usually wait for ‘the catch‘ or ‘for it all to go horribly wrong‘ which is one reason we take a lot of convincing to believe differently: that is a risk & in order to handle risk we need some sort of security as an anchor.  If we don’t believe or expect too much then it isn’t such a big shock when disaster finally comes.  If we believe too much, hope too much or expect too much & it all goes wrong, we take several steps backwards & realise that we were stupid for daring to believe that things could be different.  Such is the deception of depressive illness.

Patience with depressed people is essential, but often lacking, not through anything malicious but simply because people see how they would react or deal with a situation, rather than appreciating the impotence of the depressed person to put together & offer any kind of meaningful explanation or solution to a problem.

Things can be very different.  We can recover. We can change.  With your help, patience & love, we can begin to see that change is possible.  That road is often winding, mountainous & full of traps & potholes, but when we do see progress we are able to gradually change the way we think & move towards wholeness again.  We can put fuel back in the tank, get it flowing to the places it needs too be & hopefully, just hopefully when we press the ignition button the engine will start again.

Thanks as always for reading & I hope you have found my further meanderings helpful.  I welcome your comments, experiences & feedback.

Take care until next time …

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Depression: 7 ‘Insider Secrets’ – Why It Isn’t What It Looks Like!

[What You See Is Not Always What You Get]

What You See Is Not Always What You Get

Here is a brief insight into my personal world of the battle with depression.  We are all different but I hope this will help you get inside our sometimes scary & seemingly out-of-control world & realise that you can, through very simple actions, make a huge contribution to our recovery & survival.

I remember some years ago that I was in hospital for investigations on an ‘unknown‘ illness, which turned out to be glandular fever. During my week on the ward for various test there were two patients who stood out.  Both were admitted late at night having tried to end their own life with a medicines overdose.  However, the next day after their admission, they were both up & about, helping the nursing staff & other patients; eloquently spoken, courteous & apparently full of life.  It was a real shock to me as they were the opposite of what I had been taught & expected.

Zoom forward a few years & I was in the grip of serious depressive illness myself. It seemed to come from nowhere, struck like a cobra & floored me for nearly 2 years.  My recovery was slow & painful, something that could not have happened without the help of a skilled counsellor & a lot of determination on my part.

Thankfully, since that time I have only had a few temporary trips back the edge of & occasionally into the abyss, one of those being just the last couple of days.  Looking at my behaviour, just like the two patients on my hospital ward, it would probably have been difficult to tell how frightening life & my own thoughts were.

And that set me thinking about what others see vs what I see.

Here are a few personal insights which I hope, if you struggle with depressive illness you will recognise & realise that you are not alone & if you don’t suffer from depression, will be able to recognise why the happy, smiling person in front of you may be going through their own personal Hell.

As you will see, many of these are inter-related but I hope you get the picture.

  1. We protect others before protecting our self:  Relationships are critical to us & we will often do anything to keep them open.  That often means that we will hide people from our true pain so we don’t crush them.  We hide certain facts from others, not because we are deceitful but because we fear rejection & isolation when they ‘discover the real me.’  Depressed people can be great at seeing how to make others happy because we are so intimately aware of what makes us sad.
  2. We may smile on the outside whilst we cry on the inside:  Depressed people are extremely vulnerable, especially when we are letting others into our inner world of turmoil. Few people can handle being around someone ‘who is miserable all of the time’ so the depressed person will often try to compensate (if they have the energy) by being friendly: partly because it gives us hope that people will listen & partly because we are scared stiff that we will lose yet another person who could have become a friend. We are excellent at smoke & mirrors but please realise that it is (in our mind at least) for your good.
  3. External confidence & crippling self-doubt can walk hand-in-hand:  People often look at what I have achieved & what I can do & ask, ‘What have you got to be depressed about?‘  My answer is, what I have achieved & what I can do are simply evidence of the drive & potential that is within me, but I am not my title, qualifications or abilities: I am a human being & as such, relationships, opinions & basic friendship are critical to me functioning properly. Like anyone else, my security is a complex mixture of factors but at its foundation is the knowledge that I matter: to someone. There are days when having ‘achieved so much‘ counts for nothing in my world & I just want to know that I am loved. So, as happened yesterday when two lovely friends independently sent me encouragement, my world began to turn the right way up & life began to feel good again.
  4. Little things matter:  The two friends who changed my world yesterday did NOT have to do anything. They could have assumed someone else would do something or say something, but they didn’t. They took action & somethings small as ‘It all changed when you arrived‘ & ‘Believe in yourself‘ were catalysts to change that was so quick it was quite overwhelming.  Depressed people rarely ask for anything; they are usually too afraid to do so. People around us can make a huge impact by actions that take less than a minute to do. Just as the tongue can be destructive, so it can bring life.
  5. We sometimes have to be alone yet live in fear of loneliness:  I was talking online to a friend struggling with depression this last week & was struck by her honesty when she said, ‘I think you’ll get it, but at the moment I just need to be alone.’ Therein lies the paradox: the most dangerous phase for most depressed people is when we are alone with or thoughts. That is the silent battle which can drive some to call time on their life (or situation). Yet, being with other people can be just too much to handle. If we ask you for a bit of space, please don’t take it personally: we love you but just now, need to be alone.
  6. We fear being listened to because we fear being judged:  The most devastating experience is when a depressed person take the risk & opens up to someone, only to have that person not be able to handle what we are saying & walk away. I think most of us who struggle with the illness have experienced that. Sometimes it is because we so want to trust people that we miss the signs that others may not be ready or able to handle what we share & sometimes it just happens.  17-Years ago, in the midst of my depression & other circumstances I destroyed three lives by my actions (no I didn’t kill anyone) but the guilt of that time still haunts me & still haunts others.  I am still judged today on what I did then & I can still judge myself for what I did then too, leading to another round of staring into the abyss.  Those of us struggling with the illness can be hard enough on ourselves; please be gentle but honest.
  7. We still have the capacity to love, just not always ourself:  Love, along with forgiveness, is probably the most important healing element for any situation.  Some depressed people can really struggle with showing love; others show it abundantly.  The hardest part is that we can rarely show love towards ourself when our mind is racing away with its thoughts & telling us the lies that we often believe.  Loving a depressed person can be very hard because we don’t always know how to receive it & yet we so desperately want it & need it.  Just like the first drops of rain falling in the desert are rapidly absorbed & disappear, it is only when the rain persists that the real fruit is seen & the barren desert is covered with new flowers & life.  Please don’t give up on us: it can be a long, sometimes seemingly fruitless haul, but please trust me, it can be the difference between pain & gladness, fear & joy, life & death to those of us who receive it.


So what can you do to help?

Please listen, listen & listen.  Sometimes all a depressed person needs is an ear that will hear & a mouth that will not open to give an opinion.  If someone takes the risk of opening-up to you, please take the time to respect that.  What you hear may shock you, perhaps even frighten you but the act of ‘getting stuff out of our head‘ is so important in starting healing & understanding.

Please be honest enough to say that you can’t help if you can’t.  This isn’t a get-out clause but it is important to acknowledge where you can & cannot help, upfront.  Know your boundaries & limits & operate within them. You will be so much happier & so will the other person.

Please don’t promise something you cannot deliver, even with the best intentions.  Many depressed people have a history of meeting others with good intentions who then can’t deliver.  That takes its toll, compounding pain & problems.

Please be prepared for the unexpected.  This is often the hardest one!  It is not uncommon for someone struggling with life to say things like ‘feeling like ending it all,’ ‘wanted to hurt myself or make myself pay,‘ ‘I felt so alone that I didn’t know what to do.’  These don’t mean that the person was actually serious about doing them (if they were, statistics tell us that they probably would have done it & not been there to tell you these things).  This is obviously a difficult area as one is potentially moving into the need for professional help.  If you are worried, being honest & telling the person they may need professional help can be your best response. At least you are clearly demonstrating that you care.

Thank you, as always for reading my meanderings. I am always happy to answer questions & respond to your comments, publicly & privately.

Take care until next time …

Posted in coping with depression, depression, friends, Friendship, hurting people, love, mental illness, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Words Are Not Enough

[Words Without Action Are Meaningless]

Words Without Actions Are Meaningless

What if there are no simple solutions to the problems that have faced us for years?

What if part of the answer was us getting off our backside, becoming involved & making a difference rather than standing in crowds, waving our placards, shouting our slogans & then going home to our cosy world without having lifted a finger to change anything?

Simple answers are neat, clean & tidy. They make life easier to understand & if we understand things, we feel more secure.

Difficult problems with no simple solutions are threatening & make us feel insecure, helpless, guilty, overwhelmed or perhaps apathetic because they are so big that we can seemingly do nothing to change anything.

But, think of the big movements that changed society, opinions, opportunities, equalities: most of those started with one person holding the conviction that they could change things, followed by the determination & commitment to make it happen.

They got involved with what they believed, not only in word but in action.

How often do we see protest groups that spring up, protest & then disappear without a trace?

How often do we see individuals who protest against these complex problems yet do nothing to help rectify it?

Why does this happen?

Perhaps because it easy to let people know what we don’t like & it is difficult to find a way of tackling it: perhaps it is because we can’t be bothered to get involved in solving the issue because it requires commitment in time & effort & money.

As someone who has suffered from attacks of depressive illness over the past 20 years or so, my life has been filled with the advice & good intentions of others which then melted away when help was needed, especially in the long-term.  How did that make me feel?  Angry; rejected; of little importance; invisible; hurt & more.  Offering help but then taking no action did more damage than offering no help in the first instance.

If we are going to protest, we must be prepared to be part of the solution we offer.

If we protest about homelessness, abortion, mental illness provision etc, would’t it be so much more effective if we looked to provide accommodation for those without accommodation, support for mothers whose babies we are telling them to keep, financial support to professionals & organisations that seek to provide help & healing to the those struggling with what goes on in their own head?

Seeing solutions can be easy. Telling others about the need to find solutions can be easy. But unless we combine those activities with personal action & involvement, we have no integrity & in my opinion, we are worse than those we criticise.

Social media makes it all-too-easy to be an armchair warrior; it also makes it all-too-easy to be seen as hypocrites & cause more problems than we solve.

There may be no simple solutions to complex problems or simple answers to complex moral & social problems, but there is opportunity for us to become involved & start to make a difference. An oak tree starts out life as an acorn; a mighty river starts out life as a raindrop from the sky.  Social change starts with a person who is committed & who, above all, demonstrates what they believe through what they do.

The dog in the photo above was abandoned.  It could have stayed that way except there were people prepared to set up a shelter, take in the strays, feed them, exercise them & rehouse them.  A conviction became an idea which became a reality.

Wouldn’t it be great if doing rather than just saying became the mark of society today & in the future?

But that in itself is a complex issue to which there are no simple solutions, just opportunities to bring about change one step at a time.

Take care until next time …


Posted in authenticity, bringing hope, challenge, change, change at ground zero, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When Did Relationship Become Personal Ambition?

[Friendships & Relationships Are More Than What Can I Get?]

Friendships & Relationships Are More Than What Can I Get?

Perhaps one of the biggest cancers of the 21st Century is nepotism: obsession with self.

There have always been selfish people who extracted every last drop of blood of those around them for personal gain.  They stand out in our memories & in world history.

But more recently the growth of the entrepreneur spirit (& its own brand of online marketing) seems to have hijacked the concept of friends & relationships, changing them from interactions in which we give & take, talk about the small things in life that matter, share our joys & concerns & actually just ‘be’ with others into strategic alliances & friendships which will boost our success, exposure & income & get us where we want to be.

You are only as good as the friends you keep

Don’t let those around you pull you down

Find people much better than yourself to pull you up to better performance

Help others & they will help you (& get you where you want to be)

Anyone notice one word that repeats ad-nauseum?   You (ie. me).

It’s all about us. It’s all about what we can gain from our relationships. It’s all about being with an in-crowd & casting off any members of the out-crowd.  In short, it is narcissism & nepotism at its worst: it is all about me!

I understand the need to be careful with who we choose as our friends.  I understand about the need to be inspired by & learn from others.  I understand about improvement.

But I reject that I am only as good as the friends I keep.  That is total bollocks!  I have my own intrinsic value despite the friends I keep, the grades I score in exams, the bank balance I have, the house or car I have or my signs of success.  I am who I am.  These other things are simply trimmings that I may (or may not) wish to show to others.

They do not define me: I define them.

Friendship & relationship is as much about what we give as what we receive & I am NOT talking about the entrepreneur definition of giving which is the ‘law of reciprocation’ i.e.. give to others so that they feel indebted to you & will give back. No! No! No!

I give because I want to, no questions asked, no repayment expected.

I give because another person is in need, not because they will have to pay me back later.

I give because it is the right thing to do.

In a world increasingly obsessed with self, increasingly telling us that we need to be hugely successful financially so that we can climb off the world & enjoy our own little nirvana & yet a world that is increasingly dissatisfied with itself, is it not time to ask some questions & think about reversing this obscene trend.

We all want some element of success in our lives & we all need a certain level of income to survive & perhaps have a few luxuries too, but I become ever more disillusioned with those who show us their multiple mansions & collection of unbelievably expensive cars AND STILL they go after more mansions, more cars & greater income.  In one word it is greed.

There is an upside to some of these people: they re-invest some of their money into social projects that help people at home & abroad.  But is it sacrificial giving? Does it really cost them anything? Is it spare change?  Why do they do it: to help or raise their own profile?  I don’t hear many of these super-rich entrepreneurs actually going down the league tables of wealth through their giving. Perhaps those who do just keep it quiet; out of the limelight; out of the media.

I was interested in a recent Forbes survey showing that the author J.K. Rowling actually slipped out of the top billionaires through the amount she gave away. When asked why, she stated that ‘Nobody needs that much money!

If we believe in the power of small change to bring big change then shouldn’t we be looking to buck the trend.  Shouldn’t we be looking to apply social examples that fly in the face of self-interest, self-indulgence & personal success.  Shouldn’t we start focussing on those around us, building them up at personal cost to us, befriending them because they need friends who can help them & start being long-term friends because that is what we mutually want & need, looking away from ourselves rather than having disposable friends who are great whilst they serve our purpose but are just as quickly discarded when we spot someone else who can take us on the next step of where we want to be.

Financial success & personal contentment are not goals that we should reject outright: without wealthy people who are generous with their time, energy & money many of the essential social changes cannot gain momentum & thrive.  But to aim for financial success & happiness as ends in their own right is, in my opinion, missing the mark & selling others (& ourself) short.

Take care until next time …


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My Current Battle With The Dark Side: 7 Important Lessons I Am Learning Holding Hands With Depression

[A New Day Will Dawn - Holding Hands With Depression]

A New Day Will Dawn – Holding Hands With Depression

Statistics tell me that people don’t like reading negative things & yet our media thrives on negative news, almost to the extent that when positive news is reported we ask, “What’s the catch?

The subject of depression can so easily fall into that niche of negative news, after all, what can be said about depression that is positive?

Well, I have been courting the hand of depression once again for the past few months, particularly the last couple of weeks & there are a number of very positive lessons I am learning that I would like to share with you.  These are works-in-progress but still have started to provide me with a stronger foundation for crawling out of the pit once & for all & feeling myself again; possibly even feeling better than myself again.


1. Own Your Feelings

We all struggle with feelings & emotions. Our upbringing & external influences such as friends, family, education & the media will greatly influence how we see them, but for many feeling sad is bad, feeling low is a blow & we need to avoid feeling lost at any cost.

The problem is, if we can’t acknowledge where we are & how we feel we can never move on. Being someone we are not, saying something we don’t believe, denying what we are truly feeling only leads to further internal struggles & tensions.  People cannot really know who we are because it changes all the time based on our circumstances.  I’m sure many of us know people like that who don’t struggle with any kind of depression or mental illness, but it is more important with mental illness for us to be authentic people..

If we are not careful, our well practiced ability to play social chameleon becomes a habit that we slip into effortlessly & before long, even we don’t know who we really are.

Owning our feelings is about being authentic, that is, true to ourself & who we are.  Only at this point can we begin to reshape our life into something new.  All too often, who we are reflects who we think people think we should be.

If you feel bad, own it. It doesn’t mean you are bad. It is a feeling of where you are now, but like all feelings it can change, providing we acknowledge it as our starting point.


2. Say What You Think

This is perhaps one of the most misunderstood statements on all sides of the fence.

Say what you think is not a licence to just unleash our pent-up frustrations & venom onto others.  If that is how we are feeling then we need to find a safe space & safe method to do that (see below).

Each one of us has a responsibility to do what is decent & what is right. Sure, we can’t go around walking on eggshells to please everyone, but neither can we unleash a barrage onto those around us.

Saying what we think is, again, about being authentic; about being ourself.  If someone asks us for an opinion, give it.  But equally it means if someone asks how we are, then an answer of, “Good thanks” when we feel like shite is not going to help anyone.  The other person has no idea what is happening & very often we feel unheard, because the other person has no idea what is happening, because we have told them everything is okay.

Saying what we think can be costly if we are indiscriminate about who we tell.  There is a big tendency for people to feel obliged to rescue others who may not be feeling well, partly through a sense of concern but also in an attempt to deflect away the need to get into deeper conversation or involvement.  If one is in a depressed state, the need to help & rescue others can be heightened because we know how rubbish we feel & don’t want others to feel the same.  Rescuing in both cases, although from different roots, is still wrong.

It is much better to simply acknowledge how another person is feeling than to try & rescue them with a solution that may work for us but is totally inappropriate for them.

Unless what we say is in line with what we think & where we are, it will be difficult to move forward.  There is an old saying of ‘We are what we think!‘ Although often used to motivate people & improve performance, I think this is also key to finding a place where we can start recovery. If we think one thing & say something else we are potentially kicking ourselves in the crotch: we confuse ourself & create further internal tension where it isn’t needed.


3. Check In With Reality

One of the most common traps I fall into is seeing the world as my mind tells me it exists.

On a bad day, when it is a struggle to get out of bed, let alone be motivated, the chance of seeing anything positive is small.  I make people laugh when I say that a depressive will often look at a blue, sunny sky & still manage to see the cloud no bigger than a man’s hand as imminent rain.

Reality of the bigger picture rarely resides in our head at times like that, which is why we need to find one or two people we can trust to give us a reality check.  This in itself is a remarkably difficult step because it means that we must make ourselves vulnerable to someone at a time when our vulnerability is already stretched to a maximum.

I have no simple solution here as each one of us is different, but I do stress that it really helps if we can use someone we have have know for sufficient time to have a trusted track record when it comes to confidentiality, ability to listen & stickability: too many are keen at the start of the race but when they realise it is a marathon rather than a sprint they fall away, which is a disaster for the person needing their support.

Checking in with reality may be no more than the simple encouragement that we are where we are, but that is not where we’ll stay & the world is a place of colour rather than shades of black.  A few simple hooks that we can hold on to can work wonders as a boost to starting & continuing our recovery.


4. Create A Safe Space

I think that the pendulum on Big Ben would have been impressed with the size of my mood swings over the past few weeks. One minute I am fine & seemingly in control & then for no apparent reason, or for good reason, I jump off the emotional cliff into the abyss.

We need a safe space; for our benefit & for the benefit of others.

My safe space is to find something I enjoy doing alone, such as going for a walk along the local canal or sitting in a forest or park.  Our safe place is simply somewhere we can process our thoughts, or just allow the whirlpool to slow & calm a bit; safely.

It also takes us out of possible inappropriate or risky interactions with others who, let’s face it, could easily say something they think is helpful that could land then in A&E.

I also have a pad of paper & pencil handy as one of the valuable techniques I was taught by my wonderful counsellor, Lynne. When I need to vent I get it out on paper: write it down, as it comes, full of bile, anger & whatever else is there. Then, read it through, acknowledge the feelings but then ceremonially tear it up or burn it to signify that it is out & gone.  I have also found drawing pictures to be very helpful, but I am quite a visual person.

It’s about finding what works best for you to be cathartic, safely.  Sometimes our safe space can be nothing more elegant than sitting on the toilet in the bathroom with our paper & pencil.


5. Seek Wise Advice

I cannot encourage you enough to find a good counsellor. This isn’t one who charges most, or has the most letter after their name (although experience really does count), but it is about finding someone you can work with & who fits your personality.

Some of the issues we have & thoughts we struggle with can be sorted by sitting down with our trusted friends, but when life gets really scary & we are unable to process reality, having someone you can work with to shape reality & bring order to our chaos can be the difference between life & death.


6. Never Rule Yourself Out

One of our greatest personal struggles in the thick of panic & depression is giving ourself a chance.

If you are like me, many of the internal battles I have, when I get down to the real root, are not with others but with myself.  I am the world’s best at giving myself no chance!

We can be so focused on the task of keeping ourself together, coping with each minute or perhaps even giving ourself permission to be here at all, that we miss out on the key truth that others do not feel that way about us & we do still have a role that we can play.

Have you ever met up with a friend when you are feeling particularly shitty & not really wanting to hold any meaningful conversation only to answer something they say & you switch on the lightbulb in their own mind?  In short, you have provided them with a potential solution to their problem.

I find that somehow when I am in a bad place personally I am less inclined to have the energy to judge or hold strong opinions, I am less inclined to come up with great ideas, but I am more open to listen & share my own inner thoughts & experiences. At this point, I help.

When we struggle with our own thoughts & are in the midst of reminding ourself of all the negative things that people have said about us, or the times we have been left out or forgotten or … or … or … or … it can be really hard to hear anything positive about ourself.  But the reality is, there are lots of positive things about us that we never see & sometimes, just sometimes it takes someone else to show us these things.  Be warned, when this happens it can completely knock us off our feet & we can look for every reason we can to disagree with them, but in the end they are true & sometimes it is just easier to lie down & accept them rather than fight them.

As we learn to trust ourself we can learn to trust others & when we do, we can hear what they say & begin to recreate the image we have of ourself.  Perhaps we are not so bad after all.


7. Be Merciful To Yourself

This has to be the phrase my own counsellor uses most to me.

It’s about giving ourself a chance; cutting ourself some slack; allowing situations to be less than ideal (crap); allowing ourself to make a mistake; allowing ourself to be imperfect (just like everyone else).

It enables us to throw off the lies we have been told by ourself & others, to rewrite the impossibly high standards we set ourself in order to be ‘a success’ (whatever that is), to allow ourself to be human.  When we do that we can begin our journey to wholeness & recovery.

If I was to leave you with one sentence it would be the words, ‘Be Merciful To Yourself!


One of the hardest, yet most liberating facts I’ve learned is that in all of this we have a choice. We can choose how we let our past, present & potential future affect us. We can choose how we respond to things that have been said & done to us. We can choose how much we are going to say what we think, keep a check on reality, create a safe space, seek wise advice, agree never to rule ourself out & to cut ourselves some slack.

The choices we make will determine the progress we make. Some of that progress will be on our own & some is likely to require professional expertise & help.

But at the end of it all, the choice is ours.  We can choose to change, however long & hard that may be, or we can choose to stay where we are. Unfortunately, choosing to stay where we are is not passive; we will regress.

I hope that you, like me, can find the courage to make the decision to change & that we will be able to make ourselves vulnerable enough to receive the help we need whilst being wise enough to know the right help we need. Above all, I hope we will be wise enough to show ourselves mercy, to cut ourselves some slack & move forward one step at a time, despite our struggles & setbacks.

I can only share here what I have found to work & be true for me, but I hope these two final thoughts will help you in some way, now matter how deeply you are in the pit:

Though darkness is all around, there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Though every door is closed & locked, there is a door somewhere with a key in the lock.


Take care until next time …



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12 Top Tips On How To Exclude People & Make Them Feel Worthless

Excluding People Costs Lives

Have you ever been in a situation where you feel invisible or excluded: an unrecognised cog in a wheel; faceless; of little value?  

This sounds dramatic but it occurs thousand of times every day in many different settings: at work; with friends; in the pub; in the sports team; at home.

Excluding people & making them feel devalued is rarely a deliberate act, but there are some habits, behaviours & activities that work really well in achieving this.  These work particularly well when we are dealing with people new to our group or familiar people we don’t already know.

Here are my top 12 tips on how to make it happen:

  1. Leave Them Alone:  This is probably one of the most effective strategies to alienation.  People standing on their own, often in a corner or at the side clearly have a problem with socialising.  Leave them alone or for other people to approach.  After all, if they really wanted to speak they would find someone.  It is irrelevant if they are shy, introverted, disabled or just plain new.  It will sort itself out eventually.
  2. Wandering Eye Syndrome:  We all know how inconvenient it can be spending time with people we don’t know or who can’t further or personal progress. So, if you get lumbered speaking to such people, make sure that you scan the room for better or more important people to speak with.  At some stage, you will see someone & have a justifiable excuse to relieve yourself from your current burden.  After all, what can these newcomers offer that your existing friends don’t already?
  3. The Conversation Interruption:  This is probably the most underestimated weapon in your arsenal.  See someone in conversation you know, then simply butt in, even if they are speaking to a newcomer or someone else & start talking.  One of the places I visit frequently are so good at this that the place name has become a verb; to be ‘Emmanuelled.’  It’s a great practice to maintain as it spreads like wildfire & soon, the whole culture finds it acceptable & effective.
  4. Bring In A Friend:  If you are struggling to talk to a newcomer or stranger, invite in a good friend into the conversation & focus your conversation on them.  It’s always good to include a few facts about the person you were speaking to so that they don’t feel too left out. 
  5. Body Language:  If you are in a group & want to let people understand that you do not want to be interrupted by outsides, stand or sit in a circle or huddle, facing inwards with your backs outwards.  Be careful to leave no gaps in case someone misinterprets that as an opportunity to join in your conversation.  This is a great way of telling others to try elsewhere.
  6. One Way Flow:  There is nothing quite like telling others about yourself. This is especially important with newcomers or strangers.  If you tell them in endless detail about your family, accomplishments & future aspirations you will inspire them to look up to you & perhaps even become like you.  It is very important if they attempt to to tell you anything about themselves to show how you have been in exactly the same situation & come through it with flying colours.  This also gives great opportunity to brag (explain) about your family, especially siblings & children, even if it has no direct relevance to the conversation in hand.
  7. Perfecting Lack of Appreciation:  A real winner when it comes to destroying the confidence in others & a great move to keep the group small.  We all know that people only help others because they are craving attention & praise, so what better way to counter that than let them give their time, energy & talent for free (well, at cost to them) & then simply act as if it is the expected norm.  As a friend of mine once said to me, “I only make a comment when something is wrong as there is no need to when they are getting things right.” 
  8. Create A Clique:  This relates to items 4 & 5 above.  The great thing about a closed circle of friends is that they can be trusted.  Well, perhaps more a case of at least you know them.  There is no point in falsely raising the hope of a potential newcomer, so simply let them know they are not needed by sticking to the people you already know, especially if they can further your progress & status.  It is probably best not to openly refer to the group as a clique. Terms such as ‘my circle of friends’ or ‘our club’ or ‘in this family’ or the like are much more appropriate & easier to defend.
  9. Avoid Important Subjects:  People less familiar to ourselves or who are new do not want to be engaged in meaningful or deeper conversation.  Even if they allude to it, they are simply creating a front or trying to build a bridge in. You are best to divert any such conversations to more trivial subjects.  At all costs avoid anything emotional & if they do manage to slip something into a conversation, smile, nod in a knowing manner, perhaps use words like “I understand” & then rapidly change subject or escape.
  10. Make An Instant Judgement:  The last thing many of us want is to make a reasoned judgement.  Take a look at their clothes, hairstyle, mannerisms; note their accent; note the way they stand.  You will get a truly accurate picture if you do this from a distance without even speaking to them.  If you are unwittingly engaged in conversation, look for a few key words like “I” “Today” or “Home” & draw your own conclusion. Don’t be misled by apparent emotion or by facial expressions.  Remember that the aim is to keep the group small, select & to your own advantage.  Letting just anyone in could upset the dynamic & may prove embarrassing for you if you can’t answer their questions. 
  11. Can They Help Me?:  Of paramount importance in the development of a new relationship or friendship is the question, “How will knowing this person help me?”  Relationships should not be based on what we can do for others, but on what they can do for us. Other important questions include, “Does knowing them make me look good?” “Will knowing them harm my reputation?” “Will they help me get to where I want to be?” These questions can be asked by individuals & groups as the outcome is the same.  Forget the notion that this other person may be shy, lonely or need someone to talk or relate to.  Addressing those issues can be time-consuming, messy & cost us in effort & energy.
  12. Be Full Of Good Intentions:  Sometimes we cannot escape speaking to strangers, newcomers or outsiders.  In such instances, a great tactic is to offer to meet-up, chat or help at sometime soon or in the future.  This gives us space to forget or fill our time with other things so that engaging in what we suggested cannot really happen.  We all feel much better as we have offered to help, but have been prevented from doing so by life’s circumstances getting in the way.


Many of these when practised often enough become a habit, sub-consciously ingrained in our lives.  When they become part of a group culture they lead ultimately to the destruction of that group, one way or the other.

Exactly why we do these things is a huge subject beyond the scope of this post. 

What is clear is that we almost always have a choice. Easy or hard, the majority of us can decide to change … or not. We can aim to do the opposite, create our own set of anti-tips that help people to feel included, build them up, feel valued & part of our community.

The big question is, Do we want to?

When we decide yes, we will find a way.

When we decide no, we start to dig our own grave, individually or as a group, society or team.  It is likely to be us stepping over the cliff edge as much as those we seek to exclude.

Take care until next time …

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