Sunday, 8 October 2017

The Sun Will Rise Again

Depression is a killer. Literally. It's an all encompassing force which takes over your brain and ravages every part of your life. Darkness that falls over your eyes and clouds your vision, forcing you in to perpetual exhaustion but refusing to let you sleep. Trying to fight it can leave you even more tired and the will to live begins to fade.

It's the least wonderful time of the year again, a period when the days shorten and the air cools. It's a time when we're supposed to rest and hibernate in readiness for the coming spring. As much as you may want to sleep away the winter, life dictates that you must continue.

Over the past few weeks, I've been trying to yank myself away from the clutches of this illness. I knew that it was coming so have taken the usual precautions and stocked up on vitamin D and daylight bulbs. But it still manages to creep in and wrap its hands around your soul. All of the joy that you've been feeling all year slowly ebbs away and leaves you as a blackened husk. You know that the changes are happening and you try to fight them. But sooner or later, all you can do is give in.

Depression changes people. Their behaviours and mannerisms change. I end up isolating myself because I know that I'm not the person I was a few weeks previously. Something's changed inside of me. I'm bitter and angry, sometimes from exhaustion, sometimes from the things that are happening around us. We live in a world that doesn't changes in the brain. These are illnesses that are still seen as a non-illness because there's no physical evidence. Yet, if you asked the family and friends of someone who lives with depression, they'd be able to tell you every single physical change that they see in those who are affected.

In times like these, the smallest thing can trigger a wave of grief. However, the smallest thing can also help to alleviate the pain, if only for a moment. Staying strong while life is threatening to drag you under is hard and we have to constantly remind ourselves that calm returns once the storm has passed. Fighting against it is one of the best things that you can do.

“No matter what happens, the sun will rise in the morning.” - Barack Obama

Sunday, 24 September 2017

Ticket Touts Start to Get Their Comeuppance

Three years ago, a group of fans in the UK launched a Kickstarter campaign in order to raise awareness on the issues surrounding concert tickets. Primarily they were going after the ticket touts, a business that had grown from a man hawking second hand tickets outside a concert venue to a multi-billion pound industry that involved sophisticated computer programs.

On September 19th 2017, they saw some results from their campaign when a Foo Fighters concert at the O2 in London descended in to chaos. The O2 have been criticized for partnering with a secondary ticket seller. The O2's website links with StubHub were disabled at the request of the band

When tickets went on sale in June 2017, official sellers warned buyers that they would need to bring photo ID to the show. This is a warning that has been issued for years and one which many venues have never instated. It's also never stopped the secondary sellers from snapping up entire blocks of tickets in the hopes of selling them on for a profit.

Foo Fighters, along with the fans, have tried a number of ways in recent years to help combat the issue of ticket touts. In 2014, they had fans queue at local venues to buy tickets. This year they've implemented the photo ID policy and are having a release delay on tickets (Tickets can be purchased on the day of release but they won't be posted or emailed to buyers until several months later).

At the September show, the band asked that the photo ID rule be implemented. O2 complied with this and hundreds were turned away because their tickets had been bought from secondary sites thus meaning that the names on the tickets didn't match.

However, it also seems as though the ID rule was taken to the extreme. Initially it seemed as though only the lead booker (person whose name appeared on the tickets) needed identification. There was at least one story of a group who were turned away because only the lead booker had ID. They were told that everyone in their party would need to have some form of photographic identification in order for them to get in. Others were stopped because of minor spelling mistakes in their names (Q being substituted for A etc).

The tabloid media were quick to jump on the band and blame them for the chaos. However, from reading news reports and fan stories, it looks as though the venue's security were told to push the rule to the limit.

Dave has now confirmed that the photo ID policy will be in place at all of their shows (apologies for the TMZ link).

If you were affected on Tuesday, there's some fantastic advice over at on how to claim your money back.

If you are going to a Foo Fighters show this year, make sure that everyone in your party has their ID with them. In the UK acceptable forms of photo ID tend to be a driver's license or passport (make sure that they're in date before you go.). If you don't have either forms of ID, look at applying for a Citizen Card which is a UK photographic ID card. However, please check with the venue before you use this as each venue's rules may be different (the website does say that this card is endorsed by the Home Office and police and can be used aboard domestic flights). You may also be able to use work IDs as long as they have a photo on them. Again, please check with the venue before you and, if you can, get their confirmation of your ID being valid for them in writing (and then take that email with you just in case).

Buy your tickets from official retailers only. The bands will provide a list of these when they release their tour dates. If you find yourself on StubHub, Viagogo, or GetMeIn, you're not on an official retailer. Those are secondary ticket sites and those tickets run the risk of being turned away at the gate. Unfortunately, there are hundreds of secondary ticket sites out there with new ones appearing every day. If you're unsure whether you're on an official site or not, stop and check. Normally you can tell by the price of the tickets. If they have several different prices for the same section, chances are it's a secondary site.

My original posts from three years ago can be found here.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Finding the Motivation to Write

Sometimes it's not the lack of inspiration that can trip us up when it comes to writing. Instead, a lack of motivation can stall us. Every day tasks – cleaning, washing, cooking – can throw us for a loop and kill that desire to want to sit down and create. We feel worse because of it, as though there's a blockage deep inside of us that needs to be cleared but can't because we're tired, or busy, or otherwise obligated to do other things.

Like any kind of passion, writing is something that needs to be practised frequently. Without it, those metaphorical muscles that we've spent so long developing begin to weaken. One of the most important things is to just write. Something as small as writing a shopping list or keeping some kind of journal can help to keep the writing muscles strong.

A change of location can also be a key factor in kickstarting your motivation. Often, when we're at home, we can find a million and one reasons to not sit down and concentrate. The laundry needs doing, the cat needs feeding, the dog wants walking, the dishes in the sink aren't going to wash themselves, email needs checking. We become overwhelmed and the easiest thing to do is to ignore that grinding desire in our soul to create. So we do the other things (Or not, depending on your mood). Try going somewhere and sitting for a while. A local coffee shop, a nearby church, the park up the road. Even the local train station is a good place to just sit and wait. Hopefully it won't be long before the desire to pull out a notebook hits.

Carry a notebook and pen wherever you go. Or leave one beside the bed and jot down ideas just before you go to sleep. Often the motivation will hit just as we're relaxing. When we're in a constant state of looking for what to do next, our brain finds it more difficult to settle and do what we love the most.

Sometimes finding creative ways to work writing in to your day may also help. A laundry cycle can take over an hour so make a drink, sit down, and let your brain wander to those far away places. Finding a few minutes in an otherwise busy day to sit and write can seem like a challenge but it can be done. Ten minutes here and there is all it needs before something finally clicks and you find that spark to power you along.

When your motivation is lacking it can feel like an uphill struggle to regain it. But you can. It's just finding that one thing, or that one block of time, when it'll just click back in to place for you. But don't give up and keep on trying. You've got this!

Saturday, 12 August 2017

The Desire to Create

The desire to create lives within the souls of millions of people. From photographs to music to paintings to literature, and a wealth of beauty in between, that need to do something can be painful. It's a pain that lives deep within a person, a knot that won't go away until something is done. Once the paintbrush is picked up, or the pen is put to paper, the ache begins to dull, fading to a dull throb. The ache remains like that while the creator is doing what they need to do. Once they leave that beautiful place, they find the pain returning, only to die down once they're back doing what they're called to do.

I felt like that for a long time. This summer has been the first one in four or five years that I've been able to sit back and enjoy. I haven't been desperately trying to get something started. I haven't felt like I'm racing against a mythical countdown that I only I can sense. For the first time in a long time, I feel a sense of peace and completion, as though that clock has, for the moment, either stopped or paused. To be able to relax and breathe has been a blessing this summer.

I've enjoyed the sun. I've spent time in the garden. I've delighted in walking among the trees. I've explored new places and drank in the warm air of a summer's evening. For now, it's nice to rest and relax and not have to worry about creating. While the sun still burns high in the sky, creating can take a back seat.

And it's been good for me on a creative level, too. Seeing the world through fresh eyes has allowed me to see old projects through fresh eyes, too. It's allowed me to make notes on other projects that I'd like to begin, or to branch out and start dabbling on those projects that I swear I'll do if only I had the time. But, for the past three years, my mind has been focused on that perpetually ticking clock, the clock which has pushed and pushed me to do something. Now I feel that I have done that something and I can do other things while publishers decide where its new home will be.

Whenever that urge hits, follow it. Create something beautiful and don't stop until it's finished. Put it out in to the world and see what happens. You never know what will happen when you pick up a pen, or a paintbrush, or a guitar, and do something amazing.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Light Up The Darkness

Another bright left has been extinguished. Chester Bennington, singer for Linkin Park, passed away on 20th July 2017. Cause of death – Depression.

We need to start being more open about mental health. For some reason we keep it a secret as though we must not speak of an illness that only shows its face in those final, painful moments.

Why do we keep mental health hidden? Why do we fear it? Because it cannot be seen? Yet there are many invisible illnesses that are accepted and spoken about without the level of Victorian-esque fear that mental health seems to inspire. It almost feels as though we still live in an age where any of us may become a spectacle in an asylum.

But mental health has come so far since those dark days of Bedlam. No longer must we live in fear that we're going to be a person who is scorned or ridiculed. No longer are we going to be paraded for the entertainment of others. Those days are gone. Finished. Over.

Yes, mental health care is still lacking in so many parts of the world. But there is help. And there is hope. We may look at social media as a burden yet, in this day and age, we are only a few key strokes away from asking for help. No one knows who they're linked to until they ask. No one knows what the hive mind of the internet can turn up. You don't have to suffer alone any more.

You don't have to suffer.

You don't have to suffer.

You don't have to suffer.

We are all here for one another, here to support, and to love, and to care. These illnesses, the ones that drive us to the depths of wanting to end our lives, don't need to hide in the darkness any more. It's time for them to be visible. It's time for them to speak their names. It's time for them to stop pushing people in to the shadows for fear that others will humiliate them for daring to say, “I don't feel well.”.

You are not alone. And you are precious. You are loved. You are beautiful. We live in a world that wants to push us in to those shadows, that wants us to hate ourselves because we're not “perfect”, that wants us to disappear because we don't fit into a mould.

Every one of us was born to be different. We weren't born to all look the same, or act the same, or think the same. You are amazing just the way you are. It's time for us to start accepting ourselves as we are and to stop beating ourselves up because we're different from what the world expects us to be. You, and your brain, are exactly where you're supposed to be right now. Time flies and, two years from now, all could be different. Hang on. Keep breathing. Keep living. Don't give up.

Don't ever give up.

Don't ever give up.

Don't ever give up.

You are worth so much more than deciding to step away now. Your thoughts, your ideas, your beauty, everything that makes you you is destined to be here right now. You are destined to be here. There's a reason for you living in this moment and it's not to step away. You are not a burden. You are not worthless. You are not useless. You are not nothing. You are someone.

You are a relative, a lover, a friend, a colleague, an internet chat friend, a social media commentator, a video creator, a blogger, an artist, a friendly face on a dark day. To someone, somewhere, you are something. You may not know it right now, but you are.

You are more than the darkness. 

Saturday, 17 June 2017

In Time of Pain and Grief

Today I wanted to write about positive thinking. But I can't. Not today.

For those living in the UK, it's been a hard month. On 22nd May, a suicide bomber entered the Manchester Evening News Arena and killed twenty two people. Less than two weeks later, attackers killed eight people on and around London Bridge. And less than two weeks after that came the horrifying and unforgivable fire at Grenfell Tower in London which has left countless dead and many more homeless and displaced. Amid it all is a tinder-dry political situation, a situation that, with the current climate in the UK, is threatening to become an unstoppable wave of rage and anger.

In times like these, we often wonder what's happening to us and the world that we live in. As we endure the pain of loss and grief we know that, elsewhere in the world, similar horrors are occurring and our hearts ache for those caught up in these global atrocities.

As we grieve we look to those round us for comfort. Family, friends, co-workers, and strangers in the street become sounding boards for the pain that we're feeling. Communities come together to support those who are suffering and to provide a central place for those who can lend a helping hand.

Often, in the wake of such events, life can seem fragile and meaningless. We can debate why we're here and whether our efforts to improve life, whether for ourselves or others, is worth it. Why continue when the heartache is so great? Why carry on when someone will come and tear it apart? Why carry on when no one is listening?

Why should we carry on? Because it's what we need to do. We need to help to rebuild the lives of those affected. We need to be there to support one another. We need to come up with solutions to stop such incidents from happening again. We need to help strengthen each other's voices. We need to carry on and create that beautiful and peaceful world that so many of us so desperately want, a world that is filled with compassion, empathy, love, and peace.

Grieve for those who have passed and support those who are left behind. Lay flowers. Light candles. Cry. Grieve. Get angry. Be with the people that you love. Give your time to those who need your help. If you need help, find someone to talk to. Create. Connect. Rebuild.

Like a phoenix, great things can come from the ashes of devastation.  

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Dear Beautiful You

Photo by Leland Francisco

Dear Beautiful You,

Life may seem hard at the moment but please know that it isn't always like this.

You are here for a reason. You are here to do amazing things and to see a world that is as beautiful as you are.

You are worth more than what your brain, or your environment, is telling you that you are. The things that you have to offer the world are far greater than you can imagine.

You, and your flaws, are beautiful, and always have been. Don't let anyone tell you any differently.

Reach out to those around you; your friends, your family, strangers on Facebook, someone on the end of the phone. There is someone, out there in the great ether, who is ready to listen and to take some of the burden from you.

You may feel as though life is crushing you to the point of no return but don't allow it to do that. There is more to this world than the darkness that encompasses you. Many before you have passed through those dark moments and gone on to live great and wonderful lives. You're here, in the now, and able to join them.

Join them on amazing journeys. Create incredible art. Sing like no one's listening. Dance like no one's watching. Laugh until your body aches. Sleep for as long as you so wish. Watch that movie you've been intending to watch. Read the book that's been sitting by your bedside for the past six months. Eat the chocolate that's in your fridge.

There is more to life than what you're seeing and feeling right now. The darkness may be trying to drag you under. But once the storm has passed, you will be free once more.

Help is there for you. Help is always there. If you're too tired to reach for it yourself, ask someone to do it for you. There will be someone, maybe a friend, maybe a stranger, who will do what you are too tired to do and help to put you on to a path of healing.

You are not alone in this world. There are so many others who, just like you, think that the darkness will never lift. Find one another. Embrace each other. Talk. Work through the darkness together and banish the loneliness that encompasses your soul.

Don't listen to the naysayers. Don't listen to those who tell you that there is only one way of healing. There are many ways and you will find one that works for you. Maybe it'll be on the first attempt. Maybe it'll be on the tenth attempt. But you'll find a way to ease the aches and pains of an unforgiving mind.

You, my darling, are so very brave. For every day you wake up to battle the demons that left you so very tired the night before. Keep on fighting, for your battle is an inspiration to so many people around you.

Life does get better. It may not seem like it now but it will. Rest your weary soul and look through the darkness to find the light of hope.

Because there is always hope.

There is always hope.