My mental health issues – an update


Following a difficult past week…

Small mercies for far fewer tweets from Puffles – and sleeping through George Osborne’s budget (which even the IFS said disproportionately impacted on the poor. Their full analysis is at

My parents have returned from holiday having spent 3 weeks away. The parallels with my 2012 mental health crisis are striking – in terms of impact on my mental health. In a nutshell, it’s like: “Fuck! I can’t cope with living on my own!”

The importance of sleep – and of peace of mind

In recent times I’ve become more aware of the impact that sleeplessness has on me – in particular something that makes it hard for me to a) get to sleep and b) wake up feeling rested. I can only describe it as where my body ‘forgets to breathe’. After about 30 seconds of ‘forgetting to breathe’ my brain sends what feels like an electric shock throughout my body which is its way of saying ‘You forgot to breathe.’ Now, that either makes me a New Labour MP circa 1998, or (as is more likely) a Central Sleep Apnea.

One of the things I struggled with living alone in the past is not having the peace of mind of someone else in the house while I was out. ie someone who could deal with any bad stuff from happening. In my case it was as simple as ‘Have I left the cooker on?’ or ‘Have I shut the front door properly?’ It’s one thing having what Ben Elton once described as an ‘invisible barstard’ sitting on your shoulder feeding your mind with undermining thoughts. It’s quite another when it’s there 24/7. During my 2012 mental health crisis I blogged a list of thoughts going through my mind in a 30 minute period. That’s the level of intensity I’m talking about. Hence why at times I need medication to act as a ‘mind off switch’.

Off to the doctor on Monday

In the grand scheme of things I’ve kept a distance from mental health provision locally, having not had the best experiences of it 10-12 years ago. Given how things have moved on – not least with the increased awareness & research done on all things mental health, there’s no time like now to find out what’s now available. Back in 2004 I did a number of interviews for the BBC on TV & radio about being a service user for Centre 33. I’m now too old to be a service user, but their service setup at the time was excellent for me.

Anyway, I’m off to find out if I can get a referral to a specialist sleep clinic to see if my conclusion on central sleep apnea is correct, and also to get a referral to our local mental health services team. If I can get both of those, I’ll be content.

“Why ‘content’ and not ‘happy’?”

Curse of the deep-thinker, one step at a time. There’s too much bad stuff going on in the world for me to be happy in the way I’d like to be. I wrote about this in a paper diary once, stating that such ‘happiness’ for me needed to cover four things:

  • Personal
  • Community
  • National
  • Global

At a personal level, this includes things like your own health, and a sense of both direction & stability. Some of you may have stumbled across something similar with Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Community covers relationships with other people – whether face-to-face or virtual. For the national and global, it’s not so much that we want bad stuff to stop happening, but more that we get the sense we’re working together to deal with the problems that we face – and are making sufficient progress in that. In 1997, I got a sense that we had this…and blew it.

Given where I currently am, I’m focussing on the first two. I’ve taken the view that I don’t have the spoons or the idealism to deal with big campaigns. Hence running with community film-making which has the effect of creating tools for other people to make use of. As I’ve mentioned to local party political activists, digital video is the sort of thing that can work for you ***while you are asleep***.

Having to put lots of things ‘on hold’ while my mind takes time out

My backlog of ‘stuff’ is huge – even though it’s unpaid ‘stuff’. Perhaps now’s the time for a time-out as everyone winds down for the summer. At the same time, I’m trying to use some of it as ‘learning time’ even though my attention span is even shorter than normal. Something linked to sleeplessness? ColeridgeSunriseSmall

Hence learning to take photos such as the above – though something should have told me getting up at 5:30am during a sleepless night isn’t normal. It just occurred to me that the sun was rising and the roads were going to be empty. As it turned out, Coleridge Rec was also open – hence the above photo.

Missing music

I was supposed to be singing with the Dowsing Sound Collective at Ickworth today, but there was no way I was going to be in a fit state for it today. Gutted as I was really looking forward to it. I’m hoping that what I’ve been through this week is a temporary blip – a once in a few years thing, and that I’ll be ready for the performances on 25 July – tickets here!

The gig on 25 July at St John’s College Chapel, Cambridge is going to be noticeably different to the ones at the Cambridge Corn Exchange and at The Apex in Bury St Edmunds last year. One of the reasons is when our music director Andrea Cockerton designs the set list, she has the venue in mind. So what might work in a Victorian 1,000 seat concert hall may not work in a 300 seat chapel or in a brand spanking new modern state of the art town theatre. I think the gigs (there are two performances on the day) will be great – but then I’ve got an inside view 🙂

The importance of support

It’s not gone unnoticed, & I’m incredibly grateful for the messages I’ve received from many of you in what can often feel like a very lonely battle against something inside of me.


3 thoughts on “My mental health issues – an update

  1. Sleep apnea has made my life tricky. Given up on machinery and relying on drugs. I hope that you can get over to Papworth and get at least that aspect sorted. The fewer difficulties at once the better IMHO

  2. As someone who has experienced periods of depression and anxiety over the past 8 years, I can totally sympathise. I’m certain my own breakdown 18 months ago was triggered by a week of very little sleep. Sleeplessness really does affect every facet of our physical and mental wellbeing, and I’m convinced that if you can get that right, you’ll feel a hell of a lot better. Best of luck with the sleep clinical , and keep talking and singing when you feel up to it. (I know I’m a Tuesday Dowser, but I’m always happy to chat 🙂 )

  3. Keep going. You must know that you aren’t alone. So many of us experience this in similar but different ways. Your writing is wonderful, inspiring and honest. I’m sure that you touch many with your words. Much love and hugs, hopefully when you need it most. x

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