Saturday, 17 March 2018

My Poor Brain: Spring Edition

March 2018 marks three of being drug free. Back in 2015, I stopped taking the anti-psychotic medication that had been prescribed in the wake of an overdose twelve years previously. It was a big step and one that was far out of my comfort zone.

The past three years have disappeared in a blur of putting my life back together and learning how to live. Emotions that I never knew existed have surfaced and I've faced complications that I never thought that I'd ever see. But they're all battles that are meant to be fought and won. Giving up isn't an option and, even on the darkest of days, I've tried to keep a positive attitude.

It isn't always easy, though, and there are two periods of the year when it becomes even harder to maintain that balance that I've become so used to. As autumn slides in to winter and winter slides in to spring, I've discovered that my brain becomes a little more unbalanced. One is from the days becoming shorter and the weather becoming colder and the other is as we emerge from a long, cold winter.

As winter becomes spring I find that I'm achy and tired. My body feels as though it's run out of fuel and, no matter how much goodness I give it, the exhaustion doesn't lift. There's aches and pains where I've never known aches and pains and articulating myself suddenly becomes a mountain that I can't climb. Anxiety burns through me and sleep is a memory. It's as though everything has been asleep over winter and is slowly waking up.

Which may be what's happening. This is a situation that I've found myself in a few times over the previous three years. As the seasons slide from one to the next so the human body follows. It lives by nature's clock, sleeping and awakening and sleeping again. The dark days of winter make us want to sleep while the beginnings of spring makes us feel lethargic and like we're emerging from a long hibernation.

Another theory that I've heard is that, by the end of winter, the body is running low on essential vitamins and minerals. Like squirrels, we'll have spent the months before winter stocking up on the things that will see us through the dark winter days. And, while we may take supplements to get us through the cold months, they're not always enough so, come March and April, we feel run down, tired, and grumpy. Over the winter, I take a range of vitamins including C, D, and iron, as well as using a daylight lamp in the mornings and evenings. Hopefully, this year, I may be able to also get some tests done just to see exactly what needs topping up throughout the year.

Or it may just be the way that my fabulously defective brain is wired!

So it's that time of the year again. I'm a little bit grumpy, fairly achy, and generally tired. Everything is taking longer than normal. But it's getting there, and that's all that matters. Mountains can be climbed. It just takes one step at a time.

Friday, 23 February 2018

Watch the Skies

Watch the skies.

Sky watching is something that I've always done. Fascinated with what lies beyond our own, meagre existence, I've spent hours with my eyes turned heavenwards in the hopes that the questions that roll through my mind will one day be answered.

And spread across the velvety night, things have appeared. Stars, satellites, aircraft, and a few objects that were never identified. The red star that faded to away. The clouds that had been punctured by something other than mere weather. The flicker of light that was neither plane nor satellite. The metallic orb that lazily drifted across the heavens only to disappear in the blink of an eye. The pair of lights that spent three nights dancing above my house.

My fascination with the skies started young. I found myself immersed in the world of the extraterrestrial from the time that I was able to wield a library card. Books that would be classed as out of my reading range were sneaked in to the house and hidden under pillows and behind toys. There was that burning desire to know whether we were alone in the universe and what, if anything, was visiting us.

The stories that were told in those early books were full of fascination, wonder and, to some degree, a little bit of terror. They spoke of incidents that had happened many years before my birth and had photographs of crafts that were supposedly from other worlds.

As I hit my teenage years, I lapped up episodes of the X-Files and signed up to SETI. In more recent years, I've come in to contact with people who, like myself, are also searching for answers but keeping a healthy sense of skepticism in their lives (it's good to ask questions but don't fall too far down the rabbit hole). One of them treated me to a care package from Roswell and it's no accident that I named my publishing company Roswell Publishing.

A few years ago, I wanted to go back to a prominent time in UFO lore. During World War II, mysterious balls of light were seen flying alongside fighter aircraft. This didn't just happen once; it happened numerous times and, for me, is one of our biggest UFO incidents. The balls of light appeared to be under intelligent control and were believed to be either St Elmo's fire or one of the German army's many wonder weapons. Yet there is very little information on the subject and what literature there is has been buried because the term that was given to these balls of light was lifted from a book and used.

Foo fighters.

I wonder how many articles begin with a variation of that paragraph?!

Tweaked search terms yielded some results. But, sooner or later, you'd hit a brick wall and find yourself reading about the band. It was frustrating and eventually I found myself going down a different road, one that I never imagined that I'd take.

My bookshelves are now lined with books on UFOlogy and my iPad has apps to help me identify aircraft and satellites. Every night I still go outside and take a look at the sky above me.

I did write a book in the end. It just happens to be about Foo Fighters, the band and not foo fighters, the aerial phenomenon. It'll be out later this year.

Maybe, just maybe, this is where the path that I started walking when I was six years old was supposed to take me...

Sunday, 14 January 2018

The Time That I Tried to Buy a Nuclear Bunker

Let's talk about the mania part of bipolar. It's interesting and, at times, can be useful. I've written entire books while in the throes of a manic period. Once harnessed, it can be a force for good, and a ride that you don't particularly want to get off of.

Then there's the really crazy times. I know people who've blown through money with nothing to show at the end of it. Or who have gotten themselves into life threatening situations. Thankfully I'm still here to tell the tale but there was the time that I tried to buy a nuclear bunker. You didn't misread that.

I tried to buy a nuclear bunker.

They're not hard to get hold of if you have buckets of cash and live in certain parts of the world. The issue is that I don't have buckets of cash, nor do I have the right to buy property in places like the US (and the other issue is that I have no right to remain there, which kind of defeats the object of such a lavish purchase).

But you can't tell that to a manic brain. As far as it's concerned, it can have whatever it wants and the consequences will be dealt with later. Why did it want a nuclear bunker? Why not? It was one of the many supposedly rational things that my brain told me that I needed.

Please laugh. Because I do. I'd end up in hospital if I didn't laugh at some of the completely ridiculous things that surround the bipolar.

The mania can be amazing. But it also comes with its downsides. Like the aches and pains as it wears off. There's no concrete reasoning for them and theories range from the body tensing up during the period to lack of sleep caused by an ever active brain to the body dumping the excess chemicals that it's created during that period. All I know is that it hurts. And you don't want to do a damn thing during it.

Mania can feel like this!
Anxiety is another side effect. Crippling, uncontrollable and unfounded anxiety. Because of my reluctance to take any medication (I'll be off them 3 years this year) I have to rely on talking myself out of it, reasoning, or using natural over the counter products (Bach's Rescue Remedy is a saviour during these times). But the anxiety is something that can last for months with no rhyme or reason to it, causing untold anguish and additional physical pain.

But I'm blessed. Blessed to have family and friends who will go out of their way to make sure that everything's okay and to talk me into situations that are entirely safe but, to my brain, are life or death events. I know that not everyone has such a support system so we need to look out for one another. We need to take care of each other and make sure that everyone has a place to feel safe and supported. Please don't go through it alone.

Sunday, 24 December 2017

A Very Merry Christmas

Christmas has rolled around once more. Where have the past twelve months gone?! It only feels like yesterday when we were all hanging decorations, writing cards, and wrapping gifts for Christmas 2016.

2017 has been a strange year, one of ups and downs. Things that we thought would happen haven't come to fruition while some far off dreams have become reality. Some of us are still battling to get to where we want to be while friends and family have far surpassed their dreams and are heading for the stars. We sit and watch them, smiling as they achieve all that their hearts desire.

Amid it all, we've watched as the world has changed beyond our dreams and nightmares. Political powers have risen and are battling it out with one another, putting our safety at risk. Companies have fallen because of corrupt and unethical ways. New ways of living are being developed and we find ourselves staring at the beginning of a new, technological revolution.

What will 2018 bring? More of the same instability? Or something a little more settled? The past three or four years have felt as though we've been in a snowglobe that is randomly picked up and shaken. None of us know where we're going to land nor what is going to happen next. We just hold on and hope that whatever is coming will be better, happier, and bring peace to the world around us. The pain for many people has been unimaginable and the hardships tougher than anything we could have dreamed off. In the end, we have to believe that maybe these events are occurring in order to teach us something about ourselves and the world that we live in.
What kind of world do we want? Do we want one where the power is in the hands of a few unstable and megalomanic people? Or one where worry doesn't perpetually live in our hearts?

This Christmas may be harder for some people because of the impact that the world is having on them. They may not feel like being around people, nor be in a particularly festive mood. They may be tired, or just feeling the strain of the past year. If there's someone you think of over the festive period, drop the message, even to just say hello.

Hopefully 2018 will see us in a much better place. Hopefully the wrongs will right themselves and the rights will become reality. Whatever you're doing over the coming days, may your days be merry and bright and may your 2018 be filled with all the joys that you wish for!

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

What Makes a Fan?

Photo: Sarah:

What makes a fan? Is it someone who spends thousands of pounds a year on their favourite band and goes to see twenty shows? Or is it someone who never sees a live show yet quietly appreciates an artist? Is it someone who is actively involved in a band's fandoms? Or someone who sits somewhere in the middle, never really participating but wanting to be a part of it all the same?

There's no definite answer to what makes a fan, nor should there be. As anyone who loves an artist knows, circumstances differ from one person to the next. Some people have the energy and resources to spend several weeks following a band. For others, anxiety, lack of money, or their location may stop them from attending live shows.

Photo: Bantam10

One of the reasons that I wrote the fan book was to explore the sense of community that springs up around bands. From the local guys playing bars on a Saturday night to the bands hammering away at sold out stadium shows, someone, somewhere will love what they do. And the communities that spring up around them are incredibly important. Not just for sharing news but for the support that they bring to those who reside within them. Support that includes shoulders to lean on during the tougher times of life as well as love and laughter for when things are going well.

People gravitate towards these communities for a variety of reasons, and the internet has made it far easier for us to find those who resonate with us no matter what our circumstances. Our own, local, communities may hold nothing for us and finding a support network can be hard at the best of times. The internet allows us to remain anonymous while also building up friendships with those who share our interests and passions.

As for the communities that surround the Foo Fighters, a quick search of somewhere like Facebook throws up a myriad of meeting areas from the large Foo Family groups to smaller, more niche ones which focus on everything from hotel shares to dating to news pages. All of them are interconnected, not just physically by the people who are in them but also by their love of the same band. It's a world that can, on one hand seem very tiny but, on the other, feel as though it goes on forever. And, like any community, it's moving from being an online village to a sprawling digital city with an ever-growing population.

For me, I found a home among the Foos community. At the time, it was a home that I didn't realise that I needed, nor wanted, and from which I'd constantly try and leave. But it was one that drew me in, one that was filled with the kind of fun, laughter, and love that I'd spent a good deal of time looking for. And, while I might not be the most active, or most talkative, of members I still enjoy the company and camaraderie of those that I meet. In an age where the internet can bring about a great deal of loneliness, these pockets of music fans have proved that they can also be a haven for those who are seeking a place to call home.  

Thursday, 16 November 2017

The Waves of Inspiration

Where does inspiration come from?

It's one of those questions that so many people ask themselves. Inspiration is a strange creature, one that comes and goes in the depths of the night or the wee hours of the morning. A sudden flicker of an image can spark an entire novel. The sound of a long forgotten song can trigger a wave of frenzied creativity.

Inspiration is all around us. From the brilliantly bright colours of autumn to the dull moments when we allow our mind to drift off to unseen worlds. Catching that inspiration doesn't take any kind of knack. There's no tricks to finding it. The only thing you need to engage are your senses.

Look around yourself. What do you see? What do you smell? What do you hear? What's sitting beneath your fingers?

What do you have hanging on your walls? What do you see out of the window? What does the sky look like?

All are questions that we can ask ourselves in the eternal question for that (sometimes) elusive spark of inspiration. In those moments of darkness when nothing seems possible, it can be a simple questions which triggers the outpouring of words on to paper, or art on to canvas, or music on to tape.

For me, it's photographs that get my creative juices flowing. I can spend hours searching through archives for that one perfect image that will help me to express what I want to say. Social media, Imgur, Getty Images, Shutterstock, and a host of other sites can transport you to anywhere in the world (or off it) and to any kind of situation require. It's like piecing together a giant puzzle, one that will eventually tell a story.

For others, music does the trick. Scanning through liner notes, hearing the crackle of a needle against a record, or taking in the smell of a used record store can trigger what they need in order to delve in to the depths of their minds and retrieve the emotions that they need to create.

For those of us who are currently experiencing winter, inspiration can be hard to find. The long nights and the cold, sometimes sunless, days can drain an energy that we have. Yet it's important to continue creating, even when we don't feel up to it. Creativity is a way to push through some of the more sombre, and often depressing, feelings that we encounter during winter. Losing yourself in another world, even for a few moments, can help to alleviate cold, dark months.

Whatever you use to inspire you, use it well. Spread it around like glitter and make the world a better place one piece of art at a time.

If you're stuck for inspiration, please feel free to visit my page. There you'll find posts that will hopefully help you to find the spark of creativity that you need.

Sunday, 29 October 2017


Watching the #MeToo campaign over the past few weeks has been painful. Seeing the stories of sexual harassment from so many other people makes you realise that you're not alone in this world and just how widespread the issue is.

#MeToo was started over ten years ago by actress Tarana Burke and has gained traction in the past month due to the ongoing confessions of celebrities who've been attacked or assaulted. Those two words have spread like wildfire, opening a can of worms that no one thought existed.

Except that we, deep down, we knew that the unopened can was there. We knew that buried deep within the confines of every industry there's a black hole of sexual assaults, rapes, and misogynistic behaviour. For so long we've chosen not to speak its name for fear of being ridiculed, shamed, or fired. We've feared for our lives, our families, and our security. Speaking out doesn't pay the bills. Staying silent does.

#MeToo – I've been followed through towns and cities more times than I can count.

#MeToo – I had a stalker for 6 years. He would travel hundreds of miles to stand outside my house and follow me. Wouldn't take no for an answer. The police didn't want to know until he hurt me. Yet if I lashed out at him I'd be the one getting arrested. My family eventually had to tell him that I was dead in order to get him to leave me alone.

#MeToo – The man who insisted on grabbing me every day on my way to work. The police took me seriously and the man was arrested.

#MeToo – The complete stranger who grabbed and choked me at a concert.

#MeToo – I was drugged and raped when I was 19.

There are so many people who are hurting right now. There are so many people who are still scared to step forward. Wherever you are, don't be afraid. Everyone is here for you. They will support you and love you and hold your pain. They will be there for you during your darkest moments. They will encourage you to step forward and tell your story. They will walk with you through whatever comes next. We are there for one another. We have to be because without an army of brave women and men nothing will change.

The time for change has come. This change has been brewing for many years and it's now time to storm the castle and drag these people from their ivory towers to face the justice that's long been denied to the victims. For so long they've threatened to blacklist and finish those that they've abused, using the power that they know they wield in order to keep the victims quiet.

No more. This can no longer happen. It's time for that power to be removed from them and returned to those who've lived through decades of pain. It's time for them to fear for all that they've accumulated through intimidation and threats. It's time for changes to sweep through these industries and for transparency and morals to take over. It's time for the climate of fear to become a climate of hope. No more should anyone have to fear for their security, life, or family because they were wronged by someone else.

Stand strong, my friends, for you are helping others to do the same.