My Last Troll

The majority of my readers are delightful people; they like and comment and follow and post interesting and insightful thoughts. If they disagree, they do so respectfully and politely. But every so often I get a troll. They often start off quite pleasantly, just making one or two points on which they differ from me, but as soon as I start engaging with them they become ruder and ruder until finally their posts consist of nothing but insults. The last one who did this was blocked, though not as soon as he ought to have been (so far I’m pretty sure they’ve all been male) though as I’ve just discovered in the trash folder, he carried on commenting and trying to get me to react for about a year.

Actually reading through all his comments I found myself in tears… of laughter. Like the death of Little Nell they were so ridiculous that I actually found them funny. I’m not going to repeat any of them but I think it’s real progress that they made me laugh instead of getting to me. Because that is the point: to get to you. It’s not about what the comments say, it’s about that person trying to get under your skin in any way they can; to undermine, to pour scorn and loathing and vitriol and keep pouring it until (they hope) you just give up.

It’s my theory (and OH’s) that trolls are generally people with impossibly high standards. I always check out my followers and invariably these trolls don’t have a blog or website of their own with any content on it at all, because they’re afraid to put themselves out there. And because they’re afraid they envy anyone who has the guts to do this; and because they envy us they try to bring us down.

In the early days of this blog I was terrified that as soon as I expressed an opinion I would get a load of criticism from all sides. But that never happened, and over time I’ve learned to handle people disagreeing (so long as they do so respectfully). What took me longer to learn was zero tolerance of rudeness; I put up with it for far too long. All of which links to…

Mental health. This was going to be my main topic but I went off on one. Thankfully it is much more acceptable to talk about mental health nowadays than it was in my youth; although when people say ‘I’ve got mental health’ I always have to stop myself from saying ‘congratulations’ and asking how they managed it. What they mean, of course, is ‘I’ve got mental health problems’ and that is an area I know something about. I know depression and I know psychosis, and right now – whether it’s the hot weather or just a burst of energy or something else – I can feel psychosis nudging at my elbow. What does it feel like? I’ve learned to recognise the signs now, so it doesn’t generally sweep over me. This can be terrifying. The best way I can explain it is like an old-fashioned swirly ‘dissolve’ on TV which they used to indicate a dream or the passing of time (I don’t know what it’s called so I can’t find any videos of it.) Anyway, it feels like that; you’re just walking along and suddenly everything goes swirly and you lose hold on reality. It’s very frightening. I think mental health is very relevant to trolls; I’m not saying they’re all mentally ill but a healthy person does not spend their time trying to bring others down. I’m tempted to write a poem now in the style of Browning’s My Last Duchess:

That’s my last troll up there on the wall

looking as if he were alive…

Kirk out

Spiders in the Night…

What is it about spiders? Is it that the ‘elbows’ go above the body? Is it the number of legs? Is it the sheer speed of their movement? Or is it the terrible beady eyes? Whatever it may be, a spider is a scary thing. But whereas there are some truly terrifying spiders in some parts of the world: the Mexican jumping spider which is horrific to behold (are they Mexican? Or have I mixed that up with beans?) and the funnel web spider, so deadly that the joke used to be that it was called a fff, because once it bit you all you could say was ‘I’ve been bitten by a ffff…’ in this country there’s no need to be afraid of spiders. Yet still they remain a potent symbol of threat.

I’ve managed to teach myself to be around arachnids, thanks in part to OH who thinks they’re awesome and sweet; also thanks to the application of yoga philosophy, yet on occasion they will haunt my dreams. This morning I woke at five from a vivid dream involving pale brown spiders that could fly. They weren’t terribly big and didn’t actually bite me but just flew around being generally menacing like Hell’s Angels circling a pub on a Saturday night.

So I awoke feeling strange and wobbly, in that place where I know psychosis is lurking ready to pull the ground from under me. At such times it is important to reconnect with reality; to feel your feet on the ground and the air in your lungs; to tell yourself ‘I am here.’ But at five in the morning it’s hard to tell dreams from reality. Am I a writer living in the Midlands, England who dreamed of spiders from Mars? Or am I a Martian spider dreaming of living in the Midlands?

In other news, my long-awaited book came yesterday and I dived right in. Girl, Woman, Other is so far pretty good and vastly different from what I’ve been reading lately. I’ll post a review when I’m done.

That’s all folks. Stay safe out there – the virus isn’t done with us yet,,..

Kirk out

How Much is That Thingy in the Window?

Things are becoming very Thingish nowadays. We say to each other, ‘is that a Thing?’ meaning, ‘is that a cultural phenomenon/extant object/recognised custom?’ We package stuff; ‘reify’ it, make it into a Thing with a use value and an exchange value, so that it can take its place in the marketplace of Things. We don’t just assemble objects, we ‘curate’ them because ‘curating’ is a Thing. We don’t just have experiences, we have ‘issues’ or, if they’re more intense, ‘mental health issues’, because these are things.

Anyway, to cut to the chase (that’s another Thing) in searching for a Viz cartoon I came across a post from 2008. I’d not long started this blog when I was plunged into a period of psychosis that lasted three months. Psychosis is defined as being out of touch with reality as it is usually experienced and in touch with a different reality – at least, that’s a non-judgmental way of putting it.

So what happened? Basically the menopause happened. I was expecting it of course, but I’d anticipated hot flushes, night sweats, all that sort of thing. Then one night it hit me with no warning: I woke up in the early hours with a strong desire to meditate. From then on I found myself waking up at three or four o’clock every morning to meditate and believing that in meditation I was in contact with Someone (the Someone was an actual human being but we’d never met.) At three a m I’d be ecstatic, high as a kite; then I’d go back to bed and sleep. But the corollary was that in the afternoon I’d come crashing down to earth with a deep depression. This cycle went on for three months and I could no more stop it than I could stop the sun rising and setting.

Eventually it slowed and faded – but it never completely went away, and even today I get moments of it. They’re almost like an attack of faintness, except they’re mental not physical events. Momentarily I lose everything: my sense of myself, all idea of what and where I am and what the hell I’m doing. It’s like the earth moving under you (and not in a good way). It’s frightening.

Anyway, here’s the original post, which includes some strategies which worked for me.

Kirk out

Crazy Crones Unite

OK that’s enough: I’ve started fighting back now.  I’ve inaugurated a group on Facebook for menopausal and post-menopausal women to share their experiences because, in my view, there’s not nearly enough of This Sort of Thing going on: women exist in isolation, struggling with menopausal symptoms and we need a forum for sharing them.  I thought I was going completely mad when I started Changing, and had I known how common it is to suffer psychosis and short-term memory loss during this period, I wouldn’t have felt half so frightened.  I don’t know what the solution is – but I do know that knowledge is power, so if you are – or think you are – in that category, send me a friend request on Facebook and I’ll add you.  The group is called Crazy Crones.

Good title, eh?

Yesterday I scavenged some wood from round the back of our house.  This is a useful place for picking up and depositing stuff: it’s a disused garage with a space in front where, if you put out dead electrical goods, some mysterious people in a van will come and take them before you can get to the shops and back, and where people also tend to deposit old furniture and wood.  Now, normally I’m against This Sort of Thing as it’s unsightly and untidy, but it can be very useful to trawl the neighbourhood scavenging wood and other things you need.  Last week I found a perfectly good chair in someone’s front yard which I brought home, cleaned with alcohol and polish, and then sat on.  There’s nothing whatever wrong with it, and it’s a very useful addition to our household.  So in connection with thinking of ways to live without money, this stuff is all relevant.

But! this morning my thoughts were taken up with K. Stuart Hart.  And who is K Stuart Hart? I hear you cry.  Well, I don’t – but you know what I mean.  K Stuart Hart (I never found out what the K stood for, unless it was ‘Knighthood’) was my piano teacher.  A well-known figure in the area, he taught piano to just about every middle-class child in West London and was regarded by most with affection and respect.  He was very definitely ‘old-school’, though gentle with it, and he got on a lot better with girls than with boys as, being a man of short stature, he felt inferior to most other males.  I liked him a lot and he taught me a great deal: however, one thing he never managed to teach me was how to sight-read.  I can’t help wondering if nowadays this would be regarded as some kind of learning difficulty – because, just as knowing the alphabet is not the same as being able to read, so it is that I know how to read music; I know which notes are which and what all the little dots and squiggles mean, but I just can’t look at a piece of music and play it.  My sight-reading is painful, to say the least – and it was only due to my great skill in aural work that I was able to pass my piano exams at all.  On the other hand, once I’ve learned a piece of music I can play it from memory years later – yesterday I was playing a few pieces of Bach which I learned about 10 years ago and last looked at probably five years ago.

Yes!  Apparently it’s called ‘dysmusia’ and there’s an article about it here, though I can’t read it:;jsessionid=A998C597284BCBCF9252175A94A4CF60.journals?fromPage=online&aid=2067

Kirk out

Onward and Upward?

Here’s an insight into the mad, mad world of Mark.  He was on Facebook where someone had said that the direction of evolution is forward.  ‘I mean, what the hell?’ he said.

I looked at him, puzzled.  ‘Mark, that’s a perfectly normal idea!’ I said.  ‘Most people think we are more advanced than the apes.  And so do I.’

‘But we can’t climb trees!’ he objected.

‘No.  I’m not saying some things aren’t lost in the process.  But most people would think that the general tendency of evolution is forward – or upward, or onward – or whatever.’

‘Really?’ he said.  ‘But what about creodonts?’

Some days I don’t know what planet that man is on.  And no, I don’t know what a creodont is either – and I wouldn’t give him the satisfaction of asking.

OK.  I will acknowledge that the idea of evolution being ‘ever upwards and onwards’ might be rather simplistic, and that some good species and good ‘ideas’ might have been lost along the way: I also see that the idea of progress can be handily linked to a belief in unfettered capitalism – though I suggest that link is more tenuous.*  But why should it seem strange to Mark that most people think this way?

That man is weird.

And speaking of weird, here’s a really good Horizon programme looking into climate change and its effects world-wide: it’s called ‘Global Weirding.

Bong!  In other news, I’ve started a group on Facebook for post- and peri-menopausal women to share their experiences.  Long-time readers of this blog may remember I went a little strange when it hit me – but my experience would have been a whole lot easier if I’d known how common it was to suffer memory loss and psychosis.  Hence the group: it’s called Crazy Crones.  If you want to join, just send me a friend request on Facebook.

And finally – are we Becoming a More Cruel Society?

I am getting some thoughts together on this theme for the next Drink and Think.  If you have any ideas please comment below.  Are we becoming a more cruel society?  What do you think?

Oops.  The post’s just come and with it probably the letter from the bank I was dreading.

Nope.  We live to fight another day…

Kirk out

* or ‘missing’, LOL

Advantages of STML

I’ve had short-term memory loss now for about five years – as far as I can remember – and although it seems to be getting better, recovery is very slow.  It started in 2008 when the menopause set in but it took me a while to figure out what was happening: I would find myself somewhere in Leicester with no idea of how to get where I was going.  I have lived in Leicester for 25 years, and the experience of losing all the maps in my head was very scary.  I could see an image of where I was coming from – and an image of the place I was going to, but the area in between was just ‘rubbed out’.  Not only that, but I started experiencing periods of psychosis as well; waking up every morning at 4 am and imagining that I was in touch with someone famous.

Now here’s what I discovered: as soon as I started sharing these experiences, women popped out of the woodwork everywhere – women I knew, women on Facebook, women I met – all saying they’d experienced something similar.  So why don’t we hear more about this?  If I’d known this was common in menopause I wouldn’t have felt half so bad about it.  I wouldn’t, in fact, have thought I was going off my rocker.  As it was I felt really scared; I didn’t know what was happening to me.

On the other hand, I am able to remember the 1980’s quite well.  During this period I was an active member of CND, to the extent of starting up a group from scratch in Hounslow (Bruce Kent spoke to my sister’s dog, you know*) and one of the first things I did on coming to Leicester was to join the local group here.  It was not only members of CND who heaved an enormous sigh of relief when Gorbachev began the process of glasnost; the whole world breathed more easily – but now, because of one insane bloke in North Korea, those terrible sabres are starting to rattle again.

I am against nuclear weapons on just about all imaginable grounds: morally, practically and financially – and it seems to me that the same arguments apply to these weapons as apply to guns, say, in the US.

Argument no. 1: our enemies have them, therefore we must have them

In the modern world, disputes need to be resolved by negotiation first and conventional weapons afterwards.  Bringing nuclear weapons in just makes it more likely that someone will die.

Argument no. 2: you can’t uninvent these weapons.

No.  Neither can you uninvent the boiled egg squarer, the radio newspaper, the razor phone and the internet fridge – but they are no longer in use because nobody wants to use them!!!

Argument no. 3: we have to be able to use them against terrorists.

The more nuclear weapons there are in existence, the more likely it is that someone will steal them, just as many armed robberies in the US are carried out using stolen weapons.

Argument no. 4: we must be able to defend ourselves

Nuclear weapons are not a defence.  They are a gigantic, money-munching and highly dangerous game of bluff.  And I haven’t even gone into the disastrous environmental implications of their use, not to mention the catastrophic effect on the health of populations.

So that’s enough to be going on with.

Kirk out

* This happened on one of the big demos in the ’80’s when Bruce happened to be marching near us: the dog, Rusper, had a cover on his head so that he didn’t bite on an injury: Bruce stopped and commiserated with him.
Nice bloke, Bruce.  And he’s coming to Leicester soon, so come and see him:

The genius of Mark

This just in…

“blackbeth – the Scottish play on horseback”

“Morris mining – extraction of retro cars from under the ground”

(presumably by Morris men)

I’m doing OK.  Recovering fairly well from psychosis.  Recent thoughts include – “I need a guru to help me deal with all this stuff – the challenges of training teachers plus dealing with insanity”.

It Worked for Me: Tips for Sufferers of Psychosis

(Note: posts describing the period of psychosis have been deleted.  In this post I attempt to sum up a retrospective view of this period.)

Here’s what I think now:

it seemed real to me for the following reasons:

1.  It came to me unbidden, without any conscious or voluntary action on my part

2.  I did not believe my unconscious could invent such things

3.  Experiences such as waking at 3 am and being in ecstatic communion were so far outside my realm of reality that I thought they must be connected with someone else.

I now realise that the mind is far deeper and more complex than I had understood, and that in times of upheaval it is able to present as reality those experiences which are not real.

I also believe there was a deep wisdom in all of this, which allowed me to believe in the reality in order to get me to a certain point, viz:

I was very stuck in my life and my art.  Fulfilment involved an upheaval so terrifying that I kept putting it off from day to day just as Proust did.

Whether or not there was any connection with anyone outside me is something I will never know.  And that is as it should be.

On a deep spiritual level this has all been for my development.  I have experienced divine love.  It all got tangled up with one individual but now I can separate the strands.  Even though it has been the hardest thing I have ever done, I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.

I hope these comments may be of use to anyone who is going through a similar thing.  If you are, here are some of the things that worked for me:

  • be aware that the physical is where we live
  • stand.  Literally!  Stand on your own two feet.  Practise the mountain pose
  • connect to your breath
  • do lots of karma yoga (washing up, gardening etc.  Connect with the earth and nature)
  • avoid meditation, even if you are deeply drawn to it
  • eat regularly and eat wholesome food
  • try to get enough sleep
  • Use your support network.  Don’t neglect your family and friends.  Tell those who love you what is going on with you.  Ask for their support but ask them to refrain from suggesting solutions or interpretations.
  • Give it all to a higher power (whatever you believe in.)  If this means nothing to you, just give it to the earth.  Imagine you are breathing it all out.
  • Try to enjoy life!  Don’t stop doing the things you enjoy.  Go out for meals, drinks – visit friends.  Connect yourself to others in an everyday sense.  Keep in touch.
  •  Avoid taking up any new activity or challenge at this time.

If you want to post any comments or questions, please do.  I am not an expert, except that, having been through these experiences, I am an expert on my own psychosis.

Take care

Kirk out