Sunday 25 March 2018

DEPRESSION IS A PART OF ME, JUST LIKE BACK PAIN!


As my eyes opened this morning, I was immediately aware of its strength.  

Phwhooo, this one is a doozy: a real humdinger.
 

‘Oh boy, here we go again!’ I thought to myself, remembering how strange I’d felt yesterday evening, as if I was coming down with something.
 

Turns out I was. I don’t care whether depression is an illness, a condition or a disease. As far as I’m concerned, you can call it whatever you want.
 

It’s back.
 

People often tell me I’m brave to write about depression, but I genuinely don’t feel it. The only reason I’m writing about my mental state today is that, given the force of this dose, I’m unable to write about anything else.
 

At the risk of sounding tediously liberal, I can’t see the difference between one bodily function and another. 

Well, yes I can, in that I don’t eat through my botty or pooh out my mouth (although some might beg to differ) but where others think of the mind as a separate entity, I perceive it solely as part of my body; my oneness.
 

I don’t separate the mind that creates the thought from the fingers that somehow magically tap it into the computer.
 

The fact that my brainbox does things that many others do not feels no more nor less important than my two squeezed vertebrae. If I were really brave, I’d be writing about the reasons I use a certain cream, but I’ve no intention of telling you that, you’ll be delighted to hear.
 

Thanks to an ace physiotherapist, who gave me ten stretches to do each morning, I can now live free of back pain. 

Although I’m in awe of the way those stretches make my whole body feel after a few days, I’m very human, so when the pain goes, I become lazy, complacent and forget to do them.
 

Then I go and do something stupid in the garden, involving wheelbarrows and sweat, and I’m crippled again, back on the anti-inflammatories and morning stretches.
 

As with my back so with my brain: both are vulnerable, both prone to causing pain, but the great thing is that I know it.
 

Both come and both will pass.
 

Don’t think anyone with back pain would approach me in the streets of Galway and hug me and cry on my shoulder, as through mouthfuls of my tweed coat they tell me how my colyoom about mental machinations helped them so much, because they felt less alone.
 

The Irish have made great strides towards removing the stigma of mental health, but holy guacamole, Batman, seriously? In 2018 people still feel utterly isolated, merely because they have depression?
 

I know they do, as lonely hordes contact me in large numbers whenever I write about it, and that is way more upsetting than being depressed.
 

I’m glad to be there for them as they explain how they suffer from depression. Knowing better than to try and cheer them up, the only advice I ever give is to suggest that they change the way they describe it.
 

I tell myself and others that I live with depression, just as I live with back pain. It’s part of who I am: it comes and goes and if I want to make the effort, there are things I can do to help myself.
 

I absolutely refuse to say I suffer from depression, because I don’t want to turn my own brain into an enemy. I live with it, as when it’s not there, I don’t suffer any more than I do from back pain when there is none.
 

My mental equivalents of back stretches are mostly found outdoors. To nourish my soul I’ll walk an empty Connemara beach, feeling insignificant in face of the constancy of the tides and the permanence of towering cliffs.
 

To nurture my spirit I’ll work on the attainment of wisdom. In my tiny philosophy of life, I reckon that wisdom comes from a cocktail of knowledge and experience. As long as I continue to both learn and do, then I will learn from the doing and do what I have learned.
 

“Spare me your fancy shmancy guru babble!” you cry, but let me explain.
 

Experience has taught me that depression is a part of my life. Bizarrely, sometimes it hits at the happiest of times, but this one right now comes as no surprise.
 

My life has been extremely testing for a long while, and when confusion and frustration meet exhaustion, they conspire together and kick open the door to depression.
 

Thankfully I’ve learned from my own process what works and what doesn’t.
Aided by the sure knowledge that it will pass, I’ll do what I can to help myself.
 

I will reach out to friends, and tell them I’m hurting.
I will allow myself to cry if that’s what I need to do.
I will roar loud and wild like a savage beast in the privacy of my own space (don’t want to scare the pooch!)
I will talk to my head doctor about it, just as I would go to my body doctor if something physical was awry.

I will know, always, that it will pass.
 

Maybe it will be gone in five minutes. Maybe it’ll still be upon me when you read this, but I don’t care.
 

I cannot make it go away, any more than I can swap squashed vertebrae for fresh ones. 

It’s who I am and I am not broken. 

I’m just someone whose brain gets gripped in a vice; someone whose perception of the world changes, in a manner akin to that of being drunk, except that instead of levity and fun, my altered state offers only desperation and dread.
 

To be honest it’s brutal right now. I don’t use SSRI medication, as on my way out of this dose I might enjoy a manic upswing, equally as mad as depression, but crammed with a fantastically joyous and creative energy.
 

I’ll take the darkness every time, if in exchange I can experience that uniquely vital feeling.

©Charlie Adley
14.03.2018

Sunday 18 March 2018

IF WAR RETURNS, BLOOD WILL BE ON TORY HANDS!



I’m so sorry. I apologise to those people in Ireland who feel that the English are increasingly hostile towards your country.
 

Nobody set out to damage the island of Ireland. Generally, few English people ever spare Ireland a moment’s thought.
 

I understand why, as I was one of them.
 

Ever interested and politically motivated, I knew absolutely zip about Ireland until I moved here. I’d travelled around the planet twice before ever stepping foot in the county next door.
 

When I finally did, it very much felt like I was going to Ireland because I’d run out of other countries. If that sounds insulting, even contemptuous, that’s my point.
 

As a Londoner, I neither disliked the Irish nor Ireland.
I’d no idea I was saving the best ’til last.
 

A student of history at both ‘O’ and ‘A Level’, my English education taught me one Irish date:1846, and one name: Raleigh, who I read about in a Ladybird book at the age of 7.
 

The English don’t hate the Irish.
They just don’t care.
 

Like you and me, the English are constantly bombarded with political lies and let-downs, so when told “Oh, Ireland, yes, well it’s all very complicated you see!” they are happy to shrug their exhausted shoulders.
 

The same psychological tactic of telling the public it’s all too difficult for them to understand is proving an effective device in the whole Brexit process. Worn down by boredom, the British are more than happy to relinquish interest. They just want it over and done with.
 

Your Irish emotions might calm if you appreciate the depth of whimsy and bluff that’s driven Brexit since its inception. There was never a plan to destroy the peace process. 

Nobody was thinking about Ireland at all. 

There was just a vain Tory Prime Minister who needed to leave a greater legacy than being the bloke who screwed a pig’s head and left his daughter in the pub.
 

Political legacy is a tricky business. Blair had years of boom but all they remember is Iraq. Clinton had economic growth over two terms, but his legacy consisted of sperm on a dress.
 

What could Cameron do? 
How might he change the political landscape of his country?”
 

If only history saw him as the man who ended civil war in the Conservative Party; the man who finally silenced the batty Eurosceptics who’d been raging for decades. If he called a referendum, surely the great people of the United Kingdom would vote Remain and finally shut those arses up, once and for all.
 

Brexit was the result of Cameron’s whimsical punt, followed by the crass misjudgements of the Remain campaign’s 'Project Fear', which left Boris and his band of lying Leavers all the territory of hope.
 

From whimsy we move to bluff, and the reason why Brexit has been so farcical: none of the main figures are campaigning for what they believe in. Theresa May is a confirmed fan of the EU, while Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has always been a hardcore Eurosceptic.
 

Without their hearts in their words, neither of these leaders appear in any way convincing. They don’t even sound convinced by their own arguments.
 

Boris may be eccentric but he’s far from stupid. Naturally a Remainer, he’s willing to burn his ethics and the Good Friday Agreement on the bonfire of ambition. Never equate him with the British people.
 

Addicted to watching the tragedy unfold, I wave my hands around in the air and emit grunts of pain and frustration as I listen to the MayBot once again say she wants out of Single Market and Customs Union, but no border in Northern Ireland.
 

Arggghhh.
 

If she hadn’t paid £1.2 billion for the filthy services of the DUP, there might have been a border in the Irish sea, but England now has Arlene Foster’s grip on its government’s goolies, and we know she’ll hurt ‘em.
 

If only just for once Sinn Fein politicians lied openly, in public, taking the oath and sitting in Westminster, the peace process might be saved.
 

However, as we know, Northern politicians on all sides prefer to lie about lying than save lives.
 

Now Corbyn decides to save the Custom’s Union, which might offer hope to Ireland, were Labour actually in power 

There are easily enough Tory rebels to bring down this government, but then what? Is a General Election a year before leaving the EU helpful in any way? 

Still, always, comes this talk of carrying out the will of the people. 17 million said Leave. 16 million said Stay. That’s a margin of error, not a mandate. 

Subtract the protest votes and the bus lies, add those who have since learned the truth and the will of the people changes.
 

If you’re Irish and offended, please don’t take it personally. The average English person feels no contempt for Ireland: merely an unjustifiably lazy but understandable ignorance. 

Ambivalent or at worst utterly disinterested, the English are unaware that their apathy will devastate the peace and restore physical partition.
 

Cut these battered English souls some slack. They have been serially lied to, misled and manipulated throughout this miserable process.
 

If they are guilty of anything, it is that they’ve let the bastards grind them down. If you’re Irish think Lisbon Treaty, multiply it by 1,000 and you might empathise.
 

The English just want to get on with their lives. If that means a border in Ireland, well, what can they do about it?
 

If war returns to the Six Counties, blood will be on Tory hands. 


©Charlie Adley 
18.03.2018

Sunday 11 March 2018

IT FELT GREAT TO BE TOLD TO DO NOTHING!



It’s mesmerising, nostalgic and distracting. Whirlpools of big fat snowflakes are swirling around outside my window and it’s difficult to concentrate on work.
 

Today we have been told to stay in our homes from 4pm. To softies like myself who grew up without millions of tons of enemy bombs falling from the sky, this form of national instruction feels as close to wartime as anything might.
 

Well, ye lads did call what the rest of the planet generally refers to as The Second World War: ‘The Emergency’.
 

Maybe in Ireland, land of paradox, this emergency is a war and we’re meant to see snow as an enemy.
 

Not my foe.
 

Given the rare frequency and low levels we see of snow here in the West of Ireland, it feels benign and beautiful as it falls.
 

We are not trapped in our home. We’ve just been instructed to stay in, and it feels rather wonderful.
 

Along with the rest of you I went altogether bananas, amassing gas cylinders, briquettes and enough food to feed a village.
 

We already had torches, batteries, matches and candles, because we live on the Atlantic seaboard. Storms always come and go, as does electric power.
 

It would be disingenuous to complain that somehow Met Eireann got it wrong, just because where I live, nothing bad happened. East of the Shannon people were doubtless very thankful for the precautions they took, but while it’s easy to lose ourselves in logistics, here, right now, with the Snapper, my friend Whispering Blue and Lady Dog in the house, not one of us is the slightest bit nervous.
 

Alone here during Storm Desmond I was, as Biblical types might have it, sore afraid. Apocalyptic tropical rain fell, relentlessly, constantly at full force, from dusk to dawn and into day.
 

The house was completely surrounded by water. A river appeared at the top left corner, up by the shed, rushing and roaring down a diagonal, cutting the garden in half as it tumbled towards Lough Corrib.
 

It didn’t have to go far, as the edge of the great lake had by then arisen from underground, unwelcome and threatening, flooding half of the garden.
 

There, here, there, out of the ground insane jets of water spurted up, appearing randomly and increasingly.
 

Inside the house I ran around lifting plug boards off the ground, stuffing pillows down the loo, wondering when the hell does one abandon ship, especially if you’re the only one around to look after the place.
 

In comparison this storm feels gentle; blissful. The only gripe I have is one that comes from that nerdy part of me, which deeply resents the way bad weather is now always called a storm.
 

The Beaufort scale has its faults, but after a few decades out here on the edge of the Atlantic, I’ve come to trust that storms come in at Force 10, representing something to be reckoned with and respected.
 

The world screams in a storm.
There are no ambiguities about it.
 

A few years ago, during a storm force wind, there came a Hurricane Force 12 gust, followed by what I can only describe as a geological punch.
 

For a nano second it seemed to lift this solid house from its foundations.
The Snapper and I were in the hallway at that moment, both instinctively reaching out and clutching the other.
 

If we were heading off beyond Kansas, we needed to be together.
 

Today I am thankful . Even though the media has only tales of blizzard misery, we are safe, warm and never smug. 
 

Storm Emma is falling in soft white lumps outside, the promised gale force winds coming only in ephemeral gasps and whines.
 

Lady Dog is a little pissed off that she can’t go for an adventure on the bog, but she hurt her paw a few days ago, so a small walk will suffice.
 

Beyond canine needs, all humans in this house can today be found standing in front of windows, bewitched by dancing flakes, watching the landscape gradually rise towards the sky.
 

The day the first flurry fell, the sky cleared at night, allowing the light from the massive moon to be reflected back by the snow. Our rural area of darkness shone with such an intensity we chose to sleep with blinds open, just to fully appreciate the astonishing power of that light.
 

My obsession with feeding the birds through their Winter hardship has grown to crazed proportions. Neither a twitcher nor an expert, I simply take great pleasure from feeding and watching the little finches, tits and robins.
 

My old mate Mr. Wagster, a pied wagtail with whom I bonded soon after I arrived here, now shows no fear of me whatsoever. He even introduced me to his wife the other day.
 

Patches of ground under the feet of all these feeding birds have gradually become bare. Their little talons and prodding beaks have scarified the grass and aerated the soil.
 

Perfect for a lawn. 
Hmmm. 

Maybe next year, if I move the feed each day, the birdies could actual cut the lawn over a period of a full winter, whilst keeping themselves alive.
 

You’re a genius, Adley.
 

That’s ecological balance and integrity sorted, delaying the moment I need shift my fat arse and use a mower.
 

Brilliant indeed.
 

As I watch the snow flakes fall up and down on freezing breezes and nature’s whim, I wonder if I’ll recall my cunning plan, by the time we’ve lived through three more seasons.

©Charlie Adley
02.03.2018.

Sunday 4 March 2018

THANK GOODNESS FOR THE REAL WORLD BEYOND FACEBOOK!


Last week I was lost for a moment between two worlds: the real one in which we smell farts, taste chocolate and feel the power of loving hugs, and the world of Facebook, where those with opinions dare to feel powerful, because nobody is staring them in the eye.
 
Packing Blue Bag I headed south for one night at my friend Angel’s gaff, down in Co. Kerry, and one night on my own in West Clare.
 
What a great time of year to see Ireland. With high pressure keeping the rain belts out in the Atlantic, I drove on empty roads, barely offering a brake light all the way from Briarhill to Abbeyfeale.
 
My heart felt light, my soul singing as I drank in the amber grandeur of the Kingdom’s hills; the rare sullen stillness of its bays.
 
 

Angel’s mobile is perched on a clifftop, so as we drank 325 cups of tea, talking nonsense of profundities and profoundly of nonsense, my eyes kept glancing out of the window, drawn below to great waves pounding jagged black rocks.



Forget that stuff about blokes not sharing their feelings. We have known each other for many years, understand each others’ madnesses and whilst keeping the industries of Sri Lanka and Kenya alive, we sat from 2 ’til 11:30, pondering life’s quandaries.
 
Then I fell asleep to the sound of Atlantic breakers, waking in the morning refreshed and eager for the day.
 
No schedule.
No rush.
 
Never have I seen that road from Dingle to Tralee so empty. In the Summer it becomes a hideous snake of tourist traffic, but on a sunny cold Thursday morning at the end of February, it was all mine.
 
Much of the time I drove in silence, and then I whacked on Christy Moore, singing along with the uninhibited vigour that solitude allows.
 
Eventually I felt I ought to see what was happening in the world, so I hit the radio, where all the talk shows were pondering the Florida school massacre.
 
I arrived at Tarbert 20 minutes before the next ferry crossing over the mighty river Shannon, so after a brief brisk stretch of the legs in the freezing cold breeze, I was happy to return to my warm car, where I checked my phone.
 
Oh look. Loads of notifications from Facebook.
 
A few days earlier I’d shared somebody's post about guns in America. Shortly afterwards a good friend of mine in California left a comment which read like a press release from America’s NRA (National Rifle Association), which I promptly ignored, because I know how intractable he is about his right to bear arms.
 
When I lived over there we became firm friends, and he supported me during what was possibly the most difficult period of my life. Thanks to decades of hitching, I’ve developed an ability to form bonds with people whose views I find repellent.
 
If I trust someone, believe that they are capable of compassion and kindness, then the fact that their philosophies of life differ from mine offers an opportunity to listen and learn.
 
Our friendship was formed in a particular time and context. While I know well how worthy of respect he is, my Facebook friends are able only to react to what they see: his comments, which read like pure nonsense to us Europeans.
 
In the past I have marvelled at the eclectic gathering of souls linked only by likes of Facebook posts. My life has many tendrils, at the end of which lurk extremists, moderates, warriors and peacemakers.
 
Usually I’m delighted that so many varied souls appear to enjoy this colyoom, but as comments inevitably started to arrive, attacking his unacceptable attitudes to gun control, I suddenly felt protective of my American mate, so I deleted the whole post.
 
Of one thing I am sure: if my friend is reading this he will now feel  outraged. Blessed with the body of a Norse god, he swims between San Francisco and Alcatraz island. His mind is sharp and witty, so he is more than capable of looking after himself, both physically and mentally. Indeed, his Libertarian views dictate that he will do precisely that, if necessary to the exclusion of others.
 
He is the evolved embodiment of the American Way. To us in Europe, who prefer collective societies in which we all care for each other, his views seem facile and arcane, yet because I’ve some experience of the American psyche, 
I’m able to respect his views, even if I’ll never accept them.
 
America was formed by individuals who dared to make it happen. That frontier spirit exists still, morphed into a modern lifestyle that neither seeks nor requires external governmental help.
 
Obviously those who’ve never met my friend cannot possibly know what a truly good man he is. One of the great dangers of Facebook is that we congregate in mutually masturbatory groups, happily savaging those who dare to be different, all the while hiding from healthy diversity of opinion.
 
Yet there I was, a hypocrite committing an act of censorship, trying to spare my friend from a savaging that he would happily embrace.
 
Outside a sudden rumble of surf and diesel distracted me from my maelstrom of cyber confusion.  
The ferry had arrived.
 
Phew.
 
Time to put away my phone; desert the unnecessary world of cyberspace; embrace the soft green hills of Clare; walk the stunning beach at Lehinch.
 
Time to thrill at the freedom of this rare free day, and an evening ahead, perched anonymous on barstools in cosy local pubs.

©Charlie Adley
24.02.2018.