Category Archives: Depression

A Year…..

Sunday morning service,

Sunday lunchtime train,

Sunday afternoon discussion

Sunday evening statement.

And my awkward explanation of why.

This was the beginning of Occupy.

 

Heading North to the Monument

Another prayer tent at another occupation

And a visit to the Turner Prize

Hope being expressed across the globe.

Another awkward yet hopeful post or two

near the beginning of Occupy.

 

A time for sober reconsideration

And a hit of reality

Middle class, single mother

Returns to “her real life”

And types another awkward post

as she stops camping with Occupy.

 

Camp she’s left gets attacked

By the right wing thugs

And discussions occur

About whether to carry on.

Her response another awkward post or two

about the continuation of Occupy.

 

Theology in a public space

Was one lens of interpretation

About the camp back in London

And faith engagement around the world.

Cue another awkward blog post  and then onetwo more

about this thing called Occupy.

 

In December Time Magazine

Named “The Protester” person of the year.

Analysis starts to get darker

But still too shiny and full of hope?

In this very awkward post

about the protests of Occupy.

 

A New Year

And The Monument is cleared

The voice of disillusionment chimes

With respect for E and RR, etc

In this post about the end

of the camp in Newcastle linked to Occupy.

 

January moves into February

And Occupy LSX

Is cleared from outside St. Pauls

By court order.

I sort of blog with a post of back links

about Occupy.

 

Almost 8 months on from that post

And they are in London again

Remembering and Celebrating

Keeping alive the Spirit.

And this is another crap post

full of back links about Occupy.

 

Time to stop….think…..reflect

Would I do it again?

Were they right?

Was it worth it?

What does this writer,

just another average blogger,

think about Occupy?

 

Answer….

The country and the world are arguably getting even more f***ed by the day. Karl wrote an excellent blog post yesterday discussing some of what’s happening and why the ideas being pursued are wrong. Institutional politics might be argued to still be failing us but is engaging with that more the only real way to change anything? I don’t know anymore….

The church (in both institutional and wider sense) are still focusing on dealing with the impacts rather than questioning how we change the systems of power and the structural inequality they create. On an institutional level there are spotlights being targeted, as this Church Times article  on the Occupy anniversary explains, but we’re still too busy arguing about things like gay marriage to give a damn about changing what really needs to be altered….in part one thinks because it would pose difficult questions for the institutions themselves as investors, landlords and the like and us as individuals who like our lives as they are.

Occupy was good for starting conversation but did it ultimately just raise expectations and then leave them screwed up on the ground like pieces of discarded cardboard? Is it we the Occupiers who are to blame? Should many of us been willing to sacrifice more? But could we have sacrificed more? I had to work, I had to bring up Third Party…..personal excuses which echo the many realities of life people faced.

Is an alternative actually possible?

Honest answer is one year on I’m not sure. That said I refuse to give up….if I do what faith do I really have? Why do I go to church and profess faith in a risen Christ if I can’t hold onto hope of a better, more just future? Why do I pray “your kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven” if I’m not prepared to hope and work for change?

I don’t think that it means a neo-Marxist or anarchist vision of the future, but I do believe many of those involved in such groups have a glimpse of what might/ should be in terms of seeing the possibility of a world where social justice is a reality. They perhaps have more of an idea of what it means to try and live that line in the Lords prayer than many who would hold on to it and profess it regularly. That’s one reason why however little good I think it will do I’m intending to go on the TUC’s  A Future That Works demonstration next weekend.

So where do I/we go from here? Not sure…..not at all sure. Continue to try and pray and work it out one day/ one week at a time I guess. And probably alot more awkward blog posts along the way. If nothing else having something to look back on after Occupy – reminding me what happened when, and what I had to say about it at the time, has been useful for me.

Hope, dispair and questioning

I’m reading Ann Morisy’s book Journeying Out at the moment. I should only be up to chapter two, but have read some way ahead. (Note here, it’s our current reading group book which is why I should only be up to chapter two). It’s a book which is challenging me and disturbing  me as well as encouraging me. The key reason I think it’s having the effect on me it is is because of the contradictions in my own life at the moment where hope, dispair and questioning are interlinking and also forcing me to face up to questions about power and access.

I want to start by hope. Morisy’s book on one level is a book of hope because it tells what ordinary people do and have been doing. In places it talks about “random acts of kindness” but refers to them in relation to “social capital”. It also talks about the transforming power of volunteering and involvement upon the person who’s doing something. This made me think back outside the church again to my encounter with the Dundee LGBT group, which I blogged about recently. They’ve asked me to plug an event they’re doing soon and it gave me hope…emphasising how the acts of individuals in different places are helping change the world.

DLGBT are joining with Dundee Action Palestine to present the Bubble, (see the FB group), and are going to be doing a Skype chat with some people in the area where the film is set afterwards. The reason this gave me hope, and relates to the book is the event is really about story telling. The Skype chat after the film will, I guess, involve some story telling and will allow some stories from Tel Aviv to flow over to Scotland. Stories and storytelling as Morisy points out within her book have a huge power for transformation.

The dispair part of the post comes from some of my own feelings at the moment about life and more specifically about the lives of people who are not as fortunate as I am. I am currently feeling the effects both materially and emotionally of being skint and feeling squeezed. I am currently finding out what it is like to be trained and encouraged in one area but having, for a moment atleast, to take a job which does not use those skills. This is something I know alot of others are also struggling with at the moment. My biggest worry is about those at the bottom, like those single parents with children in junior school who are from today being forced to look for work and change the benefit they are on – see Gingerbread press release. My worry is that if graduates like me are being forced into the lowest sector jobs what are many of those with few or no qualifications (which single parents disproportionately make up) going to do? I am also just starting to get my head around what the spending cuts mean for me and my friends….I am currently more scared, I think than I have been for some time.

In Morisy’s book she talks about the way churches moved more into the “social outreach” and “professional services” sphere during the last recession, and may have inadvertantly secularised themselves. This move showed churches are good at this type of thing…something we already knew. Thus, the government strategy seems dependant on churches increasing this type of work and providing another safety net again. Something, we have shown we do well. However, things have changed. I honestly don’t think we understand how the current uncertainty and cuts are going to impact upon our churches as many of our members become unemployed, face cuts in their income in very real terms  or face huge uncertainty in their jobs, (bearing in mind the number of church members involved in the public services). Also I don’t think that the churches themselves have – in declaring their expertise in this area – been realistic about the effects which secularisation has had upon their membership and the demographic of many of their members. The sad fact is that alot of our church members are rapidly reaching their forth age, (another term Morisy talks about). I am starting to dispair about the reality of the situation we find ourselves in and how utterly unprepared we are for it.

Finally I am questioning the whole issues around power and coming alongside people. In recent weeks I have had to acknowledge I am technically “poor” and am amongst the marginalised on one level in our society. However, at the same time I am through where I am and the opportunities I am being given amongst the most priviledged. There has been help offered to me which I should have taken, but which I couldn’t psychologically allow myself to take – which I may yet need to, and help offered to me which I am taking but am struggling with. The main area I have struggled with is a recognition I have fallen into various “client groups” which I am happy to engage with from the position of helping but which I struggle to be part of.

In the book Morisy engages with both Liberation Theology and Queer Theology to some extent, (although she quotes James Alison more generally on resentment giving no clue to the fact it comes from a book which is doing queer theology….because that might just have to admit to the reader that queer theology goes beyond LGBT people and has something to teach straight people too). Anyway this means she obviously talks about coming alongside people, but she still refers to “the poor” and “marginalised” in terms of “the other” and argues that in churches we take a power position. She also makes the point that the increasing professionalisation of volunteering and engagement with “the other” may be damaging.

Now this has all disturbed me and left me questioning as I say. On one  level I am back in that place which my research stems from….and which I find confuddling…using many of the definitions I am “the other”, “the marginalised” the person who the text speaks of in terms of the church going out to – yet I am very much part of the church. Being openly gay, a single parent and more recently obviously poor I am the apparently under-represented within our churches. However, I know that often I am the unrecognised rather than the absent. The financial situtations of many in our churches is not what it may first appear. There are many closeted gay people or people who operate on the don’t ask, don’t tell principal because they just see their sexual orientation as a small part of what they are and don’t want to get embroiled in the politics. At the same time I am though I am the provider, the teacher and the obviously middle class who wants to go out and do something to help “them” whoever “they are”.

Life at the moment is developing in such a way that I am increasingly moving towards the likelyhood of at some point becoming “a professional” yet…..I know the limitations that gives as well as the opportunities and security. At the moment I am being able to be involved in some incredibly exciting stuff – like launching Maze, like Streetlights, like Greenbelt because I can choose what I volunteer with and get my experience from. If I were paid I would not have this choice.

On one level I am not doing all this for totally alturistic motives. I know I am too old to get an internship, even if they one were available – which it’s not – and so I therefore having to do my own set of networking and cv building for when I finish the research….bearing in mind where I know God has shown he is and is not leading me. I need to be gaining the experience these opportunities are giving me.But they are reinforcing to me that volunteering as a possibility is set up for those who have the luxury of being able to offer their time and resources for little or nothing, it is for those who have the luxury of time between jobs and family, or who are retired…volunteering is something the middle class do to make themselves feel useful.

This conflict and the different feelings I have generated further reinforce to me I have become subject to exactly the issues  Morisy talks about in her second chapter. In order to carry on doing what I love and what is transforming me I am needing to get more professionalised so that I can get paid for it.  Also doing the volunteering keeps me “happily middle class” and stops me falling totally into the pit of dispair marked “marginalised” or “victim” or “scrounger”….all of which are I think unfair terms for those we seek to walk alongside. I know I am not better than those I am seeking to help because I know in reality I am one of those I am seeking to help. Yet, if I acknowledge that equality with the most marginalised in our society I know I lose power….I acknowledge that I have lost choice….I allow myself to become somebody who has to take rather than give and I reinforce the stereotypes.

I know God through Jesus intentionally identified with those who were marginalised….Jesus was a Nazarene and in his early life a refugee. Jesus was an rabbi who spent three years wandering and sent his disciples out with nothing but the gospel message. Yet I know Jesus also was the giver….God is power and it was the power Jesus had and gave which transformed lives. Yet, this power was not status indeed Jesus was often critical of the power that came with status. I am questioning how to engage in discipleship,mission and worship (because I feel the three cannot be removed from each other) in our current culture without getting involved in the issues around “power”. Again this is something which worries me about the effects of the spending review as they come through.

I know some of the attitudes I’ve spoken about here and some of the contridictions and questions highlight where in my own life I need to constantly seek forgiveness and refer to how I need to deal with pride. At the moment I am wrestling with my faith in a way which is useful but hard.

If you are still here at the end of my rambling on …thank you.

Exploring Fresh Expressions and Missional Type stuff

I have spent the last day or so at a conference, (sorry consultation), on Fresh Expressions and then an hour or so engaging in a formal conversation with Steve Taylor  who the Methodists were putting on. It all sort of changed my mind a bit from what I wrote in yesterday’s post, but only sort of.

The conference was basically about raising the questions of what sort of research needs to be done on Fresh Expressions, and the challenges they are raising. One of the most interesting debates was raised by Pete Ward, (the liquid church bloke), and related to whether we should be talking about fresh expressions of mission rather than fresh expressions of church. Jonny Baker also did an interesting presentation/ paper on curating worship which related to his new book.

The later session with Steve Taylor, which wasn’t part of the conference, was one where he told the story of the development of his former church, via a series of postcards. The session was really useful in reframing some of my thinking and giving me some practical ideas to be working with. I was really disappointed with the turn out though; this bloke was somebody really useful to have around who we were really lucky to be getting but bugger all people really turned up to listen to him. Still, their loss I guess.

More stuff may or may not follow. I think the thing for me is trying to work out how I put any of this theory I’m learning into practice. I was aware that in many ways I was neither fish nor fowl at the conference. Yup, I’m an enthusiastic M Litt student who is doing practical theology, but it isn’t about Fresh Expressions yet neither am I a practioner. God gently, but firmly has shown me that my passion for mission might involve some FE type stuff but is actually likely to be more broadly based. This awareness is something that I found useful through Steve’s session. He was talking in a FE/ emerging type language but in a way and about things which went beyond this. He was talking about the type of stuff I might one day be involved in. I am not a leader and do not have leadership experience beyond the teaching job I left two years ago. In the Christian world  I am a volunteer who is coming through into something which may involve leadership in the future, (within this I’m not including the LPT stuff because that’s something different). That’s a bit frustrating because I know, (I have been bluntly but kindly told), I need to be getting demonstratable leadership experience now. God is opening doors and giving exciting opportunities for service, but not for leadership….at the moment.

Depression – New Guidance

It appears that NICE, (the government quango which advices doctors on how they should treat us), has issued new guidance on the treatment of depression in adults, particularly those with a chronic physical health problem. This article on the BBC site gives a brief summary as does this MIND update, which highlights fears about the way recommendations for increased use of CBT therapies will cut funding for counselling. For the full document see the NICE report, (although be aware it does run to nearly 400 pages).

Have no great wisdom to impart on this one. Just thought knowing that one thing a number of us have experience of depression, or friends who battle it, it might be something useful to flag up and let people know about.

Not what I intended posting about on this blogs 5th birthday…..but the odd bits of information sharing about useful stuff, rather than the ranting or inappropriate ego boosting, is probably the most sensible thing I have learnt to do with this ickle bit of the cyber world over the last 5 years.

Eleanor Rigby and Cipralex

In the modern world, if one went through Eleanor Rigby’s possessions after Father McKenzie had walked from the grave, you would have probably found Cipralex or some other varient of happy pill. Lonliness is just one of the underlying causes of depression and anxiety.

According to Mind an increasing number of people in this country suffer from these types of mental health issues at some time or another. We are living in a culture where the issues are huge and the NHS is spending out millions of pounds each year on treating this illness, but where the issue on one level seems to be remaining taboo.

If I think around my friends I can think of plenty of people, particularly in the 20 – 45 age group. What scares me is I have come to realise that I can only think of about 5 who have not, at some point in their lives, either been prescribed anti-depressants or found themselves in counselling. I know this because whilst the subject remains taboo and society does not discuss what might behind these issues it is now quite common for people to mention their happy pills or counselling experiences within conversation, as throw away comments. It almost feels like going on happy pills is a normative experience these days.

Now I know depression is an illness and just like any other illness it needs treatment, but I am wondering how much as a society we spend on happy pills when training people in more positive ways of thinking might be helpful. Note here I want to make a distinction between those who suffer from ongoing and serious depression for whom medication is important and those who have mild reactive depression.

This questioning has come about because after some years being off the happy pills I have recently found myself back on them. I have found the experience has left me questioning alot about the attitude medical professionals aswell as society as a whole have.

When I went into the doctor expressing a bit of concern I might be slipping into depression again I was given something like a Facebook quiz on the computer to check whether I was depressed. The computer said at that point I seemed mildly depressed and so the doctor gave me some happy pills as a precautionary measure. The doseage I am on is so small that the doctor has admitted that they may or maynot be making any difference to me, but better too err on the side of caution.

Now beyond the cost of this approach to the NHS it also has other implications. I know from experience how admitting you have suffered from depression leads to occupational health appointments if you are applying for jobs. This was one of the key reasons I was very resistent to the idea of going back on the happy pills. There is somewhat of a difference to saying you have been quite healthy for 7 years to saying that you are currently taking the tablets.

So if the NHS is under loads of pressure, and if the cost to the welfare budget is increased by this growth in the prescription of AD’s shouldn’t more work be going into looking for the underlying reasons for alot of mild depression and stress. Personally going back on the happy pills has shocked me into looking again at my life and seeing that in many ways I was looking through the wrong set of lenses about the move.

Taking a step back and looking more objectively I have seen that I am not Eleanor Rigby….I just spent too much time comparing myself to others. Oh and before anybody wonders no I didn’t get that insight through counselling. Rather I picked up one of the Bridget Jones type self-help books I have on my shelves. Whilst I am not saying that it has the answers for everything I have to say “Reinvent Yourself” by Fiona Harrold has helped me to think about how I look at life. Going through this book and the EDEV course I am doing with church have helped me to think about how I view things and see my life / future. So in some ways I am beginning to wonder if we should just be encouraging people to work through things and try different ways of looking at their lives and behaviours before rushing to give the happy pills.

Summer in the City

For Lent I took an approach which wasn’t quite in keeping with the true nature of Lent ….but was the appropriate course of action for my head at the time.

I’ve decided to put together a similar kind of action plan of things I want to do over the summer. Some of them will be a repeat of the Lent ideas….but some of them won’t. Some of them will also be seen as “rewards” for getting my uni work done but some won’t. Some of them will be seen as opportunities for spiritual reflection and some will just be to chill and enjoy. Whatever, putting them together is going to be a good focus and a way not to get too bogged down with the fact I don’t have a “traditional” holiday to look forward to, (except Greenbelt of course) and a way to realise that just because I’m not going off “home” anywhere it doesn’t mean that I’m not going to enjoy the summer.

So here is my list of what I want to do between now and the end of August (aswell as get lots of uni work done and find some paid work from when my current job ends in a couple of weeks).

1) Read two non-uni, fiction books of my choice.
2) Go to an Art gallery. (Probably the Baltic).
3) Go and see a film.
4) Choose one unhealthy snack food / drink and remove it from the diet – replacing with something more healthy.
5) Go for a walk on the beach.
6) Go to one concert, music festival or outside theatre production
7 ) Have a long soak in a bath with essential oils.
8 ) Send a postcard to somebody who has been a positive influence on my life thanking them.
9) Have a meal with friends.
10)Write 3 good things about myself on a bit of paper.
11) Have a buy nothing day.
12) Go to a museum /heritage site
13) Make myself a meal I like
14) Write a letter / e-mail a friend living over 100 miles away.
15)Buy a coffee for a Big Issue vendor (aswell as buying the magazine)
16) Write a campaign letter about something I feel strongly about – social justice type thing
17) Visit a church/ cathedral / abbey I like.
18) Paint a picture or write something
19)Have a lie in
20) Indulge with a good body lotion or handcream.
21)Go to a coffee shop and have something really indulgent.
22)See a sunrise or a sunset
23)Go on retreat
24) Go for a walk along the river bank and visit the bench on the edge of the world.
25) Go to Greenbelt