I am currently sitting at home on a wet Sunday evening, in my pyjamas, drinking cider and watching Coldplay on television, playing live at the Glastonbury Festival, just a few miles down the road from my house.
I am thinking of Ian, who loved Coldplay. I am missing him as much as I ever have done, and thinking of how much he would have loved this.
He might not have loved being there, at the festival – mud and rain were not his favourite things; I can recall in detail the expression on his face, the creases in his forehead and the exasperated sighs and tuts which appeared if he was getting fed up. He might switch to making a joke and being persuaded to make the best of a difficult situation, or instead he might descend, becoming more fed up and more uncomfortable and more miserable, until the whole day, evening or week was ruined. It was so easy to read him; he wore his heart on his face.
But he would have loved sitting on a comfy sofa with a beer, dry and warm, watching Coldplay. Sometimes he had the enthusiasm and pure joy of a child. When he was excited it was so infectious. He loved music and some of the times I witnessed him at his happiest were music related. It is so evocative and emotive and cathartic and I feel grateful that Ian’s love of music means that I have so many powerful memories of him; playing, watching and loving music.
I’m thinking about Ian on this Sunday evening, and this has been triggered by watching something he would have loved, if he had been able to stay with us. But this particular Sunday comes at the end of a tough week, which has come at the end of some very tough months, where the country has never felt so at odds, so divided, and so angry with one another. Ian would have struggled with this, and I am sincerely glad he did not have to witness it. He was often profoundly affected by events in the news. If a story resonated with him it could fuel his anxiety and his fear about the state of the world, and I really believe this perpetuated his depression. He told me that he often avoided the news on television or on the radio because it did not help his state of mind. The summer just before he died was when the London riots occurred, spreading quickly and alarmingly across the country. I talked to him and it dawned on me that he wasn’t just viewing this event as a spectator on the other side of the television screen, but that it was really affecting him. His voice was panicked, he seemed helpless and frightened, he was childlike again – not in his excitement, but in his fear. Then there was his concern, bordering on obsession, over 9/11. After he died we found newspapers which he had kept from the days and weeks after the attacks on the Twin Towers. And of course, the date that he decided to leave this world was September 11th, 2011 – the ten year anniversary of the attacks. I feel that this was – perhaps intentionally, perhaps not – a profound and symbolic parting comment on the way the state of the world troubled him.
It is over a year since Mind 3000s, and as is the way with bereavement by suicide, it has been an unpredictable and tumultuous year. In December I was diagnosed with PTSD – which has developed as a result of Ian’s suicide – after some very unpleasant symptoms made an appearance. After a referral to the CMHT, I had an assessment and since the beginning of January I have been waiting… and waiting… and waiting… for psychotherapy. It’s now been over 6 months since my first “urgent” referral from GP to CMHT. I don’t blame the CMHT or Talking Therapies, or anyone really. Services are just on their knees, totally overloaded with people who desperately need help and without the resources to provide that help. I had to contact the Crisis Team at a point where I was feeling very vulnerable and fragile, frantic for my therapy to begin so I can feel in control and deal with some of the issues that I know I need to face, to unpack, pick apart and have a jolly good look at. It’s ironic that people must get to a crisis point due to the sheer time they have had to wait for a basic level of help. I am lucky to have a wonderful and very strong support network, but many people struggling with mental illnesses do not have this. I can’t bear to think where I might be if I did not have my family and my close friends by my side.
The conclusion to all of this is that Mind is becoming an organisation which is even more important to me. My family’s fundraising for Mind began due to Ian’s death, but as time has gone on I have learnt more and more about the state of mental health services, about public ignorance around mental illness, and also I personally have turned from fundraiser to service user.
I am quite a pragmatic person and after the crisis had passed and I was beginning to feel more like myself again, I felt I had to do something. I had thought that I would not do another sponsored challenge for Mind until 2017, but I’ve decided that is too far off. I felt reluctant to ask my friends and family for sponsorship again so soon after the overwhelming generosity of people during Mind 3000s. So, I came up with the Moorlinch March for Mind. On 29th August a group of friends, family and I are going to walk from the village where I live, to the top of Glastonbury Tor and back, a distance of approximately 20 miles. We will collectively seek sponsorship and see how many pennies we can raise. I am also hoping that the event might do a bit in terms of raising awareness of the issues around mental illness as well.
If you are interested in coming on the walk, please let me know. The more the merrier! Participants can do as much or as little of the 20 miles as they want to make it an accessible event for all ages and abilities.
I will be blogging throughout my training and organisation of the event, as I did during Mind 3000s, reflecting on the process of training and of fundraising, on my own difficulties in the past year, and of course on my beloved and much missed Ian.
Thank you for your support.
Till next time,
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