Been A While

Well it has been a few weeks since my last blog. Things seem to have stabilised a lot and I am feeling much happier in myself. While I have thought everyday to write a new post, all of my time awake has been taken up with writing a new stage play based on this blog.

I will continue to get out and about with the talks to groups and individuals about how I fell into my depressed state and how the PTSD took control of me and then what I did to move me along the road to recovery. I do not pretend to be cured of the conditions but I can say they are under tight management.

As I have said numerous times, it is very easy to consider yourself a victim of these conditions and then sit back all day and night feeling sorry for yourself and cursing the world for inflicting such things upon you. My preference has been to take on a “Stuff you” attitude and force myself to get of my backside and try to achieve something. Yes I have always been relatively driven but it was always for someone else – now it is for me…

As many of you know, I started with this blog in order to cleanse myself and to verbalise my thoughts and experiences – along the way many people have told me how much they can relate to my experiences. I feel honoured that people are able to get some understanding and help from what I say. The talks were a development of the blog and allowed me to get out there and actually see and hear you guys in the flesh – it was so wonderful for me to see many of you smile – some for the first time in a long time — and be able to see that you are not alone in your suffering.

One thing I realised during the talk sessions was the effect our conditions have on our families and our loved ones… yes, we suffer but really don’t realise we are suffering until something cataclysmic happens, then we can decide to either keep spiralling down or do something to climb back up. Our loved ones really cant do anything about it. No matter what they do, it doesn’t help because we don’t want help, they just see us as the grumpy git in the lounge room or that person who lives here but doesn’t love or care for anyone.

One thing I have always kept in the back of my mind is that no matter what how you feel or what you are experiencing there is always someone worse off than you. I know my depression and PTSD were never as bad as some other people experience but they had the potential to drag me down to complete personal destruction but, thankfully, I was able to turn myself around it’s the help of professionals and the support and love of important family and friends – and also the shedding of many of the leaches who drained me emotionally. Once again I allude to the multitude of people who, while espousing the attitude of friend and helper of the needy, just jump ship and you never hear from them again once you are in trouble.

So I walk away from them and build the new life. A life where I can try to help others with similar experiences.

And so I come to the present… and the new stage play about our experiences… “Getting Better”. As I mentioned above, all of my waking time has been spent on writing this play in an attempt to reach more people than I can do with the talks – try to get into the mainstream of the population and get the message to as many people as possible so sufferers know they are not alone and loved ones get an idea of what is going on in our heads. I am at a stage now where the script is finished (some minor tweaks will still be needed) and I am 75% of the way thought preparing the audio visual aspects of the show.

Yes, it is another Dann extravaganza… not just a play with a few bits of furniture on the stage – there is that but also a full on audio visual show as well to support the stage action. Without a doubt it is the biggest and most complex show I have done despite there just being one cast member (and maybe one tech support person to do the lights). I now have an Australian agent approaching theatres here and a UK agent doing the same in Britain but I am happy to say that the world premiere of “Getting Better” will be on Tuesday 6 August and the Royal Scots Club at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

I am hoping to do a smaller preview show here in Australia before heading off the Edinburgh but we will see how we go.

So anyhow, that’s got us up to date now I think, tine for a cup of tea and a bit of line learning… Ye gods, me having to learn a script… what has the world come to?

Criticism, Gossip and Bullying

Before this blog post I just want to remind you that I am not a trained expert in these things, I am just a person with my experiences and understanding of how things have worked for me.

Well I guess it is about time to address the subject or criticism, gossip and bullying. Firstly let me start of with how we handle these things today rather than how we did so in the past.

We are now training our youth to accept criticism as part of life’s development process – providing that criticism is thoughtful and considered by the deliverer. And when we receive such criticism we are being told to take it on board and maybe use it as a catalyst for developing ourselves in a positive way for other people.

So I ask, why do we always need to be pleasing other people. Why should we have to change the way we do, say or discuss things purely so we don’t upset other people. When it seems as if they don’t have to afford us the same courtesy. I suppose it is when you don’t pay credence to other people’s feeling – then that’s what makes you a bully. And if your feelings are hurt by what the ‘bully’ says or does, then we need to get the parties together and work though the issues in a responsible and responsible manner.

The sad thing is, all the warm and fuzzy do gooders think that this approach works. Sadly, the truth is more like the bully thinks that everyone is soft and that he/she has got away with their bullying without any real punishment. Then they think “Pick of the little guy/girl, no punishment. I like being the big tough guy/girl, no punishment for enforcing my power on others… keep doing what I am doing”.

My experience indicates the only way to stop a bully picking on you is to fight back either physically or mentally. While I do not condone the use of violence against others, I do believe that it is any person’s right to protect themselves from an attack with enough physical force to fend off the aggressor. My experience has also shown that if you do fight back, the bully then no longer sees you as a soft target and will leave you alone. Usually moving onto another person but, hey, at least you are safe now.

I guess it’s a bit like parking your car next to an expensive car in the car park – hopefully the crooks will find that car more attractive and break into it, rather than into yours. By fighting back with a bully, you are showing him/her that you can hurt them as well – they will then seek others to be their victim.

Of course this then could make you feel like you are causing someone else pain by refocussing the bully on them. Then, by our new way of thinking, you will feel guilty. Well don’t! The new victim can also fight back if they want to – if he/she does, the bully will quickly run out of victims.

While physical violence is one tool of the bully, another is gossip. But gossip is not just limited to the bully, it is also available to anyone looking to ‘one up’ themselves in the eyes of others to be accepted into a group. But there are two types of gossip – the spreading of true stories that might not be wanted to be shared (I saw Sue kissing Sally behind the bike sheds and she thought nobody could see them), and the spreading of made up stories with no basis of truth (I have a friend who told me that she knows Sally is a slut).

In all honesty, there really isn’t much you can do about gossip. If you respond you just fall into the same boat as them. Then they respond with more force and venom – then it just spirals out of control. I have found the best way to get through this is to just let it ride. It will be uncomfortable for you but by ignoring it and moving away, the bad guys will no longer find it fun to slander you or try to bring you down. Like a fire front, it will hurt badly for awhile but eventually it will pass.

So we now come back to criticism… we are being taught to accept it as a part of life and, of course, we all pretend to like it and accept it. Well, I don’t know about you guys but every time I am criticised, I find it hurtful and demoralising. I am am sure most people are really the same – despite the false front of accepting it as a positive opportunity for improvement it hurts and destroys any positive vibe we had at the time.

An example of this is seen in the putting on of stage shows. There can be 1,000 people in the audience and everyone loves the show… afterwards they leave buzzing and singing the songs. You speak to them and they are overjoyed at what they have just seen. You are on a real high knowing you have provide some great enjoyment for the audience. Then one person comes up to you and says “Oh I didn’t like how you did that song”, or “I was disappointed you never did such and such”, or “Next time I think you should do…”. Immediately this brings you down to focus on the complaint. It doesn’t matter that you have done this show 50 times with no complaints, not that 999 people have just left happy and entertained – this one person’s complaint destroys the positivity and you then spend hours or days mulling over whether or not to cancel the rest of the shows, or change the show completely… yes it is completely illogical but that’s how the brain works.

So, anyhow, there is to be no negative criticism of this blog but I look forward to any comments or thoughts you might have.

Diagnosis Can Be Murder

As I have said before, these posts are the most honest and accurate collection of my feelings and experiences as I travel down this long road to recovery. Most posts are positive and up beat as they look at ways I handled things and how positive things are as recovery progresses. However, in some cases, things are not so positive – this post is one of those – while not in the depths of depression, there is currently a depressed air about where I am at and what I am doing – but in the true spirit of honestly and openness, here is my latest collection of thoughts…

I have found I am now experiencing a very interesting feeling regarding the conditions I have. For years I have experienced the pain, confusion, discomfort and relatively minor suffering of PTSD, depression, a bad back and heart disease (evidently caused by the PTSD and depression).

I have lived with these things for 10 years or more but managed to continue my life as it was – active, creative and very busy. I have now had all conditions diagnosed by medical professionals and now liability has been accepted by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The trouble is, now I find myself starting to consider myself as a person with the conditions and am starting to get into a mindset that tells me I am disabled and need to be acting in a different way to how I prefer. I also am thinking more like a victim than an ‘ordinary’ person. I no longer feel I should be carrying on doing all those things I have done for the past ten years and, instead, I should be slowing down and taking more time to rest and ‘be retired’.

Those of you who know me, would know that this is not something I can readily do – yes I have always found the quickest and easiest way to do things and I have always found a way to have fun doing my work – but the idea of sitting around thinking of myself as an invalid is not what I can do. But the front part of my brain is telling me that I have been diagnosed as an invalid and if I am to be getting any financial support from veterans’ affairs then I need to be acting, or at least to be seen as, deserving such support. I guess it’s a bit like a young person using a disabled car park – immediate first impressions are that he or she is doesn’t look disabled so shouldn’t be using it, but hidden under the youthful appearance is a suffering individual.

I also still have a feeling of not deserving any support or benefit from what I have done previously in my life. This is because I still have all my legs and arms, I am not physically disfigured at all and, apart from people thinking I am a bit weird, I seem to have all my mental faculties. As I have said in previous posts and in my talks – this recognition of deserving is one symptom of my conditions that I really cannot get on top of – despite considerable focus on this during counselling sessions and my reading and tacit acceptance of general consensus, I still do not consider myself suffering anything serious from my experiences and, therefore, not deserving any recognition for what I have done.

So at the moment I am struggling with getting back into the swing of things regarding the blogs, the talks and the new project “Getting Better”, which is a one man play based on my past ten years. There are also a few people who are looking at books of my experiences and even a biography. It is these opportunities that are my motivation for keeping going, without then I fear I will fall into the mindset of the ageing retired gent waiting to die. So it comes the time to go back through my posts and my talk notes and take some of my own medicine and get back into the swing of living my life.

On a closing note, my GP and Psychiatrist say this is a relatively common reaction when you get to this stage of the process and the conditions. I continue the journey…

How Do You Sleep?

A few months ago I talked about dreams and other similar stuff but never actually talked about sleep. The time has come to have at look at how this is working for me at the moment.

Back in the old days – those days as a young person without a care in the world sleep was a magnificent thing. I would go to bed late and sleep until I needed to get up for work – unless it was the weekend when I could sleep as long as I wanted. I am sure we all know people, teenagers, or even older, who can sleep nearly all night and all day. Sadly. though, this ability has now escaped me.

Sleep now seems to be this elusive thing from the past. I try my hardest not to resort to drug assisted sleep but must admit, for the first time in my life, I have recently used the occasional sleeping tablet to help. I don’t like doing this because I just don’t like taking pills unnecessarily. Of course, I am now also hampered by the bladder of an elderly gentleman that requires draining during the night. I don’t know where this bladder came from because in my head I still feel like I am 35 years old – it’s best not to look in the mirror and see the reality…

So this old man’s bladder wakes me at night so I go and wee and then go back to sleep – well that’s the theory anyway – normally it means that my brain has also woken up and decides to do its own thing again and keep me awake. Those of you who have been to my talks know that my treatment for this was to go onto the computer and write a blog pot – yes this thing you are reading now. And yes it is currently 4:30 in the morning and here I am…

However, if I were to do a blog post every time I woke up, we would be up to about 35,000 posts by now. So I have another thing I now do – the current day equivalent to listening to the wireless. Podcasts. But not really interesting ones – interesting ones grab your attention and you keep yourself awake by concentrating on listening to what they are saying.

I try to find lighthearted, funny or outright boring podcasts to listen to – something to take my attention but not enough to stimulate me into concentrating. There are thousands and thousands of podcasts out there and it’s a matter of trawling through them until you find just what you are after. And the voice also needs to be right – a nice smooth Terry Wogan type voice is much nicer than a Fran Drescher for this type of thing.

I tend to have honed down onto BBC Sounds at the moment for soothing (and maybe boring) podcasts. There is some really fantastic and interesting stuff on the BBC Sounds website (sadly the app for BBC Sounds is only available in the UK, the rest of us have to stream the stuff from the website which doesn’t keep track of what you have already listened to). I am sure there are other podcasts across Australia, US and Canada that are similar but I find the BBC voices (in the main) soothing on my ear.

They do have a specific podcast called “The Boring Talks” – they tend to be just what is needed to get you started. From them you can then explore other areas of interest. I often now find myself dropping back to sleep only to wake up and find the podcast has finished, or it has progressed through six or seven episodes because autoplay is turned on. The app keeps track of what you have already listened to but the streaming service doesn’t.

So that’s podcasts to help keep your mind under control when awake and trying to sleep but what about when you are asleep – how do you control your mind then? Well… buggered if I know really.

I have found that over the past couple of months I have started to have vivid dreams – both good and bad. When I wake up I know I have had the dream and can vaguely remember the content but within a few minutes the whole thing has disappeared from my mind, I just remember I had an amazing dream but can’t remember what it was about.

Sometimes I even get a trigger during the day that links me back to a dream I had but then I’m not sure if it was a dream or a suppressed memory. And as I process the thought I seem to go into pause mode… all movement stops and to others I probably look vacant and lost as a stare into the middle distance. It is usually only a fleeting experience and I return to normal (whatever that is) quickly.

So, anyway, what I find with my sleep now is that I tend to be running on two hour sleep blocks. Go to bed at ten, wake up at 12. Go back to sleep, wake up at 2:30. Go back to sleep, wake up at 5. After this I will lie in bed awake for awhile and then get up for a cup of tea and to watch the dawn break.

I try to stay up at night as late as I can so I fall asleep easily – it’s the staying asleep that is the hard part but one of the benefits of not working anymore is that I can grab sleep during the day if I need any. It’s funny how the daytime nap is generally seen as a little odd (a nanna nap for old people) in our society but I think that is just another of those weird things we have come to accept as the norm. Babies sleep when they need to, old people sleep when they need to – some societies have afternoon siesta, why is it odd for us in the English speaking world???

So anyway, that’s about it for this post, I think I might duck back to bed for a quick snooze before the sun starts to come up.

Thanks to

Sensitivities – The New Curse

Well this is going to be an interesting blog post.  As you all should know by now, these posts are normally a “spilling of the guts” where I just let my fingers and brain go off and discuss the chosen topic – then when I have finished the writing, I never read through the final product because I will tend to change it and it will no longer be a free form expression of thoughts.

I chose this topic a few weeks ago and left it to be written on later and, as I don’t remember the context of the topic, I will be interested to see what I say myself. So, here we go on Sensitivities…

The world has changed a a lot in recent history, much of this has been for the good but some of it not so. People have become more open with their feelings which is a good thing but it is also a curse – a curse that on one hand reduces the fear of be open and honest but, on the other hand, causes anxiety and stress in others.

In the area of mental health, it is great that we can now get out and talk about how we feel and how things are affecting us – yes there is still a stigma around that makes a lot of people still fear what they don’t understand but there is so many people around with anxiety, depression, PTSD and other conditions that we will soon be in the majority. Truth be known, we probably all ready are but many either don’t know they have the conditions or are still afraid to ‘come out’.

But, anyway, it is good that we can now get out and freely discuss our conditions and not have to worry too much about how other people perceive us. We are able to be honest and express ourselves freely, not only about how we feel but also about how the world affects us, HOWEVER…

The world now has given freedom of speech to so many people that everyone is now able to say how they are feeling and how the world affects them – so much so that other people are now afraid to say anything in case they upset somebody else and get in trouble. We have a society that no longer knows where it stands, some individuals have more freedom but others don’t. No longer is society based around the needs of the majority.

Everybody now seems to be so sensitive to criticism or negativity.  Where we were once a strong and resilient society, we now seem more bent on how unfair life is… “The world owes me a living, why do I need to do that?” type attitude.  As soon as anything goes wrong or somebody disagrees, instead of fixing it or discussing things in a civil manner, all form of abuse are thrown around… if you don’t agree with mass immigration you are a racist, if you don’t agree with same sex marriage your are a homophobe, you question female quotas for executive appointments you are misogynist and so it goes on… rational debate or trying to understand the other person’s point of view is no longer common.

Everyone is a victim, they claim they are being vilified with any criticism but then, when the criticiser receives abuse from the “victim’s” and has no recourse – the concept of “innocent until proven guilty” no longer seems to apply.  So society appears to be breeding a community of victims rather than strong and resilient individuals.  I have met with so many fellow sufferers of mental health issues and believe that getting over this ‘I am a victim’ mindset is really the key to recovery from mental health issues.

It is a very simple solution to stay in bed or in your comfy chair feeling sorry for yourself – God help me I did it for six weeks – but that is not going to help you move towards recovery.  You have to decide yourself that you are not a victim anymore, your are a driver and a creator – it is up to you (with the help of mental health professionals) to decide you want to do something about your conditions.

You need to approach the future positively, it might only be small steps at the start but you need to take control of your destiny and define where you are heading (the driver). You need to look at where you are mentally and physically and work out what it is you want to do and then find a way of doing it (the creator).  I know it isn’t easy to do, it took me a few weeks to sort it all out with the help of a counsellor, psychiatrist and a little bit of medication but I did it.

I still have the comfy chair but it is on my list of things to get rid of in the near future. As many of you who have seen me at my talks have seen, my positive attitude and desire to get out and help people is obvious… but honestly guys, all it takes really is you deciding that you want to get better and you want to do something positive.

Just a reminder – there is no desire to offend anyone in this post. If you have any comments please use the form below. I am happy to discuss my thoughts if need be.

Keep going guys, you can get over the bad times…

Dreams are Ten a Penny but Flashbacks are Free

Well where do I start on this little subject? Something I once again have no formal qualification in but experience every night. Something that can be pleasurable but also intolerable – very rarely are they neutral. I am sure there are many experts out there who can provide more qualified discussion on this topic but, once again, I will provide my interpretation, experience and understanding.

The broad concept of dreams seems to be those subconscious events and imaginings that occur in our heads – sometimes these are completely at the creation of the subconscious without the need for any stimulus. Other times they are the subconscious bringing forward its own interpretation of previous experiences. Yet other times it could be the brain searching for a way forward or a solution to a problem it thinks it has. But sometimes it can even be imagining the future in a way the conscious mind has requested (eg daydreams about how you will spend the lottery winnings).

I class ‘normal’ dreams as those positive images and experiences you have in your mind when asleep. Dreaming about watching the nice white sheep playing in a green field with a stream flowing gently to the right – a happy couple on a sunny day sitting having a picnic and a young girl sitting on a swing under an apple tree. A peaceful and tranquil experience coming from the brain and probably not anything you have really experienced but is an image your brain has of peace and tranquility.

These pleasurable dreams may also place you in the place of one of the couple so you experience the feelings of one of the individuals rather than just watching the event like it is a movie. You feel the happiness, the pain, the stress, love and other feelings of the person you have become in the dream – in some cases this even includes sexual feelings and a physical response to any intimacy in the dream. An example of the brain making the body believe that the dream is real.

These ‘normal’ dreams are nice, they seem to help me to relax and to wake up refreshed and ready for the new day.

These are the bad dreams everyone experiences once in a while. For some reason the brain decides to go on a trip into a bad place without any stimulus from the conscious mind. The dreams of monsters and strange creatures chasing us, attacking us or our loved ones – maybe hanging over a cliff waiting for help as we get weaker and find it hard to hold on, maybe stuck in a bad place awaiting a disaster.

A recurring nightmare I used to have as a kid/teenager was a single stick in a desolate location (maybe it was a small black line on a large white piece of paper). It is just there doing its thing (being peaceful and quiet by itself) when suddenly a massive dark and stormy entity rolls in from the left hand side of the dream and engulfs it – there is nothing it can do except be consumed. I never did find out what happened to the stick, it just kind of disappeared into the maelstrom. I used to have this dream every time I started to get unwell but it stopped in my late teens.

I am sure there are many interpretations that could be provided for the dream – a developing child waiting to be consumed by the world, an individual with no planned future seeking guidance from others, an attempt to remain a free sprit despite the pressures of society – who knows what it was.

Most of the time though we forget the dreams once we wake up. We remember we had a nice dream or a nightmare but we don’t remember the content or anything specific. Maybe the feelings we remember form the dreams are what sets the standard for the our days – will it be a good day or will it be a bad day?

With the erotic dreams there is, of course, some evidence of what we dreamed about so the positive memory can stay with us for awhile after waking up but sometimes we are hit with a negative dream (nightmare) so vivid that even when we wake up it seems the dream continues – the fear and terror stays. We then lie in bed with our heads under the covers afraid to look out because the demon might still be in the room – the feeling has spread from our subconscious to our conscious minds. Even when we brave putting our hands out from under the covers and turn on the light the fear remains. We get up, possibly still shaking and sweating and search the house to make sure things are okay – maybe a cup of tea to settle the nerves then eventually head back to bed and hope the dream doesn’t come back.

And then sometimes we have such an enjoyable and positive dream we don’t want it to end. So even when we wake up (usually for a wee) we try to stay awake and maintain the dream as we shuffle off to the toilet and back. Sometimes it works and the dream continues but, by morning, when we wake up, it is forgotten.

Generally, I find that the details of both of these ‘extreme’ dreams are quickly forgotten as the day progresses and I am just left remembering it was a good or a bad dream.

Then of course, those of us who have experienced bad things can also experience Flashbacks. Now I am not sure that these actually qualify as dreams because they are memories, but they can manifest themselves as dreams as well as the vivid memories while awake.

There are a number of different points of view on why we have flashbacks: reliving the experience, wanting to change the outcome, trying to work out what I did wrong, what would have happened if… and lots of other possible reasons.

My personal experience has been that initially there is a period of reliving the event because it was so mind affecting. This reliving is the brain trying to process the extreme nastiness of the visual images, trying to understand what happened, how, why, etc. This processing is important as it allows us to understand (or try to understand) what happened – it is important to do this so the brain can then try to file it away. To be honest, this processing is best done with the assistance of trained mental health providers because will involve a lot of unpleasant times in your head for awhile – even at home or at work. But it is important to get it out of your head, to share it and then have the chance to file it away and move on.

Even when it is filed away, it will occasionally resurface – the memory will come back. But by this time you will know how to manage it – you will be able to remember it, reprocess it and put it back in the file. Yes you will still feel the emotions you did previously but you will understand and be able to keep in control yourself.

One of the key things I used to overcome the bad memories is accepting a few things:

If you made a bad decision causing the event
Hindsight, while sometimes a good thing, can also be very bad for us. Self blame is easy to do in hindsight because you can see the results of your actions and can see where the wrong decision was made in the overall context. You need to remember that at the time of the event, you were undergoing a stressful situation, you probably had lots of information coming in to you from many different directions and you were being rushed to make a decision. At the time any decision was made with all the information available to you at the time – there were things you may not have know that have come to light since but, at the time you used the information that was available. You aren’t psychic so the decision you made was the correct one at the time in the context known to you.

If you made a mistake causing the event
The guilt from this can be destroying and there is no taking away from the fact that a mistake was made and something bad happened. However, you need to think why you made the mistake – unless it was a blatant act of tom foolery then think about what experience and training you had leading up to the event, was it adequate, did it prepare you for the position you were placed in or did you just end up there by a stroke of fate. If you think everything was adequate and you made an error then you need to remember that, despite what society is trying to make us believe, mistakes (and accidents) do happen – we are all human and we are not infallible.

On the other hand, if it was an act of tom foolery that caused the event it is a much more difficult thing to get over. In such a situation it is really, really important to get to a mental health professional and work it through. Just by talking it out with the experts, your guilt can be managed and you can more quickly come to terms with everything and move on with your life. While it is something that will be with you forever, the experience will shape you and could possibly move you forward in life where you can help others overcome issues they might be experiencing.

If it was an event you witnessed
You cannot do much about offsetting blame or responsibility for his. As they say, you cannot unsee anything, so the only way forward is to work through the experience with trained counsellors and learn to accept what has happened and what you saw and then allow the brain to process it and file it away. This is not an easy task and will take a lot of time but is well worth the effort. On a personal note though, I have found that adjusting my own mindset regarding the event helps to make things a little easier to manage.

It really comes down to accepting that there is nothing you can do to change the past, all you can do is affect your own future. We all have our baggage and overheads, we know they are there, we just need to put them away as best we can and make a choice – do I go forward with a positive attitude or do I stay still in self pity and fear. I know which one I have chosen…

Surround Yourself With Positivity

As I sit on a train in Newcastle, waiting to return to Northampton to pack my bags and head back to Australia, I ponder the benefit of the Captain Krankypants talks. Personally they make no money for me, in fact they cost me money to do – what with travel, accommodation, food, etc. It is only with the support of friends and supporters that I am able to do this. It is their positivity that keeps me going and encourages me to get out and do what I do.

It is also the looks on the faces of audience members as they recognise symptoms I am describing – then the enthusiasm they have to come and speak with me at half time or at the end – to tell me how much they could recognise themselves in things I said during the talk. And then to hear comments later saying how I have changed people’s lives, how someone has suddenly started opening up and talking about how they feel and how family and friends now see what their loved ones are experiencing and understand why they behave the way they do.

The positivity, love and appreciation that has flooded me during this UK tour has overwhelmed me a bit. I never saw myself in such a role – maybe a role model for some, a guiding light perhaps, or even a beacon in the distance at which to aim. I feel enthused to continue and to help others find their way out of their depression and to manage the PTSD – I want to encourage people to accept their situation and move forward positively into a planned and organised future… and I want to continue on my road to recovery by talking about this stuff and helping to remove the stigma that still exists in society.

How it will evolve – well I have some plans for the future that will see the introduction of a bigger show focussed on stigma removal while still continuing with the talks to maintain connection with those with the conditions and keeping me real. The expanded show is already written and planned, I just need to spend time putting together all the media and AV components. I am positive it will work but, once again, it comes down to funding. Maybe it is finally time for me to try this crowd funding thing and see what we can drum up…

So, while we are talking about positivity, I need to thank all those people around me who have helped with getting these talks happening – it doesn’t happen on its own. Each of these people has helped me with their positive attitude, their desire to help others and their desire to support me in my quest. Once again I will not name them individually because if I forget one person, it would be unfair and, even if unintentional, will upset that person. Believe me, I know what it is like to be forgotten when thanks are given out. So thank you all, every one of you, here in the UK and in Australia (where I will be again on Thursday). And there is some very exciting news coming up on that front as well – I just need to be certain I can release it.

Even in this, though, there is a lesson for people with these conditions… surrounding yourself with positivity. We all know someone who seems to be an ‘enthusiasm drain’ or an ’emotional leach’ – the person who can stop a party just by walking in the room. Hopefully it is someone else so you can avoid them but if it is you then you might need to adjust your image in front of people.

We all want to be accepted and loved by our friends and families. We want to be popular and appreciated but sometimes it just doesn’t seem to work. No matter what we try, we always seem to stuff it up or cause a negative reaction – which then either makes us retreat back into our shells or try even harder to be accepted. So what is the trick…

There isn’t one, all you have to do is be yourself. Sometimes you might want to look at how you interact with others and adjust the approach a little, other times it might be worth walking away and finding acceptance elsewhere. I see four reasons why an individual can be not accepted by a group.

  1. Trying too hard – sometimes we try so hard to be accepted by the ‘in crowd’ that we annoy them. Like a young enthusiastic puppy we prance around, nothing is too hard and we are keen, oh so keen, to be seen as a valuable asset. My Tip – stop trying to be accepted, be yourself and let others see you fro the real person you are. You can still be enthusiastic and keen to help but temper it a little. Stop chasing the popularity and let it come to you – if the ‘in crowd’ aren’t accepting you then maybe move away and allow your doors to open to others who might want you in their group or their circle of friends.
  2. Constantly negative – we are seen as constantly whining about something. The news is all bad, the food is cold, I don’t like the game anymore, there’s so many adverts on TV, the weather is too hot/cold, I wish it would rain, I wish the rain would stop… and so it goes on. My Tip – stop looking at the negativity in everything, try to see the positive elements. Bring happiness and positivity to the group and you will generally receive it back. If need be ignore any discussion involving negativity or avoid becoming involved in, and being seen as, whining about things all the time.
  3. Seen as untrustworthy and disloyal – in order to try to gain acceptance you belittle others, gossip, blame others or just make others look bad to the group. My Tip – do not ever talk about other people or what they may have (or may not have) done – especially if they are not there to defend themselves. While it can be exciting to see the faces on members of the group as you tell them the news that so and so did such and such, this behaviour is remembered and the group members subconsciously realise that you cannot be trusted with secrets or to be a confidante of individuals within the group. Also, if it is information about other group members or family you can be pretty sure that it will get back to the person concerned, which will have additional ramifications.
  4. Poor personal hygiene – if you don’t wash or keep yourself relatively tidy, if you exude bodily smells or if you burp and fart loudly and constantly, generally people will find this offensive – unless you are trying to join a group where these things are required. My Tip – have a wash, comb your hair, brush your teeth and stop eating beans and cabbage.

Well this has been a bit of a novel, I apologise for that – in summary: think positive, speak positively, surround yourself with positive people and be positive about your future.

We Are Not Worthy – Hang On A Sec… Yes I Am

Over the years I have never felt that I was worthy of many of the good things that happened to me. I always felt that I never worked hard enough nor provided suitable input into work – I never thought I understood what I was doing and that 90% of the time I was just winging it. Other people saw the confident positive and forward thinking me – I saw the timid, unconfident and frightened me – frightened of being found out as a charlatan or making a mistake.

I was always scared of making a mistake or getting things wrong because that would cause people to criticise or ridicule me. That was my biggest fear; looking like a failure. So I drove myself hard, I quickly learned about what I needed to know so I would be able to do it right and then – sometimes this meant sitting up to all hours the night before studying or thinking about how it needed to be done. I would then look confident and knowledgable the next day when doing what needed to be done.

I was confident though in my ability to see the eventual outcome of a proposal and know if it would work or not. I could also see the best way to do it and could readily estimate the resources needed. I still do not know how I was able to do this, it just came naturally. This was a skill that really let me appear confident and capable. Once again being able to back my judgement and build my internal confidence.

Then with the depression came the self doubt – a few minor errors saw my confidence plummet and develop into a situation where I no longer trusted my abilities. Without these abilities I then began to feel as if I was no longer worthy of any accolades, salary or other benefits generally given to relatively high performing workers. This then aded another level of stress onto my already stressful life , which then fuelled the depression which then fuelled the self doubt, which fuelled the stress levels, which fuelled the depression, which fuelled….. and so it went on until I eventually had a heart attack that stopped me in my tracks.

Suddenly different things became important to me. Working for other people lost its priority, it was time to do things for myself and be able to chose what I did and when I did it. The company I was working for at the time, looked after me for about 12 months after returning from hospital and I appreciate all those individuals who covered for me, kept me positive and removed a lot of the high pressure tasks I had beforehand. But, eventually, I knew I wasn’t pulling my weight in the team and decided it was time to move on.

For a year and a half I floated around with different projects and activities which gave me a role in life. Things I enjoyed doing but, once again were focussed around other people – and were still providing a high level of stress. Eventually that came to an end and I was left alone in business to work out what to do and where to go in life. I also had my melt-down which finally gave me the opportunity to do something different with my life but to harness many of the skills I had spent my life acquiring.

…And so emerged Captain Krankypants – the name given to me by my kids when I was struggling in life and constantly appearing angry about everything and anything. The name quickly caught on and many family and friends started referring to me by the name.

While the original Captain Krankypants was who I was at the time – and, yes, the website was originally for whining and complaining people to share their bleating – I now decided to keep the name as a memory to the person I was and to move forward in a positive manner and look to improve my sense of self worth while trying to help other people cope with what might be their own personal issues.

I decided that I would journal my experiences as I moved from the depressed condition to become the new person I am now. As soon as I started I found that people responded favourably to my story and to the journey I was on so I started going out and talking to groups and to media about it. I knew there was till a stigma associated with depression, anxiety and PTSD but I couldn’t care – I have nothing more to prove in life, I probably don’t have a lot of it left to be honest… so I could voice my experiences and risk the ridicule of others… but it never came.

My true friends and my family have been so supportive and new people I meet, when I explain what I do, think it is wonderful and very brave… I still don’t see why it is brave, I am just me doing what I do but I understand their support and positivity for it. Even people I never thought would say anything, have told me how proud they are of what I am doing… it is lovely to have so much support and love from people close to me.

So here I sit on a train in the UK travelling between cities where I am giving my talks. So far to groups as diverse as life sentenced ex military prisoners, drug and alcohol self support groups, mental health support groups and paying audiences across the country. I think of the individuals I have met so far and I see the look in their eyes when they recognise me as someone who has experienced what they are experiencing and they see me as someone who has got through the worst of it. I see them deep in thought, I see them crying with relief, I see them looking relieved and I see them taking notes and listening intently to me.

During the Q and A session I hear people looking for guidance, seeking comfort, asking for advice and my heart breaks for every one of them, knowing what they are going through. I tell them I am not a mental health expert nor a doctor, I am just a normal person who is a little further down the road to recovery than them. I go back to my accommodation after the show and sit quietly on my bed and think back through my life, I think about my life now, I think about all the people who come to see me and I think about all those who poor souls who are suffering so badly they can’t get out and I finally think… Yes I am worthy of being on this planet.

Criticism – Everyone Is An Expert

One thing I have always had difficulty with is handling criticism – to me criticism is an attack on my abilities, my knowledge or my integrity. I never handled it well and, while I have now made inroads into accepting that criticism is part of life and that some criticism is positive, I still have trouble accepting it.

As far as I see it, there are three types of criticism:
1. Positive. This is well meaning criticism provided by friends and allies in an attempt to make things better or easier for the recipient. A comment from a friend such as, “Hey, I saw your show last night and thought it was great. You know I think if you were to do (something or the other) then it might be a touch easier for the audience to understand what you are getting at.”

Such a comment can then be considered and accepted or rejected on its merits. It is delivered in a nonthreatening and noncombative manner and with good intentions. I can accept this type of criticism and like to discuss the suggestions with the provider and see if the suggestion can be included or if there is a valid reason why not to accept it.

2. Negative. A clear attack on me or the subject matter at hand and designed to damage or hurt in its delivery. “That bit in the show about (such and such) is really crap and you shouldn’t include it anymore.” With no justification for the comment nor any suggestion for improvement. It is designed to hurt or throw doubt into the delivery of the subject matter and is usually done because of jealousy or ignorance. People do not realise just how damaging these comments are – I have been involved in shows where 99 out of 100 audience members leave happy and contented because they have been highly entertained by a quality entertainer but if just one person is heard to complain about something he or she didn’t like from the show, it is that comment that is remembered. The other 99% of satisfied customers are forgotten and this 1% is taken to heart and ruins the feeling completely. It is the power of negativity over positivity.

3. Ill-informed. Some people provide advice and criticism with the best of intentions but do not understand the reasoning behind why something is done in a particular way. For example an audience member coming up to me after a show might say something like, “I loved the show but thought the lighting was not very good as I couldn’t see the band members faces very well – you need to get some extra lighting to show them”. What they don’t realise is that the band is not really a part of the show – they are included to provide the backing music for the main singer and are deliberately kept “under toned” to ensure the audience is focussed on the main performer. In other cases the band may need to be lit the way they are so they can see the charts to read the music. Comments made by people to try to improve a show like this are good in that they get the audience members to engage with production staff or cast with what they see as positive criticism but they don’t understand that this has already been considered and dismissed.

This then leads on to everybody believing they are an expert on your subject or project. They have a little bit of knowledge and a rudimentary understanding of things but do not know the intricacies or detailed information that has been the reason behind decisions. This is particularly of interest in the field of anxiety, depression and PTSD – everybody seems to think they are an expert in the field and are able to provide advice to anybody suffering the conditions. I know before I was diagnosed I had an “expert” opinion of it and was happy to provide armchair advice to anyone I saw as being soft and weak – “They just need to toughen up and get over it” I would say out of ignorance. But this was because I knew what was going on in my head and I thought I was surviving okay, therefore, they can do it as well. In fact before being diagnosed, I didn’t know there was anything wrong with me, I thought all the crap gong on in my head was what went on in everybody’s heads – I thought it was normal. Evidently it isn’t.

So the lesson here is that many people are armchair experts – they think they know what is best without really understanding what is going on. They are happy to provide unsolicited advice in an attempt to help the person in trouble. Sadly, while meant in the best possible way, the advice generally doesn’t help the individual because it is either a) from a family member or close friend whose advice will be ignored or b) from someone whose opinion is not valued and once again ignored. In some cases the advice might be taken on board and cause more problems than it actually solves.

The key point is that friends, family and even enemies will provide advice about how you need to behave – in most cases it will be meant in the best possible way but it is not always provided from an educated and understanding point of view. That is why it is important to seek advice from experts in the field – I know this is not an easy thing to do but, from my experience, the moment I first contacted a help line to seek support, my life changed for the better – they understood what was going on in my head and they provided positive and valuable advice that put me firmly on the road to recovery.

So do not be afraid to call a help line and seek support – or go to your GP and ask to be referred to an expert. I know it is a really difficult thing to do in the first instance but it is the best thing you can do.

Thanks to klc32 for this image

Sometimes You Just Know

It’s weird thing the brain – it works on so many levels and seems to be able to do so many things at the same time. In reality it doesn’t, it just switches between things very quickly so it seems like you are multi-tasking – so I am told by the experts. I never cease to be amazed at what it can do though.

So many times I have gone into a situation and known what the outcome would be before I even got started. Friends have told me I have an ability to see the future but I don’t agree with them – I believe I just think things through so much I can determine the most logical outcome and know where things will go. Also, as part of my life’s experiences, I always tend to expect the worst so when it happens I am not surprised – if it doesn’t work out that way then it is a bonus. “Always expect to be disappointed, then you are never disappointed” is what I used to say – yes, it’s a negative way of looking at the world but I would guess it is my way of scoping with events that don’t go how I would like.

Instead of that way of thinking, I now try to be more positive and look at things working out then hopefully the positive vibe not just keeps me upbeat but also helps to facilitate a good outcome – not quite sure how that could possibly work in reality but it seems to be a better way of thinking. It is not an easy task when you have had so many things go wrong in your life and, when other people are involved, nothing seems to go to plan.

I spent many years following my gut feel and found that things generally went as I expected them to go – either positive or negative. I could look at a proposal or an idea and instantly know if it work or not – most of the time I couldn’t explain to others why or how I knew, I just did. I can’t even explain it to myself. Then I started listening to other people and tried to take their thoughts and impressions into consideration. In doing this I found things tended to now go how we expected – things that should have worked didn’t and things that shouldn’t work did – I can’t explain it but with this happening so often I started to doubt my judgement and lost confidence in my ability to make the correct decisions in business and in life. As a result my self opinion started to decline and my self confidence started to waver.

I see self opinion as how you see yourself and self confidence is how you let others see you and how you feel when doing a task. I have always had a high level of self confidence but a low level of self opinion. While others saw me as successful and confident in everything I did, inside me I was just backing my own judgement, confident that things would work out as expected. Over the past ten years I found my own belief in myself deteriorated so much that I could no longer trust myself to make big decisions – so I didn”t and I found myself stressing, getting depressed and distancing myself from people. I was no longer the confident winner I gave the impression I was.

More recently I have started to get out of that spiral, away from the rut and back on the road to confidence and positivity – even when I feel negatively about a possible outcome I am getting back to trusting my judgement and trusting that my expected outcome will occur. Sometimes it’s not a good thing knowing things wont work out as preferred but at least I can once again be confident in my ability to foresee it.

So on I tread, into the great unknown, albeit sometimes expected, and try to maintain a positive and chirpy outlook on life as I move into the twilight years… with my seniors card.

Note: Not actually my seniors card but wish that was my number (apart from the last”4″)