The Understanding Initiative

Hi everyone,

Sorry for the radio silence lately. It’s been a little nuts over here. Between attending events with my books and life generally being crazy, I haven’y had a second to sit and write to you all.

As I was sat last night, thinking about what this blog post should be about (apart from apologies), it came to me that there were just too many things to make a coherent single post. Since we last spoke, I’ve been through a real roller coaster of Down Days and my annoying issues. Then it hit me. That’s the point, isn’t it? When Those Like Us have a Down Day, or week, or month etc. we don’t always get just one thing at a time.

I don’t just feel sad, I don’t just feel worthless. I don’t just feel like my writing career is going nowhere, I don’t just feel like I’m letting my loved ones down. I don’t just get irritated by the people around me or annoyed at myself for being unable to ignore the horror around me. I get it all at once. And I’m sure you do the same.

That myriad of emotions, fears and worries is draining. Exhausting. And when you’re trying to hide that so that you can stand behind a stall all day and meet every lovely person who comes to talk to you with the same exuberance, it can be almost fatal. After an event like Yorkshire Cosplay Con in Sheffield Arena last weekend, I was so exhausted when I got home that I was absolutely useless. I went into a massive slump straight away. Basically as soon as I was back in my car and on my way home, it hit me. I had no energy anymore (in fact, i had to leave a couple of hours early because, quite frankly, I couldn’t maintain the facade anymore). The problem is, of course, that holding the Depression in check takes ridiculous amounts of self control, concentration and mental acrobatics. When you have no energy to do that anymore, the walls come down. Or rather, the dam breaks.

I met a friend for a coffee (tea for me) a while back and she asked me, “can’t you just, you know, suck it up?”. I smiled, just said that wasn’t how it worked, and didn’t bother to try and explain. Mostly because at the time I wasn’t in the right frame of mind to try and explain it with any clarity. But that’s what people think we can do. And most people don’t realise that we’re sucking it up every day of our lives. When they finally see how we really feel, it’s because we’ve fought it too long and, just for today, we’re losing.

For me, with my anxiety getting worse lately to the point of torture just walking down the street, I have to suck that up every day to make sure that I keep going to work, that I don’t become a complete recluse, that I don’t let my anxiety turn to agoraphobia. It’s a slippery slope.

The lack if insight into their fellow humans that some people show is truly staggering. Of course, knowing what someone else is thinking or experiencing has always been a human problem. We are islands, as some very intelligent person (who I can’t remember and I’m probably misquoting) once said. And from our shores we can’t see much further than the neighbouring beach, the very surface. The jungle behind remains a mystery. That’s why we’ve always needed poets, composers, writers and artists who can turn their own experiences into something we can share with them.

Unfortunately, for Those Like Us, there aren’t many people out there flying the flag for the Depressed, the Anxious, the “mentally ill”. Why is that? Perhaps because it’s a taboo subject. Perhaps because other humans are willing to share sorrow and joy and unrequited love and fear and excitement int he form of music or film or writing, but god-forbid that the mirror be held up and we see how fragile our psyches are; that thin plate of glass in their mind that separates normal from abnormal, that one that is already showing cracks.

It’s more scary than Kreuger, more sorrow-inducing than Jack slipping into the sea so that Rose can live (they could totally both fit on that door, just saying). I understand why people don’t want to see it, but see it they must. Because we’re everywhere, Those Like Us. We’re the lady at the check-out, the bus driver, the old school friend, the third cousin. We’re sharing the world with others and they need to see us.

This has turned into a long post.


Sometimes when I haven’t written in a while, my fingers get the best of me.

What I’m trying to say isn’t “they need to change! They’re wrong!”. That’s not true. As I said, understanding the suffering of another person is incredibly difficult. But if we can just open a few minds, even if the chain is still on the door, a little light might leak out. Who knows what people might learn. And, by accepting others, who knows how many people whose mirrors are showing cracks we might be able to avoid shattering? More than people understanding Depression etc. for our benefit, Like Like Us who are already broken, I want to avoid it happening to anyone anew.

With that in mind, let’s have a little audience participation.

You can always share your stories with us here on Down Days. Just drop me an email with your story. But what else have you seen, heard or read that has really rang true with you? Let’s imagine that we’re starting a pop-culture project. We’re putting together music, art, movies, writing, and anything else you can come up with that shares what it’s like to live with what we live with. I’m just riffing here, but let’s call it The Understanding Initiative.

(That’s terrible, but it’ll do)

I have to sign off now, but I’ll start a page for the UI (that sounds kinda cool, not gonna lie) and every suggestion that you guys make, I’ll list it, link to it if possible, and see if we can’t put together a nexus of media that can express to people what we live with far more eloquently than I ever could alone (which isn’t hard).


Thanks for reading!


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