This is why we can’t have nice things

This column was first printed in the Waterford News & Star on March 28 – a week after news of the North Quays development broke.

Photo by Colin Shanahan – DigiCol Photography & Media Productions (c) 2017 – http://www.digicolphotography.com

IT’S been an interesting and very enlightening week. I’ve always believed that Waterford has a dangerously large inferiority complex but it wasn’t until these past few days that I received absolute confirmation of it.

You’ll know by now that a Saudi Arabian group are planning to invest in Waterford – on the North Quays and on the Michael Street development. This is something that has been in negotiations for the past six months and is going to catapult our city into the economic stratosphere. Before I talk a little bit about the small mindedness that seems to be pandemic in Waterford, I want to briefly discuss what I believe this development will do for us.

Waterford has a brilliant location on the south east coast of Ireland. It should be one of the richest counties in the country due to its proximity to ports, beaches etc but somehow it’s not. Somehow, when the squeeze was applied, we felt the most pain.

I believe that a county grows from its city out and you don’t need me to tell you that Waterford City has been a wounded animal in recent years. Someone from a national tabloid rang me this week and proceeded to tell me how Waterford was dead and how this investment could revive it. I stopped them in their tracks and said that yes, we were knocked down, but we weren’t out. This seemed to be the buzz angle with other nationals, such as the Irish Times and Newstalk – paint a picture of Lazarus and go from there. They even went as far as showing some buildings that were shut down. Except they couldn’t even do that properly and decided to post a picture of Ginos instead, on which was probably taken at about nine in the morning (Ginos is very much open and thriving). Even when good things are happening, they still have to beat us down.

A rising tide lifts all boats and that’s exactly how I see Waterford’s future. Someone said to me this week, ‘this is the biggest thing to happen to Waterford in 800 years’, and I agree wholeheartedly.

I’m not going to say if…I’m going to say ‘when’. WHEN the Michael Street Development and the North Quays site are completed you are going to have some of the biggest names in retail operating from Waterford. We will instantly become a destination city for over almost two million people within 50 or 60 miles of us. You know that old expression that your nanny used to say – ‘money follows money’? That’s bang on and it’s exactly what will happen here. Waterford will be buzzing and it will attract other investors who want to get in on the action. Offices will pop up, a housing surge will commence and suddenly Waterford’s population will swell.

With the increase in populace, commerce and industry, there will be no option but to invest in our Airport with a major runway extension. Waterford will be like that English soccer club (Man City and Chelsea) that were languishing at the bottom of the table until Middle Eastern money came in to save the day. WIT will become University College Waterford and suddenly a conveyor belt of professionals will feed the city with knowledge, expertise and invaluable knowhow.

The nurses and doctors won’t be in such a rush to travel abroad because UHW will get urgent investment, including of course, the essential second cath lab.

This may all seem like pie in the sky stuff but I’m just saying what everyone else, including our highest ranking officials, are thinking but are afraid to actually utter the words.

We will, probably in 2020, have a complete city. John Street and Apple Market will have some fantastic bars and restaurants with outside seating on a beautiful, enclosed public realm. The Michael Street Shopping Centre will be a vibrant hub – full of people from the Dunmore Road who currently wouldn’t be seen dead in the city centre. Walking along Michael Street – with more great shops, we’ll then come to the likes of the newly relocated Tony Roches and of course City Square, which will be hugely improved from its current state with international retailers such as (possibly) H&M.

Wetherspoons will be open on Broad Street, as will Walsh’s and T&H Doolans. John Roberts Square will be buzzing. Keep walking down Barronstrand Street, cross the road and step on to the new pedestrian bridge which will bring you to the North Quays and a whole new world. None of this, I assure you, is farfetched.

Why then, when the Waterford News & Star broke the news of this development, did so few people believe it, and then so many more attack it?

Too many people have this opinion that everywhere else is better than Waterford. “I was up in Kilkenny last week and it was buzzing…twenty times busier than Waterford.” Rubbish. You don’t go out in Waterford, you barely leave your house, and you had cause to go to a Hen Night in Kilkenny and you suddenly assumed that they were great and we were not. Yes, we were bruised and beaten when the recession hit but we were resilient and we dared to believe in better.

“Sure why on Earth would they come to Waterford?” Because the powers that be, working hard behind the scenes, made us look attractive and stuck us on a shelf. We have a brilliant urban realm taking shape and a stunning Greenway that opened last Saturday. Add to that, the fact that you had a prime retail location with planning already approved and a 17 acre site that the Government had labelled a priority for a strategic development. It wouldn’t be too dissimilar from moving into a fully furnished home.

For the life of me, I’ll never understand why people will try and find negative in it. Sometimes I feel that certain people will never be happy unless everyone else is as miserable as they are. This is massive, and above all, it’s massively positive. Instead of trying to pick holes in it and sounding like a complete idiot in the process, why not just think about how sickened Kilkenny will be about the whole thing!

Advertisements
Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Remembering the Regina

The foyer of the Regina Cinema (Photo by Tommy Deegan)

Column originally published in the Waterford News & Star June 2014

OF all the buildings in Waterford that are no longer in use, I think the one that I miss the most is the old cinema on Patrick Street. I saw a picture of the old Regina on Facebook last week and it dragged up a heap of memories that I thought had been buried forever. I then took it upon myself to do some digging of my own and crossed my fingers that an old proprietor of the cinema might want to share some memories and possibly images of the place with us. Unfortunately, he didn’t, so that was the end of that.  Nevertheless, I’m going to share some of my own personal memories of the place, and if you feel so compelled, you can do the same in the comments below.

Being from the Cork Road, my Regina experience would begin with a dash around Dunphy’s, filling my little plastic bag with as much junk as I could find. People coming from other directions might have chosen to buy their goodies from O’Brien’s shop on Stephen Street. Back in those days it wasn’t frowned upon to walk into a cinema with a plastic bag full of super-cans, 100 penny jellies, a He-Man bar and a packet of wheelies.

On entering the Regina, you would first be met by a massive foyer that would probably be considered a waste of space in today’s ruthless times. Back then however it was an Art Gallery, exhibiting all of the magnificent movie posters of the time. From there you would move on to the positively tiny shop where you could buy your popcorn and wine gums. Unlike today’s cinema shops, the Regina didn’t require the deeds of your house before purchasing their delicious treats. You would then pick up your old fashioned ticket stub and be told which cinema your film would be showing in. Now, this is where my memory gets a little hazy. If you walked to the left, I think you would find Cinema 3. There was a big corridor running alongside it that was filled with couches for some reason. Am I wrong about this? This was the strangest part of the whole cinema and could definitely be considered a waste of space – you could have easily put a bowling alley down there. Regardless, it was a part of the Regina, so it was fine by me. According to the ad that you can see on this page, which was printed in a 1988 copy of The News & Star, there were only 3 screens. The other two were upstairs, the 2nd screen on the 2nd floor and screen 1 on the top floor.

I can remember seeing films like Superman VI and Neverending Story on the top floor, and my main memory of it was that it was absolutely humongous. As you walked in the door of screen 1 there was a long walkway to your left, which led to the men’s toilets I believe. It was quite a clever design though, because it allowed you to look down on all the seats in order to find a vacant one, instead of having to stand in front of 200 people with a gormless head on ya, like you have to do in today’s cinemas.

One of the screens had a huge landfill in front of it. This is a memory that is indeed sketchy but I’m convinced of it, despite never hearing anybody else talking about it. There was a ledge, and a big drop, which was obviously filled with old popcorn cartons etc. Absolutely legendary. Before each film started we were treated to a load of blobs floating across the screen. Anyone else remember this? It was probably some by-product of the traditional projectors but it was extremely trippy, and very much part of the Regina experience.

What say you Deise reader?

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

When money was money (written 2014)

WHEN I was a child, I remember how my father used to talk about going to the cinema for two pence, and making a night out of it for not much more. This was how life was in the 60s, I would tell myself, and surely nobody would ever be able to tell stories like that again. At least that’s what I thought, until I found myself having a similar discussion with someone last week.

Essentially, the View from the Blue is a look at Waterford from a few different angles – past, present and future. Because I’m only 33, (Okay I’m 37 now, but I was 33 when I wrote this) I can only go so far back with my nostalgia and I know that will probably be frustrating for all the people who can remember Winstons where Rubys was, L&N where Broad Street was and maybe even the fields where Reginald’s Tower used to be… I was born in 1980, so my memories are of growing up in the 80s and becoming an adult in the 90s. In that time, what we spend our money on and how much it gets us has changed considerably – maybe not as much as getting into the picture house for two pence, but it’s starting to get that way.

When I was growing up on the Cork Road, there were four shops that we would frequent for our “goodies” – the VG, Mossy’s, McGraths (nee Nolans) and Dunphys. Whatever money we were given, whether it was a pound or fifty pence, we could come home with a bag full of stuff. Fifty pence could get us a bottle of orange, a Wham bar, some sherbet, a bag of crisps and the rest in jellies. Off we would skip home with a bag full of sugar that would ensure numerous trips to the dentist for the rest of our lives. But all with just 50p. If we were lucky enough to have a pound, say for instance if our nanny was visiting that week, we could be in the shop for a solid half hour. There were different levels of chocolate bar, from your 10p He-Man bar, to your 15p Animal bar, then onto the 20p child’s size dairy milk and all the usual bars like a Yorkie, Whispa etc, which were in and around 30p. With a pound you could get a SuperCan of coke, a packet of Frosties, a packet of fives crisps, a Turkish Delight and the rest in jellies.

Now, the prices of confectionary didn’t change that much between then and the time that the Euro came in. The price of a bar probably increased from 28p to 36p at the most. When we started using those horrible euro coins in 2000, bars of chocolate had not broken the 40p barrier. The exchange rate told us that €1 was equal to approximately 78p. Then why on earth did we suddenly go from paying 36p for our chocolate to 78p?! That’s a huge leap that I’ve never been given an explanation to. And it can sometimes keep me awake at night I can tell ya!

We will forever remember this new century as the one where we were scammed and hoodwinked out of our money. As people will tell you now, “Fifty Euro lasts pissing time”. I’m not entirely sure what that means but the basic sentiment is that our money doesn’t do what is used to be able to in the last century.

Thankfully though, the prices of things are not all going in one direction. Remember when the mobile phones came in first? We were all running around with our big snowboard shaped plastic boxes of Ready to Go 088 phones. Text messages started at 20pence a pop and then went down to 12 pence. Imagine paying that much for text messages today? We’d all be bankrupt and rebuilding our lives in England. Phone calls rarely lasted any longer than 10 seconds – “Well boy, are you going out tonight? Good stuff. See you in Egans at nine. Bye.”  This new way of saying goodbye, where we all say “bye, bye, bye, bye, bye, bye….yeah….bye…bye…” wouldn’t have been tolerated in the 90s when we were paying a pound a minute for the privilege.

And what about DVDs? I remember being asked to pay €25 for a new DVD in the early 00s, now you can pick up three for a fiver, and I’d doubt you’ll be asked to pay €6 anymore to rent a film for one night. Madness! And don’t get me started on houses…

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A day in the life of a scumbag

Column – Originally printed in the Waterford News & Star December 2016

This week’s column is based on real events that happened right here in Waterford over the Christmas time. It’s a composite of a number of separate incidents, used to create one hugely frustrating insight into the life of a parasite.

“John” walked the neighbourhood for second time that week. He brought the dog this time to dispel any possible suspicion. As he turned in a cul de sac he took a quick glance at the hedge that he would watch the neighbourhood from the next night. He was no criminal genius, after all, he had already spent 10 years of his life as a drug addict. The six months or so that he had been clean had been spent organising crimes as opposed to just targeting random people on the street. He didn’t mind doing that too though, whenever the opportunity presented itself. His previous criminal record currently stood at 18 – mostly theft offences with a couple of public order charges in there for good measure. Today was December 20, a busy few days ahead for everyone, but especially him.

John usually worked with an accomplice but tonight, as he sat in the hedge dressed all in black, he was glad that he was working alone. He didn’t have any particular houses in mind, the plan was to wait until a family left and then he would make his move. At 7pm a young family with one child left the house and locked the front door. They packed their little one into the back seat and then drove off. John took a quick look around to see that there was nobody else on the street and made his way toward the house.

There was a dog barking from the side of the house – always an inconvenience, mainly because of the barking. John knew though, dogs that were kept outside in the back garden were always appreciative of being left out. He opened the gate and let the dog run free around the neighbourhood, meaning he could investigate the house, free from all that annoying yelping. Thank God they didn’t have a padlock on the back gate, he thought to himself.

Using a chisel and a hammer, John attempted to remove the lock off the side door. If that didn’t work he knew he had a patio door, which he could just smash. Luckily for him, the lock came off relatively easy and he was able to open the door with a couple of hard shoves. No beeps upon entry, no alarm system, his second piece of luck.

John made his way to the sitting room where he saw 10-12 presents wrapped under the tree – jackpot number one! He took a black sack from under the kitchen sink and opened all the presents one by one. An expensive looking jacket, a toiletries set, a kid’s toy…they were all worth taking because he could either sell them on or keep them for himself.

He had another quick look around before moving upstairs. First, into the master bedroom, where he pulled out all of the drawers in the hope of finding some jewellery. From the man’s side of the wardrobe he just grabbed a handful of suits and threw them into the sack. On the dresser he cupped his arm and just shoved it all into the bag. Not for a second did he think about what he was doing. “I’m invading someone’s privacy in the worst possible way…but it’s okay, because I’m stuck for money right now and these people have loads.”

Then, John made his way into the bedroom of a four year old. Knowing that he was walking into a child’s bedroom and knowing that he had already stolen some of her presents from downstairs, this was no bother to him. At first it didn’t look like she had anything worth taking, until he spotted a money box on her windowsill. Without a second thought, he opened it and emptied the contents into the bag. “A lot for a child,” he thought to himself. Before leaving the house he pulled out a few more drawers and ran his grubby fingers through more of this family’s possessions. As he left the estate, he mimed a kick in the direction of the dog that he had just let out. The family would return home later that night to a scene of devastation. Christmas ruined, all because one person thought he had the right to invade someone’s home and take the possessions that they worked hard for. John doesn’t have a job and that’s the way he likes it. These, hardworking people are paying John’s wages and if he ever gets caught, they’ll be paying for his legal representative as well.

If John is caught – and that’s a mighty big IF – he’ll go to District Court and because he’s not working, he’ll be granted free legal aid. His solicitor will then tell the judge that his client has a very tough upbringing and there was a history of alcoholism and abuse in the family. “He’s battling addiction at the moment judge but he has been clean of heroin for six months now. He carried out these crimes whilst under the influence of drink and some pain medication for a prolonged leg injury. He has told me that he deeply regrets what he has done and knows that he must be punished.”

The judge, taking note of the 18 previous convictions, sentences him to two years but suspends them pending a report from the parole board. He’s released on a very small cash bond. John leaves the court with his girlfriend, herself a girl of ten previous convictions, some for robbery, some for assault, both laughing at the fact that he has ruined another Christmas and gone total unpunished.

Welcome to Ireland in 2016.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

What is life?

YOU know that phrase, “it was an eye-opening experience”? Well in that last few weeks it feels as if someone has gouged my eyes out – King Lear style – and sent them on a worrying tour of other people’s minds.

I think it’s now fair to say that everyone suffers a bit with anxiety, stress, worry, depression or just plain old butterflies for no particular reason at all. I have some close friends that when we meet up, will tell me that they’ve been on a bit of a “downer” for a few days but don’t particularly know why. Sometimes all it takes is a chat, and a bit of a laugh, to bring that person back to normal, but of course that’s only temporary and soon they’re back home where all their worries seem to stem from.

I get anxious about the strangest of things. For example, on my birthday, when people were posting messages on my page, for some reason that had be going around with a racing heart for half the day. I only calmed it down when I eventually got around to thanking everyone for their kind wishes. There really is no logic to this, but I know that it’s probably self-esteem based. In fact, it gets a bit stranger when I tell you that as soon as my beating heart was stilled, I then questioned why only 250 people out of 1250 had actually wished me a happy birthday. They must secretly hate me. That’s it.

Once again, I know that there’s no logic to that. I don’t even need anyone to tell me I’m being a silly billy for thinking this, I already know it…but it doesn’t stop me from thinking these things anyway.

I’ve never been content with who I am and I fear I never will. I could change my clothes about five times a day because I hate how fat I look. I hate my fat head, is a sentence I say quite a lot and is the reason I avoid cameras like cats avoid dogs. The thing is, I’ve thought the exact same thing since I was about 14 so it can’t really be related to size (because I certainly wasn’t overweight when I was 14) –  it’s obviously some kind of deep rooted self-esteem thing.

This journalism lark can be strange sometimes. I was at a mental health talk recently and all I could think about while people were telling their stories was ‘yeah…I should be up there…’ It felt weird being the one documenting their personal journeys, as if I was somehow disconnected to them.

The reality is that we all struggle in one way or another, and logic never comes into it.

The worst thing we can ever do is compare our lives to others because the simple fact is, it’s like comparing a book you’ve written to one that you’ve only seen the cover of. We genuinely have no idea how good or bad someone else’s life is. Like, you wouldn’t know how messed up my head sometimes gets if I didn’t tell you about it every second week. I’ll also happily tell you that many of my closest friends, some of whom have some very high powered jobs, are as messed up, if not more so, than you and I.

I need to start getting to a point here.

For some people, a ‘downer’ can happen if they don’t feel in control of their lives. Their mind will take them on a journey of all the worst possible conclusions to their current circumstances. That can sometimes fix itself by doing something as straightforward as cleaning up the house or sending all those emails you should have sent last week.

I know for a fact – although they may not know it themselves – that three of my closest friends suffer a bit with anxiety because they feel that they are not being the best versions of themselves that they should be. They think they are in jobs that they don’t deserve and soon the world will be exposed to how much of a fraud they all are. They’re being too hard on themselves but they’re never going to see that. They’ll do something good in work and feel better about themselves, but that will soon wear off and they’ll be left, alone and sullied, in their homemade world of self-doubt. And this brings me to my point.

The message of ‘it’s good to talk’, has been around for decades. It’s a good one, but it doesn’t get to the heart of the issue. We need to talk to people about the demons in their heads and the monkeys on their backs. I’ll tell you about why I get anxious every Tuesday when the newspaper comes out, if you tell me why you’ve turned off all the notifications on your phone.

Talk, but talk about something meaningful because there’s no substance in small talk and its effects are only temporary. I’ll tell you why I hate socialising in large groups, if you tell me why you spent all day yesterday in bed.

Honesty is the most powerful weapon we have in the fight against depression, anxiety and self-doubt. That, and good friends. Take a look at your current circle of friends and if you think that you can’t tell any of them your deepest darkest worries, then you need new friends. Seriously.

I know that right now, if I rang up 2-3 of my friends and told them I had killed a man, they’d be over with a shovel and a bag of lime. Ok, maybe not to that extreme but you know what I mean.

I’m going to make a personal guarantee to some of you now (I say some because I don’t want to be too presumptuous about people’s problems). Those butterflies in your stomach…that thing that you worry about last thing at night and first thing in the morning…it’s really not as bad as you think. Pick out a close friend…tell them about it and I bet they’ll tell you something about them in return.

Two weeks ago, six people contemplated suicide on the River Suir. One man jumped into the river and almost instantly regretted it. That’s six that we know about. What about all the people at home that put their head into a noose, never giving their friends a chance to show them a different perspective.

What is life? I still don’t know, but what I do know is that we’re all in it together.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Nothing ever happens

I was  listening to an old classic earlier – Del Amitri’s ‘Nothing Ever Happens’ – and I was reminded of how brilliant the song is. Musically, and especially lyrically it’s an under rated gem. As I was listening to the words, it occurred to be that it was painfully relevant to today’s society. Here’s a verse –

 

Bill hoardings advertise products that nobody needs

While angry from Manchester writes to complain about

All the repeats on T.V.

And computer terminals report some gains

On the values of copper and tin

While American businessmen snap up Van Goghs

For the price of a hospital wing

 

Nothing ever happens, nothing happens at all

The needle returns to the start of the song

And we all sing along like before

And we’ll all be lonely tonight and lonely tomorrow

 

Last week’s Prime Time Investigates on hospital waiting lists was tough but compelling viewing. Every so often, whether it’s an exposé on childcare or corrupt councillors, RTE’s investigative journalists hit a note that has the whole country talking the next day. If we ever needed a reminder about the importance of journalism, and the despicability of our political system, that programme was it. It was actually sickening.

A 13-year old girl called Megan, who suffers from scoliosis, cannot attend school because the curve in her spine is so severe. Two years ago, she had a 20 degree curve and now, because she’s been kicked down the hospital waiting line so much, it’s now the shape of an ‘S’, which is a painful, and dangerously serious regression. I’m getting angry just writing this. With absolutely no disrespect to her parents, if that was my child, I’d be out in that f**king hospital with a flame thrower.

Last week the TDs and Ministers announced a pay-rise for themselves, and not one of them deserve it. If a soccer team was relegated, you can be sure that the players wouldn’t be getting a wage hike. All those TDs are on a team that is struggling badly. In the top three worst countries in Europe for waiting lists and they all get a pay-rise – what the hell kind of message does is that to be sending out?

If that Prime Time programme wasn’t aired, nothing would have been done about it, like always. But thankfully, it was. Those brilliant journalists worked days, weeks and months, and the whole country stood up and took notice. Here’s the problem though – what department of the health system (just one of a number of systems in this country that are failing) is going to be on next week’s show? Unfortunately they’ll have to move on, for the same reason we can’t put the hospital on the front page every week – the majority of people rarely care, until the pain comes knocking at their door.

After that show, Minister Harris was forced to do some soul searching. When the cabinet was announced last May I wondered to myself what poor Simon had done to Enda to get the hardest job in politics. He will never amount to much after this because his name will forever be attached to the worse period of Irish Health since the decade before Sean Lemass came to prominence. The HSE is a disgrace, and has been for a number of years…constantly papering over massive cracks and running for cover every time another health scandal is exposed. Harris could be a good politician, but we’ll never find because he’s like a 100 year old woman bringing an Irish Wolfhound for a walk.

After Prime Time Investigates, he promised that a new operating theatre –especially for scoliosis patients – would be open at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital Crumlin from April. He says the opening of that operating theatre was delayed because of staffing issues. The people of Waterford have heard that one before, haven’t we? UHW lost 10 beds last October because of staff problems. That in turn meant that we couldn’t get 15 beds that were promised to us to offset the winter surge of sickness. It’s now February and just four of those beds have been put back into circulation. I’d hate to be the one to say it to Megan and her family, but I wouldn’t be holding my breath on that scoliosis unit. The only thing she has in her favour is that its declaration was so public and Minister Harris will scrub up himself if it means delivering the promise.

And this right here, is the importance of journalism. I feel that it’s my duty to remind politicians of their promises. Harris came in to Waterford last November and said that we’d have the 10 beds open and the additional 15 beds before winter’s icy hands loosened its grip on our hospital. That never happened…the promise, like so many more before (remember James O’Reilly promising that we’d have 24/7 cardiac care?) was worthless.

To quote the song above, the needle keeps returning to the start and we all keep singing along like before. We need to do more. Protests don’t work because they’re too easily ignored. We need to expose lies, broken promises and the sharpest knife of all – the painful reality of our health service victims. We need our TDs (David Cullinane has been a master of this to be fair) to issue parliamentary questions and Freedom of Information requests because, in theory, they have to tell the truth (for fear of being exposed of covering anything up)

Last October, a contact of mine in the hospital told me that we had lost those ten beds. I immediately put the question to the HSE. What did they do next? They issued a south east wide press release about the beds. Rather than have me ‘expose’ the story, they tried to ‘manage’ it, dismissing it as simply a temporary staffing problem. It’s not temporary – it’s a national crises. Doctors and Nurses are graduating and going as far away from Ireland as possible because the pay is rubbish and the working conditions are even worse.

The majority of nurses in this country earn between 24K per year and 31K per year. Meanwhile, Luas Drivers ended their strike recently when their €42K per year salary was increased to €50K. There is something seriously wrong lads, but nothing ever happens, and nothing ever changes.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The depths of depression

caswat

REGARDLESS of how funny this sentence sounds, I have to write it:

I was only a child growing up.

I was doing child things, and then I was doing teenage things and then I was doing stupid things. I don’t remember people talking about depression back then because I was distracted by He-Man, and then by girls, and then by bad habits.

I worked in a shop on Hennessy’s Road called Finefare when I was in my early teens. I remember people coming in that, as was okay to say at the time, ‘weren’t playing with the full deck.’ These were the people that we considered to have mental health issues. They were, as I was told by older people in the know, ‘struggling with their nerves.’ I remember not having a clue what that meant. My experience of nerves was waiting for the principal to get back to the office I had been sent to, or that feeling I had before I went to a job interview. In my unpolished mind, these people were constantly walking around nervous, and to me, that seemed like hell on earth.

Were there as many people suffering ‘in themselves’ back then or is all this mental health stuff just a modern phenomenon? Do we have the recession and the rise of the internet to blame for our ever more fragile minds? Is it all Facebook’s fault?

Honestly, I haven’t a clue, but I do think that it’s logical that this new social world that we’re all living in can put added pressure, even subconsciously on our minds. From a young age I used to think about how the mind was the most vital tool that we have. Let me talk about mine and we’ll see if it resonates with any of you.

I remember, even as a teenager, needing to have my thoughts in order before I faced the day ahead. If I could somehow create a positive barrier around my worries, then all would be well. If I was dreading a particular day in school, I’d reinforce that with something to look forward to in the evening, even if that was just a bag of crisps, a Toblerone and a big glass of milk. I could genuinely make my day more endurable, even enjoyable, by just placing a positive thought in there…something to look forward to.

I felt like my whole life was dominated by thoughts, or, as one might argue, excessive thoughts. The mind was in complete control. I wasn’t able to just get up and get on with it like it seemed that everyone else was doing. Of course, if I knew then what I know now, I might have felt a little better. Everyone is not as ‘okay’ or as ‘perfect’ as they try so hard to let on.

Skip forward to today and the key words are ‘depression’ and ‘mental health issues.’ If there was a scale between 1-10 and we all had to pick a number that represented the status of our minds,most would probably land at around 5 or so, as we all get stressed and worried but not everyone would consider themselves ‘depressed’ or having ‘mental health issues’.

The one strong message that has been delivered by mental health organisations the world over is ‘TALK’. Nobody should be allowed to think that they are fighting a unique battle. Talk, and I guarantee you’ll feel better. The wonders of communication have been marvelled the world over. Remember when you were in secondary school and you didn’t study for that big test. Remember that panic? Now, remember when you told your friends that you didn’t study, and they replied that they didn’t either? I can still feel that sense of relief. It made me feel better, even though I still hadn’t a hope of passing the exam. The feeling that someone else was in the same hole-ridden boat as I was, was a great comfort.

I’m not depressed but I do think I suffer from some form of mental health issues. I’ve diagnosed myself with a simple case of ‘overthinking’. Sometimes, a good day for me can be cut short by thinking too much about something that I did previously, or maybe getting paranoid about something that I said to someone. “Did they think I meant this when I actually meant that?” That kind of crap can take over my mind like a virus. I can sometimes endure a beating from the forlorn stick, just by realising that all the people I love could die in the morning.

I have friends who are dealing with some seriously complex and stressful issues and I know for a fact that their minds are being stretched like elastic-bands. I make sure I meet with them on a regular basis just so we can bat our problems across a couple of pints like a tennis ball. A problem shared is definitely a problem halved, even if the other person can do very little to help our problems.

For what it’s worth, here are my ‘mental health’ problems in a nutshell: I worry too much about the future and I regret too much about the past. When I look back at previous relationships and situations I remember only the bad from me and the good of everyone else. I care far too much about what other people think. If someone unfriends me on Facebook, or blanks me on the street, I’ll agonise about what on earth I did to annoy them. I used to have a best friend in school, a chap who one day decided that he no longer had time for me. Maybe other things happened in his life to break our connection but to this day, I still think about what I said or did to make him walk off my radar. He doesn’t have a Facebook or Twitter and only for the fact that his brothers regularly confirm his existence to me, I would have been convinced that he was dead. I hope to meet him again soon, just so I can count one less demon in my mind.

Seriously, you may not be depressed and you may not have ‘mental health issues’ but nobody is immune to this crazy world so please…talk more, it could be the best medicine you’ll ever take.

 

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment