The Afteraffects of Anti-Depressants

I posted this on a social networking site called ‘Experience Project’ recently. I find the place useful because I can piece together what happened to me from going through the events. Plus the people who do engage can be most helpful in getting each other where they need to go.

“About 13 years ago I had a particularly profound experience where I had my mind blown apart and expanded beyond all conceivable limits by a terrible reaction from the withdrawal of an anti-depressant medication. Ever since then I have had periods of altered states of reality on almost a yearly basis.
When my mind was blown away, it felt like the very core of who I was disintegrated into fine grains of something intangible and ever since then it’s been a journey to pull that core back to something whole.
Each time I feel I am getting closer to being put back together, truly whole within myself, I have a habit of unravelling and drifting back again into an altered state of reality once more.
Yet being on places such as EP, interacting and observing others for a length of time reminds me of what I am ultimately looking to become.
I remember the experience of being unconditional love. I remember what it means to feel fully present in the this constant moment of existence. I remember that there is that sense of being fully connected to all that happens in the “now” of the world we perceive. I can recall the memories I need to help give that insight to convey what I wish to describe.
It’s at this point, clarity returns. You start to think of what it means to be a complete person and in doing so you can start to think of devoting more of yourself to others.
You can start to explore genuine selflessness.
However the key is possibly the ability to sustain that state of wholeness in order to devote a life to helping others. You only need what brings that equilibrium to be healthy.
This is now the challenge once again. I consider this coming new year as a fresh start with a clean slate full of possibility. A way to end one cycle and bring about another. One that leaves behind any fragmentation and instead sees things as a unified whole.
With this, purpose and meaning can be realised.”

All the shifting about on a psychological level, seeing hallucinations and being lost in delusions, opens you up to a world where you can transcend Earthly planes of existence.

I feel it is very much real. Perhaps even more real than being contained in our bodies. You could consider it spirit walking.

There is a belief that this whole process and dealings with such things as Psychiatry is a path in becoming a Shaman. Unfortunately we do not have the skills taught to us anymore. However there are tribes out there fully aware of this today. For myself, I am still working on keeping myself together. Yet each time I come back from being lost, I bring that much more back with me. I’m hoping this year, I’ll be able to continue staying much more whole in order to discuss and post about my discoveries.


I’m still happy to be alive! – Part 1

OK, so I’ve been somewhat busy of late and I’ve just got back from a Charity event in Liverpool, which was in order to support EleMental and the work that is being done with those people connected to it. Robert Whitaker (author of “Mad In America” and “Anatomy of an Epidemic”) was the guest speaker, and I truly thank him from the bottom of my heart, and to those who made it possible for this event to happen.

What I have to say here will be both shocking and controversial for people to read, but I assure you, what I have to disclose is as close to the truth as possible. This is both a reason why I have gotten so very angry many a time, and why I continue to have a passion for contributing to change within and around mental health services. I am going to list bullet points which highlight what it is I have to say. Here goes:

* I have often told people that I was born to two parents diagnosed with severe mental illness. Through the first ten years of my life, my parents were admitted to Psychiatric Hospitals – at times together for up to 6 months  – and were subjected to various treatments considered to be suitable by the medical system in place. I was separated from them at a very early age, and this started what would be severe trauma for myself, and ongoing severe trauma for my parents.

Well, it turns out that if someone had actually listened to what their problems were and cared to help them with what were simply their “basic needs”, it would have been unlikely that they would have needed to go into hospital at all. I’ll look to point out why this is significant as I go.

* I remember visiting the Psychiatric hospital that my parents would become familiar with, at around the age of six years old. On one occasion I got to see my mother after she had received a “dose” of ECT (Electro-convulsive Therapy). It was very shocking and disturbing for me to see my mother this way, as she appeared to have been, what I can only describe as being “beaten up”. Her speech was slurred, she was wobbling about as she walked and generally had trouble standing up to spend time with me.

ECT works by damaging the brain – it is designed specifically so that this happens. It destroys areas of the brain which affect a person’s memory, and it supposed “helps” when especially traumatic memories from the person are lost – memories which can become a difficulty to live with. Unfortunately, because the brain is damaged, it has obvious cognitive side-effects for the individual and also prevents efficacy with more holistic approaches, such as therapy, where it can be essential to remember these traumas for healing to take place.

My father also received this method of “treatment”, although I had never seen him after it had happened.

* Due to my parents difficulties, it was a great struggle for them to make a living. The stress of unemployment and the responsibility of taking care of themselves – as well as their only child – would often become too much and trigger their “mental illness”. One thing I started to develop early on as a child, which I was not given the diagnosis of, would be what is considered ADD (Attention Deficit Disorder). This is something I have trouble with – even today – and have never been given help to cope with the troubles it presents. As a result of this, I struggled through most of my school years, underachieving in the large class sizes which were too much for me to settle down in. I knew I had a problem – I just didn’t know how to verbalise it or know how to be any different. Teachers and tutors would often report that I was “disruptive” or something along the lines of not showing enough attention in class. Hmmm I wonder why?

Of course, if I had been given this unfortunate diagnosis, I would have been put on Ritalin almost straight away (and I almost did get put on it – but fortunately my mother saw sense). We now know today, that long term use of Ritalin (which is prescribed to children fairly often in some places) has a significant potential to develop “Bi-polar Disorder” and other major problems, in those who use the drug.

I’ll take the struggling I had with school over the drugs that create mental dysfunction.

* On the topic of drugs, both my parents have been given a large percentage of the drugs that have become available through the Psychiatric industry, produced by the pharmaceutical companies. This usage of bio-chemical drugs would span over 30 years. This was also in a time where – at least in this area of the world – there was a lot of experimentation and no clear idea from professionals in mental health services on how these drugs worked. Yet they were using them regularly.

My father was at one point given an overdose of the mood-stabilizer commonly used by those who were “manic depressive”, by the name of Lithium. It has been shown that high levels of this particular combination of chemical salts, becomes poisonous in the blood stream and could eventually result in death due to it’s toxic nature. My father experienced an OBE (Out of body experience) at this time and if left any longer, would have likely been killed by it.

Also another range of common drugs used as a choice for people like my father, and also my mother (diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia) are that of the neuroleptics (anti-psychotics). These particular drugs work by disabling specific areas of the brain, associated with the functioning of neuro-transmitters, and prevent the brain from operating the way it is suppose to naturally. These medications have recently been shown to “shut down” such things as the Basal Ganglia (or more recently referred to as the Corpus Striatum) which is significant because there have been indications that dysfunction of this particular set of nuclei, or atrophy, has been linked to certain diagnoses, such as OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder).

Also, long term neuroleptic use, has also been associated with a drug-created disorder called “Tardive Dyskinesia“. Signs of this disorder can be seen in a person, through involuntary movements of the body, such as muscles spasms; twitches; difficulties controlling the tongues movements; and general difficulties with other areas of the body.

My mother has these problems. It becomes difficult for her to do something as simple as holding a cup of tea, so she can enjoy a hot beverage. It also presents problems with sleep, as there is little respite from this disease, so this adds to the ongoing discomfort. Pain throughout the body often tends to be fairly chronic. At this time, it is unclear if this is always permanent damage, but it is considered that it is likely. However due to the plasticity of the brain – and how amazing an organ it is – there is the potential for repair to be made over a period of time. One can only hope.

Another common problem with the neuroleptics, is that it works much like a “chemical lobotomy“. It tends to disable the frontal lobes of the brain, which are associated with what tends to make us different from animals, allowing us to be human in this respect. What comes with this is a profound sense of apathy. People simply stop caring about what they are doing, even if they had previously enjoyed something that they were gifted and talented at. There may be a tranquillity, however it is at the expense of what contributes to making us the passionate human beings that were are. I’ll refer back to this section again.

* For a majority of my life, I have had to deal with what is considered to be chronic depression. I have also had difficulties with anxiety, especially in social situations (related to trauma around bullying when younger) and a number of bizarre or eccentric behaviours due to my difficulties coping with the outside world.

At one point, I was at a loss as how to cope with this overwhelm, and although naive and ignorant about the medications that were available to help someone like myself, I decided to give the anti-depressant medications a try. All I really wanted was someone to talk to, who could understand.

I tried my first drug, Cipramil (citalopram) and developed unexpected difficulties. I experience what would be considered to be a panic attack, and for a time was scared that I may actually die, due to my heart failing. It’s safe to say I left this drug alone after that.

Then, I was given a drug called Dothiepin (or Dosulepin) which I remained on for roughly six weeks. This was a drug that tended to cause a lot of drowsiness in those using it, especially at high doses. It turns out that I was prescribed a dose of 450mg (the maximum recommended to be 250mg safe usage) by a then junior doctor. After experiencing no recognisable side-effects, or feeling any difference for better or worse, I consulted a different General Practitioner for advice on what to do. I was told that if it was not working for me, then I could come off the drug – and that’s all there was to it. Little did I know, that going “cold turkey” on medications of this nature – especially at high doses – were potentially dangerous. This would trigger my first (but not last) episode of what is considered to be “psychosis“, where I experienced much of a three or four week period blacking out, along with auditory and visual hallucinations. I also experienced a number of delusions.

I hope that this is starting to paint a picture of something fundamentally wrong with what had happened to us as a family, and why I feel so strongly about disclosing this information. We are not alone in this: many families across the world are put in danger through ill treatment deriving from careless use of Psychiatric treatment.

I will look to do my best to finish this story or account in the next part, which I’ll look to complete soon.

Unconventional Wisdom: Experiences Away From the Mainstream – In Reflection by Lee Watmough

The serene scenery that surrounds the Royal Welsh Showground in Builth Wells for this year’s conference, welcomes you to a day filled with hope and inspiration. With walking through the main doors to the arena where the stage is set, it is immediately clear to see what holds the promise for a successful day. DIY Futures – which is the lottery funded charity that has proven itself effective in and around the Powys area here in Wales – acts as host in celebration of world mental health week. We are here to explore the breadth of ideas surrounding mental distress, in order to generate discussion and debate away from the conventional mainstream.

As the set-up continues in preparations for the 9:45am start time, while people begin to arrive and sign in, everything is running smoothly. Refreshments are readily available while everyone waits, and the relaxed atmosphere gives those old and new – familiar and strange – a chance to socialise and interact with one another. The room steadily becomes busier and the sound of vibrant chatter fills the scene with anticipation. Seats at the various round tables are taken, just out in front of the speaker’s panel, and we’re almost underway.

Up first, our chair people run us through the necessary introductions, with support added to clearly identify what the aims are for the day, and then we are ready to meet our opening speaker to really kick things off.

We start with Marion Aslan, who is a qualified teacher, author and mental health activist with over 30 years experience working in the Healthcare sector. Her thread of work runs through a number of arenas including Mental Health, Learning Disabilities, Drug & Alcohol Services and Homeless projects. It has taken her to a variety of places in the world, such as Italy; Germany; Africa; Australia; America and Denmark, where she has spent time developing mental health programmes, recovery and person centred planning tool-kits, as well as establishing “The THRIVE Approach to Mental Wellness” with her co-author and long time colleague Mike Smith. Having a background of lived experience herself – with at one time being diagnosed with postnatal depression and puerperal psychosis – it is through her own personal pathways to recovery where she has found the inspiration to create this influential and eclectic body of work, that has taken her further forward.

The calibre of someone like Marion, is what helps to establish the foundation and overall mood for the day, so it can reach it’s full potential. The message she has to communicate is a very important one and is expertly delivered. She speaks in a way that directly addresses the issues faced, in and away from conventional systems of treatment, clearly showing why it is definitely necessary to have alternatives as an option, regardless of what stage we may be at. The way in which she speaks, gets to the root of what needs to be said, without holding back anything. There is a refusal to shy away from the major themes in this area – that have to be acknowledged – and this in turn strengthens the impact of what it is that is being put across. Her work with Elemental Wellbeing in particular demonstrates that there is a large demand for people to look away from the contemporary mainstream mental health services and find something that is actually tailored for those unique individuals in mind, where they will start to explore and find the specific therapeutic help needed for their own personal requirements. It is here where people are able to reject the notion of being diseased or ill, throw away the chains of stigmatization that Psychiatric diagnoses carry, in favour of being accepted for who they really are, with what they truly believe, without being judged or criticised for it. People are not expected to come together in a clinical environment to be analysed and inspected by specific medical professionals, but instead enjoy a more open and free place to support one another, in community settings such as cafés for example, where there are no extra costs to take into consideration or preconceptions about who they are as people.

It is not to say that Elemental is the only way to go, and that the mainstream mental health services have no use at all for people, but that it caters for a significant part of the population who will only really discover the true means to overcome mental distress, by looking to the point beyond recovery, where the use of the core elements in this approach are thoroughly tested and found to be essential for that to happen.

As the talk concluded, there was a short period of time afterwards for a Q&A session with the speaker, giving people a chance to raise any issues or offer any feedback in response to the talk. Something that is common at a conference of this nature, is that people have the opportunity to spend time with our speakers throughout the rest of the day to take things further where felt needed, which is certainly appreciated by all parties involved.

We move on to hear what’s next from the designated chair person, before the break for refreshments. In and following on from this, there is the opportunity for people to explore the ‘Drop in and Find Out More’ area of the conference on the other side of the building, where various groups and organizations from the surrounding area, have the chance to bring awareness and information to those who are interested in what they have to offer. I personally didn’t manage to find the time to explore this, even though it would have been appealing, perhaps due to the structure of the conference, which I’ll go into a bit more shortly.

During this time frame there were also ‘Workshops’ available for people to attend, with a total of 6 to choose from. The workshops were around the areas of: The potential of lived experience; the effects of trauma at different stages in our development; learning to live with hearing voices; projects that tie in to DIY futures; and the understanding of care plans in mental health services, specifically the Care Plan Approach (CPA). While there was an excellent standard to what was on offer, problems arose around the time allocated to explore the themes in these workshops. There was a general agreement and consensus that more time was needed to participate in them, in order to make them properly effective. In the one that I attended, we were only just starting to contribute something to the group as it was abruptly being brought to an end. It was not a workshop per se, but more a taster of what it would actually be like if it were to be fully realised. In my opinion, I feel that in future either the workshops would be better called something else, closer to what was experienced, or that the actual workshops take place on a separate schedule, happening multiple times throughout the day allowing for people to pick and choose easier, with the possibility of attending more than one.

Moving on, it was time for the next speaker of the day.

Pete Sanders had come to talk about his work involving the Soteria Network, and there work in establishing Soteria homes within the UK. He is one of the trustees for the network, and the project has come about from what was originally created in the 1970s, over in California, USA. Aside from work with Soteria, Pete is the director of PCCS Books who specialise in literature on counselling and psychotherapy and Pete himself is a retired person-centred psychotherapist and author. Originally pioneered by the notable and respectable Dr. Loren R. Mosher, Soteria House was set up to explore a new way in which to help individuals labelled with a diagnosis such as Schizophrenia, to find alternatives away from a predicted lifetime of Psychiatric treatment. Viewed and realised as ‘a home away from home’, and as an alternative offering a more holistic approach, it was a place to be integrated directly into the community, where people could feel safe and be supported away from the medical models available at the time. People were not forced to take neuroleptic(anti-psychotic) medications – nor helped by people who were medically trained in the usual conventional way – but rather by people who had a capacity to empathise with others and a true sense for how to care for the people in need, without prior professional experience or training necessary.

Pete was very thorough to give details on what Soteria was about, but as someone who has previously been aware of Soteria before now, I was more interested in what he had to say in other respects. I liked hearing about the difficulties faced in getting the project off the ground, to be aware of what it would take to make it a reality. I also liked the way in which he made it clear to say, that this is but one choice for an alternative, in respects to exploring new methods of treating people, who experience such things as psychosis. While my opinion is that the Soteria Project has it’s place – especially in parts of the country where the evolution of services hasn’t really progressed much at all or had little impact – there is still a need to evolve and transform the model itself to accommodate and suit the current paradigm of the age we live in. I certainly believe this is possible, providing the power is in the hands of the people for who it is looking to focus on and benefit – as well as finding the continuing funding required, independently of larger governing bodies.

Following the Q&A session, it was time for lunch and for people to digest the morning’s events.

Another area that presented a small problem, was that of the time allocated to the ‘Round Table Discussions’ which were to follow. Each table containing a set number of people were allocated a host, to discuss and explore people’s opinions and feedback on how the day was going. Again, the time allowed was not adequate enough for this, and while we had the option of scribbling down our musings on the table clothes provided, it would have been more welcome to get into a deep discussion about it with our fellow attendees. There was time set aside for another session similar to this before the day closed, but by then people were ready to leave.

On to the next speaker.

David Clarke was presenting “Wales Mental Health in Primary Care (WaMH in PC) Network and Exploring Realistic Outcomes.” David comes from the background of working in conventional arenas, such as with the Royal College of General Practitioners in Wales and healthcare bodies in statutory and voluntary sectors concerning the development of business planning methods, the delivery of good practices, and the assessment of performance. He has worked as a senior manger in the National Health Service (NHS) and in more recent years has become self-employed. He is also the chairman of two registered charities, both of which seek to relieve poverty and hardship in overseas Countries, with India in particular. Also, with his wife Jane, he is a carer to their grown-up daughter who herself lives with a mental illness.

The impression that I got from David, was that he is very sincere and enthusiastic about bringing in unconventional methods and ideas into the mental health services that are currently accessed in primary care, in order to help initiate change and transformation towards a more suitable medical model. A model which focuses primarily on person-centred approaches, with emphasis on healthy relationships in order for that to happen. I have to admit, that as a person who is primarily coming from the background of being a user of the mental health services that are provided in primary care, secondary care and beyond – it felt that this presentation was not aimed at someone like myself. I felt that it was looking to reach out to those professionals currently involved within the conventional services available, who are working with the current NHS models, in order to facilitate the changes desired to truly make a difference.

However, shouldn’t we already be at the point where patients have this healthy relationship with their chosen general practitioner, given how long primary care has been in place?

Why not look to employ different professionals to join the primary care team, to address the areas of mental and emotional well-being away from regular physical treatments?

I imagine most people are aware of why these questions are probably not worth asking. Where the money and the resources are concerned – and the constant demands on medical professionals to do more with less – is it really any wonder at all?

In my opinion, the problem with trying to integrate something unconventional in an already long established conventional system, is that most people are only trained, conditioned and attracted to the field based on outdated traditions and systems of that conventional nature. Any deviation away from that, threatens the foundations put down so long ago – which are religiously maintained from one generation to the next – through fear of having to start all over again from scratch. However, there will always be exceptional people in unexceptional places, and it’s to those people that I say “all the power to you!”

Following the Q&A and refreshments, it was time for the last speaker of the day.

Mike Smith presented “If not hospital, what can we do? The evidence and experience.” Dr. Mike Smith is a mental health professional with 30 years of international experience, and certainly has the credentials to prove it. He has been the Director of Nursing in North Birmingham from 1997 until- 2001, when he left to become an independent freelance trainer/consultant. He has been a champion of recovery since his early days as a psychiatric nurse. He has a special interest and breadth of knowledge in the areas of self harm and voice hearing. It’s within these areas that he continues to work with young people in the voluntary sector. He has an expertise in risk and crisis management and oversees training in these key areas in many parts of the UK. He has worked extensively with his colleague Marion Aslan, introducing fresh concepts that challenge the psychiatric services to re-evaluate recovery and what lies beyond…..and while I could continue to write about his long list of remarkable accomplishments (which stretch even further and wider) what I really want to do here is talk about the man which I saw for the first time this day.

Mike was the top highlight of the day for me and I’ll explain why that is.

It’s one thing to be someone of an academic background, mastering particular areas of expertise, with a large scope of knowledge and understanding to bring to the field of mental health. It’s another thing to receive awards and recognition for the contributions made, where there has been progressive advancements in the field due to that, all of which applies to Mike. Yet what I feel stands out the most – and why he is able to inspire and uplift people like myself very effectively – is that he also has the lived experience of mental distress on a very deep level, to fully compliment all of that academia.

There is a very fluid nature to his speaking, that blends together his different experiences seamlessly, so that he can convey what he wants, when he needs to. He comes across as someone who is comfortable to be himself as both a renowned teacher and as someone who is an everyday person we can relate to, while utilising the combined wisdom he has derived from these different walks of life. There is a strong confidence that is noticeable as he speaks, delivered what he knows to be certain. As well as this, there is something that has to be said about bringing a good sense of humour to the role.

Is it more interesting and enjoyable to learn when we can have fun and laugh during the exploration of the more serious themes and issues? or better that we remain serious as much as possible through out it, paying close attention to every detail on the Powerpoint presentation or being reminded of the importance of note taking and how crucial it is to read through every piece of literature that we’re given?

We have had enough monotony in our lives to weigh down our hearts, which is why it matters so much to have them lightened up any chance we get.

To touch on the contents of what was being addressed in Mike’s presentation, amongst the wealth of wisdom being shared, there was one particular point that has stayed with me. When we look to the evidence that explores the benefits of a number of these projects and systems created as alternatives to what is currently established in the conventional mental health services, it’s quite clear that these alternatives work very well indeed. They work at least as good as what’s available in the mainstream, and in a number of cases they actually work better. However, while there is funding made available from the appropriate governing bodies to be invested in these projects and systems, the money is taken away once they have proven themselves to be successful. Yet the thing is, these alternative projects and systems which have proved their high level of efficacy compared to the mainstream options, are actually financially cheaper to keep running. Knowing that, it would seem like a solid and feasible plan to make a transfer to the better option – the alternatives that were created – than to keep investing in something worse which appears in our conventional mental health services. As a result of that funding being taken away from the alternative projects, the resource is then lost to the people who benefited from it, and it’s value has been dissolved. It’s very rare that these alternative projects survive, regardless of the greater good that they generate….so what is the real agenda here?

Mike is also the Executive Director of crazydiamond which has been formed through his ongoing collaboration with Marion Aslan, and this gives further details of their ongoing work.

It was with this, that the conference drew to a close and we were left to figure out where to go from here.

As someone who acquired lived experience of mental distress from the moment of being born; as someone who has seen both his parents go through a lifetime of conventional mental health services, baring witness what that has entailed; and as someone who has in turn looked to those same mental health services for help and in search of answers – I needed to know whether it was still worth searching for them, instead of just giving up. I needed to know for sure that there was still hope for a better future, where we are seen for who we are and not for what we appear to be. Where someone cares enough to help us better ourselves, so that we may feel alive, instead of being resigned to merely existing and made to feel useless. It’s a day like this which makes it possible for me consider thoughts of true happiness, because I know that we have a chance now.

We have a choice – do we want to keep giving over our power to a system that keeps letting us down when we need it the most? or do we want to take that power back for ourselves and prove to those that would doubt us, that we are worth the time and that we are more powerful than they would have us believe?

What do we want our legacy to be?

The time to decide, starts now.

A History of Video Games – The journey of the Human Condition Pt. 2

I was first introduced to the world of video games at or around the age of 3 years old. I have a memory of seeing something which resembled the 1983 ‘Stars Wars’ arcade game on an early PC of some kind and I would later come to play on the actual Star Wars arcade machine (which was the sit-in cockpit version) setting the foundation for my relationship with the technology. While there is a side to it that is magical and that allows you to escape into fantasy, a big part of it being appealing to me is that the computer is not there to judge you, or deny you the chance to have fun and play around. It invites you to sit down and interact with it, with what it has to offer. It’s establishing a friendship between human and computer.

Then technology progressed further forward to allow that computer play-pal to come in from the outside, directly into the home. The earliest games I played were on the Atari 2600 games console and the ZX Spectrum +2 computer. With the Atari, you had the original arcade video game ‘Pong’ to play, which had become so popular. It may not appear to be much of anything looking at it, yet there is something to compare it to. Many children have or had the opportunity to play ‘catch’ with a parent or guardian – throwing a simple ball back and forth between one another – and I feel Pong is the digital equivalent of that. While the differences are clear, it’s the same concept to a small child. There is someone there (although artificial) willing to pass this ball back and forth. A substitute for a real person when there is no one available.

From there the friendship is secured, and providing that there is everything in the home available to make the computer or games console work correctly, you have a reliable, unchanging and versatile companion to play games with – keeping you occupied and taking your mind off of feeling bored and/or lonely. Eventually the games would slowly start to become more complex and introduce new concepts and themes to the child. One particular series of games that I fondly remember on the Spectrum was called ‘Dizzy’. Here you take control of what can only be described as a “walking egg”, which you have to keep out of harm’s way while exploring a fantasy world, figuring out how to use items that are discovered in order to advance on your journey.

With this game you’re starting to learn more about problem solving, developing your ability to work out the basics of using one thing with another, as well as more abstract ideas. You can identify yourself as being in the characters shoes. If you’re deeply investing a lot of emotion in to it, you can really be quite upset or be despairing when the egg “loses a life” and you “die”. It tells a lot about the person’s state of mind and the level of emotional well-being when you’re making the choice to protect the character at all costs – showing concern and care – or becoming angry and frustrated at the character – leading you down the path of punishing the one you control – by having it die over and over again. You’re taking into consideration morality at an early age, in a very simple way.

There is also an indication of how the individual handles success and failure. Do you give up after the first try, or persevere no matter what? Is there a desire to throw the game out of the window by the end of it or a sense of achievement, fulfilment and accomplishment? I’ll continue with these thoughts in the next part.


A History of Video Games – The journey of the Human Condition Pt. 1

Sitting down to set about writing about a life time of video game playing can by itself, be a fairly gargantuan task. Going into how that shapes you as a person; how it teaches you about relationships; how it tackles your deepest fears; how it becomes your only companion in a world of loneliness and many other things – is something else entirely.

For some, video games are just a bit of fun. Something to unwind to. A way to have a laugh. In other people’s eyes, video games are not meant to be taken seriously, after all, they’re more aimed at kids and juvenile adults, right?

I start this chapter with some hesitance and some conviction.

I am looking to make a case for how video games can be an essential coping mechanism for those who come to find themselves lost to the harsher realities of the human condition. When all else is failing and crumbling down around a person, sometimes it is the unconventional and unorthodox which is the only way to survive it.

This is something I need to take care with and take time to explain, to go into, and I hope it will do it justice.

I will start from the time of being barely old enough to witness it, through till now. Hopefully part 2 will come soon.

Depression: Dealing with your personal hell

I first experienced what could be classified as depression when I was a young child. I remember a time when I was staying with relatives and ended up shutting myself away in a bedroom during the day, just lying still on the bed, shut down and not wanting to do anything else for hours. From there, the depressive state would inevitably progress through my teen years and in to early adulthood, finally with it becoming paraylzing in my early 20’s. Since then, for the most part I’m generally one degree under, while having varying degrees of depressive states lasting from a few days to weeks on end. There have certainly been exceptions and highlights where I genuinely felt free from the depression, yet it has been my prominent state of being for a large part of my time in this world.

You can look at a check list of “symptoms” on various medical websites, you can go to have yourself analyzed by a regular Psychiatrist, but in my experience this tells you little about the source of the condition and only really helps in describing and identitfying some of the experiences that have generally shown up from living with it. Having been down the Psychiatric route, taking different drugs, spending time in hospitals, reading more on/associated with mental health in general and from interactions with others struggling with the mental health, my position on the matter is that I do not believe it to be an illness, but a state of the human condition with as many causes as there are unique individuals.

However, what I’m looking to focus on here is the depression experience itself and why I feel it essential for it to be completely considered and understood to begin with if a person is to be helped to come to a better state of wellbeing.

Typically, the onset of a deep depression for myself normally starts with irritibility, anger and frustration in anything I happen to be doing  (usually when a trigger comes to mind). Then my world closes down around me and the hell starts to manifest. It’s like being in a plastic bag, where the top was once opened, but then it suddenly gets clenched together and tied up, leaving you with little air to breath. At this point, everything loses it’s value, it’s comfort or anything that would be pleasing. All that’s left are the various ways in which the mental and emotional body can torture me. Most notably, vivid memories which highlight particular emoitonal traumas.

The memories tend to be associated with the triggers that I have. It can be essential to know your triggers, as it can be a key in limiting your exposure to them or to safely overcome them. For example, I have a trigger connected to rejection. If I were to put myself in a situation where there was a strong likelihood of harsh rejection, chances are I would come tumbling down like a house of bricks that has just had the foundation knocked out from underneath it. Depending on whether that situation hits more than one trigger, it can pro-long the torment and the sensation of a dagger piercing the heart can accompany the crashing feeling.

Once the memories have surved their purpose, then my imagination can turn to different ways of self-anhillation. Picturing my demise is just a way of acting out and serves only to pass the time and express the torment (I personally don’t feel anyone wants to kill themselves when they’re in the darkest depths of despair, it’s just that the person feels it’s the only possible way they could be free at that particular point. All death is, is the promise and hope of freedom and it’s the freedom that’s desired.)
At some point or another, the irritation, anger and frustration can return. Especially if it means doing anything related to keeping myself alive, like having something to eat or drinking enough water.

When I sink further, I can get insomnia when I want to sleep, or if I do sleep it’s short lived. This reinforces the hell, because the only way to be free at that point is to sleep, so I’m denied the only solace I receive and it feels more like being condemned.
There are a few ways I tend to be brought out of the state.

1) I weather the storms long enough to be brought back up to a calm state where I can function again. Eventually the energy behind this all dissipates, and there is peace for however long it lasts.

2) I find the company of someone very specific so I can communicate and work through what is currently coming up in thought from the experience. This is pretty much a theraputic kind of relationship, where someone is capable enough to tackle this with me.

3) An event outside myself takes place that has some profound meaning to me and intiatiates a shift. This is more rare, but it certainly happens at the most unexpected of times.

In discovering all of this about myself, it’s made the journey into the depths acceptable and given me the strength to become more resilient to it. There have been points where the depression has completely lifted and there still continue to be those points. It’s only when the exploration is complete and the correct amount of knowledge and wisdom gained, that there will be liberation from it for good.

It’s the exploration which is key and why it’s important for professionals who are assigned to help us, to understand what is taking place and why, with the emphasis being on the individual whose experiencing it. The exploration allows for progression (of which there has been considerable from when it first started for myself) for a person to manage their hell to the point where it can be escaped without anything other than human contact to assist. The answers to our problems are contained within all of us, and what we are entitled to have as human beings, is the chance to discover them and utilise them so that we can be our own saviours. Having that power taken away from us and put in someone elses hands only serves to weaken us and make us susceptible to being controlled and manipulated.

We are much more powerful than we’re often led to believe and fully capable of overcoming the difficulties of the human condition by our own means.



How can ‘lived experience’ be useful?

In more recent years within the UK, there has been a greater emphasis towards the ‘lived experience’ of people suffering with mental health problems. People working in the field have been asking how these people have found mental health services to be and what it is they have to offer in order to work towards improving the help available for those people that require it.

As someone who falls into that category, it’s a question I’ve pondered on from time to time. I’ve offered some of my time to different courses, workshops and volunteer opportunities with this question in mind, but I’ve found it a challenge to make effective use of the lived experience I have to offer. Having found that to be disheartening, I’m more curious to know the answer to the question asked.

I feel part of it has to do with the general attitude from professionals and employees within mental health services and the field, towards the people who look to use them. With how prominent the Psychiatric system is, and with what is considered to be the facts and truths associated with ‘service users’ and their health, having an opinion or personal evidence that contradicts this otherwise tends to be dismissed and given little consideration. Say, for example, you have lived experience of Psychiatric hospitals and their facilities. There are certain rules and laws that take away your basic human rights, but due to the models and beliefs in place from those in power, having lived experience doesn’t really have any value towards making a difference in this respect.

I feel for lived experience to truly make a difference, more people have to give much less power over to those in mental health services, and work towards taking it back for themselves. Having more people who are considered to be service users working together with each other, whether it be within their communities or within the mental health field, is probably what needs to happen for lived experience to be of any true worth or value. I feel it’s crucial that those who are directly involved in creating mental health services, have a great understanding of what it’s like to live with these problems. In saying this, the only way of truly understanding what it’s like to suffer with these problems is to have had first hand experience of it to begin with, as opposed to coming from a purely academic background on the matter.

Perhaps a greater challenge for those with lived experience, is that of having enough of  a reason to care about making a difference. With what these people have to face on a daily basis, it can be of great difficulty to sustain an interest and to feel it’s worth their while to make the considerable effort required to contribute to the cause. Being able to give the people the courage, inspiration and motivation to better themselves, or to make the time for the cause, may end up being the one important key that opens the door to the greater possibility.



Blog at

Up ↑