I’ve always moved away from conflict of any description and yet at a time in my life when I could justifiably expect some relief, it’s a constant battle.

It seems that from an early age the bullying I endured from local children had a profound affect. My tolerance of disagreement is low. Surely there are always more gentile ways to resolve things. It would appear not. When antagonism is prolonged it can provoke a reaction from the meekest of us.

Society in general has degraded to the point of zero tolerance for each other so why should home life be any different. Buttons pushed to score points inevitably end in a lose-lose situation. Invariably I’m somewhere in the middle of things. Sometimes I wonder whether this is pure weakness as opposed to peaceful desire. But boundaries can be put in place in a clear non-emotive way. The consequences set out. It’s when the boundaries become blurred that the problems begin.

I believe you can be a parent and a friend if those boundaries are clear. It’s not a question of choosing roles but really just being who you are. Pushing at those boundaries can be straightforward to police. There’s little need for heavy hands once one is crossed as the consequences are known. And yet I find myself refereeing the battles of others. Being left to pick up the pieces after somebody else’s fight. Being left to be the bad guy.

Standing together in a reasonable situation is one thing but being on the ‘wrong horse’ is another. Sitting in a leaky and unseaworthy vessel over the most trivial of quickly escalated arguments is a cause of great discomfort.

Stress makes me ill. That is fact. I guess until, and there’s a big if coming, greater maturity from all household parties can be reached, the potential for greater stress is always present. Is it possible to be well in this house? Probably not. But it’s not for the lack of trying.

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As Time Goes By

I had hoped my next piece would be uplifting. But I write with sadness at the time of the passing of my mother-in-law. A truly wonderful person who has been a genuine and loving mother to me, a blessing to my wife and a fun-filled, adoring nannie to the boys.

My father died last year with my mother leaving us a few years before after a prolonged and horrific illness. The only thing of value my father’s social worker told me and my sister was that you only truly become an adult once both of your parents are dead. I have found this to be accurate, although a caveat extends to your parents-in-law if you’ve enjoyed the close relationship I’ve been so lucky to have

It’s stating the obvious that celebrating a life during a period of unimaginable grief is difficult. And yet cultural differences mean the people of Wales do just that. The English way of giving space to close family is important but the open door policy, buying milk tea and biscuits in bulk as extended family, friends and long lost aquaintances call at the family home. Endless passing of photos and stories old, new and previously unheard ease the gravitas.

Its easy to feel lost and small at times like this. To concern with ones own feelings whilst struggling to understand those of others. There is no right or wrong about grief. No manual. Self help books that patronise. The occasional ‘You have to’ conversations replaced by ‘You may wish to’. Sensitive and respectful.

So another lovely soul slips into the wind carrying them on a voyage that is age old and one we must all take.

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Dream Drain

Crikey. Some dreams are plain weird. Some are incredibly real. Some are beautiful whilst others are horrific. I’m guessing I’m not alone here

There is such a thing as a ‘Phenelzine Dream’. Sounds like a 70s Prog Rock band but in fact related to an MAOI anti-depressant. Research shows it disrupts REM sleep and can cause wildly distorted dreams. If you’ve taken it too you’ll understand the wild bit.

Spiritualists will say that a dream involving a ‘lost loved one’ is actually a mechanism that allows their spirit to contact you. All I can say on recent dream time is that those are pretty way out messages they wish to convey.

Either way it feels that dreams are more tiring and exhausting than real life itself. ‘Do you dream in colour?’ – a 70s question with a 60s connotation. Answer. Yes I bloody well do. In technicolour. I’m certain the vivid and hectic nature of them is important. I realise many people write down as much detail immediately they wake up. I did, but really don’t now. I found myself more confused and upset.

Waking up in tears isn’t a new phenomenon. It seems they can be tears of joy, fear or sadness. Even the former is tough. A dragging on the inside of what is, was or might have been. Fear of the unknown, the death dream or purely a sinister message delivered. Sadness at connecting with those dead loved ones which engender feelings of deep longing and the wish for extended time. Perhaps the Spiritualists have something after all.

The other factor that is particularly strange is my initial inability to discern real from unreal. My conviction that events are consciously shared so others are party to my feelings. An example would be a rare and unconscious argument with my wife. This can completely affect my disposition towards her. It’s a strange one for both of us which is not generally held against me

The final and perhaps most strange is my belief that others can read the dreams I have. But this isn’t different from my reality. I only learned on diagnosis that others really can’t read your mind. A lifetimes struggle with guilt at occasionally housing thoughts that are derogatory or divisive. A current battle that I lose far too often.

So are dreams healthy? Maybe if you survive them mentally intact. But not so if they really upset your balance. ‘ To sleep perchance to dream.’ Yeah right. The bloke had clearly not touched Phenelzine at any time.

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The Winter Bug

I’m sure I’m not the only person to suffer from that deep feeling in the pit of the stomach when the realisation that both the football and rugby union seasons are at an end. My eldest lad is fine. Cricket is on. But what of the rest of us?

I find irrrespective of health, family commitments or acts of God the sporting calendar is my compass. But more than that. In almost all cases the world stops as I watch, listen to or wait for news of Middlesbrough and Gloucester. Smartphones are excellent in finding new ways to stay in touch with whichever sporting event you wish to know about. Up to the second sites can alert you to each score immediately, although there is something missing from this virtual and disembodied service.

I think my participation in football coaching is partly to blame. Ive been lucky that my son chose to rejoinder the local side. The Head Coach has a great rapport with the lads, drive, determination and vision to match.

Obsessive reflection and analysis of recent games, player performance and game set pieces may sound like overkill. It’s part of my winter bug, but in doing so with a soon to be U16 age group I have a real desire to help those lads into adult football. My mind is well occupied with sport which, according to my reputable therapist, ‘grounds’ me in places of comfort and confidence. Working alongside another experienced coach means additional support for the lads from 2 old boys whose playing days yarns are further embellished each season.

The close season brings a different set of issues but few of them as mind consuming. Or are they ?? The hunt for new talent to augment the squad is sometimes challenging. Even at this level there may be several clubs trying to land the most recent Academy release. Selling points are important and include the quality and intensity of coaching. A bit like peddling a bespoke youth vision. But this season we are offering something more enticing as are looking to extend to an U18 league after this season – possibly the only local youth side to offer this. Planning for that also starts now. Some will earn a few quid over the coming years whilst others will enjoy a Sunday morning turnout complete with hangover. Learning to do all this with a constant smile is also part of the job. Links will be forged with local clubs of varying standard. Some have already scouted but the ability to discuss all aspects of a player, with player and parental consent, is important as at 16 lads are able to play adult football but we have a caveat that they remain on youth books and are looked after that way.

Preparation for pre-season training is also a vital aspect. Specific, tailored strengthening and conditioning programmes for the age group are a part of this. Individual and group board work hopefully translate to training ground pieces to expand the team repertoire. Bedding the new lads in is high on the list along with placating the lads who feel threatened by their arrival. Squad size is important given the natural crank up of tempo and physicality within the age group year on year. An injury quota of 20pc can be accommodated.

We’ve been fortunate to have already signed a lad fresh from a Premier League Academy in addition to a former Centre Of Excellence winger. Roll on the new season as a fan and as a coach.

This is a passive summer where thinking is more vital than action.

What will I do with my time? Please excuse the terse ending. The cricket match is about to start.

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Gratification of Failure

So WordPress is an empty room in an empty house. That means I can scream blue murder and nobody will come to my aid. Pretty normal then.

I have been up and down recently. It’s no secret. But I can talk about what I call ‘Gratification of Failure’ as I’m not in a place that is morbid or dark. It just means I can speak honestly about my own understanding of failure now, but also in the past before the lights turned on.

To my old self life was all about failure. If I listed everything I believed had been a fail you’d be reading for 10 years as opposed to perceived success of 10 seconds. Perception is all here. How the mind can turn something spectacularly good into abysmal nothingness. And yet feel good about it. The difference being the failure gets more from that than being good at something. Weird eh.

However it’s more than that. Being scared to succeed is another facet. Just as reluctance to move into relationships to head off being abandoned or indeed once in a relationship accepting pain and degradation at times prior to failure.

As a young boy success was nice. Learning to read. Making friends. But anxiety about any friendships surfaced very early and would mean that I would drift through school being a sociopathic loner. I learned to dislike peers and adults. They couldn’t hurt me if I didn’t like them. Sounds arrogant but no. A safety net cast over me. Failing in relationships was really self serving, but I learned to only care when criticised by those that I cared about.

Passing the old 11 plus pushed me to breaking point. The chronic anxiety I’d experienced in infant school resurfaced. I despised being bright. Despised being accepted at the top local grammar school, envious that my sister had second choice. I’ve not revealed this before. It may shock B but it will add up.

I struggled initially in the top form. I was happy. As time progressed I rose into the top 3 and topped several subjects. I hated the word top but didn’t learn the art of self sabotage until O and A levels. Underperforming was success for me. At last that formula was in place to take into the real world.

What I do know now that these feelings of low self-esteem were early signs of the depressive element of bipolar. My highs were few and far between and only really flourished during puberty with aimless yet destructive thrashing around socially and early experimentation with self harm to feel grounded again.

In nursing success followed success. I despised myself again yet the vital aspect of work meant I could not fail other people. My answer was to cut myself off. Be a lone, promiscuous and unemotive figure as I learned to curb my bipolar symptoms through exercise and alcohol. Even playing football I found myself successful in the most negative position. It sort of evened itself out.

I felt undeserving of love or success and pushed all of this to breaking point. And then I met my future wife. So positive and balanced. I needed to strive and show myself worthy in all aspects of life. This was so difficult but I guess that unconditional love will do this. In my own mind I still acknowledged failure and only in recent years did I fully understand where I’d been. Counselling helps you uncover and confront hidden truths. That celebrating failure contributed to the contorted wreck I became but there was time to change.

So I would say ‘Gratification of Failure’ is common amongst young uncertain people. Those that don’t find love inhabit a living he’ll. Those that do can seek redemption. If it’s found, the calm and rational can infuse the rough times when survival is a measure of success. And not the vice versa that so many seek.

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Disability? What Disability?

I write this at a time when civil servants are being asked to go back over the number of disability awards. I can tell them that emphatically yes, there are many shirkers amongst them. After all everybody has the capacity to work. Don’t they??

Blind people. Perfectly able to work from home in call centres. Deaf people don’t seem to tune pianos in the numbers they once did, only rich households buy pianos as ornaments but that’s not the point. Old senile men who are otherwise fit and have no pension make perfect postmen. People with chronic lung disease can create Sudoku puzzles + crosswords to be productive. Quadraplegics can write children’s books. Diabetics can be gym instructors or farm labourers. The mentally ill can become traffic wardens. People with leukaemia can be bricklayers.

You get it, right? Very very upsetting and absurd. It hurt me to write it so God knows how it feels to have your Disability Living Allowance and Employment Support Allowance taken away and passed fit for work. THIS IS HAPPENING NOW. And we have a total lack of empathy as the media tells us they are good for nothing loafers who are bleeding the state dry. Ripping cash from the back pockets of the tax payer. Whatever happened to community, the value of wisdom and the NHS. They have been lost in the fog of self serving capitalism, sold by successive governments who just don’t care

There is such a thing called humanity. In Eastern cultures elders were revered for their wisdom and ability to make their people feel safe, enlightened by their teaching. The elder statesman has long left these shores. An irrelevant and shambolic balcony may shuffle and snore their discontent but that in no way hinders the progress of the under 50s club. Where failed leaders take delight in targeting the most needy in our society. They would say this is untrue but singularly fail to discuss ATOS targets. Hoops and pressure. GPS have absolutely no influence on this process – the person best placed with comprehensive medical records that aren’t even examined as part of the process. Letters threatening the immobile will lose benefit if they fail to attend an impossible assessment. I mean who could really make this stuff up. Yet we are governed by it.

The political and sociological components of the above are so far out of sync. And yet it continues. It seems as a country the lack of respect shown to us results in utter contempt for the people who should and deserve to feel the most safe, cared for equals in our society.

Reasons Not To Be Miserable Now

Pretty new to this blog thing. Seems odd to write things, press a button, and see a published page appear. Cheap and cheerful. Or in my case not. I realise in recent weeks I’ve come across as a grumpy old git. Not the peace loving hippy I really am. So. For a change. I’m going all out self indulgent.

Hard to think I live with 3 of the funniest people I’ve ever met. Well I do. Laughter all day long. I accept that a lot is directed at me but I guess that’s in the parental job description. I’m way past the tipping point of winning sprints or arm-wrestles so I’m pretty much a sitting target now. The hilarity of being unable to get out a chair first time or needing crutches again after the gammy knee gives way again has slapstick written all over it. But I guess it’s just desserts.

April Fools Day is just another day although I did give it a right good go this year. Convincing a 17 year old that a hedgehog is nesting under the car was a big win – especially when the hedgehog was an apple with pumpkin seeds for spikes. Reprising the stunt is never as good so in fact we settled on just putting down obligatory milk and bread for the little mite to the further disgust of my wife.

You see, family is the complete focus of my world. I’m unable to work so have the best opportunity to enjoy it, as guilty as that may sound. I always felt I did. But as time goes on that feeling gets greater. Of course I worry about how things will be after the boys leave home. However Mrs H is the epitome of Welsh cutting humour. God it hurts sometimes. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I have a beautiful sister. We were the closest in age and have never had an argument. There was no real distinction between our friends when growing up. Mum and Dad kept an open door policy and it was often strange to think the numbers of friends in the front room just happened to be ‘passing by’. She understands my mental health issues as comprehensively as my housemates. Having her near helped me cope with the deaths of my Mum and Dad but also of our older sisters.

Mum and Dad had difficult lives until they found each other. I guess they were a bit long in the tooth to be so tolerant of a naughty little boy, yet they were so full of fun. Dad nursed Mum through an awful illness called PSP with love, care and bravery. When it was his turn to face ill health my sister kept him going and then we made sure he didn’t have a day that he didn’t see either of us despite us both living some distance away. Remembering the good times can be hard yet I look at my sister and think they must have got everything right.

I don’t have too many close friends. 3 in fact. All loving and able to see me and not illness where others struggle. A childhood friend residing in California. A friend through sport who phoned me every single day during my Dads illness. And M. I did my nurse training with him. Patient, calm and ever present. All 3 put loyalty above everything. Without these special people my world would be totally enclosed.

Middlesbrough is a football club miles away shrouded in dreams. The Bipolar club whose fortunes are more unpredictable than my moods. Yet these passions keep me going. The summer breaks are as uncomfortable now as when I played. Inactivity, rumour and projection are all tools the fanatic knows well.

The third joy is football coaching. Having coached grown men, the prospect of teaching toddlers to play was daunting. Those toddlers play adult football now and the next generation will in a couple of years. I’d like to think that for some of them who look back later in life that they’d remember me. The funniest tales come from sport. And there’s camaraderie, teamwork and effort. Talent alone is not enough.

I won’t start on music. Best left to another day. But their are reasons to be cheerful. Amongst the pain and survival that is living we must never lose sight of everything we hold dear to us. And smile.