While it's still probably a little too soon for any talk of a campaign to establish a national holiday, I hope that you'll allow me, meanwhile, to indulge in a moment or two of reflection. I apologise for the vulgarity and presumption. To quote P. G. Wodehouse:
It was one of the worst speeches I ever heard. The Adams woman told us for an hour how she came to write her beastly book, when a simple apology was all that was required.
life before the blog
2011 had actually begun fairly brightly: I'd started volunteering a few days a week for SLaM (the NHS Trust who provide mental health services for Southwark, Lambeth, Lewisham and Croydon - and yours truly) at the Maudsley Hospital, working on their Social Inclusion and Recovery Strategy (you can find an introduction to the concept of Recovery in mental health here). And I also joined Twitter. That, together with the volunteering, represented the first social interaction of any kind that I'd had for five years - before then I was effectively a hermit. The idea in volunteering was to get some structure back into my life and, hopefully, a smidgen of self-respect.
The one weak link in my cunning plan, unfortunately, was that I still had all the mental stability of a rabid chihuahua on a crystal meth binge.
So one day at the beginning of March I walked out of the office at the Maudsley, went home, locked the door, and promptly dived head first into an Olympic-sized shit-pit of depression. I came up for air now and again, of course - kept reading and listening to music, kept on with Twitter, sporadically - and in the autumn began to work on a long dormant idea: a food blog.
the last twelve months
And the response was...simply phenomenal. Least-wise, it was for someone starved of any kind of validation, with no sense of self-worth, with no hope for the future. I got such a lift from it that I found the confidence to get back in touch with the team at the Maudsley to ask if I might come back and start volunteering again. Wonderfully, they'd kept my desk ready for my return, the crazy fools. Not only that, I was now afforded the opportunity to get involved in a really exciting project - the development of a Recovery College at SlaM (you can find out about Recovery Colleges by reading this briefing paper from the Centre for Mental Health).
And I finally tidied up the flat:
- Was interviewed by both the Guardian and The Observer.
- Went to the Observer Food Monthly Awards (a bit overwhelming, that).
- Had lunch with my favourite British thriller writer, the wonderful Sophie Hannah.
- Spent some time with FairShare, the charity fighting against food waste, learning about the marvellous work they do.
- Finally found what seems to be the right medication for me (Mirtazapine).
- Began (a few weeks ago) a year long course of psychotherapy, courtesy of SLaM.
the dragon café
every day above ground is a good day
At the heart of the concept of recovery in mental health is the idea that for anyone to have any kind of meaningful life these three elements must be present: hope, control and opportunity. If you're an alcoholic mentalist on the dole those things tend to be in short supply. Writing this blog and volunteering have, in the last year, given me a glimpse of all three.
Right. I think that's more than enough solipsistic jism to be going on with, don't you? Enough to last the next twelve months and more.
As a very paltry recompense for having to put up with it, here's a playlist of some of the music that I've liked in 2012 (240 tracks). I hope you'll find something here you'll like too.
Oh, and one more thing: food is still the bollocks. We'll get back to it in the next post. Promise.