Thursday, 19 April 2012

Something I've written and something I've read


Just a quick one this time. Firstly to let you know about a new short story of mine which is being published. You will be able to find my ghost story 'Don't You like the Bird Man?' in the latest British Fantasy Society Journal.

The British Fantasy Society is a marvelous organisation and it's an honour to be in one of their publications.

Secondly,  I want to tell you about a rather marvelous book I had the privilege to read an advance copy of. It's called Fizzlebert Stump: The Boy Who Ran Away from the Circus (and Joined the Library) by the brilliant A.F. Harrold. I've known Ashley for a long time now (he compered my first ever go at stand-up) and he's a dazzlingly talented performance poet. I urge you to seek out his live work and get hold of his beautiful collections. But most of all I urge you to pre-order this massively entertaining book.

Anyway, that is all. Next week, the oft-promised and yet to be delivered blog on Ramsey Campbell.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

A love supreme does not come with caveats

As you probably have already figured out if you've been reading this blog, or if you know me out there in the real world, I am a Christian. I was raised a Christian and faith has continued to be a hugely important part of my life. We go to church pretty regularly, my wife and I had a church wedding and our daughter was baptised (rather nicely by my father who is an Anglican priest). However, I'm not one of those dinosaur disbelieving, evolution denying, climate change nay-saying, gay-hating Christians so beloved of the media. Which really brings me onto what this post is about: the issue of homosexuality and the church.

This is an issue that continually drives me up the bloody wall, mainly because the Church (and when I use the capital C I'm mainly talking about the Anglicans here, as that's my own backround) should have far weightier concerns on its mind than sexual preference. Quite why some people of faith get so hung up about sexual orientation is quite beyond me. I believe that God is love. Remember that bit about him so loving the world? Well, guess what, that includes everybody! It isn't a case of our Lord is an all-loving God, apart from this here list of people we've put together.

Also, what the church and those of faith (of whatever denomination) should be celebrating and trying to bring to everybody is this idea of the love supreme. Christians should be at the forefront of campaigning for gay weddings in church, as love between two people (of whatever gender or sexual preference) and the commitment that a marriage brings should be seen as something to treasure and encourage. To not celebrate this all-encompassing love of God would appear to suggest that there is something missing from a life of faith.

So, when there is conflict in the middle-east, issues of climate change, not to mention the many issues of justice and social rights in this country that we all face, it seems to me that the Church should be focusing its energies on fighting the good fight while opening up faith and spreading a message of love and tolerance.

Anyway, that maybe wishful thinking, but I just thought I'd let you know where I stand.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Big Black Cloud Comes


So, rather than being a hub of exciting media insight and personal updates my blog has become somewhat silent of late. And what better way to ressurect this place than a chucklesome entry on depression? You see, the reason I've not been blogging is because not only have I been massively busy at work but I've also been through the worst bought of depression I've had in 15 years. Don't worry, I'm coming out of the black cloud a bit now and I've decided to take a course of therapy. But, I thought I'd blog about what depression does to me and what I find helpful in learning to cope with anxiety and the arrival of the black dog. Lots of people suffer from depression and sharing experiences and stories from within can be helpful.

The first time I was hit hard with depression I was 16, almost 17, facing A-levels and living in Kent with my family. That time it was anxiety that was at the forefront, manifesting itself in panic attacks and moments where I was fairly convinced I was going mad. My parents were massively supportive and understanding and I was soon sourced a very good therapist who helped me to put my fears into perspective. I managed to thus start universety in a much better place than I had been before my A-levels. Since then I've suffered from the odd bout of depression but nothing so bad that it's made me seek out help.

Towards the end of last year I wasn't in a brilliant place. The black dog was back, and with a vengeance. This time depression manifested itself as a crushing sense of self-doubt. I'd turn up for work convinced I was utterly useless. In meetings I'd be constantly worrying that I was coming across as a moron and I had the fear that I didn't really know what I was doing after all, and that people would realise I was usesless. Of course, this was the depression speaking. What depression was like for me this time round was having the demon of doubt sitting on my shoulder without the angel on the other side to balance things out. I got increasingly agitated. In the moments when I wasn't morosely silent, I was snappy and unpleasent to be around. Around Christmas time I realised (and prompted by my ever patient and wonderful wife) that I really needed to seek help. So, I went to GP, who told me that there's a six month waiting list for therapy on the NHS but in the meantime I could try out this online Cognitive Behavioural Therapy course called Beating the Blues.

Beating the Blues is actually pretty good and what it's brilliant at is outlining the common symptoms of depression and anxiety and making you realise that they are just that, common, and there are ways of coping with them. Where Beating the Blues doesn't quite work for me is that it sets you homework, like two or three hours homework a week, which I really can't fit in. So I've not yet completed the course, though I really should do and I do intend to get back to it in time. In the meantime I've booked some proper face-to-face therapy.

All through this Alison and Maia (my wife and daughter respectively) have been bastions of patience, compassion and joy. They make me realise how blessed I am and they really do help put perspective on things. Living with someone who occasionally suffers from accute depression must be exhausting and utterly maddening at times. When you suffer from depression you do become something of an irrational person and trying to cope with someone whose mindset can be so contradictory must be very trying. But my family has been incredible and I really couldn't be more lucky than I am to be part of these people's lives.

And working in the creative industries means I have a lot of friends and colleagues who understand depression and who have been there themeselves. To everybody who has offered help and advice and support, I can't thank you enough.

So, that's where I've been and the thing with depression is you just can't predict when it will strike. Oh sometimes I'll have a fairly good idea. Sometimes I'll hear the door go behind me and hear the pad of paws that means the black dog is in the room. Sometimes, though, it's like a tidal wave and it just thunders over you covering everything in, well, black. Each time the dog buggers off or the tide retreats though, I'm learning to cope a little more.

At the risk of this getting all melodramtic, I'm off to bed now. But, I just thought I'd let you know what all the radio silence has partly been about. Soon I shall be off and blogging again, bringing you more exciting Jon news (All Jon. All the time). The oft promised and never delivered  Ramsey Campbell blog post will materialise and I may even blog about gay rights and the Church. Just for fun.

Anyhew, until next time.