Walk Away

I finished the last portion of my formal Mental Health Champion training at the end of January, but all of that ended up being overshadowed by RED January Fundraising for Mind. At the end of the month, exhaustion was real. It’s taken a week to get everything back to something approaching normal: during that time it became apparent that this year, I wasn’t really comfortable contributing publicly to Time to Talk Day.

That came as more relief than surprise, if truth be told.

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The last couple of years this date in February has been marked by me trying to be honest about my own mental health journey. Last year however, a lot of the perceptions that personally existed around those feelings was quite significantly altered by counselling. It’s taken this long to really begin the process of unpacking all of the baggage that’s been trailing behind me, in some cases for my entire adult life.

I’d even planned to try and get out to support an actual, real-world event this week, but when it came down to the day something else came up. It too was mental health related, and I made a decision: this was the moment to do my talking elsewhere and not online. It’s a measure of how faith in my own ability has improved in the last twelve months that this was automatically the place that it made more sense to be.

It’s also cemented my desire to become a Mental Health First Aider.

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The course is not cheap and I suspect it will take me time to save, then it’s about finding the right time and location in which to take part. However, as I got so much from the MHF’s Mindfulness course when I first took it (you’ll find the details here) that it seems the logical extension from that initial process to pursue. It’s also a decent bet that my lived experience of mental health issues will become useful in training.

However, as a result of this revelation I have provided information to Mind which means that, at some point in the future, I may be called upon for interviews with the media. This might seem odd considering what has just taken place, but there is method in the madness. I am happy being interviewed, and a fair amount of front-facing public work will be taking place via the reading of poetry.

If I can read poetry to an audience, I can talk about mental health to others.

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The difference, I now realise, about contributing this year was literal exhaustion. I need to be both physically and mentally awake to do the job justice. Yet again, all of this is a bigger process, learning and expanding my remits across multiple spheres. As confidence and ability increase, so does the capacity to do good and help wherever the need arises. I like this new me, so much better than the person I was before.

There is new purpose I fully intend to learn from going forward.

October Short Story: GoldenBalls

WARNING: This story deals with adult themes and should, as a result, be approached responsibly.

This story was first serialised in 31 daily parts via the @MoveablePress and @InternetofWords Twitter feeds at 9am and 4pm GMT respectively. It is now reproduced in a complete form, a number of small edits and corrections made to improve narrative flow and maintain correct continuity.

Enjoy.


GoldenBalls

‘…and that’s the News. Now over to Mandy at the Sports Desk…’

‘Thank you Ellie. Let’s waste no more time and go directly to the Barnsley International Stadium, as the warm up for one of the most hotly anticipated events of the year begins. Can you hear me, Alice Richardson?’

‘Hardly, Mandy, the noise here is unbelievable, that’s no doubt in response to the presence of a local hero inside this stadium. We may not be able to see him yet but his team’s bus arrived just under an hour ago. Owen Chandler’s rightful moment in the sun has finally arrived…’


In the bowels of a building that’s hosted a World Cup and two World Championships, a small, dark room is reassuringly bereft of humanity. Owen sits alone on a hard wooden bench, contemplating next three hours of his life. If all goes to plan? Everything he is will change, forever. He has five minutes before his trainer will arrive, then they will walk to the Preparation Area. A stylist, two make-up artists, costumer plus a twenty-five piece Brass Band have waited for this moment since a now notorious sudden death play-off was won at Newcastle last month.

This event has been anticipated for close to a decade. Hundreds of hours of training, thousands of days where underlying motivation was to arrive here fully prepared. The reality is humbling yet exciting. Owen is ready to win, knows that he can… path to true redemption complete. Looking down to his crotch, it is hard to suppress a grin, which quickly develops into a laugh. Some men might be embarrassed by a genetic quirk, seek surgery to alter their appearance. Not Chandler. After twenty eight years, his enormous balls are finally nothing to joke about.

‘I’m glad you think this is funny.’

His mum stands, dressed in a three piece suit that makes the woman look younger than her years. She’d raised him, taught vital lessons about ignoring bullies, that it was okay being different.

Meg had raised skills to the level of artistry.

As lone parent and now a rookie manager, this was the woman who knew more about bollocks than anyone else: a particular skill in understanding and effectively exploiting the weaknesses of opponents had turned her son, the humble lad from Barnsley, into an international superstar. They walk into the Preparation Area to enthusiastic applause: best mate Sasha is here, with boyfriend and their son, plus Owen’s two younger sisters. Everybody is ready to help out, making sure the evening is as relaxed as possible. Not one person stares or laughs at his crotch.

This ritual had been conducted by his ancestors, by millions of men across the planet for thousands of years. It remained particular rite of passage in over a dozen developing countries, one of whom would be providing his opposition upstairs. It was a dream job, finally accepted. Owen will become the sun, metaphorical representation of that divine light from above that warms the Earth and keeps our planet fruitful and bounteous. His job will be to endure increasing pain and suffering, showing an ability to remain strong, unwavering as a proper concubine.

His balls will be weighed down, increasingly over time, until the pressure is too much and he passes out. The more that is held, greater will be the strength in his seed, an indication to any potential surrogate his sperm will produce a strong and suitable heir for their family. This process was begun nearly ten thousand years ago in Ancient Greece and has remained the number one watched spectator sport ever since. It is the first time a British concubine has reached the final for nearly sixty years, virtually unopposed in competition until semi finals.

That fateful evening had seen the defending European record holder stretchered out of the arena after losing consciousness in sudden death overtime. Both men had endured the same massive weight, but only Owen had managed to stand up and sit down with it attached to his scrotum. A community was divided over whether the whole event should have been declared null and void, with a rematch scheduled, but the World governing body intervened. As last man conscious and standing, Chandler had won, despite competitor’s inability to lift a crucial final weight.

Body paint is complete, on which make-up artists have overlaid the signature, rampant blue dragon holding a trident. The noise of 60,000 strong crowd outside is now too seductive to ignore: they’re chanting his name, over and over, partisan support to intimidate Greek opposition.

This is his moment: all that remains is to win, and well.


‘… yes, I can see Meg Chandler emerging from the Home Team dressing room now, looking immaculate as always and that means that our local hero cannot be far behind. It’s time for Owen to shine as he never has before.’

‘Indeed, and with that it’s time for us to begin coverage of the Concubine World Final. Your summariser is professional Concubine and European Weightlifting champion from 1986 until 1998 Costa Perkov with your commentary lead Paula Anchor, but first up here’s Alice Richardson.’

‘Thank you Mandy. Tonight’s a watershed for legions of semi-professional courtesans who have spent decades in the shadows, reviled and often attacked for the career they’ve chosen to pursue. Tonight, they are given a true hero, inspiration to look up to and emulate going forward. Owen Chandler’s ten years as a welder, into construction straight from school, belied the immense talent hidden beneath his working clothes. Thanks to his mother’s love, persistence, care and sheer determination, he’s become the living epitome of a rags to riches success story.

Tonight he faces Ivan Kerchenko, a man who has wanted for nothing in his entire career, having spent nearly three decades being trained and prepared for this very occasion. His father Yuri remains one of the most significant concubines of the late 20th Century, a true champion. It is estimated that nearly one hundred million people worldwide will be tuning into tonight’s contest which includes millions of ordinary Brits, holding their own special ‘GoldenBalls’ celebrations. We’ve never had a World champion since this contest was relaunched back in 1825.

That noise you can now hear means only one thing: Owen Chandler’s entered the stadium, flanked by his team of medical professionals and stylists… and there’s his family too, all wearing their distinctive blue outfits. Time for talking is over… now we will see who’s strongest.’


When historians looked back on the events of October 23rd, 2018, they did so with an ability to separate facts from fiction. They stared at the official televised footage with disbelief, and then satisfaction that the true winner that evening was fair play and humanity. All those who lost bets on Chandler’s success might feel aggrieved. The fact his competitor’s life was saved using first aid techniques learnt whilst training as a welding apprentice, that CPR was part of a vast arsenal of secondary skills, should really teach an important lesson.

The concubine World Governing Body, the IIA, would eventually declare their bout a tie, marking the last time any man was forced to exhibit their genital strength in public. After thousands of fatalities in the name of virility, finally, rules were changed for the good of all. This event forced a complete redefinition of all the competition structures, moving away from thousands of years worth of sensationalism. Overt trials of strength and prowess were removed; replaced with a more cerebral focus, considering concubines in a completely new light.

This was in response to the revelations that Kerchenko’s heart attack was caused by historical abuse of anabolic steroids. The IIA have, as of January 2020, banned nearly six thousand concubines from any participation in contests or from donating as sires, as testing continues. Owen Chandler does not regret his actions that night. In every interview a determined assertion remains that not being a champion is irrelevant when placed next to saving a man who’d inspired him to personal glory. Kerchenko had been a long time hero right up to his final demise.

As a new decade begins for the IIA, the taint of drugs cheats refuses to go away. More and more women are turning away from the traditional methods of concubine insemination, preferring instead to risk natural conception, despite the many issues such practices ultimately present. It is no surprise therefore that today, Owen Chandler announced his retirement from all forms of participation, before coming out as bisexual and announcing his engagement to personal stylist and long-term companion Malcolm Fisher. His days as a sire and courtesan are now over.


The Final Countdown

I’ve submitted my selection for the National Poetry Competition. Of course, there had to be a mistake:

This, unfortunately, is a consequence of my ASD brain, plus a last minute word change that was missed via spell checker. This stuff happens all the time, and would undoubtedly not hamstring me if the rest of the content works. However, I have no idea if you get that kind of attention in these contests. In fact, as this is only the second time the thing’s been entered for, we’ve reached a significant milestone. This time last year was when the whole desire to write in this form properly manifested.

It’s been a hugely transformative process ever since.

enlightenment

There is now a significant range of work and styles in the collection. Starting next month I’ll be upping the contest entry count even further, because that’s the kind of challenge that is now required. Once I have rejections for various pieces of work they can be considered for my own chapbook, which is the next stage of this process. That can then be sold to recoup the cash spent on contests this year, whilst being forwarded to publishers in the hope I might catch someone’s eye.

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It also provides an opportunity to continue my graphical adventures. Designing the weekly layouts to accompany poems has become nearly as enjoyable as the writing process, because it has become further means by which my competence can be measured. It also provides inspirations for projects such as Symphony, which will debut on the Twitter feed starting Thursday.

I really don’t expect to win a major contest any time soon, but that doesn’t stop me wanting to keep trying. In fact, I have another submission to work on tomorrow in-between getting other stuff scheduled for November. Eventually, I might get lucky.

Until then, it is all about doing the best I can.

Occupy Your Mind

Next Thursday is Time to Change Day where, for 24 hours, I can happily remind people that having a mental health issue is no longer the stigma it once was. There are days when I feel this isn’t the case, however, especially on Social media: that advocating tolerance and understanding is sometimes a tough ask. When the rest of the World has grown up not worrying about thinking before it speaks, or understanding why some people feel differently, every single interaction can be a trial. Except… this week, something has happened. Perhaps it is my perception that has altered or just the fact I’m now more aware of what can happen if people don’t think before they affect others’ lives.

Now I have the confidence to stand up and say stuff needs to stop.

The Way Forward

I’m already seeing the effects of this in planning content. I’m beginning to grasp the confidence in the Gym to deal with the unexpected (like faceplanting into the floor when my arms gave out on a push-up and not dying of anxiety or embarrassment.) I’ll still have moments but talking about mental health has benefits far and away from your actual condition. That empowerment of your self-belief might look and sound like technobabble bollocks, but it really isn’t. Getting your shit sorted is not hard, though sometimes it will feel that way.

If you can find the right support network, things get a helluva lot easier.

It is not just a case of standing up for what you are and believe, however. Learning from others is a vital part of the process. It doesn’t have to be formal instruction either: the benefits of simply hanging out with like-minded individuals, watching at a distance and crucially saying nothing at all can all reap benefits for the open-minded. Change is not simply the process of alteration, but adaptation and acceptance. All of these things work together if you are prepared to put in the effort. I am in the most exciting place I have ever existed in terms of creativity, too. Today, I’ve made some significant changes to the two major fiction pieces I’m re-writing, alterations I’d not have been capable of making a year ago.

Knowing when to say No, and being prepared to change are opening creative avenues I did not think would be possible, and it is beyond brilliant.

The Best Kept Secret

These are the dark days for a Depressive’s soul, the long, grey bleh that extends and contracts around freezing temperatures and half-hearted attempts to snow. In the midst of all this, I had a fight with my son, and in one of those moments of stupidity that often happen when you’re a parent, I said with 100% confidence ‘If you do this, I will never get angry ever again.‘ He laughed at me, and suddenly I realised that this is all I’ve been since June, at least when it comes to the moments I’m down and the world exposes my frailties. For all that encouragement and positivism that I spout elsewhere, I am still unbelievably angry at so many things.

Now in the darkness of Winter days where there’s nothing but the next grey morning to look forward to, that’s beginning to interfere with my ability to adequately function as a human being, and I need to find a way to fix it. The question now becomes how I do this and find a way to write creatively again, because I’ve been trying for weeks and nothing has happened. Yeah, I can produce words on a daily basis as the need arises, but my imagination seems to be broken. There’s not even anything forthcoming on the Treadmill either, instead I’m listening to old playlists and happy to lose myself in narratives past.

I know what I need to do, I just can’t find a way to make it happen.

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The thing is, of course, I say I don’t care but I do now more than I have at any point in the past. I don’t want to disconnect with this new reality either, I have to know what’s going on around me as a matter of some significance, to understand what the World actually means now rather than losing myself inside largely irrelevant ‘alternate’ realities. Plus I get really very cross at people who don’t seem to grasp how the Planet is potentially going to shit because they’re still largely obsessed with their own petty battles or bugbears. Somewhere, I am now grasping, a quantum shift took place in my psyche. I’ve not felt this depressed for quite some time, and amazingly it’s nothing to do with all the pointless, irrelevant issues that previously caused me to become unhappy.

This is the stuff that I can do nothing about and which is out of my hands: global warming, injustice, racial intolerance and general mindless stupidity. Of course, I can in my own way try and fight all these things, and I am making significant inroads into changing the world around me. I’m also becoming incredibly good at stopping other people’s attempts to mislabel me, or try and draw me into arguments I never started. I am developing communication skills that I never had a year ago, and I am very pleased at my ability now to simply shake my head, get up and walk away from a screen and not come back until I know I can be an adult. However, when the environment turns against me as it did yesterday and I have nowhere else to go?

Today made me realise there is an awful lot of work still needing to be done.

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The key, it now appears to me, is prioritising the significance of what I can change and what needs to be ignored in my Brain. It also involves eliminating a number of sources of stress from the equation and, I suspect, prioritisation of what is important on a day to day basis. I’m getting very good at scheduling, and this needs to be expanded with the short form tasks, and maybe I can go so far as starting to write stuff for the next day the night before. Honestly, it doesn’t matter when a lot of my daily output gets written, just that I keep myself at at pace that means the process of writing is having a positive effect. Then I need to schedule time to write fiction and make it happen, even if I am writing crap. That’s the plan starting on Monday, the hope being this will kick start the way forward.

It also occurs to me that I could do some investigation over why everything is making me so cross, and that this in turn might help me identify means by which I can start enjoying myself again. I hear the Internet is an excellent place to do such research. That’s tonight’s bedtime reading, and before then I’m going to attempt to lose myself in online gaming and making little pixels do stuff that I may not totally enjoy right now, but which certainly counts as relaxation. For the first time in many years, it’s not the gaming that causes the stresses, but everything that isn’t. That’s another realisation that just pushes me to go fix the problem before the grey malaise takes over everything and I end up going backwards with food and exercise. There were hints of this today, and I can’t let it happen.

I’ve come too far now to be poleaxed by my own psyche.

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