Monday 28 November 2011

A Friend Of A Different Kind.

A dear friend of mine, Kim and her adorable dog, CindyLu, have kindly agreed to do a guest posting on my site. You can find these two wonderful writers over at this site: CindyLu'sMuse   
Kim and CindyLu write thought provoking and informative articles that relate to the unconditional, non- judgemental love that our vulnerable friends in the animal world have to share with us.  If you have never visited the site of CindyLu'sMuse, Penny the Jack Russell dog and modest internet star and myself, highly recommend that you check it out.
Thanks Kim and CindyLu.   I am honoured and privileged that you would do a guest posting for me.  The posting is titled, "A Friend Of A Different Kind."

Gary writes regularly about the issues surrounding mental illness, emphasizing  the need to remove the stigmas attached to this subject in our society. I write regularly about animals - pets in particular - with an emphasis on the positive actions people take to improve the lot of our beloved, furry friends. Subjects miles apart? I think not. I believe that the pain and discomforts of many mental illnesses can often be eased by the love and companionship offered by one's pet.

There are a myriad of different types of pets. Any of these can offer us friendship, a sense of value, some even exercise, conversation - with an added benefit for us of improved health. Life is less lonely, more valuable, and much more fun. Although caring for a pet is not for everyone, many of us benefit immensely from sharing our lives with them.

I've had pets all of my adult life, and have always considered them a part of the family. Somehow, they were never just "mere" animals. The more time I spent with an animal, the more I felt less superior as a human. Pets forgive, forget, always afford us a second chance. Imagine if all people were that way! Pets offer complete trust, unconditional love and loyalty. How could I feel that I, as a human being, were possibly superior to that?

For the past going-on seven years now, I've volunteered for a pet rescue organization. Almost Home Foundation is dedicated to saving the lives of as many dogs and cats as it can. Sometimes we rescue pets from high-kill shelters or faraway places where there is such an overabundance of them, saving them from being euthanized. It can be a saddening, frustrating, disillusioning job at times, but because of human ignorance or greed, not because of the animals. These dogs and cats in need keep us motivated.

How did I get started in the pet rescue field? Well, It was actually because of my son. He'd been suffering through years of depression, anxiety, difficulties with school. When my neighbors (a wonderful couple dedicated to making this world better) told me about the organization they were involved in, a thought occurred to me. My son had always loved animals.

I knew that there were therapeutic benefits to spending time with animals, and thought that perhaps also by getting involved in helping dogs my son would have an activity that took his mind off his troubles. There's something quite healing about focusing on the suffering or needs of someone else less fortunate. 

He began by volunteering as a "dog handler" at adoption events. Every Saturday and Sunday, he would be assigned a dog, given all the details known about it. Then he'd spend the next four hours talking with people who wanted to know more about the dog, ensuring the dog was comfortable and on its best behavior, chatting with other volunteers, helping people in the adoption process when they chose his dog.

He loved it, looked forward to the weekends, and became impressively adept with both dog handling and many other duties for these events. It boosted his confidence, showed him he was worthy - and the affection from the dogs themselves gave him positive feelings.

I learned then the immense influence pets can have in our lives. When the organization began working with cats as well, we became a foster home. Little did I know that within two months' time, my home would be filled with litters of kittens and an occasional adult cat. My children reveled in doing what they could to help these homeless animals.

As a divorced woman with four children at home, a job and a house to maintain - one might think I was utterly nuts to be taking on these additional responsibilities. Truth is, I believe they actually saved me. Daily life was quite challenging and stressful; having these adorable creatures at home to nurture, enjoying their cute antics, the snuggles and purrs - were stress-busters. You cannot continue to feel anxious, angry, stressed...if a little furball is curling up against you, purring away.

Just like for my son, being involved with something that was much larger than just myself helped me cope with my own life's ups and downs. It gave me a wider perspective of the world, kept me from concentrating solely on myself and my worries. It afforded the chance to meet new people, make new friends. Many of these people also struggle in one way or another, and find it just as therapeutic to be a part of the organization, and in doing something good for homeless pets.

You don't have to volunteer with a pet organization in order to reap the benefits these animals offer. Just having a pet of your own can help. The unadulterated adoration and loyalty of a dog, the purring cuddles of a cat - the connection you feel with an animal of any type when you care for it, knowing you are responsible for its well-being - are all uplifting, positive reinforcements to whatever fragile part of your mind or soul is in need.

This is a difficult world we live in. Daily life can be challenging at best, horribly cruel at worst. Not one of us is perfect; we all each have our private demons we battle with. It's nice to know that we have been provided with some measure of companionship, peace and contentment - by some of God's blessed creatures...those known as "pets".

Sunday 20 November 2011

"Me and My Hairy Friend"

Greetings, tis I, Penny the Jack Russell dog and modest internet star.   My human, yes Gary aka klahanie, the human I so kindly allow to live with me, is still taking a break from blogging.   I know that when he actually does a posting, he will not apologise for not writing.   If anything, it might be better that he apologise for writing.  
In the meantime, Gary has contacted his good friend, David and asked him if he would like to do a guest posting on this shy and humble site.  David, the human with a tendency for the usage of big words, was thrilled to bits to have this opportunity to expose himself, I mean display his abundant writing skills on this site.
And thus friend, whether you be human or otherwise, without further ceremony, I present to you David's posting, titled, "Me and My Hairy Friend".  I should inform you that his posting was delivered by carrier pigeon and the poo on the parchment has been removed.

So, I’ve been invited to do this “guest posting” for my very dear friend, Gary, and also, of course, Penny, the modest internet star. In fact, maybe I should have mentioned Penny first, as there does seem to be some confusion over who is looking after who, with Penny, in the many posts she writes (actually, I think that she secretly writes them all and just lets Gary take the kudos), referring to Gary as her “human”.
Gary and I have known each other for quite some time now, and I believe we first met at our local mental health charity, The Media Action Group for Mental Health. It was during their “Mindbloggling” project that Gary and I first came into contact. The aim of the project was to get people with experience of mental ill health to write blogs about their lives and the way their conditions affect them, in the process hopefully reducing the stigma surrounding such illnesses. And, Gary sometimes writes about his struggles with depression, but mostly his blog, as you will all know, is a witty and humorous look at life from his very own, highly original perspective. Indeed, by doing this Gary shows that there is so much more to him, and to us all with mental health issues, than simply a label or diagnosis. So, there has been blogs about the most quotidian (he hates that word, so I thought I’d get it in!) of subjects, such as non-stick frying pans, fridges, trips to the shops and travelling on buses. But, such is Gary’s talent as a writer, that he manages to infuse such everyday matters with wit, wisdom and insight, and his warm, friendly and funny personality always comes shining through.
I sometimes refer to Gary as “my hairy friend”, given his moustache and his propensity for having a hairy back (which really is quite prepossessing, by the way) and I feel we have a lot in common. After all, he is from Canada, and I’m English. He is in his fifties, and I’m just approaching 40. He is losing his hair, whereas I still have a lustrous mane. Ok, so we’re not doing that well so far. But what we do have in common is the fact that we have both had experience of mental illness, and are both dedicated to reducing the stigma which surrounds such conditions through our blogging.
So, after all that about Gary, perhaps I should tell you a little about myself. Well, as I’ve said, I am just approaching my 40th birthday. Yes, I will be officially middle-aged. However, I have not yet resorted to smoking a pipe and wearing slippers all day, and try to maintain a youthful outlook on life. Gary often says that I resemble “Robin Hood”, whatever Robin Hood looked like, but I do not go around wearing green tights and brandishing a bow and arrow. And, like Gary, I have experienced mental ill health, and have a diagnosis of schizophrenia. OK, so that is, I know, for many, a very scary word, associated as it often is with violence, “split” personality, or a complete inability to function. I have to say, though, that I don’t fit the mould of your average “axe murderer” stereotype, and am just a normal, really quite friendly, person. I know that it is often difficult for those who are not familiar with what schizophrenia actually is to get past the many stereotypes which pervade the media and other sources of information, but I would just say that, for the most part, these representations are grossly misrepresentative of the majority who have experience of this illness. The many I have met with the diagnosis, through my own experience, have been kind, indeed gentle, people, who just want to get on with their lives despite their illness and the stigma surrounding it. I hope that anyone reading this will be broad-minded enough to just at least think about what their response is when they hear that dreaded word. Or perhaps you could even read something about the condition and improve your knowledge of it. Indeed, if there is one way of improving the stigma surrounding conditions like my own, it is to get people to understand the facts about it, rather than relying on misrepresentative media portrayals. Failing that, you could always pop over to my blog, "A Day in the Life". Now there’s a novel thought.
So, having done my regulation anti-stigma spieI, I would just thank my hirsute pal for allowing me access to all his wonderful followers and commenters, and I thank you for taking the time to read this little post.          

Thursday 10 November 2011

Reaching Out To You.

The ethos, the ideals of my blog, have and always will be my attempt to demonstrate that my mental health issues are only a small part of who I am.  I endeavour to be of support and encouragement to those who may be experiencing feelings of great isolation as they battle with the turmoil of mental health concerns.   Yes, I am mentally ill, yet I am not ashamed of who I am.   
I endeavour to display realistic positive anticipation in my daily life.   For the impact of negative speculation plays on the mind, destroys the uplifting energy I so desire.  I'm battling here.  I cannot focus.  I cannot eat.  I hardly sleep and sleep has been the only freedom that I know.  And when I do catch those moments of precious sleep; instead of waking up with an air of optimism, I wake up to wave upon wave of panicky thoughts, drowning what's left of my fragile ego.  
I'm gasping for breath as I write this.  The fragments of my positive energy punched, kicked and suffocated by an unrelenting negative force.  One of my few remaining passions, the passion to write, something I hold so dear, is garbled and sporadic.   
And what has triggered this negative energy?  The sadness in the eyes of my son.   Sadness caused by the desperation of not having work and being able to move on with his life.  His sadness, a grim reminder of the torment I endured all those years ago.  I see his pain and I relive my own personal nightmare.  Somehow I must regain my inner strength.  The love for my son depends on this.  
And thus, my dear 'electric friend', my 'electronic tonic', this very frightened and lonely man is not going to post for the next little while.   Instead, I'm going to do what the ethos of this blog set out to do.  To encourage and support others.  I will be as proactive on as many of your blogs as my exhausted mind will allow.  I embrace the true spirit of the caring and sharing blogging community.   Indeed, all different, all equal.   
I thank you for your time and your understanding.   And now, I'm reaching out to you.....

Saturday 5 November 2011

"Maxwell's Silver Hammer."

This posting might give you something to sink your teeth into.   Or maybe, it's just a bit of 'filling' before I actually formulate something remotely close to a decent article

"A rotten tooth, said to belong to John Lennon, is going up for auction on Saturday.  The cavity-ridden, discoloured molar is expected to raise £10,000 at least, according to the auctioneers in Stockport.  No DNA tests have been done on the tooth because it is so fragile but it was reportedly given by Lennon to his former housekeeper, Dot Jarlett, in the mid-1960s when they were in the kitchen of his house.  "He was very generous to my mother, Jarlett's son, Barry, told the BBC.  "He treated her like family because he didn't really have a very big family and he really looked after my mum. He used to call her Aunty Dot."  Source : The Huffington Post, Friday, November 4, 2011   

Now then,  John Lennon apparently pulled out his cavity-ridden, discoloured molar.   A bit of  "twist and shout!"   Or maybe he used, "Maxwell's Silver Hammer".   Anyway, I can visualise the proceedings at the auction.  The 'Tooth Fairy' would be the auctioneer and the audience would be made up of eager, long in the tooth, dentists.  And perhaps, the Tooth Fairy might just use Maxwell's Silver Hammer as some kind of symbolic gavel.
Here are some songs you may associate with the Beatles and John Lennon.   'Long Tooth Sally', 'Get Plaque',  'Gum Together', 'Happiness Is A Warm Gum', 'Toothy In The Sky With Diamonds', 'Love Me Chew',  'Yes Decay....all my troubles seemed so far away..'.   Okay, brace yourself, I know you can come up with your own toothy tunes.    All I am saying is,  'Give Teeth A Chance....'
Before I go, the photo is evidently John Lennon's prized molar.   That's the tooth, the hole tooth and nothing but the tooth....