Time’s a funny commodity. It seems like two minutes since I returned home, when in fact it’s now three months. In that time there have been all manner of things going on, some good, and some not so good. It’s what we all call life, and it keeps happening regardless of whether we want to it to or not.
I lead an odd kind of life. I sleep more than most, often at odd times. I cycle when I can, write when I’m able, and spend an awful lot of time trying to make things happen. My life has taken me around Britain’s coast, and more recently along some of the wildest shores in Europe. I’ve flown and sailed, and pedaled and pedaled. I’m usually alone, and almost always happy to be living a simple life where a piece of fabric serves as my home, and cars and possessions disappear from my personal radar, replaced by Fly, or Irene and an iPad.
In amongst the pedaling is an awful lot of hard work. It’s work I do for the joy of it, as I try to create a new place in society, without being able to join in fully. Working as and when I’m able has seen me grow a great deal in the last three years. Much of it has been made possible by modern technology, and I certainly couldn’t have done any of it without the internet and a laptop. I moan as much as anybody about my laptop, but in reality it allows me to do all my work when I am able. That means I can sleep as I want to, and work when I’m up to it. It also means I can stop anytime I desire and pick it all up again when I feel brighter.
The difference that it makes to me and others in a similar position is huge and I am coming to the view that it should now be considered an essential to life in the western world, and not a luxury. The internet gives access to a world that many sufferers are unable to access any other way. It allows interaction and normal social activity for those who are housebound for much of their time. I’m personally lucky, in that I’ve passed the worst of that stage of my own illness, but I still use the laptop everyday to keep up with a world that I can’t otherwise manage. I can be selective, avoid those things that don’t help me, and stay in touch with friends through a plethora of social media sites. When things feel rough, I can play Angry Birds, or something similar, and when added all together it improves my life quality enormously.
I was with my doctor this morning, talking about the yin and yang of life. Whilst I’ve cut my drugs by thirty percent, my body is having some kind of revolt. Another twinge in my back, on the opposite side from earlier in the year, is a painful reminder that I’m pushing boundaries a bit too much. Extreme decorating is the probable cause, and I should have stuck to riding instead. When did you last warm up before painting? No, neither do I, and the result is a painful reminder that DIY is dangerous.
That aside, I’m feeling strong and as if I’ve taken more steps forwards than backwards this year. Riding is becoming more challenging. I’ve said previously that my coffers are empty, so I’m now searching for those who aren’t in the same position and who might be feeling benevolent. For the last couple of weeks I’ve had to battle a virus and this twinging back. As it’s kept me off the bike, more than usual I’ve been working on a budget for the next journey. You can’t pitch unless you know your costs. Watch Grand Designs, and see how even the most budget minded get the costs wrong. I can’t afford to do that, so it’s time well spent.
Writing is always going on, either in my head, or more usually on my fast disintegrating laptop ( I’ll budget for another). I’ve just signed off a first draft of around 86,000 words, and now I have to read it before the editing begins and I hand it over to Michele. Once the corrections start it will be full on, and then the book construction has to be revisited before I launch it on an unsuspecting public.
In my search for fundraising possibilities I’ve come across all manner of internet sites that I didn’t previously know existed. Crowdfunder is a site where I can make a pitch for my cause and then see if people will support it. Unbound, not a bondage site, but a site where you make a pitch on your next books behalf. There is a myriad of these sites and they are changing fundraising for the better for us individuals who aren’t either charities, or companies that can use the usual channels to raise the funds they need.
What I like best is that they offer hope. For me that’s the hope that I can drag my project into another year. I’m beginning to see a different future, one where the project expands and diversifies, but before that, I have at least one more big journey to make. In order to fund the project I have to decide what it is that I wish to do. I’ve now done that, but it takes a different type of confidence to ask out loud for financial support, and more of it in order to believe that you will be supported. At the end of it, all I can do is try. If I don’t get the finance then at least I’ll have made the effort.
I feel as though I’m searching for a needle in a haystack, and I feel very uncomfortable about the future. Why should people support what I’m doing? I’ve put everything I have into this project. Time, money, belief, and all my energy for three years. I’ve created something out of thin air and I’m proud of that, but all the old niggles and lack of self-confidence are sitting on my shoulder right now. “It’s over,” says the negativity, “It’ll never happen, so give it up.” It gnaws away at my mind, and self belief, and will keep doing so until I actually make the pitch and learn the reality of that. It isn’t a case of pitching the idea and sitting back. Once the pitch is up and running I then have to market it.
Looking at my budget, as it stands to date, I’m chasing £8000-£10,000. That’s a big slice of money, but not getting it isn’t really my biggest fear. Feelings of rejection have ricocheted through my adult life, and this feels like it could be a big one if it doesn’t come off. That damaged part of me could recoil badly in the event of not reaching the target, so I have to think about plan B, and C, and think ahead of the game.
This week I was pleased to hear that Ed Milliband has spoken out in favour of supporting those suffering mental health problems. In the light of the poor woman who allegedly killed her two children, I think we can all see how extreme things can become. Whilst she stopped taking her medication, there nobody to check up on her , or to encourage her to keep taking it. What a tragedy for the family. I hope the courts and law can see her act as an act of desperation. She has to live with this for the rest of her life. Personally, I see little value in placing her in prison, and I hope she gets the support that she needs, along with her husband, in order to make some kind of recovery.
Resources for supporting people with mental distress have always been poor, ever since everybody was placed back in the community without any real back-up. In recent years, the budgets have been strangled more and more, leading to a huge population of people who feel cast out of society. Mental health organisations that were already stretched are now stretched beyond what they can cope with. For most people, that means that they have to deal with terrible problems on a day-to-day basis, with no respite, no carers, and no way forwards.
Whether Mr Millibands rhetoric will come to anything, or whether he is just electioneering, we will have to wait and see. I hope there is genuine concern, backed by the necessary desire to do something about it. It’s about time it changed.
Finally, my thoughts go out to all those people on the eastern seaboard of the USA. The tragedy known as hurricane Sandy has wreaked havoc on millions of people’s lives. Michele has family along this exposed coast, and that has given me a different perspective to the storm than the BBC ever could. News coverage centred around the big apple, when other communities had been decimated. After a few days it will all disappear from our view, when thousands will still be homeless and without electricity for weeks to come. Luckily, Michele’s family appear to be safe.
Obama has looked strong, decisive, and supportive in both a human and compassionate way, both during the storm and throughout the aftermath. Personally I think it will be one of the greatest tragedies in American history if he isn’t re-elected. Next week we will know for sure, but what happens to our special relationship if Romney gets the nod. For me, that’s too frightening to comprehend.