Spirit of the game.

So kiddies I want to talk about the spirit of the game.

It’s not a 60 hit global creature that can only be killed with the blue sword; nope it’s the bit where fair play, expectations and the rules have a car crash while someone scream s ‘no scope is fine!’

I think in the uk the mindset that monopoly is a game so d and d is a game so lrp is a game and they are the same because the word ‘game’. I mean there is a whole raft of things about win conditions, how trying to ‘win’ actually is impossible in lrp, but that’s not what im talking about.

The bit I’m talking about is good play within the spirit of a game in regard to rules without slagging any systems off.

So what I have been pondering is, as a player do you have a responsibility to not break a rule set and play within the spirit of the game. In my elitist opinion, yes you do. There is something wonderful about shared writing and shared art that lrp hovers around the edge of. It’s a shared place, sure there is conflict as all good narratives other than my neighbour totoro has, but at the end of the day it’s a shared space. I genuinely believe that actively trying to subvert a system, trying to exploit loop holes etc is no different to not taking your hits. Yes it’s cheating.

BUT NO IT ISN’T! Yeah tell that to people who use exploits in mmorpgs, FPS’, etc. It’s the same thing. Shut up. You are the lrp equivalent of a teenager no scoping while talking smack about someone’s mum and maintaining an erection only cause they think they are hardcore. No really, you are.

There is, in my opinion, an implicit social contract that says while all the kiddies are playing in the nursery you don’t take a shit in the corner and announce you are clever for doing it.

What do I mean by that? Well first up the idea of balance in lrp is bollocks, there is none. You cannot balance hard skills like charisma, physical fitness or the fact some people are just smarter than others. It’s not possible, nor should it be. You cannot put a metric on how hot I am (literally set that one up for you lot.)

However there is a set of rules that you work within. And those mechanics can be exploited and used in ways that they shouldn’t be. Or certain power builds that skew game play arrive. Within table top, computer games and wargaming this is balanced on a regular basis.

Have fun getting your money back from GW cause they nerfed your thing that you were spamming like a twat. Just for you game team folk thinking about nerfing something and feeling sad about it.

Now its no secret I would be happy with the removal of mechanical rules from most games (that was very specific to a friend, note mechanical rules….). I believe that when you strip rules out, say ‘yes, but’ rather than no and set explicit expectations of what the game is and what its boundaries are you are golden. (Yes rule sets ar boundaries, but you know what I’m getting at…..shussh).

Certainly in all my time playing low rule set games people tend to stay within the boundaries because the of the social expectations are ‘Don’t be a fucking twat’ and there is nothing to hide behind such as ‘But the rules say I can.’

When we hit rule systems there is a subset of player that goes game on and will ‘game’ it. Now that’s cool and all, if you enjoy that. I’ve heard this called ‘playing hard’, ‘Playing the game’ or ‘hardcore role-play’. This is false logic, playing the mechanics is not role play. In the same way when I role dice and move the top hat I am not role playing a slum lord, I am using a mechanic. Mechanics can support role play, it is not the other way round. Unless it’s the 90’s, then it probably is….I’ll be over here with my katanna.

Problem is this is actually fine unless you are specific about the game you want to run. Yeah, this kind of behavior…..50% of it is on us game runners. You gotta name the spirit of your game, say what it is that you want. You know like in lrp rituals, if you don’t say exactly what you want someone’s gonna fuck with you.

So how do you get to a culture of players and crew to take responsibility for ensuring that the spirit of the game stays intact?

I’m not sure. I think the only thing you can do is set clear expectations, tackle issues head on and don’t be afraid to say ‘You’re taking the piss’ and remember it’s okay to say no (and if you get badgered or bullied remember this mantra ‘I hear x system supports the style of play you want.’)

Actually on bullying, I have seen players genuinely try and bully stuff out of refs while I’ve stood next to them my jaw slowly dropping to the floor (and refs act like conceited tosspots, but that’s for another blog) and it’s interesting that often when you talk about it in other systems the response is ‘Oh, yeah I know x, they are known for that here too.’ Yes sweeties, we talk to each other.

On the positive side reward good rp in kind, give failure a positive place in the heart of your system and pay attention to those players who actually take responsibility for not damaging a system and help it grow. (I can actually hear growling at that one, however I mean it.)

There is a cool thing around behaviour management that we spend more time and attention on the high tariff behaviours than on the positive ones because we have to deal with the high tariff ones as chairs flung at high speed rarely resolve themselves with tactical ignoring.

The people who are working within the spirit of a game? They don’t throw chairs. Once you have put the furniture back, they are the ones you want to give your attention to. And the chair throwers? Well they aren’t kids in a school who are doing it because of complex behavioural issues and you aren’t a teacher…… so it’s okay to burn their shit to the ground.

 

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Bloody creatives, we need business in charge of LRP.

Creators and writers are monsters. No really, they are.

I mean real monsters, horrific creatures that see ideas like creative integrity, we should burn them in the center of the village.

The utter monsters. I mean how dare they? Someone should take them to task.

I mean Star Wars would be better with gray Jedi, fuck Disney and Lucas. I like gray Jedi so they should be a thing, they sing to my beautiful and unique soul. I’d buy the merch.

And Yoda on a pogo stick wouldn’t Casablanca be better if Bogart got the girl? Bloody writers with their down beat attitude. I mean a song and dance routine wouldn’t go amiss would it? Think of the soundtrack sales? Think of the mass market appeal if we try and please everyone? I mean we could add some zombies and more explosions, everyone likes those.

And bloody hell why won’t my favourite Larp let me play an elf? I mean they might not be in the system, but they should be, everyone likes elves don’t they? I mean even if they don’t fit thematically in this game I should be able to play one! Oh and the creator is a wanker for not letting me, i think i may have to discuss how awful the creator is online. We need professionals running the thing, that’s for sure.

So lets look at some companies and maybe there would be some better people to run the games I like? I mean there are loads of companies out there right? I mean I could talk about our latest gate instead, but even I know when in the countryside you should always close a gate unless sheep escape. I’d rather spend my time and find someone to take over from these liberal creatives. It’s time to make Lrp great again.

So lets start with Games Workshop, they would be perfect to run a lrp surely?

There would be total rules overhauls every year, the rules would be sold by class or power level and the power creep would be insane resulting in resets constantly (or not, cause you know sometimes you have to go after that power gamer dollar, it’s a hot dollar right now…can we get FnP as a rule into a lrp please?). I mean you want Games Workshop to run lrp right? At least they would make lrp kit and weapons, probably with the lammies attached and rewrite the rules to sell you new kit each year…

Or how about Blizzard. You get one set of clothes only, if you want to change you can pay money for a more outfits. Also they will also insist you can only walk, if you want to go faster they will sell you a quadbike. Obviously there would only be new plot every four years, but its ok its all engaging enough to keep you coming back, right? I mean its not like it matters that the armor is gender based is it? I don’t mind a breezy midrift.

CCP could take it over….scratch that, they would insist that you used real weapons and actually killed each other and even if they didn’t you would have to set fire to your kit every time you died. That’s a terrible idea (well…..maybe….).

Of course we could get someone more official to run our lrps, we have a government that could do it for us, cause sanctioned and mandated fun is good. Obviously when a new rule came in no ref would be willing to say how or what they are. All we would know is there would be a ‘Hard rule change’ and it would be a British rule change and that ‘Rules change means rule change’ with zero substance…

Maybe not then…..How about Chris Roberts, like that guy has pedigree! You would pay a lot of money up front, buy concept art of what your character class would be, it be unlikely to ever run and they only thing you can do is hit other players in the face in an encounter tent.

Yeah these are terrible ideas you are right, I guess we need to bring in the big guns…… Well I hear Electronic Arts might work on a lrp, who doesn’t like gated off content and micro transactions…..Want to get of gate guard duty early and go on a quest? It’s only £1.50 and you can always buy xp to make sure you are the right level for that quest.

Maybe these are terrible ideas, but right now I’m working on a series of character class books and adventures you can buy….I mean who actually needs a vision and creativity as long as you can make money.

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Art

The joy of a blog is you can write any old shite that takes your fancy.

So yeah art, it’s a thing for me. Along with my grab bag of mental I am also dyslexic. The inability to communicate in writing is a thing, anyone who has read one of my plot documents can tell you that i approach writing in a way that resembles a monkey throwing excrement in an attempt to make something stick. I think there are maybe two people who have ever given me the confidence to show any writing I’ve done.

Growing up with an inability to spell or use grammar in a way that wouldn’t offend the sensibilities of the internet (took till i was in my twenties) and being terminally shy left me very few ways to actually interact with the world. Then my dad drew me the Battlestar Gallactica on reams of old computer printer paper, you know the stuff with green lines on the back. I started trying to copy it.

And then, with a lot of practice, i discovered I could draw. At school i had some amazing art teachers who pushed me, when things went wrong at home they found the space to give me safety and found qualifications that fitted me. They also inspired me, pushed me and taught me a lot more about the world than art. Hell without them I would never have discovered Don McCullin, one of my heroes. Art college was the same, I discovered a lot about myself through my own art and the art of the people around me. That and Jenine, one of the few friends who through working on art together got me writing (ok it was really bad poetry, but every 18 year old writes really bad self indulgent poetry….).

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Piccasso, Clive Barker, Rothko, Litchenstien, Goldworthy are all part of my visual touchstones along with Ian Millar and other artists that are probably considered less worthy by some. These people have changed my life, given me a images that will always stay with me and in many ways like music link to moments in my life.

Art allows me to express feelings, challenge myself, talk about things in ways that i cannot articulate normally. To be able to lay out in canvas and paint or draw, to be able to touch and feel acrylic with my fingers to shape how i am feeling, the thoughts in my head, ideas that are locked away normally is a powerful experience, one that has probably saved me on a few occasions too.

Something as simple as a portrait is shockingly personal and very intimate, looking at someone for the length of time it takes to draw means you see a lot more than you would even living with someone day to day. Art is often frustrating and no artist I know get it right straight out of the gate, sketching, redrawing and designing is all part of it. For every picture of someone i might do, there will be a pile of balled up bits of paper on the floor where the chin wasn’t right or the nose looked like it was stuck on. Often talking to kids about art they will ask how I can draw something, and its because i have practiced and have a visual dictionary much like someone who writes proper gud. That comes from time and patience, it’s not a magical power that i can just do.

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Thing is its a technical skill, something anyone can do. It like anything takes practice, a lot of damned practice, but practice. Even composition just follows maths. Getting good involves stepping out of comfort zones to try new things that you are willing to fail at (see a pile of bad pencil work i have recently done for GC or constantly fighting with a portrait of a friend who’s face was like 7/8ths ratio….who bloody does that?) and having the confidence to keep going in the face of that portrait of someone who should look like art and yet you have made look like a potato in a bad wig.

I work with kids that have no fear of art, because they know that it’s safe. They can explore, discover and all without judgement, knowing that they will be encouraged. That what they produce, with time, grow in technical skills. It always surprises me when folk say they can’t draw. Anyone can, but it takes teaching and practice. No one expects you to program in C without some help, so why would you be able to draw?

Without art I would probably be unable to function (function to a given value), it allows me to have a safety valve, to express and to be creative. It is pretty much my life blood.

So yeah art it’s a thing.

Pablo_Picasso,_1910,_Girl_with_a_Mandolin_(Fanny_Tellier),_oil_on_canvas,_100.3_x_73.6_cm,_Museum_of_Modern_Art_New_York..jpg

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Why your permission to cry isn’t enough.

  • I talk about mental health, especially mine because talking about it normalises it for folk too scared to talk and it’s better than me picking up a baseball bat.

    A while back the Catholic church redefined hell. It’s not fire any more; apparently it is a cold empty void alone forever. I have a horrible feeling the Pope may have read the nihilism wiki entry or visited Slough.

    So I get to write about this stuff occasionally, me and my mental. My mental is sat in the corner staring at the moment; it’s got a satisfied smug look and is well fed, it’s got to eat really well recently, so I get five minutes off before I get it gnawing on my bones again.

    So why bring up hell? Well partly because it amuses that scaring people back into church is always ‘helpful’ and worth pointing out publicly for the shit it is, but because that analogy isn’t far off, that and I believe that the church takes a dim view of suicides.

    See that link? I could be local radio host with those skills….or present Top Gear…

    Thing is when it comes to suicide it’s a ball ache. Trust me, there’s too much logistics and maths. Working out CO levels, exchange rates for the more popular drug (it’s expensive) or trying to work out how to deal with your body and the note, it’s too much like hard work. You ever tried working out CO levels when you have depression? I can’t hold a conversation some days let alone work out
    parts per million.

    Why is this still a thing? I mean we all know about depression, there are cool memes and famous folk telling us its ok.  It’s mainly because contrary to popular opinion, it’s still not ok to cry. No it isn’t shut up, you are wrong, because it’s not about an external permission to cry.

    See if it was ok to cry, to say what you think, to be able to articulate how you feel without feeling judged, without feeling like a burden, without feeling like you are alienating people, without feeling that everyone else’s problems are more important, without feeling you are a weight dragging the world down you wouldn’t have depression. I mean you’d be quite dull, duller than a Brexiter complaining that British courts in are undemocratic, but at least you wouldn’t be depressed anymore.

    OK that’s flippent, a tad unhelpful and a little tabloid sensational, but when I cry I tend to do it in private. Why? It’s not because as a man I am unmanly, nope it’s because I’m conditioned to not want to hurt people. That sharing that pain just spreads it. There is an assumption that masculinity and the need to be a bloke stops men from crying, but often talking to friends it’s because they don’t want to be inconvenient, that they will just drag others in or that in their experience when they have opened up they have just been abandoned because it was too difficult to face for someone else.

    We are just being really damned British about it.

    In my echo chamber very few men don’t cry because they are manly men, most of the people I call friends have put that bullshit to bed (and in fact one of the joys of being a teacher is being able to challenge toxic masculinity at the coal face.).

  • Talking about mental health I have found myself alienated, probably by myself. I have been told I’m too negative (Yes depression does that….), been asked what helps and then ignored when I actually opened up and said ‘this helps’, told I shouldn’t talk about mental health as it’s not appropriate, been told that as a man I don’t understand what it’s like to be really depressed (cause mental health has a
    gender….arrggghhh), you are attention seeking (fuck you with bells on), told that it’s in my head (yes…yes it is….brain chemistry is in the head….), told ‘have you tried cheering up’ (no I was going for that whole miserable fuck vibe that chicks dig.) and my personal favorite. The joy of someone trying to push me into killing myself.

    Seriously if you have ever used suicide to amuse yourself, to bully or manipulate I pity you, you are a pathetic, abusive little sad excuse of a human. (It may have come up again at the weekend so forgive my poking of it, that and occasionally mentioning it amuses that the person involved probably flinches a bit.)

    So you learn not to cry, not to be a bother and you get metal robot suit to slap on. You get used to nodding and smiling for others because you can’t say help or I need you or just be here while I melt down because you ‘want to upset someone else.

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    So how do you get to suicide from that?

    Well being dead is less of a bother for people around you, it’s a clean break rather than dragging it out hurting people and the feeling that you have no one to turn to because you don’t want to be a bother. That last one feels very British, doesn’t it? and weirdly passive aggressive too.

    And you are a bother because you have learned that depression hurts the people around you. You have learned you ‘should cheer up’, that ‘you are just being negative’, that you are ‘needy’, that some folk believe you would be better off dead. The fault is with you.

    What you have learned is that opening up is inconvenient, that its easier to shut up and not talk about it, that crying isn’t something you can give yourself permission to do.

    That’s the thing, crying, talking about it is with you. Being told you have permission isn’t enough, you need to give yourself permission and get past what you have learned and have faith that the people who give a shit will be there for you when you need them. Huh? Faith, back to the bloody church again.

    Hmmm, My mental is hungry again, and the suit needs sticking back on in case I offend or am too negative. I best get back to smiling, nodding and being understanding.

    Often opening up is a small steps thing, next time a mate opens with an ‘I’m a bit down’ maybe there is a chance that there is an iceberg behind that. Maybe if you stop and just listen they may be able to give themselves permission to cry.
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Hades

Self congratulatory ego blogs should be a thing, fortunately I haven’t got the ego or the smugness for that sort of thing. I’d rather talk about a thing from a technical point of view.

So Hades ran. And from what I have been told it ran well. So I’d like to talk about the things that guided me on it. Some bits will be vague because of the nature of a game based partly on mystery, but I will try my best.

The players had a hell of a punt with the event brief of ‘You have died, welcome to the underworld’ and I’m damned thankful they did. I knew it was a hard ask, and i knew it was going to lose me players (That and folk who want crunch, i’m not sad about that though). But it was a choice that was required to run the game, it was that or an insanely large wiki and i’m not as talented as Lrp dad.

Player first:

What do I mean by that? Well at its core it was about making sure the players acts mattered and no one ended up on ‘gate guard duty’ or was ‘Third shield bearer on the right’, that they were important, the things they cared about would be the focus (and allow me to beat them with those things) and that they could change the plot and world as it was written. Trust me rewriting on the fly is hard, but was damned worth it. Central to this was player backgrounds and how they interacted with the underworld, that no npc’s that would steal focus and the plot was not treated with any immutable reverence. Of course some of those backgrounds read like Mythic legends, some like Le Carre, some like political dramas, others like tragic love stories.

It was also about giving them firing artillery pieces and burying crew alive whilst making people cry.

If it was a rule it had to be hidden and if it was in the game area it had to be there in game:

I believe in rules light systems, no one wants to play Mass Effect and watch the calculations the engine is running in the back ground. Now if I was running a pvp heavy gankfest I’d be all over rules, rules that I’d get about twenty people from different systems to rip to pieces for me so I knew they actually worked, but Hades isn’t that game. For Hades to work it needed no calls, but I also wanted supernatural elements for the players to play with.
How we got round this was to make any rules part of the world, all easy enough to be explain in game and in character. The interaction of emotion and memory creating cool stuff, which we tried to use show rather than tell at the start with NPC’s who were there to explain things in character. There are no rules beyond ‘React to everything, don’t expect a reaction.’
Using weird powers in this works, this is partly down to an amazing crew who just want to enable the players (Trust me Enable is the right word) and the intentional small size. You will not have to do maths while being hit in the head here…..
The flipside was when players came into their powers…..wow. The powers that the players created on the fly (I only ever said yes or riffed with them IC on building them and made it really clear they didn’t need my approval unless it was something really odd.) were tremendous, tied to the characters in personal ways and in one case was mythic and has altered the underworld utterly by its existence. However not one of them effects game balance, is ‘a gamy item’ and doesn’t add to the world in a meaningful way.

Having one player rewriting the game through augary, another sending people blind with magic, another binding two factions to peace (or else) through mythic symbology and having players influencing the living all though rp, no dots were spent in ‘talk to person with pulse and influence their actions through role playing at them’ or ‘Manufacture pistol that fires the flames of hell’. Just cool ideas, I have a feeling red smoke is now shorthand for flamethrowers now………

The players were creating powers and items that were mythic, interesting and characterful.

And on items, we banned cameras from parts of the game. There were moments I wanted players and crew to just have little private moments that no one would ever see but them. I sort of torn by that as their was a beautiful vignette that would have made a beautiful painting that is only in the head of three people now, there is something awesome and a bit sad about that. I’m very pro photos at events, so the other thing I wanted was cameras embedded. So they had to either be hidden and no one saw them or part of the game…..Cameras have a huge mythos about them and the soul. Our two NPC photographers (Oliver and Oscar) not only got good shots, but as npc’s delivered amazing performances and helped one character unlock the powers a camera has over the soul. This was the sort of thing I was very keen on, everything being embedded in the game so there was nothing to break immersion. Hell without those two in character with their cameras the game would have lost a lot of its atmosphere.

On cooking I made a choice to make cooking IC and no food wagon. Other than the loos, there was no reason to leave the game area, which meant you didn’t have to have the jarring moment of going in and out.

Run the game I wanted to run and be damned:

I wanted to run something that was mine, and what I believe to be good and would enjoy playing. Lots of roleplay, combat that looks cool, trusting players with abilities that they could take the piss and break the game with, take risks, giving players the power rather than holding onto it, have an emotional core to the game and treat that as important as stabbing. Say ‘yes’ or ‘yes, but’ never no and every crew member gets a crack at a starring role npc. (We had an Airsofter with almost no lrp experience as part of the poker game for fetters as an British solider who had died in Afghanistan. He was great.)

I got lucky, I got a bunch of players and crew who bought in. To be clear, I still believe players make games work or not. The best writers or crew in the world can’t do anything if the players aren’t up for what they are running, but a bunch of players can have fun in a locked container full of rabid rats if they are the right players. When people make comments like ‘bloody players’ what they are forgetting the players are the core of any game.

All of that said, I wanted to run something I believed in with no compromise or I’d end up seeing it as a chore. So I did.

Another thing I got asked early on, why cap numbers? Well I don’t want to write for 40 people, I want to write for 20. If I want to write for 40 I can write for a mates game, I want to enjoy writing for 20 for me. Realistically if I could get away with it financially I’d run for 7 people, but to put on what I want that’s £160 pound tickets self catering isn’t going to work (Magnificent seven in the underworld should be a thing.)

Everyone had to be safe and respected in an unpleasant world:

It was an active choice to make the world of Hades gender neutral and that sexual violence as a topic was off the table, my politics and beliefs and my game. However when I got the players backgrounds in I soon realised we would have to deal with racism, suicide, domestic, violence and homophobia in this game. One of the two panic attacks I had going into this was ‘oh shit how do I do this?’ and then it dawned that racism would be a topic due to having so many different people from the past in the game and it I doubled down on that panic.

I just went with it and trusted my adult players.

To be really clear, my player base is amazing and we have systems in the game that allow players to explore themes in a way that means it won’t impact others, and going forwards I think I will have discussions about comfort zones. The one thing we ran out that was close to the bone, misfired (although not noticeably) in a way that I think meant it was better and less in your face.
The other thing was having a crew that was inclusive of each other and respectful. Even on Saturday night in torrential rain in the crew room and caravan everyone kept each other going and we’re supportive.

Yes I have drunk the PD cool aid, but that’s ok. ‘Cause you know, when did not being a dick become uncool?

Combat and coolthentic:

I wanted historically coolthentic rather than actually authentic. This is because not everyone has the budget and skills to do accurate and sometimes looking cool is more important than right. Everyone looked amazing. When the photo’s hit you can judge for yourself.

I wanted combat to look epic, and it did. When I turned round to see what could only be described as a ‘princess bride’ style sword fest going on between a Nazi officer and a Papist I was happier than I have been in a long time. People bought into cool fights, hell the musket on musket fighting looked like those desperate fights in Sharpe.

Which brings me onto guns. I knew I didn’t want airsoft as eyepro would look shit and I’ve seen airsoft vs hand to hand, it’s not fun for the hand to hand person. Nerf would look silly alongside the effort everyone had put into kit so it boiled down to shouting bang or going bang.

I went with blank firers, popper muskets and cap guns. In a small game they can work and mainly did (I may have developed a man crush when one player took a silent mimed shot to the shoulder and then explained the meta physics of why it had happened.). It also meant by being up front with ‘we are using blank firers’, we could also simulate artillery strikes in coming with flash bangs, flamethrowers with smoke, get players loading arty with bangs and smoke everywhere. Next time a field gun rather than a Neblewerfer.

Josh, do we have a tank?

So yeah that was my thinking behind Hades, that and all the stuff I rant and scream about as what I like in games. It definitely wont be for everyone and that’s ok. The idea that we have to go to events, that we have to like a thing or that there is a ‘right game’ or right way to run one is absurd, but this worked for me, the crew and the players at that time so i’m kinda happy with that.

Apparently it worked.

So Hades: Dancing Macabre and Hades: Odins fall are next allegedly……suppose i should write something……

I know some torch singers, a jazz band and can actually resurrect BB king from the dead? Right? Right?

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Hades fic.

So I’m running a game at the weekend, yes i’m terrified, yes i’m excited. It’s a good feeling.

I thought i’d share some of the fiction from it, intentionally vague, but gives a feel for what it’s like and about.

Hope

The women stood before the howling storm.

That consuming thing, of darkness entropy and despair. It rolled and pressed against the island like some sentient thing creature prowling, looking for a way in, a way to consume.

‘It wont be so bad, I mean you can catch up with old friends’ the man chuckled. ‘Lets be honest, there are worse things in life’

He laughed again at that. ‘Well in death, I suppose. Hope for one, I do so detest that.’

She turned and looked at him, his eyes twinkled under the dead stars above.

‘Why do you so hate hope?’ she asked quietly.

‘Because it’s a virus, it infests everything. It’s false and hollow, it’s not real.’ he smiled. ‘and you are the Typhoid Mary of it.’

‘But why hate it? It does you no harm.’ her voice was still calm and quiet.

‘But it does,’ he snarled. ‘Every last drop of it. Bitter to the taste, will you tell lovers there is a happy ever after? That the sick will get better? Lies, there is no happy ever after, no better, just this’ He gestured theatricly around him arms wide, his smile returning.

‘No there is no hope, just the cold hard truth of the grave. Everything dies, love, people, even your precious hope in the face of this.’

The women turned. Her floral dress, that was so at odds with the heavy combat boots she was wearing, fluttered in the face of the storm. She pressed her hand against his face.

‘Who hurt you that you became this? What…’

He cut her off, ‘No, you do not get to poison me with this, I wont play your little games. Remember what I am missy P, I’m not one of your strays. We have a deal.’

She stepped back, her hand hovering for a moment before dropping to her side.

‘Step into the storm, it hurts less if you don’t look back and you get what you want, you get…’ his smile did not reach his eyes as he chuckled again.

‘You get hope’

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Sharing

So today a fb thing about mental health popped past me, read it and yeah, normalising, talking about it was one of the things we need to do. So as I’m in a good place, let’s do this.

I’m pretty lucky, I can fake confidence when i don’t have to be around people and stuff like that really well, which gives me a platform to shout into the shit storm that is the internet from. Sometimes it’s reasoned and sometimes it’s a need to vent now before I go off the rails.

Writing about mental health, creating art about things that are somewhat darker than a bowl of fruit (Every time someone paints a still life, Jesus cuts someone.) is a bit of a privilege, and not in a tumblr sense of the word.

One of the things the article talked about was the stigma attached and that only through talking about these things we normalise it, and by that I mean the discussion of it as there is nothing ‘normal’ about going through this.

Occasionally I get messages about things I write about to say thank you, and that’s weird. Not because saying thank you is bad. It’s weird because one of the things I get to hear a lot is ‘I can’t talk about it with anyone.’

And that’s scary.

Because there is nothing more isolating than not being able to talk and the last thing someone needs with a head full of demons is isolation, even if we do it to ourselves. And not talking this time nearly cost me.

And I get it, actually sitting down and saying ‘help me’ or ‘This is bad’ is difficult. Everyone I have ever spoken to about this stuff has said the same, they felt alone, that it was only them, that they wished that they had someone who they could share with, but they felt they couldn’t.

Yeah you can post on fb (I tend to when I’ve hit a certain point, mainly as it’s a damned fine safety valve.) But actually sitting down and talking about it for real is hard.

So I’m going to talk about it, because if one person goes ‘Hey I’m gonna talk about this to someone.’ It’s a win in my books. If you don’t want to read it, feel free to move along.

Personally I’ve just come out of a bad one. Notes written, plan made, bad one.

It took a while to get to the point where I said help or in this case ‘I’m suicidal, don’t worry I won’t’, because my assumptions were that I could manage it myself (I’m very used to dealing with this on a weekly basis at times), no one wanted to hear it, no one actually liked me (yes, depression does warp your sense of reality, the reality is at least one person tolerates me.) and let’s face it suicide is not a word you just chuck about, well not if you mean it. Not if you actually comprehend the damage it can cause or have seen that damage up close and personal.

Now i’ve been through this before, its not my first rodeo by any sense, I know the theory, i know that talking matters, thing is when you get to that point rationality falls away.

How close? Well does it matter? (Put it this way, there’s no teletubby porn on my hard drive anymore.) Coming out the other side is what matters. Some folk read me right, picked me up and gave me the strength I needed to actually fight back.

So why didn’t I talk about it? I mean it would be actually much easier to say ‘hey i’m depressed and suicidal, here is why, help!’ wouldn’t it?

Well one of the reasons is you don’t always see it coming. Seriously it’s not like a sign pops up and goes ‘Hey buckle up fucko, this is gonna be a bit shit.’

You don’t notice till you are in it, I have warning signs that I and a few people know.

For me the biggy is ‘planning’ at that point I know something is up, at that point I need to do something. I can pin point the exact moment this bout got serious, but this time the warning sign slipped past me.

I can tell you now what the antecedents were and are, but at the time that kind of self analysis is pretty much outside of most people’s reach. The problem with catastrophic thinking is that it’s not logical and in fact often masks logic.

All the CBT, Mindfulness etc in the world won’t help if you aren’t able to access them.

It’s hard to talk about a thing that you can’t actually see.

But I digress, talking.

At the best of times I’m pretty quiet (seriously, spend some time with me, unless it’s a subject I know, I feel incredibly safe around you or I have got to know you pretty well, I don’t talk much. I am an archetypal nerd). Depression drives yourself into you pretty damned hard and often leaves you there once it clears up I wrote a whole thing about how it makes you feel a while back, but take it from me you don’t want to talk to people.

Especially to the people you need to help. Why? One is that you feel guilty for leaning on them, another is you don’t want to be judged by them and the third?

Well this genuine conversation

I’m suicidal, I need help’

Oh, is it my fault? Did I do something?’

Some comforting of person convinced that time they were slightly rude has led to your need to open up a vein, while in my head a different commentary is running.

No I suffer from an imbalance in my brain chemistry, a pile of unresolved horrors and can you take your fucking ego and stuff it up your arse this isn’t about you?’

No really, that happened, that is a thing. We spend a lot of time saying it’s not other peoples fault and it’s tiring, and can lead to a little bit of grumpiness. I’m getting cards made up for next time. ‘Its not you, it’s me.’

So what got me out the other side? Three things.

  1. The adorable present someone posted me…… (It was a London post mark for those interested.). Nothing like being told to kill yourself to stubbornly make you change your mind. I think that’s the last time I will mention that till I have a name to attach it to.

2. A promise.

3. But the main part was the people who were around me. The ones who didn’t let me push them away and gave me the biggest fuck you when I disappeared into myself.

Who made me talk about it, realised what I needed and got me there.

And it was that simple. Talking about it. Say how I felt to people who wouldn’t judge, would listen, didn’t care how bad it was and weren’t scared of the S word.

Obviously in a couple of weeks clear I will have the piss mercilessly taken out of me.

And at its core that’s  it, being able to say this is me, i need help. I mean there were some awesome drunken head rubs too, but it was mainly the talking.

Thing is, for a lot of people the perceived stigma attached to mental health issues opening up is hard, talking about it is hard, finding a voice is hard.

Maybe if we talk about this more, maybe if we share those experiences we might actually save a few more people, get a little more help. Be able to say ‘Hey i get it, I know how you feel cause, that was me.’

Me? Well this is with me for the rest of my life, i have a chemical imbalance (and a head full of crazy). I’m used to it, i get blips and always will. I live with that self destructive bit of me every day and most of the time he’s fuel for cool things, it’s just when he gets a bit uppity there is a problem.

What do I need to do? Well channel it as usual. Art and writing. Spend more time with the people who make me smile and try to be a bit more open about my head.

 

 

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