Thursday 28 January 2016

Apologetically Munching Humble Pie

Well.. This is one blog post that's going to stick in my craw. But it needs writing. Doubtless, most of you are aware of issues between myself and another user (Stewart). You may also be aware of my friendship with a couple who recently lost a child to sepsis.
A couple of days ago, I saw Stewart starting to interact with the sepsis hashtag. I have no idea what his motives are, whether they are intended for self aggrandisement or borne out of legitimate concern for the cause. Frankly, I don't care. Neither is it relevant to this post.

When I saw Stewart interacting with the mother of the little boy, I went positively ballistic. With such a high volume of people discussing sepsis, it seemed to be an extraordinary coincidence that, out of all of the people to interact with, he would choose someone who I am friends with, and who I interviewed recently on here.

People who know me, my Twitter followers and blog readers, know that I am methodical, punctilious, analytical and try to confine my tweets and particularly my blog posts to facts which I can substantiate. And in this case, I fucked up. Royally. I reached, what to me appeared to be a logical conclusion, based on the tweets I saw, and on the past behaviour of the subject of this post.

In relation to sock-puppets, stalking and being a general pain in the arse, I stand by every word. People are free to interpret my posts how they see fit. Another post recently emerged, validating my sock-puppet claims against him. It is therefore, perhaps, understandable that I would draw a logical conclusion in this case.

I did draw a conclusion, and it was WRONG. Stewart did NOT initiate the conversation with the family; rather THEY picked up on one of his tweets, and responded. Now they are aware of who Stewart is, particularly in relation to our past history, they have blocked him, and elected not to interact any further with him. However, a number of posts have emerged on his blog, one, in particular is quite salient, as it assumed, as did I, that the dialogue was initiated by Stewart. Whilst it is correct that he first initiated contact with the Sepsis Trust, I feel it only right that I set the record straight with regard to his contact with the family. He emphatically did not make "first contact", and I apologise for leaping to the conclusion that he did.

I like facts. Evidence. Proof. I believe I have supplied it, in abundance, with regard to his past behaviour. In this instance, I didn't do my research properly, before opening my big pie-hole. I simply saw him interacting with a family who I have come to care about very deeply. My natural instinct was to defend them, and in attempting to do so, I failed to acquaint myself with all of the requisite facts.

Whatever Stewart's motives are for his various charity works are, I leave for you to decide. You are, almost certainly, aware of my thoughts on the subject. This isn't about his past behaviour, or his motivation. Neither is it about my opinion of his past actions. It is intended, as always, to be fair and honest.

And so, whilst it may stick in my craw, I offer my apologies for incorrectly assuming and stating that Stewart initiated contact with the family in question. I don't enjoy doing so, however, I firmly believe that if I fuck up, I should hold my hands up, admit it, apologise (no matter how much it stings to do so), and make sure the FACTS are presented, accurately, and without bias.

It is a salutary lesson that past actions do not constitute evidence, and occasionally, coincidences DO happen. In this instance, I erred, and although well intentioned, I jumped to the wrong conclusions. For that, I apologise, wholly and unreservedly.

Tuesday 19 January 2016

A BIG Day!

Regular readers may remember an interview with a talented young artist who kindly granted me an interview, and the opportunity to share his artwork on my blog. If you haven't read the interview, you can check it out HERE. Sam, like myself is a huge fan of Big Finish Audio and, in particular, their superb Doctor Who ranges. Recently, Big Finish held a convention, which Sam was fortunate enough to attend. In this guest post, he shares his experience of BFD8. And I'm not at all jealous. Not at all.. Honest...!

Big Finish has been a massive part of my life for the last six months or so - originally I struggled to get into the Doctor Who audio adventures - but eventually I caved, and now I am in awe of the wonderful things they produce. Earlier this year, I heard about Big Finish Day 8 - now, as a sufferer of depression, I had recently made it my goal to finally start getting out there and going to conventions as a way to meet new people, and just enjoy myself for once! So, I spoke to my father - and as my 18th birthday falls upon the 24th of January - my dad ordered me a ticket, and a photo opportunity with my favourite Doctor, as a week-early birthday present.

The day started at 10am with Sylvester McCoy doing a Q&A session in the main hall. Now, Sylvester likes to have a portable microphone so he can run around and actually get up close with the audience. It's extremely fun, and very intimate. There were so many laughs, as Sylvester recalled working with Sir Laurence Olivier, or how he was so very close to becoming a priest - and even the mention of his younger, wilder days where he may have smoked a few 'funny cigarettes'. I met Sylvester for the first time back in October of 2015 at MCM Comic-Con London. He was such a joy to talk to, and I'll never forget it... but our second encounter, to me, was far more enjoyable...

Sylvester and I 1

So - here I am, sat near the front of the room, in my question pullover, with my question mark umbrella and my specially made custom-printed question mark shoes! I raise my hand, and after a while over he comes. I explained that he was my favourite Doctor - which ensued much laughter because he made me say it again louder so that everyone could hear - and Nick Briggs asked me again just to make sure everyone had heard! Then I got to my question, which was simply - does he ever get tired of question marks, after all - they are rather the trademark of his Doctor. I showed him, as well, my specially printed shoes - and he asked me what mental asylum they let me out of for the day, it was very funny.

He ranted for a while about the question mark jumper and how he hated it and was to have gotten rid of it in Season 27, which obviously never aired due to the shows cancellation after 26 Seasons, but how he has come to love it because it has become somewhat iconic - like Tom Baker's scarf, or Colin Baker's multicoloured coat. And, although he wandered around the room whilst he chatted away, he never stopped talking to me. It felt as though he was still answering my question to me, even though there was a whole audience surrounding us.

Sylvester and I 2

Then he started to take other questions, and soon his time was up and he had to leave. As he walked out of the room, he walked specifically past me, and patted me on the back with a smile. And, as silly as it sounds - that made my day!

Then I went for my photo-op with him, and he remembered me from the Q&A, and demanded I get my shoes in the photo! We had a good laugh over that too!

At that point, I was already missing the next talk in the main hall, which was not a problem really as it was just the generic Big Finish talk. So, I took the opportunity to go and talk to some of the (free) guests there.

Now - going back to the custom printed shoes again. I had these shoes printed, and they sent me them wrong! They sent me them mirrored, so the outer sides of the shoes had BACKWARDS question marks on them. I was not happy, as I am sure anyone can understand. I was able to get myself some replacements, but I then had a new conundrum - what on Earth was I to do with these inaccurate, backwards shoes? I realised the best idea would be to get a handful of guests to sign my shoes.

Signed Shoes

First, I had Lisa Bowerman, who plays Professor Bernice Summerfield in a plethora of Big Finish audios - as well has a handful of other characters too, sign them. God, she's lovely. What a lovely, lovely woman. She was ever so kind to me. I went back to her later in the day, after purchasing a couple of CDs from the store area, which she featured on. Then David Warner, who has played a handful of Big Finish roles, but probably most-notably one of the Unbound Doctors, signed them! Now, I was expecting him to charge me a few pounds for it, but he did it for free! There was a warning that the guests would only sign three Big Finish covers for free - and then anything else might have a charge. Thankfully - none of the guests asked me to pay a penny!

Then I got the shoes signed by Barnaby Edwards, most probably known for being... well... the Daleks - or at least the man inside of them, who I had a good laugh with about them being printed backwards, and then Beth Chalmers who plays so many Big Finish characters I would be here for eternity just checking I listed them all, but she did play the Seventh Doctor's companion Raine in the Lost Stories and UNIT: Dominion - now she is also a FANTASTICALLY lovely woman. My god, she was so kind and fun to chat to. I wish I could have sat and chatted to her for longer - but there was a queue growing!

Then, I queued up for Jacqueline Pearce, who recently starred in the new War Doctor boxset, Only the Monstrous, alongside Sir John Hurt. Now - the queue to meet her was ALWAYS long. It never stopped being a long queue. But, eventually, I got to say hello to her, and she was really pleasant, and I congratulated her on how good The War Doctor boxset is. I was surprised she did not charge me for the signing either, if I am honest! But it seemed to me that so many of these guests were in awe of the effort I had put into my shoes that I don't think they minded.

And then finally I got Kai Owen, Rhys from Torchwood, to sign my shoes. He and some others from The Martian Chronicles were oddly shoved in a tiny room out of sight - so nobody was in there! Well, luckily I found him, a he signed my shoes too - and then recorded a little message for my friend who also loves him but could not make it. I did wait around for Nick Briggs, I REALLY wanted him to sign my shoes - but alas he fell ill and could not make the signing desk. I'll get him next time though!

Now, I did also meet the wonderful Ian McNeice, who plays Winston Churchill in both the TV show, and the new boxset from Big Finish; The Churchill Years. You had to pay to meet him, but apart from Sylvester I didn't pay to meet anyone. However, he walked into the shopping area to look at the physical copies of the Churchill boxset, and I spotted him in the corner of my eye and ran over to him. As he was about to leave - I managed to catch his attention, as I just wanted to tell him how marvellous he is in the boxset (and believe me, he is ruddy good!) and he thanked me, as that was the first fan feedback he had heard, given that the boxset only came out a couple days prior. That was another highlight of my day, because he could have easily told me to go away, as I had not paid to meet him - but instead he was kind and charming, and just an all-round nice bloke. He told me he was hoping to do more of the Churchill audios - so I shall keep my fingers firmly crossed!

I only sat in on two of the talks, as I had to leave a couple of hours before the day had actually ended. However, both panels, the Sylvester McCoy Q&A and the War Doctor, were both fantastically entertaining. I am quite sad I missed the Torchwood and New Series panels, but alas I had to leave.

Sylvester and I 3

The day was a triumph. It was one of the best, and most enjoyable days I have had in a very long time. Not only did I meet some fantastic guests at the event - but I also met some fantastic Big Finish fans, who a stood around with for hours chatting too. And I have to say - the whole environment and feel of the event was... glorious. I was around my brethren! The people who understand me, and the things I like. There is no judgement there, and everyone was polite and kind. I can't wait to go again!


Don't forget to check out Sam's extraordinary artwork in the interview (and if you're feeling flush, go and buy some!). You can also give him a follow on Twitter @SamRBentley and my thanks go to him for taking the time to share what was clearly an extraordinary event, especially for him. And I'm still not jealous...!

Monday 18 January 2016

I’m Going Slightly Mad…!

Some of you will have already read my post on anxiety, depression and panic attacks. If you haven't, it gives you an insight into life with anxiety related disorders and how I manage them. (You can find the post HERE).

On Friday, I posted the following on my Twitter account…

“Mes chagrins, mes plaisirs, Je n'ai plus besoin d'eux, C'est payé, balayé, oublié Je me fous du passé Je Ne Regrette Rien......

Aujourd'hui, ça commence avec toi…”

For those who don't speak French, it was intended as a farewell. The first part consists of the lyrics to the beautifully poignant Edith Piaf song, Je Ne Regrette Rien. The last part is my own addition.

“My sorrows, my pleasures, I do not need them anymore, It is paid, swept away, forgotten. I do not care about the past. I Regret Nothing ...... Today, it begins with you.. Goodbye until we meet again”.

It isn't (or rather, wasn't) a suicide note before anyone assumes so. It was a farewell to Twitter, to social media. I had intended to go to bed, get up in the morning and close my account, blog and quietly withdraw from an online presence.

For reasons best known to absolutely no one, least of all me, my brain had decided isolationism was something I needed. Since I dislike goodbyes, I thought a poetic departure felt right.

Sleep eluded me when I went to bed. I wasn't sad or depressed, per se, just highly anxious and with an overwhelming desire to shut the outside world out and be left alone. As the day progressed, panic attacks took their hold, and they did so with gusto. There were a couple of times when I honestly thought I was having a heart attack. I've had severe panic attacks before, and two nervous breakdowns in the past, so I knew it was simply a case of riding it out. Only it didn't pan out quite as well as I'd hoped. The attacks continued long into the night. It is fortunate that at 3am the night after my last tweet, no shops within my vicinity were open, or I would have fallen off the wagon. As some of you may know, I am recovering alcoholic. In point of fact, today marks 16 years since I quit drinking. On that night, I could have cheerfully sunk a bottle of scotch.

By the morning, after a night of almost constant panic, and a good deal of physical pain, courtesy of the inevitable flare up of my Crohn’s disease, I was physically and mentally exhausted. I had been medicating with diazepam throughout the night, to little effect. 10mg is usually enough to stave off a panic attack. By 10am, I think I had taken around 50mg.

The morning was something of an exhaustive haze. My usually voracious appetite had vanished, my head felt as though Slayer and Slipknot were having a battle of the bands inside my brain, and the exhaustion and tiredness was indescribable. I haven't felt so low and burned out in years, decades even. My limbs ached like all hell, to the point I could barely stand up.

Recognising that this was something more serious than my usual “normal” panic disorder, I rang my GP, who gave me an appointment that evening. (Yes, our NHS is awful.. Weeks of waiting..!)

I explained everything to my Doctor. He did a few tests. Notably, my blood pressure was incredibly low. He took blood to rule out anything physical, and concluded that I had a “minor mental breakdown”; essentially, what used to be known as a nervous breakdown.

My regular dose of SSRI antidepressants has, as a result, been tripled in dosage, and my nighttime tricyclic medication has been increased by double. Until the increased doses take full effect, I have to counter the inevitable panic attacks with diazepam.

For the last two days, all I have wanted to do is sleep, or at the very least, rest. I've had no interest in food, although have been determined to ensure I DO eat, as I have no desire to add keeling over to the mix!

Today, I feel MUCH better. Physically and mentally exhausted, and emotionally somewhat numb; a curious sensation for a depressive person. But, all in all, I'm starting to level out again. It helps that I have something positive upon which to reflect; the previously mentioned anniversary of my parting company with the grog. And the knowledge that, even in my darkest hours, when the desire was strongest, I managed to stave off the intense desire to bury my head at the bottom of a bottle.

I have to go back to my GP on Thursday, to monitor how I'm progressing, and I'm being referred to a psychologist, with the option to voluntarily cancel the appointment when it comes, should things be back on an even keel, which I'm hoping they will.

Quite what precipitated all of this is anyone's guess. Mine is that I'll never really know. Past experience has taught me that these things crop up out of the blue, for no obvious reason. Social isolation and the desire to withdraw from interacting with the outside world is a painfully lonely experience, and one I wouldn't wish upon anyone. As for the rest.

One thing I have learned through this, is how much people I have never met, care deeply. I have been inundated with messages on Twitter. I will do my very best to respond to them all, although it may take me a while. I cannot thank you all enough for the support, for caring, and for making sure I'm alive and kicking. I'm slowly getting back to some semblance of normality, whatever the hell that is (!), and I'll be back to being a belligerent old arsehole before you know it!

I'm incredibly grateful to each and every person who has sent messages of support or enquired after my well-being. You know who you are, and so if I don't reply to you personally, please know that I have seen all your messages, and appreciate each and every one of them. I'll do my best to reply, but for obvious reasons, my interaction with people may be a little limited for the next few days, and my concentration isn't at peak performance at present. Writing this has been incredibly cathartic, and my sense of humour is back with a vengeance, so with a little luck, and thanks to the extraordinary support of my Doctor (and our bloody brilliant NHS), family, and especially the support and kindness of those who I have never met. I've touched on what a “nervous breakdown” is like, however truly articulating it is next to impossible. I hope my words are the only experience you have of it. For most, I suspect, mercifully, you'll never have to go through anything like it. Some, unfortunately, will. And when you do, I hope I can offer the same support and extend the same kindness that has been shown to me in the past few days.

MentalOllie (fuck it.. If you can't own your own insanities and foibles, ‘tis a sorry state of affairs!)