Troubling Deaf Heaven with My Bootless Cries.
"When, in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes,
I all alone beweep my outcast state,
And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,
And look upon myself and curse my fate,
Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
Featured like him, like him with friends possessed,
Desiring this man's art and that man's scope,
With what I most enjoy contented least:..."
From Sonnet 29 by William Shakespeare.
It just struck me that I've been beavering away at this little blog for nearly nine years now. My first post, somewhat prosaically titled, "Is there any alternative to medication?", was published on 11th July 2007. In those nine years I've covered many issues surrounding mental health, but most of the posts have been merely my own observations on mental illness, its treatment, the stigma which surrounds it, and my own experience of it. As you may have noted from the "About Me" section to the right of this page, as such the blog does not contain professional advice, and as my subheading attests, is simply the passing thoughts of a normal, average paranoid and delusional man. I don't know whether that subheading elicited any laughter, or perhaps even just a wry smile, intended, as it was, to be an ironic comment on what it is to be judged sane or insane. Indeed, after nine years of largely pounding away at the same message (i.e. trying to demystify aspects of mental ill health and dispel stereotypes and stigma) one is left wondering just what impact, if any, one has had. Do people who read this blog read it regularly? Has anyone, carer, sufferer, or layman, actually been helped or enlightened by it? Or is it that I simply, as Shakespeare put it, "trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries" by talking of such things? As "I all alone beweep my outcast state", is anyone really taking any notice?
Okay, so I get the odd comment and around 20 hits a day, but by any standards that's not really that many. Indeed, the popularity of the blog seems to have descended over the years rather than increased. My friend Gary, whose blog, "klahanie", is regularly visited by many more people and gets many more comments, has also entered his ninth year of blogging recently. Indeed, my and Gary's blogs were started as part of the same charity project. "Mindbloggling", which was run by the then Media Action Group for Mental Health, was an innovative scheme and, as far as I'm aware, one of the first of its kind. It attempted to get those with their own experience of mental illness to blog about their conditions in an effort to alleviate stigma. Many started the project, but only Gary and I remain. Gary assures me, though, that the reason his blog gets more hits and comments is that he regularly visits other sites, leaving comments and even forging friendly relationships with other bloggers, something I've been rather loath to do. All the same, it's kind of difficult sometimes not to desire "this man's art and that man's scope", and to wish myself "featured like him, like him with friends possessed".
Indeed, where next for this blog? I remember quite clearly that we were once visited by the editor of our local newspaper at the Media Action Group. The paper had recently reported on the opening of a new psychiatric hospital in Stoke-on-Trent, quoting the opinions of local residents, which, as I remember, were anything but enlightened. I brought this up with the editor during his visit, and I can only say that his response was not exactly politically correct either. He said, when I complained about the headline that had been used, that I was "arguing semantics". One could have said in response that semantics, or the words we use to describe those with mental illness, are part of the issue. He went on to say that, anyway, your average man in the street couldn't have cared less about mental health. To which one could have replied, why then was there an article about it, albeit a derogatory one, in his paper? And if his paper was indeed, as he put it, "the voice of the people", would he have allowed those people to air prejudiced views on, say, black people, women or homosexuals? Indeed, there were many arguments that could have been made to counter his jaundiced view, but his opinion, that your average man in the street couldn't care less about mental health stayed with me. Perhaps things are changing now as more people begin to talk about their experiences and the media seems somewhat less stigmatising and sensationalist. But still, when I think of this little blog, and the apparent lack of interest in it, I can't help but think that it may be time for this particular normal, average paranoid and delusional man to hang up his straight jacket, put away his meds, and slowly merge into the background of dreaded normality, whatever that is. I suppose it's entirely down to me. Should I carry on troubling deaf heaven with my bootless cries? If you do read this blog, I suppose you'll just have to keep coming back to check.