Everybody is odd; everybody is normal.

Earlier this week were mental health awareness day and national coming out day. I missed both, so here’s my catch up post.

 

MENTAL HEALTH:

Almost everyone has to deal with mental health issues every day, whether it’s ourselves, a family member or close friend.

For as long as I can remember I have suffered  the kind of low level anxiety that impacts on my life but isn’t serious enough to be clinical or warrant seeking medical help. I have a collection of minor neuroses that are really only annoying. I suspect most people have something similar to some degree.

In fact, I suspect most psychological disorders exist on a spectrum. Even the most apparently well-adjusted individuals will have triggers that make their heart race and put them on the verge of panic. We all have down days when we can’t be bothered with the world and just want to stay in and not talk to anyone.

I don’t mean to belittle anxiety or depression – quite the opposite.  I’m telling you that if you suffer seriously from any mental health problem, you’re not weird, just human, and a little further from the middle of the bell curve.

The best analogy might be physical ailments: sciatica perhaps, or fibromyalgia. Lots of people suffer pain of some sort, but it’s only a problem when it starts to interfere with our lives. Standing up slowly to avoid jolting a tender spine doesn’t stop us going out and getting on with life, but lying flat in bed because every movement is agony is different only in degree, not substance.

 

COMING OUT:

Now the coming out bit. I was closeted and married to a woman until five years ago when I came out aged forty nine.

The coming out process was stressful for a while, as I gradually told various people, never certain of what response to expect (Everybody, bar none, has been totally accepting and encouraging), but it has been brilliant for my mental health in the long run.

Being open about myself has made me realise how hard it was all those years, self editing everything I said or did. It’s exhausting. I’m much more calm these days. I’ve never felt better.

 

The honesty about my sexuality has had an unexpected side effect though: I’m more open now about my mental health issues.

My ocd, intrusive thoughts and social anxiety haven’t vanished, but not hiding it means I no longer need to be anxious about my anxiety.

 

I used to go to parties and work nights out and similar events, and pretend to enjoy myself. I felt that I had to so I wouldn’t be the weird antisocial guy. I’ve given that up. These days I just say no, and, if necessary, explain that attending would make me anxious and I’m no longer willing to put myself through that just to blend in. People understand, and even if they don’t they still accept it. It’s so easy I don’t understand why I didn’t do it years ago. That’s not right – I do understand. I was afraid if being ostracised, afraid of the stigma of having a psychological disorder. If I sometimes walk oddly or take irregular steps so that my left foot will be the first on a staircase, I no longer try to hide it or worry about people thinking I’m odd.

 

EVERYBOY is odd. EVERYBODY is normal. Being lgbt or having mental health issues no longer carry the stigma they once did, except in certain groups and individuals who haven’t quite caught up with the 21st century.

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Horror Limericks

The horror genre lends itself to the setup-punchline structure of the limerick, so I wrote a few.

 

A young looking fellow from Leith
Had very sharp, shiny white teeth
You might get a fright
If you met him at night
And never again will you breathe.
A ragged wee laddie called Fed
Grew lesions that started to spread
His brain liquified
And poor Freddie died
So dead Fred’s head’s spread on Fred’s bed.
The ancient Old One called Cthulhu
Had slept for an eon or two
He woke up last year
Filled men’s hearts with fear
And caused quite a hullabaloo.
A sweet little girl from Dunoon
Grew fur and teeth every full moon
She woke up at dawn
Her family gone
Though bits of them round her were strewn.
A thin, starving flesh-eating ghoul
Picked up his wee brother from school
Then he started nibbling
His unfortunate sibling
Until he was happily full.

Newest news.

Hi folks. I’ve not updated this much recently, but the latest things to happen are:

  1. I’ve just been podcasted on the greatest and most prestigious horror fiction podcast in the universe. Listen to it here.

http://pseudopod.org/2015/09/05/pseudopod-454-eastern-promise/

2. I’ve had another story accepted by http://lovecraftzine.com/. More details nearer the time.

3. I’ve been working on a short horror film that should be fit for public consumption in the next couple of weeks. Again, more details will become available in the fullness of time.

Apologies for neglecting blogland.

Book Review: Midway by Nathan Robinson

Midway cover

Sam Berlitz is a team member in an international swimming race across the Atlantic. He feels as though he’s been swimming for longer than his one-hour allocation and realises the boat with his teammates on it is gone.

Alone, afloat in the unforgiving ocean a thousand miles from land his mind starts to create monsters. Or maybe they’re not all in his mind.

Midway is part mystery thriller and part survival horror with a good dose of Lovecraftian weird thrown in. I won’t tell you how it all pans out but the stuff that actually happens is secondary to Sam’s emotional journey. It’s the loneliness, the lack of stimulus, his fear of the dark, sleep deprivation and the tricks his mind plays on him that make this a riveting read. The tension doesn’t let up from about three pages in till the very end. I was furious when I had to stop reading and go back to work.

As well as the anxiety over his almost certain impending death, he starts to dwell on his life and his relationships. He has a fiancée but is having sex with a teammate on the boat. He compares them with each other, with his parents and friends, and with his dog, trying to decide whom he’ll miss, and what he’ll do if he miraculously survives. It’s a touching moment when he realises that dying means he’ll never walk the dog again.

I had some quibbles with Robinson’s prose at the very beginning: there is some extraneous description that could be cut. But I honestly don’t know if it got better or if I was just too engrossed in the story to notice. The prose became invisible and only served the story – a sure sign of quality writing.

Get past the slightly over-written beginning and you’re in for a rare treat. highly recommended.