I must say I am feeling very humbled today. Do you want to know why? Well if you have five minutes, grab a coffee, put your feet up and have a read. It may turn out to be a little bit of a long read, but it might be worth it, I hope so anyway.
Back in February of this year I was retired from the Police service in Dorset (UK) as a result of my ill health. I have never been out of work for a single day in my life though I have had a couple of lengthy periods of sickness due to my depression. Work related depression has been my companion for some time but after a lengthy bout in 2002 I managed to get back on top of it, returned to work and had some promotions and very responsible positions.
In 2011 I reached rock bottom again as a result of stress related depression. I have so much to be grateful to my family for. My wife and my son were stalwarts throughout the bad times, offering unwavering support even at times when I was insufferable. My son has just turned 16 and, to be frank, he shouldn’t have had to put up with what he did but he was an absolute star. I did manage to get myself back to work in 2012 but I just couldn’t cope and was soon on sick leave again. I was surprised but relieved when the decision was made to medically retire me. Whilst I was relieved and knew deep down that I couldn’t cope with work I couldn’t escape the feeling that, there I was, on the scrapheap aged just 52.
Despite a good education, 8 years in the Navy and 29 years in the Police, a wealth of transferable skills and numerous years of experience as a trainer I did feel washed out and apprehensive about the future. Now I have never been afraid to talk about my mental illness but I am all too aware that there is a general lack of understanding and a great deal of prejudice where mental illness is concerned. I was concerned about how my family would cope and to how I would adapt to life without a job.
I have always considered myself lucky, I have a lovely family, a nice home, I live in a beautiful area and I have my dogs to keep me occupied when I am at home alone. As those of you who read my blog regularly will know I have had a really busy summer immersing myself in one of my great loves. Music! Family, friends, my dogs, Freemasonry and my music. The five things that have helped me through all of the bad times and made my life bearable and worthwhile. Since May though a sixth dimension has entered my life and I am really grateful for it.
Whilst I was still receiving counselling my counsellor advised that I should take up some creative pastimes. Some 18 months ago I started to teach myself to play guitar. I spend a little time most days playing guitar and learning new songs. I do love to play and whilst I am by no means great I have reached a reasonable standard and I do love to sing. Music has always been a huge part of my life and it always will be. I love to immerse myself in music, I love music that makes you think, that is outside the mainstream and that has something to say. I love music that challenges the establishment and that has a political message. I wanted to channel my creative energies and I have always loved writing. I have also had a passing interest in Photography. What better way to channel my energy than to write about music and better still to illustrate my work with my own photographs.
In recent years I have become very cynical about politics, all of the corruption in the UK political system, politicians abusing the system, lining their own pockets at tax payers expense has brought me to believe the system is rotten to the core. As an armed services veteran I am scandalised that our politicians continue to send our young men and women to war in places were we have no right to be, where there is no end game in sight and based on false premises. I find it unbelievable that western governments cannot see that interference in middle eastern politics only builds Islamophobia in the west and radicalises young people in those regions. Ultimately our policies in the regions will serve to create more terrorists not fewer.
So, as you can tell there is a lot going on in my world. I really needed a medium to allow me to pull everything together. As I started to explore options I came across WordPress. After having an explore and setting up a trial site I slowly began to gain followers. As I began to understand better how WordPress works I began to discover the WordPress community. I was amazed that there is so many things going on, that there are huge numbers of people out there who share my views, who have similar interests and who want to talk about it. I found people who love music, who are living with mental illness, who take photographs and who are willing to engage with others will similar interests. I also found people who have interests so diverse I had no idea they would want to talk about them in a similar way to myself. It must be said some of the interests I find bizarre, crazy even.
I was totally amazed to find that WordPress even runs classes to help us newbies to make the most of their sites, to network with others, to uncover hidden assets and to optimise their sites. Whats more it is available to any WordPress user free of charge. Amazing.
I have signed up for, and completed, Blogging 101, Blogging 201, Writing 101 and am now doing Photography 101. These courses are all great fun, I have learned a huge amount and more importantly I have built up a great network of like minded people. I would really recommend doing these courses, especially if you are early in your blogging career.
I am fortunate in that I have the time and enthusiasm to write most days and it seems that some people at least have an interest in what I have to say. I won’t say that I haven’t had my dark moments. There have been times where I have thought “Why Bother” but you know what if I stopped I would miss it. As time has gone on I have seen a regular group of people making comments on my blog. My readership has started to expand and I now have nearly 850 followers. In less than five months I have had almost 20 thousand hits on my blog and earlier today I had my 1000th ‘like’. I have been nominated for several blogging awards and I now get 150 or more hits on my blog virtually every day.
I am stunned that so many people from all walks of life are interested in my little corner of the internet. I find it so gratifying when someone makes a comment on my blog, when people like my photographs or share my love of a music album or an interest in a band. I like it when people take the time to discuss a point of view even, or perhaps especially, when they disagree with my own views. In the five months I have been blogging I have only had one negative experience, that was when I challenged a persons views on a difficult and contentious issue. To be fair I should have realised from the tone of that persons site that an opposing view would not be discussed rationally.
Last but by no means least I have been totally amazed by the wonderful people who have reached out when I have written about my mental illness. Some of these people have some experience of living with mental illness, either themselves or in a loved one. Others have little or no experience but what they have all shared is a sense of empathy. The willingness to just reach out and say hello or “Thanks for sharing, stay well”.
So many people write so powerfully about their own experiences, whether this is to discuss their experience of being a survivor of mental illness, of domestic abuse, of rape or of any of the myriad challenges that we humans face. People write with courage, with fortitude and sometimes even with humour about the dark times. You find everything here on WordPress, everything from the born comedian who writes a few lines that make you smile. The poets who artfully turn their thoughts into prose to surprise and delight us, the artist or photographer who shares a little beauty with us in the shape of a photograph. There are those, like me, who just write on whatever captures our imagination on any given day, who write just as an outlet, sometimes emotional, sometimes dull, sometimes nonsensical, just giving their thoughts a voice. Some, again like me, jump onto the often fascinating daily or weekly prompts and some just throw random, sometimes irreverent thoughts around.
There is one thing that binds WordPress writers together though. You are all amazing. I offer heartfelt thanks to every single person who has visited my blog, left a comment, hit the like button, nominated me for an award or just dropped in, found nothing of interest to them and moved on. Each and every one of you give me another reason to carry on writing and that helps to make my days a little better and helps me to cope with my depression 🙂