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CHAPTER 1: In which the protagonist gets on his high horse, tips his hat, and rides off into the blogosphere.

Blog

A general writing and journalling space where I wax lyrical for the sheer JOY of it. Your mileage may vary.

  • Written by Nick Stebb
  • Category: Blog

Back In The Game (a summer summary)

I sit in Ryan's N16 (a trendy bar and eatery in Stoke Newington) amidst the craft beer quaffing, brunch eating bourgeoisie - where I must un-ironically take my place. Stewart Lee's 'liberal metropolitan elite' is making the most of that last day of Britain's Indian summer 2017. It is the first chance I feel like I've had, since spring, to stop doing things and resume contemplation.

What have I been up to? Figuring out a way of extracting money from the liberal metropolitan elite... in exchange for tasty beverages - hopefully doing something worthwhile at the same time.

Myself and a couple of friends whom I moved in with, at a converted warehouse in north London last year, have grouped together and bonded over our shared mental ill health plus a desire to make something happen to address it in our own lives and those around us.

The result is 'Black Dog Society'. With a lot of help from my family (especially Dad) I have managed to get together a coffee cart, made from a vintage styled sideboard I found on Etsy. We have found a pitch in Clapton, Hackney, and are trading on weekday mornings alongside another social enterprise - Core Clapton - which recently opened its doors and is providing affordable osteopathy to people in the community as well as hosting classes in Yoga, martial arts, swing dance and all manner of other things.

Assuming our inspection by the council this Tuesday doesn't throw up any hurdles (though I have learnt by this stage it's probably best to assume the worst, just for my own sanity: see our instagram feed @blackdogsocietylondon for more information on what brought about this viewpoint) we will continue trading through the winter and use the site in future to hold our own events.

The cart

We would like to engage people in talking about mental ill health, challenge the stigma surrounding it, open discussions about the prejudice experienced by people seeking work who are currently recuperating from an episode and may still be medicated, give barista training to those who have had such difficulties and are looking for skills to re-enter the workforce, as well as employing people as they are - accepting mental ill health challenges as something that happen to a lot of people - while being an employer that allows people to take on work in a way that suits their recovery, and without making their condition worse.

Personally, I just got to realising very quickly that London can swallow you up whole if you aren't careful. I have long term goals and dreams that I still want to follow that mean being in the city is a great opportunity. The problem comes when your goals are subsumed by the need to pay the bills. I know now that if I want to do something I love but which doesn't make any money, then I need a day job that doesn't kill my soul in the meantime! It's been a big challenge and the reason why I've not had any time to create content or even register my observations on the world. 

Watch this space for a website/facebook page that you can share and help us spread the word. I hope to get back to some regular bloggage as it settles down a little. There are rumblings of a permanent café space that will kick off properly in January, though, so we'll have to wait and see how much time I have left!

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  • Written by Nick Stebb
  • Category: Blog

To blog or not to blog or to eat cake (or do something more immediately gratifying i.e. nothing)


'So an animal is an expression of purpose,' Sherri said. 'So there is purpose in the universe.'
'In small parts of it.'
'And unpurpose gives rise to purpose.'
Kevin eyed her. 'Eat shit,' he said. - VALIS p33

I have been teasing. Myself, mostly, since nobody else has been watching my fits and starts of internet publishing as they have occurred over the last several years. It seems like there is a willingness deep down in me to share my thoughts and views and talents with the world, but it has been lurking for so long under the surface I have forgotten what it actually looks like.

So in opening the blog section of my website I should really be pondering what it is that I want to share and what it might mean to other people. It makes me think of how others have influenced me in the same way, and if there is a blog post in particular that has meant something to me. There certainly is, and it is one that's pertinent to an area of my life in which I have long been struggling and only now seem to be turning the corner. I am talking about waking up.

It will probably seem to you, as to most, that this is just something that happens naturally and so not an element of life that anybody should need help with. For me it has been a struggle intimately tied with my depression and the different forms that it has manifested over the years. I will stop teasing and share the blog post in question:

How to Get Up Right Away When Your Alarm Goes Off

I came to this page through my experiments with polyphasic sleep. I was very interested in these lifestlye changes at the time, mostly due to my isolation and obsessive ends-driven mindset which rationalised that if I could just schedule as much possible time in the day for working on one skill in particular then by sheer number of hours I would become a master within a decade or two. My self-worth was tied in completely with my academic success up to that point and so it seemed like having left university and the comforting structure of goals and ends that came with it, suddenly I had to enforce a rigorous structure on myself so that I "didn't slip" into the realms of mediocrity.

I experimented with different sleep patterns (I was particularly interested by the most extreme version of polyphasic sleep, aptly dubbed "Uberman") which involved a HELL of a lot of alarm conditioning in order to push through the intense grogginess that one would experience when waking from a nap in a period that was out of step with one's circadian rhythm. After attempting to reach some equilibrium with this sleep schedule for a few months my body had more or less adapted. However, I realised that unless I was to be a complete social hermit it would be very difficult to reconcile this lifestyle with seemingly banal choices such as dining with friends or having a job with conventional hours. Soon my discipline faltered and I started oversleeping, my body initially resisted the adaptation to monophasic sleep, but before long I had returned to my much older relationship with slumber and the beloved lie-in.

In the following years I became very depressed. I joined and left university for a second time, then returned to my family home in Wales to recover. Sleep became both a friend and enemy. On the one hand, it was my favoured retreat from my problems. Unconsciousness is a very appealing proposition when your waking mentality comes filled with despair and anxiety. Unfortunately, when this felt like my only recourse (and I was allowed to choose it) I would sleep as much as physically possible - sometimes 16+ hours a day. This amount of sleep left me feeling terrible when I woke up, often needing a good couple of hours to regain any sense of alertness or will to interact with the outside world. My will to wake up was never lower and I have never had a more unhealthy relationship with sleep.

Flip forward about 7 years and now I have not only managed to re-frame what it means for me to oversleep, in a guilt free context, but I have developed a self-discipline that allows me to get up when I want, even on weekends, and become the fabled lark, or as another post from the aforementioned blog describes, an early riser. This is a drastic shift in the way I view myself, and a very empowering habit when used to form the basis of a productive morning routine. I would never have achieved it without the technique described in that blog post. It seemed ludicrous at first, and felt crazy when I was doing it, especially when I became conscious of what it might appear to my next door neighbour or anyone else who might witness me "practicing getting up". It worked for me, though, and if you relate to any of my struggles against the alarm clock and are still having a daily battle, I highly recommend you give it a go.

Cheers Steve, this one's for you. 

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  • Written by Nick Stebb
  • Category: Blog

A reason to hope

Inspiration.

It comes without rhyme or reason. 

How long can one push themselves forwards against the improbable, the impossible? I have been inspired recently by an article from Chris Hedges that puts my own problems into perspective. I have been pushing myself up against personal barriers of depression and anxiety for what I believed to be a true and worthy cause: to make people laugh and perhaps to make them think. The people mentioned in this article have been playing for far greater stakes and with no hope of recognition and their achievements dwarf the greatest impact I could hope to make in my life.

I am privileged - being a comfortably middle class white male is one of the easier rides you can get in this crazy theme park we're all living. If only I didn't have so much to PROVE because of it. I have felt the need, the desire to be the voice of reason, but this is ultimately an appeal to my ego more than anything more meaningful or far-reaching.

We should all  try to be the voice of reason as much as we can in our daily lives - in line with our intuition, in line with our empathy.

So I have put my ego in the back seat for the moment, until it learns to behave itself. The focus of this blog will now be about sharing and trying to lead by example. This means I will be sharing posts over social media, instead of hiding away for fear of judgement. I will try to develop an openness and live out my values through the avenues of expression I have available to me.

This post may be more for me than for you, I admit. An internal struggle is not compelling for others to read, but the fruits of this new mindset will hopefully be palatable for others in future.

I have despaired recently about the way humanity has been heading, and I must admit I lost hope. I looked around me at the people I was interacting with daily and felt alone in the impact I was feeling from the endless propaganda, brainwashing and manufactured consent for endless war in our names. Everywhere I looked I just saw slaves trapped by a corrupt centralised economic system that robs us daily of what little "we the people" have been allowed to keep hold of - and everywhere I saw people revelling in their own slavery. The only avenue I felt I had to speak out against it seemed to be blocked by great personal hurdles.

Letting myself find different, more grounded routes to fulfilment seems to give a greater sense of well-being. Instead of trying to go it alone I am realising how deep the current need is for us to stick together, settle our differences and make whatever token effort we can to build a future that is free of this corruption. We need to accept our faults and wear them on our sleeves, using them as fuel to collaborate and edge towards the vision of a future that the whole planet can live with, not just an elite few. 

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