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Sunday, 5 April 2015

Laptop On Tour Once More! Part One: Ceci, c'est un blog, pas une blague

Alors, mes amis, je suis arrivé à Paris! Yes, today I have finally left Teddington and am on my way to my first holiday in eight months, and since having my terrible physical accident! It's exciting but a little bit scary.

Paris and Le Tour Eiffel (just seen), from the air

Some things remain normal of course, one of them my best and beloved terminal (terminal) 4 at Heathrow airport, where to stand a chance of making your flight on time it is best to arrive seven hours before your flight is scheduled to take off (i.e. delayed, cancelled, moved to another day, be grounded by rain...), to travel business or blag your way into the fast track queue to escape the endless tedium of explaining to an official who has no interest in working whatsoever that your laptop cable is, in fact, a laptop cable, which tragically leaves only five minutes to buy everything in sight in duty free, despite the fact that you need none of it, especially the M&Ms, and finally take your seat in the queue. Yes, of course I'm joking: you won't get a seat, and twenty minutes before there's any chance of learning whether your flight will actually take off at all you're going to be joining twenty thousand other people who've materialised as if from nowhere in a long line to make sure that their assigned seat isn't given away to four other people, also hoping to get on the same flight.

Just another day at Heathow. 

So, situation normal so far. I am very, very lucky to have been able to fly business class on this occasion, with a great deal I considered worth it when putting my health - back, foot, arm, head (in both senses) - first, rather than 'out' on the mammoth plane journey upon which I am about to embark.

Le Petit Dejeuner. Actually quite nice for airline food.

Of course situation is not quite normal, because it is still only a few days since the tragedy of Germanwings and flight attendants are understandably being more attentive to safety than ever before. (And I say flight attendants as I didn't see any pilots or co-pilots on my first trip. Much has now been said about the Germanwings tragedy, and some of it has been (and is about to be) said by me.

Last week I spoke to Grazia magazine, who were looking for a female to speak to them about her own experences of having depression to see 'what it's really like'. This feature will appear in Tuesday's edition of the paper while I am away (I'm going to Japan by the way, but am writing this from the lovely Charles de Gaulle airport). I was asked about many aspects of my depression - how it started, how long I have had it, the struggles that I have had and the things I have achieved in spite of the (at times) wholly debilitating nature of this condition. I am hoping that my involvement with the news feature will go some way to widening the perspective of life with depression.

Oh Grazia (and Katy) I love you so

On the other hand, having done many media appearances in the last year, the flip side of being interviewed for print is that my words are not exactly my own. In this case, the (really lovely) journalist I spoke to at Grazia wrote my words as if I had written the article myself - i.e. in the first person, which was a strange experience for me, as many of my specific comments had been either paraphrased or fitted neatly into a fifty word box-sized sentence where I probably spent at least 200-300 words on each topic we discussed. Fair enough, we all have confines to which we work in our specific jobs and career paths.

The strangest thing about the experience - one which I have now had twice - is the way that a participant like me is able to check the information given and give comments on the article if I am unhappy with the way that any comments have been phrased: the journalists read the text aloud to the interviewee over the phone. On the last occasion I was speaking to the Standard (who didn't end up using my quotations) I found it quite easy to receive the comments read out this way, because there were just a couple of quotations being used; in the Grazia article 500 words (roughly) are devoted to my 'first person' account. I actually took notes during the reading to enable me to try to catch sentences I felt did not express my opinions truthfully, or were too far off from what I had originally said.

(And I would like to say, that as you imagine me being sensible and trying to ensure I was being represented, there was the other half of me which was jumping up and down in delight at BEING IN GRAZIA MAGAZINE! There's even going to be a tiny picture of me in there. And when I asked them what the average age of their reader was, they said 37! So (because of course I needed reassurance) I'm okay!)

Then comes a little discussion where we debate word choices and rework sentences. All of this done over the phone. I have to say this is a pretty difficult thing to do - I could easily miss something and risk allowing a voice that is not really mine but is presented as such stating views that are not my own. The only real time this happened which so concerned me is a short sentence where the gist of what 'I' was saying was: 'in male working environments the sense that one can't talk about depression is stronger and it's for this reason that more men commit suicide.' To which I said, "Errr...where did that come from? I have no authority whatsoever to make a comment like that at all and although we discussed the fact that if a man felt (as an individual) that he for some reason had to be 'strong' and couldn't show what might be perceived as 'weakness' by admitting to any need for support with an illness then that would be very difficult.

As it turns out, there is evidence to support the above viewpoint from research; but of course I didn't conduct any research myself and wasn't happy to make such a statement at all - firstly because I don't believe it is true in those sweeping terms, and secondly because I have no authority to make such a statement. I think what we ended up saying that I knew some colleagues who were male and who had felt unable to talk about their illnesses, and perhaps that men might talk about their problems less which might exacerbate the problem.

Listening. Harder than reading. You heard it here first.

I will be flying to Japan in another hour from now and will not be able to check anything online for 15 hours, so, effectively tomorrow. This will still mean there's time before the article comes out, but this time I did take pause to wonder whether I would like to have articles in which I am quoted 'read' to me in future, rather than sent over as a PDF for me to read for myself. I think the latter is a much safer option. (Also, I just read Jon Ronson's "So You've Been Publicly Shamed) so I'm rather more nervous after the event than perhaps I would have been before.)

 I'm not ashamed to have depression,
but I don't want to be shamed for speaking out...

I am grateful to have a chance to give a voice to what depression is like from my point of view - but, as I've said many times before - that's all I'm giving. I only know what depression is like for me, not for others. I take medication that has been prescribed for me, while many others take many other things and do / do not have therapy as suits them. I am one person with one voice, my own, and my experiences may be unlike any others.

I'm very fortunate to have this blog to voice my own views on this and that, write about my vacations and my trials and tribulations. I don't necessarily write a neat five hundred words, but what you read is all me. It means a lot to me to be able to be honest in this blog. I struggled this week, for example, and managed to have a good cry at a dinner party with friends that I was thoroughly enjoying despite having massive anxiety sporadically throughout. Sometimes these things just happen. I'm not 'well' yet; I'm just working at getting better.

I need to set off for the gate now so I'll wave au revoir from Paris, and I will write some more - I hope - soon - from Japan itself. Until then, Happy Easter and, as always, take care.

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