Tag Archives: depression

Reflections on Lockdown #4


When will it end!? I hear you crow.

I did warn you that I’ve had a very busy lockdown on the art front.

Today’s offering is landscapes, which segues nicely from Reflections on Lockdown #3.

I like drawing landscapes. There’s something very relaxing about it. Painting them, on the other hand, is a different kettle of fish.

Sketching is more about observation and trying to depict a representation of the landscape. Whereas, painting is more about trying to capture the energy of nature. (With varying degrees of success.)

Here’s a selection for you to ponder.

Yorkshire Dales
Yorkshire Dales
A village in Italy. (From a photo.)
Jenkin Chapel, Saltersford, Cheshire.
Top Withins, Haworth/Stanbury, West Yorkshire.
Yorkshire Dales.
Yorkshire Dales.
Yorkshire Dales.
Yorkshire Dales.
Yorkshire Dales.

If you, or someone you know, are experiencing mental health issues, call your GP or self refer to your local mental health team, (usually based at your local hospital).

If things are a bit more urgent than that you can call the Samaritans for free on 116 123. Or call the NHS on 111, they will treat your illness as seriously as they do any other.

If you want to see more of my photos and artwork follow me on Instagram: @milligancroft

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Filed under Architecture, Art, Children, community, Contemporary Arts, Creativity, Education, health, Ideas, Illustration, Innovation, Inspiration, love, Medicine, mental health, Nature, nhs, Philosophy, Uncategorized

The Violence of Silence


This is a new poem I’ve been working on for the past couple of weeks. It’s not about Black Lives Matter, but it was inspired by it. Or rather, the silence of the white majority to the unfair and unjust treatment of black people and people of colour. The implicit violence that silence can bring.

That is the only connection – silence. And how crushing it can be.

Please be advised that the following poem contains harrowing themes.

The Violence of Silence.

By David Milligan-Croft.

The smirk,

The eyeroll,

The sigh.

The undoing,

The redoing,

The restacking the dishwasher,

The recapping the toothpaste.

The elbow grease on the bath,

The busying of the dishcloth.

The fingertrail in the dust,

The torment,

The subterfuge,

The game.

The song unplayed on the turntable,

The needle stuck in the groove.

The portrait on the wall,

Staring into an unseeable space.

The spent match.

The sheet music on the stand.

The dried paintbrush.

The gagged canvas.

The unwritten manuscript,

Of characters without a story,

Or Motive.

The spoon in the can.

The creeping mould.

The hungry bottle,

The greedy glass.

The torn betting stub.

The baby shoes in their box.

The unworn party dress.

The deflated balloon.

The candle wax on the cake.

The forlorn swing.

The jury’s gaze.

The unwound watch,

Ticking in your head.

The heaving chest,

The eyes cast down,

Searching the floor for an escape route.

The unanswered call.

The empty wardrobe.

The rosary beads on the dresser.

The bulging suitcase.

The silent doorbell.

The ‘closed’ sign on the shop.

Fallen petals on a florist’s floor.

The midnight car lot.

The despondent moon.

The fallen tree in the forest.

The charred embers.

The ripple without a stone.

The starling without a murmuration.

The stalking wolf.

The disused canal.

The stagnant water.

The ghost of a railway line.

The forbidden tunnel.

Fragments of a life unlived;

Or lived.

Who knows?

Or cares.

The drop of the body,

From the bridge.

Falling

Into the darkness.

Silence.

The stoic rocks.

Then violence.

The relevance of the cello piece? I adore the cello and I thought the subject matter of the poem suited the haunting and melancholy sound. If you are familiar with the lyrics of Chandelier by Sia, you’ll see why I chose it as an accompaniment.

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Adieu 2019.


Well, it’s been an eventful year, to say the least.

I’ve been doing a lot more visual arts this year, so I thought I’d do a month-by-month, blow-by-blow, pictorial representation of my year. (Lucky you.)

Actually, the reason behind it is to see if/how the images/moods have changed over the course of the year. And how that might correlate to my mental health.

As some of you know, I volunteer for an arts charity called Arc, (Arts for Recovery in the Community), which works with people with mental health issues. I am an ardent advocate of the arts as a medium to treat mental health, and wellbeing in general.

Many years ago, I visted the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam and you could see the gradual decline in his mental health through his work.

Whilst I’m no Van Gogh, I am trying to see if there are any similar patterns to my own work.

Let’s have a look, shall we?

And before I forget; Have a Happy New Year and an absolutely spectacular 2020.

JANUARY

Oh dear… that’s not a good start.

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FEBRUARY

That’s a bit more positive. Birthday trip to Haworth, West Yorkshire, (home of the Brontes’), with my daughters.

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MARCH

Pros: Part of an Arc exhibition. Cons: Became homeless.

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APRIL

Ee, it’s grim up north. Charcoal sketch of an L.S. Lowry.

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MAY

“Are you sure you’re all right?”

Rehomed.

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JUNE

Think I can see a pattern emerging.

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JULY

Rehab.

ME2

AUGUST

I guess a lot of things are obvious in hindsight.

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ME4

SEPTEMBER

The road to recovery.

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OCTOBER

Signs of improvement.

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NOVEMBER

Apart from my volunteer work at Arc, I started facilitating a Creative Writing Workshop at The Wellspring homeless charity in Stockport.

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burst

There are always reminders.

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DECEMBER

A change of outlook.

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As you can see, it’s been a tumultuous year.

I feel very fortunate to be able to experience the last day of it. That would not have been possible were it not for the actions of my dear friend, Siobhan Costigan, over in Australia. Her, and my friends, family, NHS, Stepping Hill Hospital, Pathfinder, AA, The Wellspring and Arc have all played their part in saving my life and helping me to recover. And I thank you all from the bottom of my heart.

As of 31/12/2019, I am 140 days abstinent. I feel completely blessed that I have been able to experience 140 days on Earth with my daughters, family and friends that I might not have been able to. I am truly a lucky man.

I wish you all a magnificent 2020; may the forthcoming decade bring you everything that you hope and dream for.

 

Addendum.

If you, or a loved one, are going through a difficult time, there are organisations out there who can help. Reaching out isn’t a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength that you have managed to hold on this far. And remember, if things get so bad, go to your nearest A&E dept., they will take care of you just like any other patient.

The Samaritans call 116 123

NHS call 111 or 999

Alcoholics Anonymous call 0800 917 7650

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We all have to die of something.


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You wouldn’t criticise someone of being selfish if they died of cancer or heart disease.

So, why call someone selfish if they commit suicide?

The person doesn’t kill themself of cancer. Just like a person who commits suicide does not kill themself.

Depression kills them.

Do you think the person you know and love wants to leave those s/he knows and loves? To cause them pain and sorrow beyond measure.

Imagine that person in happier times. When they felt normal. Happy even. Do you think they would consider it then? Of course not. It’s pretty absurd to even think it.

How dark must it be in the mind of someone who wants to commit suicide for them to consider it a viable option to ease their suffering?

I am writing this to hopefully help destigmatise mental illness. And also to encourage people who are suffering to try and speak up and ask for help. Whether that be to a friend or family member, your GP or community mental health care unit. (Yes, they have them.) Suicide is the biggest killer of men in the UK under the age of 45.

And also to ask people who don’t suffer from mental illness to try and be a bit more understanding. If you think someone you know is suffering from depression, or at risk of suicide, ask them if there’s anything you can do to help. But, please don’t tell them to pull their socks up and get on with it. They’ll probably back off sharper than a hermit crab.

A person who commits suicide isn’t trying to hurt you. They are trying to stop their pain. To stop the disease in their brain.

If you need help try these links. And remember, if things get so bad and you can’t wait, go to A&E they will treat you just like any other patient and get you the care you need.

Mind

Samaritans

NHS

ARC (Local to Stockport only)

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Painting instead of writing


Earlier this year I began work on my third novel. I was making good progress until it all ground to a halt as Spring gave way to Summer. I think the expression is “writer’s block”. You may have heard of it.

Anyhow, I wasn’t too worried as the school holidays were looming and I would be spending much of it trying to keep my two daughters entertained. So the chances of getting much work done were slim to zero.

Now that they’ve gone back to school, the “block” is still here. And it’s very frustrating. I get quite depressed if I am not creating something. I worked in advertising for 30 years and every day I’d go into work and have to create something.

So, instead of wallowing in self-pity, I turned my hand to something else – painting. Mainly watercolours, but acrylics too.

Here are a few examples I thought I’d share with you. I know I won’t be getting an exhibition at the National Gallery anytime soon, but I quite like the colours and freshness of some of them.

Processed with Snapseed.

Processed with Snapseed.

Processed with Snapseed.

Processed with Snapseed.

Processed with Snapseed.

Processed with Snapseed.

Processed with Snapseed.

Self portrait in acrylic.

 

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Joy Division – Things for which I am grateful #277


I know a lot of people find Joy Division a bit depressing, but I love their frenetic energy and controlled emotion. (Paradoxical? Absolutely. That’s why they were brilliant.) They had a unique style and voice which no one else had at the time. Plus, they were quite smart! (Punks were a bit too scruffy for my liking.)

Screen Shot 2014-08-21 at 21.05.27

Being at art college in the early 80s, it was de rigeuer to be in a band, and I was no exception. The only slight problem to my impending rock stardom was my musical inability. That didn’t stop me trying, mind.

A group of mates, and I, got together to do a benefit gig for the El Salvador Solidarity Campaign. (The clichés just keep on coming, don’t they.) Anyways, we were doing covers above a pub in Leeds and, as I was petrified of being on stage, I didn’t move a muscle. Well, apart from the ones in my hands to play the bass.

When we got round to playing New Dawn Fades, I started to relax, a little. I loved the song and I could play it pretty well, so I began to go for a little wander around the stage. Unfortunately, I wandered a little too far stage right, and promptly fell off the stage.

I can still see the contorted faces of the audience twisted in fits of hysterics. So much for my dream of being a rock star.

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If you didn’t know, lead singer, Ian Curtis, committed suicide in 1980 just as they were becoming famous. He suffered from depression and epilepsy and, if we’re to believe the excellent biopic, Control, they link his depression to his epilepsy meds.

Ian Curtis with his daughter, Natalie.

Ian Curtis with his daughter, Natalie.

They’re not everyone’s cup of tea, but have a listen if you want to hear a truly original voice that is unfortunately lost to us.

I think I’ll save my anecdote about playing New Dawn Fades, with a band I stumbled upon practicing in an upstairs warehouse in the Italian naval port of Livorno, for another day.

Some facts about Joy Division:

They were originally called Warsaw after David Bowie’s Warszawa from the album Low

They changed their name because of another band called Warsaw Pakt

The name Joy Division originated from a prostitute ‘wing’ of a Nazi concentration camp

After Curtis’s death, the remaining members went on to form New Order

Ian Curtis is survived by his wife, Deborah Curtis, and their daughter, Natalie Curtis.

Deborah & Natalie Curtis.

Deborah & Natalie Curtis.

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Tony Scott – In Memoriam.


tony scott, suicide

Tony Scott, director, 1944 – 2012.

What compels a person to take their own life?

Serious mental illness? A scandal? Depression?

People often talk about suicide victims as being selfish. Particularly if they leave children behind.

But you don’t hear people saying: That selfish bastard went and died of cancer.

The person doesn’t kill themselves – the illness kills them. And depression is an illness. Like it or not. Believe it or not.

Whether the sufferer has a chemical imbalance in the brain or has a genetic predisposition varies from patient to patient.

It’s very difficult for doctors to ascertain what causes mental illness, but what they do know is that it is very real.

Figures suggest that 1 in 4 people will suffer from a mental illness at some stage during their life.

There are numerous treatments available, from antidepressants to cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT). For most people, the illness is temporary and they make a full recovery. But for others, it’s a life-long sentence.

I can’t think of anyone who suffers from depression who wants to be in that condition. And I can’t imagine anyone, who’s of a normal state of mind, actually wants to die.

I imagine the reason that a person commits suicide does so because, to them, it is a very real and viable solution to their present problem.

What dark place must they inhabit if there is no other hope?

To a non-sufferer, it seems incomprehensible that suicide could ever be a viable option. Unfortunately, it is these kind of beliefs that perpetuate the stigma surrounding mental illness. And why some sufferers are reluctant to seek help.

It doesn’t matter if you’re rich, successful and appear to have everything, mental illness doesn’t discriminate.

Like many people, I was very saddened to hear about the recent passing away of film director, Tony Scott, who committed suicide by jumping from a bridge. Leaving behind a wife and two children.

Whether he was being treated for mental illness, I don’t know. It is rumoured that he had terminal brain cancer. But this has been denied by his family.

The saddest thing of all, is that whatever his mental state, he felt that ending his own life was the best option he had left.

Christian Slater & Patricia Arquette in True Romance, directed by Tony Scott.

I’ll remember him for making one of my favourite films – True Romance, written by Quentin Tarantino, and starring Christian Slater, Patricia Arquette and whole host of other luminaries such as: Dennis Hopper, Val Kilmer, Christopher Walken, Gary Oldman, Brad Pitt, Samuel L. Jackson, Chris Penn and James Gandolfini.

Here’s one of my favourite scenes played by Dennis Hopper, (Clarence’s dad), and Christopher Walken, a mafioso.

Hopper knows his time is up, and to prevent being tortured some more and possibly spilling the beans as to his son’s whereabouts, he decides to provoke his captor.

Rest in Peace, Mr Scott.

Here are some other famous people who also felt they had run out of options:

Vincent van Gogh, painter, 1890.

Alan Turing, computer scientist, 1954.

Ernest Hemingway, writer, 1961.

Sylvia Plath, writer, 1963.

Rothko, painter, 1970.

Diane Arbus, photographer, 1971.

Ian Curtis, singer, Joy Division, 1980.

Kurt Cobain, singer, Nirvana, 1994.

Gary Speed, footballer, 2011.

Tony Scott, director, 2012.

And here’s a link for anyone who needs help.

http://www.mind.org.uk/

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The Emotional & Mental Cost of the Recession


One of the things that’s been playing on my mind this past while is: How will this recession affect people’s mental health in years to come?

The reason I’ve been pondering this notion is that, most people I know who are in full time employment, have had to take between 15% – 25% pay cuts and are working about 30% – 50% more hours per week.

Basically, they are having to do the jobs of the people who have been made redundant, (as well as their own), for less money.

Descent Into Hell, by Michael Hensley

I’m not having a pop at employers. I know a lot of businesses are in a very difficult situation: Trying to be more competitive; trying to hold on to staff; trying to stay afloat etc…

Some may say they are lucky to be in a job. But if these people are doing one and a half jobs then there is going to be a physical and mental consequence to this at some point in the future.

Burn out.

Longer hours, less money, the stress of potential redundancy. It is, and will continue, taking its toll on marriages and parents’ relationships with their kids.

Will we see an increase in the rate of divorce?
How many children will lose one of their parents to the recession?
More cases of depression?
Will suicide be more prevalent?
More people undertaking psychotherapy?
More people on medication?

And, most importantly for the government, who will pay for it?

Because someone will have to. Have they budgeted for it? Has it even crossed their minds?

Perhaps it has. Perhaps it’s all part of a ‘separating the wheat from the chaff’ policy.

It might even take 10 years before people’s ruined lives show up on a statistician’s spike.

But rest assured, there will be a price to be paid, and it won’t necessarily be fiscal.

mental illness, depression

The Scream by Edvard Munch

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Reset the Debt – Global Economist agrees with Batley lad.


A few months ago now, I came up with a rather radical idea to get us out of this financial pickle we’ve found ourselves in.

That idea was catchily called: Reset the Debt.

(I know, I know, I should get paid for this sort of stuff.)

Anyways, it wasn’t just a catchy slogan, the idea was to reset everybody’s debts to zero so we can start spending again. Yippee!

A bit like winding back the milometer on your car. Not that I’ve ever done that, you understand.

I posted it on TED and got pilloried for it as being economically naive. I might not be a global economist, but I am in the business of coming up with ideas to solve business problems.

And most radical ideas can be a bit frightening.

Well now, (he says, blowing onto his fingernails and polishing them on his lapel), Steve Keen is a global economist, and he’s advocating exactly the same thing.

Basically, the reason people aren’t spending is because they’re paying off their debts.

The government is giving money to the banks who aren’t passing it on to their customers. Presumably because they don’t want oiks like us getting into even more debt. They’d rather give it to their employees in the form of big fat tax free bonuses.

Mr Keen’s point is: Get the government to invest the money by paying off its citizens’ debts to kick-start the economy. [Obviously measures would have to be put in place to prevent people from getting back into debt and living within their means.]

The economy won’t grow if people don’t buy anything.

Otherwise, Mr Keen argues, the way the government is handling the Great Depression at the moment, it could take us 20 years to get out of it.

Who’d a thunk it? A Batley lad solving the world’s economic crisis.

Reset the Debt. I can see the placards now!

Hang on a sec. Just let me stick one of them © thingys on it.

Reset the Debt!©

Economist Steve Keen, Hardtalk

Economist Steve Keen on Hardtalk.

I’ve decided to set up an e-petition to garner some support for this idea. I need 100k signatures to get the Govt to discuss it in the House of Commons. If you think it’s an idea worthy of discussion, please add your name and share to as many people as possible.

https://www.petitionbuzz.com/petitions/resetthedebt

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How Art can Save the World


Okay, let’s go back in time a while.

No, even before Sky +. I’m talking about waaaay back, before we paltry humans ever even had like proper words to talk with.

Before language, before literacy, before art, before music, before KFC, before farming, before religion, before the bronze age, before the stone age, before politics, before war, before society.

Now that’s a long time ago. That’s nearly as long ago as Leeds United last won a trophy.

I’m talking about when a bloke in a cave was trying to tell his mate that there was this big mother-fucker-mammoth down by the base of the volcano that would feed the tribe for a year – if they had a refrigerator. It’s like a scene from an early episode of Give us a clue. Except he can’t. Because language hasn’t been invented yet.

So, in frustration, the caveman, let’s call him Herb, picks up a charcoal ember from the fire and starts trying to draw what he’s seen on the cave wall. His mate, let’s call him Frank, has a bemused look on his face as if to say: You can’t draw for shit. Except he doesn’t because he can’t talk.

Eventually, after a bit of practice, Herb’s pictograms start taking shape. Suddenly, the penny drops, (except currency hasn’t been invented yet), and Frank mimics what he perceives to be a mammoth down by the volcano. Herb excitedly points one index finger at him whilst simultaneously placing his other index finger on the tip of his nose.

And thus, Art was created. (And Game Shows.)

And lo, the tribe was fed.

And while sitting around the camp fire gnawing on a mammoth hoof, Frank gesticulates that Herb’s mammoth looked more like his missus than a mammoth.

And there begineth the bar-room brawl.

Now, what better way to finish off a good feed than a bit of a knees-up. So Herb picks up a couple of sticks and starts tapping out a beat on a hollowed out log. Frank and his missus, let’s call her Marjorie, start tapping their feet and before you know it they’re cutting a jig around the fire almost setting light to Marge’s sabre-tooth tiger print frock.

And lo, music was created.

And the tribe was happy.

So, maybe it was a wet day in caveman land and all the paints were a bit soggy. Or maybe there weren’t any cave walls to paint on. Or maybe there was just too much to say for one picture. But at some stage, somebody somewhere decided that ‘ug’ meant mammoth. And ‘og’ meant dinner. Then Marge said something along the lines of: ug, og, ag, pig, bag, nog, bok, jim-jams, flim-flam, muktub, jimmy choo, pak choi, bic, ram, mo jo.

Thus, language was born. And men became hen-pecked.

And we could communicate with each other. Then came writing so we could pass on information to people we couldn’t speak to – either people faraway or people in the future.

This meandering post is about creativity. And humankind’s ability to ingeniously invent and create things to make our lives better.

Now, to my point:

The first thing western governments cut in a recession is the arts. But it is the arts, in their broadest form: language, music, literature, poetry, art etc, that have shaped all the world’s civilizations.

Without the arts, we don’t have culture. And without culture, we don’t have society. Without society we don’t have civilization and without civilisation we have anarchy.

The UK government is slashing budgets left right and centre, with anything remotely to do with the arts top of the list. With all these austerity measures citizen’s wills are bending to breaking point. And it is only going to get worse. We’ve already seen students rioting. It doesn’t take a genius to work out where this is all heading.

Maybe investing in areas that nurture our more creative and innovative sides might get us all through this economic depression into an era that shows just how ingenious and resourceful we are.

Okay, so money-where-my-mouth-is time.

Here are a couple of suggestions for ideas that could change the way we live and learn.

First up:

Vote in the wall.

This is an idea I had a while ago about how to encourage a bigger turn out in elections. Basically to hi-jack cash machines on polling day.

It would result in more people voting, which would, if had been around at the last election, have resulted in a different government. Which, let’s be fair, would be better for everyone who’s not involved with banking.

Second:

Zero Debt.

Reset all the world’s bank balances to zero and start again.
What about all the people who are actually owed money! I hear you cry.
Well, maybe the banks should suffer a little bit too. If they can make billions in profits so soon after the recession, I’m sure it wouldn’t take them too long to make their money back.

Third.

Book Depositories.

Now that the ConDems are closing all our libraries (apologies to anyone outside the UK who this doesn’t apply to), how about we turn libraries into Book Depositories?

Where rich, poor, middle class can drop off their ‘used’ books so that others might benefit.

You could even have a tie-in with books shops. ‘Drop-off’ bins instore where books can be collected then redistributed to libraries/depsoitories. What’s in it for the book shop? Well, you’ve got a customer in your shop who’s already predisposed to buying books.

I was fortunate enough to live, literally across-the-road from a small library. I used to take my kids to it all the time. It wasn’t anything to do with not being able to afford books. It was a great experience for them.

There were computers for people who didn’t have the internet. There were bridge clubs, scrabble clubs, god, they even had books!

Now it’s closing down.

This wasn’t just a library. It was a community centre.

So… Council owned, and run, Book Depositories where the council doesn’t have to pay a penny for the stock on its shelves.

There you are now,

Ideas change the world. People have ideas.

Let’s put our noodles together and creatively figure a way out of this mess.

We owe it to Herb, Frank and Marjorie. Oh, and Miriam, who’s Herb’s partner, but is a bit shy.

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