Chapter Seven: The Struggle For Relevancy, Reminiscences of the Glory Days, Mortgage Rejections and University Successes
Lawes talks about the difficulty in attracting readers to his website, while remembering the days when his work achieved overwhelming reactions. He discusses being rejected for a mortgage, and the challenge of completing a university assignment with very little time to do the work.
It’s been the best part of two weeks since I sat down to write in these journals. I had hoped to get an entry in last week, but my university assignment took much more work than I’d anticipated, then when I came to write about the importance of language in regards to autism on Monday evening, I had far more to say on the subject than originally anticipated so it turned into a Disorderly Thoughts entry instead. Disorderly Thoughts is the blog where I put my longer writings on single-subjects, which I see as my main showcase rather than these more throwaway blogs on the Lawes Report. Sometimes, I wish the names of the blogs were inverted, because I think Disorderly Thoughts maybe works better for these more-jumbled entries, and longer pieces on single subjects are more of a report, but it is what it is. Anyway, these entries literally report on my life, so it works for both. Maybe I’ll switch it round somewhere down the line, but it seems a bit pointless and I’ve already done the Twitter thread linking all the Disorderly Thoughts, and after the grief I got when I re-shared the article about the potential Newcastle takeover, I think I’ll not bother changing all the hyperlinks and re-doing that for a while. Or, given the rumours we’re going to see movement on that front in a few weeks, maybe I’ll just do it then and bank some more clicks.
It’s quite frustrating at times, how hard it is to make any real inroads into getting people to read the things I write nowadays. Back in the day, when I first wrote about my fight with depression and then my advice for the loved ones of people with depression, people seemed much more open to reading things people had written. Now, it feels impossible to get anyone to click through to my writing at all. Maybe it’s a sign of the times – nine years ago, very few people spoke openly about depression, especially when it came to males. Now, it’s far more commonplace to see people open up about their mental health troubles, to the point where you wonder if people are bored in reading about it. In my more reflective hours, I feel those two articles, and the hundreds of thousands of views they garnered, played a small, but very real, part in moving the mental health conversation onwards. I still look back on how a rock star with seventy million album sales, Duff McKagan from Guns ‘N’ Roses, wrote an article about me, and I can’t believe it was real. There’s a quiet sense of pride I allow myself, though it’s soon replaced with frustration that I’ve never quite reached the same heights of engagement since. I suppose the difference is, back then, I wasn’t shy about sending my things to famous people and asking them if they would share them, whereas now, I just feel like I’m imposing, that it’s rude. Maybe it always was, but back then, it felt like a mission to help people, and those two essays were my only means to do so. Any rudeness I may have imposed upon celebrities in those days was more than offset by the emails and messages I received from people thanking me for doing so; sometimes, I feel I should go back to that tactic, but it’s a different social media nowadays, less supportive, more combative.
I miss the days when social media was new, where people felt empowered by the potential to reach millions of people and other people wanted to help them to try. You never see people sharing songs anymore, or trying to introduce people to new bands. The only films people talk about are the major blockbusters; the only television discussed are the programmes that everyone watches. Since Game of Thrones finished, the only programmes I see discussed with any sort of regularity are Peaky Blinders and reality shows; it was nice when the Queen’s Gambit was popular for five minutes, because it was something different. It’s like, if it isn’t going to get any likes, hearts or retweets, people don’t want to discuss things anymore. The internet has turned from a place of discovery, of creativity and wonder to a world of snarkiness, memes, sarcasm and politics. I miss the old days, and I think we’re all worse off for the way these websites have re-moulded our minds to be reaction junkies rather than passionate about things.
Still, I’ll keep plugging away. One of my favourite things in the world is finding a new author I love, then proper binging on them. I devour as much content as I can; their books, their blogs, their social media, everything. In many ways, I hate discovering an incredible author when they’ve just published their debut, because that’s all there is to read. Finding them when they’ve got several books and hundreds of blog posts, that’s the Holy Grail. If I keep writing, keep publishing and once I get this book finished and published, then maybe I can give the experience I love receiving to other people down the line. That’s the thought that keeps me going, anyway. That, and I’m just a much better person when I write.
I had some bad news this week. For some time now, my partner and I have been planning to try and get a mortgage so we can buy a house. With a good deposit saved and looking at cheap-ish houses, along with tidying up my credit score in recent months, I was hopeful that we’d be able to get approved; sadly, we got rejected at the agreement-in-principle application stage. We tried with two different banks, mine and hers, and the outcome was the same both times.
I’ve taken this particularly hard, because it’s my fault that we can’t get one. At the height of my mental illness, I made some awful financial decisions and, after losing my job at the Edington Centre and then getting sectioned a few months later, I was forced into bankruptcy, with no means to pay my debts and, at the time, no ability to work so as to earn the money needed to make the minimum payments. We’d always known it would be a long shot, due to my bankruptcy and the fact that I was only discharged from it four-and-a-half years ago, but I’d hoped, having done plenty of reading online and being in possession of a decent deposit, that we’d be able to be accepted. Still, it crushed me when the decision was made, and I’ve felt like a failure for 36 hours now since we got the news.
Funnily enough, it might not be as big an issue as I think. I reluctantly took out a credit card two months ago, something I despised doing but is an absolute necessity if I want to rebuild my credit score, and it might well just be that it’s too soon after applying for that to be considered for such a big thing as a mortgage. Maybe it’s just because my bankruptcy is on my credit record still, who knows. I think I’m going to give it until July and try again; by then, it’ll be over six years since I went bankrupt and five years since my bankruptcy was discharged, as well as being eight months since taking out a credit card. My score should be rebuilt a bit more by then – if anyone has any tips for how to speed this process up, please leave them in the comments – and we should have a better chance of being accepted. If the answer is no in July, I think I’ll just wait another year after that, until my bankruptcy is off my credit record completely.
It’s really tough, though. I never used to care about owning a house but, over the last few years, it’s something that has grown in importance to me, not least since meeting my partner and moving in with her. When I was ill and made bankrupt, I never dreamt I could own a house – I figured I’d spent the rest of my life renting. That dream aspect of it all, I’d really like to make it come true, because it’ll be another signpost on the journey to mental wellness; another milestone marker in how far I’ve come and how much I’ve turned things around. It’s tangible evidence, in my darkest moments, which I can look to and say to myself, ‘this is where you were, this is where you are now, and this is where you’re on your way to.’ Things like that, the little victories and the big ones, the undeniable facts that my mind can’t trick me into disbelieving, they’re the things that help keep the Lawes disorder in check, and help maintain my ability to fit into your world.
I may not be able to buy a house yet, but even believing it was worth putting in the application shows how far I’ve come. Hopefully, somewhere down the road, be it six months or six years, the application will be successful, and that home we buy will be the ultimate testament of my recovery. Much like my writing, I’m getting there slowly but surely, and I’ll keep plugging away until I can say I have achieved my ambition, however long it takes.
Another big ambition I’m working towards right now is my degree in Psychology with Counselling, and I overcame a major hurdle in that quest this last fortnight. Having declined the offer of an extension to my deadline, I set about doing six weeks of work in two. I’d caught up with the coursework by the end of the first week, giving me about six days with which to do the assignment itself – writing a psychological formulation about a hypothetical therapy client. I’d been looking forward to doing this, especially after the previous assignment – producing a slideshow – because I thought this one played right into my strengths. As it came time to write the assignment, however, I froze. Concepts I should’ve grasped easily may as well have been written in Japanese; putting the masses of information into a coherent piece of writing seemed overwhelming and, once again, the old doubts flared up in my head –what am I doing? I’m not good enough to do this, it was stupid to even try; I’m never going to get a degree.
Making it worse was the absolute binge of writing I was in the middle of. For the three weeks I was suspended from my studies while Student Finance pulled their finger out their arse, I’d been on a writing hot-streak like I’d not been on in years. I was pumping out two-to-three thousand word articles for fun, five days a week, while also getting some real work done on my book. If I stop for just a minute, I’m going to lose it, I thought. Maybe I should just defer this year. Maybe I should just drop out, and throw all of myself into my writing, and try to type my way into a better life for me and my family. It’s not giving up if you’re backing yourself to succeed, after all.
Except, it would be, and I know it. So I did what I had to do. I sat there with my laptop on my lap, with tabs open for every recommended piece of coursework to draw from, with my textbook at my side, and I did what I could. Sometimes, I barely found a sentence I could use in an hour’s worth of work. Sometimes, I just sat there and watched the television over the top of my laptop, pretending to work but grateful of the distraction. Slowly, painfully, with great difficulty, I started making progress. The Sunday night before it was due in, my partner – who is really wonderful and supportive when it comes to assignment week, keeping the twins out of my way, going to bed early so I can stay up late in peace and without distraction, allowing me to sleep late so I’m not exhausted for the twins – went to bed, and I said to her I’ll stay up until it’s finished, then I’ll come to bed, edit it on the Monday then submit it ahead of Tuesday’s deadline. I managed to get my first draft finished by around 3am. Instead of going to bed, though, I stayed up until 5.30am editing it, cutting out words and sentences, refining others to make them sharper. Once I’d got it completed, I submitted it and shut my laptop down.
I probably should’ve double-checked it the next day, but I feel surprisingly confident I’ve done well in it. Given my mindset a few days earlier, the biggest achievement was sticking with it and getting it done at all. My only aim for this degree is a 2:1; people may say I have the intelligence to get a first – and some of my assignments would bear that out – but my mentality is full of self-doubt, and it is a continuous fight with the Lawes disorder to keep going and prevent myself from dropping out of the course. If I aim for a first, the pressure will be too much, and I’ll not make it past the end of the module. For me, the real achievement will be sticking with something for over six years, working hard when all I want to do is spend my time doing things I enjoy, and reaching that end-of-module assignment for Module Six, the one that marks the end of this particular challenge. If I can do that, I’ll have proven something to myself that carries far more importance than a set of numbers on a certificate.
I think we’ll wrap it up there, having written far more words than I expected to. I’m tired, and I’m looking forward to Tuesday and having the rest of the week until Sunday off, then getting in the following Monday knowing I have a full week off. I need the rest to recharge my batteries, though I imagine I’ll spend most of the time writing and doing my next university assignment anyway.
Thank you for continuing to read my writing, it means the world.
Song of the Chapter:
by Youth Salute
Quote of the Chapter:
“I don’t like work – no man does – but I like what is in the work – the chance to find yourself. Your own reality – for yourself, not for others – what no other man can ever know. They can only see the mere show, and never can tell what it really means.”