Monday, January 10, 2011

Black Dogs and Social Entrepreneurs

I am one Follower short of 40. Come on, someone, please make me happy! I have been blogging for a couple of years now and it does build up very slowly. But I get enough people saying they like stuff to keep me motivated. And, yes, I enjoy it. Its the nearest thing I do these days to therapy.

I am going through one of my lulls at the moment. I'm not in a bad way, particularly, but a bit out of sorts, not quite my normal self. If I was being dramatic, I'd call it mildly depressed, but I am not so I won't. I've talked about mental health on here from time to time, mainly to say that I consider myself someone with relatively fragile mental health. I have limits around stress than I have to keep within. Anxiety is never that far away and its cousin, depression, have popped up in my life at regular intervals.

Thankfully, both of these have eased over time. I spent much of my young life feeling properly depressed. I even called it that then. But this was the 80s and kids didn't get 'depressed'. But I know I was, and it was more than just too much Morrissey. This was the real deal and really I should have got myself some pills or something.

As it was, I didn't and my teens turned into my 20s then BANG the real fun started and, at 21, it all turned into a horrible mess and I got really, quite seriously ill. To people around me it wasn't terribly obvious. However, I knew it needed sorting if my life was going to be worth living. Thanks to some very good pills and probably the best therapist in Northern England, I got together enough to build from there. The rest of my life, despite some fairly unpleasant hiccups has been a story of gradual improvement, including very long periods of feeling utterly well and, yes, happy. But the Black Dog doth return, or in a smaller, Terrier-like form, from time to time.

Why return to this? Well, I guess I use this space, partly as indulgence. To say it how it is. To show who I really am, behind the stuff I am known for. And, perhaps least significantly, to emphasise that having a shitty episode or three in your life doesn't mean you can't go and do stuff that others say is pretty good. Indeed, it can be spur, even if not always for the right reasons (recognition, compensatory self-worth etc).

Indeed, I'll never forget a conversation I had with a guy who worked closely with loads of social entrepreneurs who said that he found, time and again, that many of them had been through mental pain, and, in many cases had been abused. Their reaction to this - the re-directed anger, the guilt-made-good - was often, he observed expressed through social entrpreneurialism. Was he right? I don't know, but I will never forget that comment.

He was right about me, that's for sure.


Maria in London said...

Very human, down to earth reflection Craig. I have been working lately with social entrepreneurs motivated first and foremost by their frustrations. I have also come accross mental health activists and practitioners that speak from their own experience of insanity. No one can possibly be a better advocate.

My own background as a social enterprise advisor taught me that in working with entrepreneurs, you can advance as fast as the pace of their moods. Sometimes they are responsive and take feedback enthusiasticly, and sometimes they don't take your calls.

The heroic figure of the social entrepreneur promoted in the first years of the boom should be replaced slowly by a more nuanced version of hard working individuals (like your neighbour) that very often feel like throwing the towel in.

BigSocOutdoors said...

OK I am following you - hope it made your day.

But I have a different view on Social Action & the Black Dog. In business, you expect to be messed about by Councils and Agencies and so on. I know - I did it.

When you are trying to do stuff for disabled folks, or kids or whatever, and get loads of encouragement from Social Services, and the National Lottery and all the rest of it ... you sort of expect to be given a break by the bureaucrats.

Wrong. You get the same sh1t as everybody else, but the effect is WORSE because you are doing something because you believe in it, not just for the money.

That is why it is so much harder to bear when planning officers tell you that young or disabled people are not "proper" people for planning purposes, and present you with a million hoops to jump through.

If the purpose of your business is money, you can do a cost benefit analysis, and if the hassle outweighs the reward ... you can just give up.

If you are doing "Big Society", it doesn't work that way. You are committed. People who have nowhere else to go depend on you. You can't just shut up shop and do something else. You are trapped in a situation that you cannot understand, let alone control.

And that is when you really start to feel the weight of the Black Dog.

PS - I still love my Labrador, in spite of everything!