Talk .. its a simple thing. Sometimes we get criticised for talking too much, sometimes to the wrong person and often for not saying enough.
And yet the phrase is “talk is cheap.” I disagree, talking can be expensive!
Talking is a unique skill, animals can communicate but the breadth of language we have achieved across the earth is staggering; common languages, country specific languages, local languages, dialects, sign languages, the list seems endless.
But all this time there is something unique about talking. Because we use our face, we therefore use expression and so talking is a more genuine method of communication. Is this why it is easier to write an email to let someone know bad news than speak to them face to face?
Today we have a special chance though to talk.
Today, 6th February is #TimetoTalk day.
I talk to my partner all the time. She hears my woes and successes and I know I am in a special situation in the fact she is a good listener. For that I am eternally grateful.
However, in our communities whether it is information security, web design, marketing or wherever you work, do we talk? I think no. We say a lot without actually talking. Today is a day when we need to focus on talking.
So let me talk, and I want you to listen and think about who you are going to talk to and about what. Some of the issues I talk about below have never been talked about openly for many years.
Yes, mental health is an issue. It creeps in to our lives without actually ever making itself evident. Depression is a classic, tiny things can start it off and it grows over time – over time it becomes like an all-consuming virus until it affects all areas of our lives.
I know I suffer with mental health issues. Yep, more than one. Some of my closest friends probably don’t even know it … but they are there. Today is my Time to Talk and help others take some courage to talk too.
I am a digiholic. You only have to be around me for a short space of time before you see the manifestation of what this looks like. I am fascinated by technology, I have been since owning a BBC Micro. I played Elite properly by working out the algorithm behind the game and how to rise through the ranks of the game (*Spoiler – it was based on 255). I drew maps of text adventures until I had whole worlds drawn out on music rule wide carriage paper. When I got my first PC, I took it apart. Every jumper off the motherboard, every screw … later in life this actually helped me pass my university course as I fixed PCs in payment for help with coursework.
But then I hit an interesting patch. My early jobs as helpdesk for an EDI Messaging company led me to research the land of e-commerce pre-2000 when to be cool meant putting an ‘e’ at the front rather than an ‘i’ or ‘cyber’. I used to spend over 18 hours a day at the keyboard reading, watching, learning. And there … right there, the obsession was born.
In the information security landscape, we see this described as autistic, ADHD trait, on the spectrum. This compulsion to find stuff out – curiosity on steroids. There in a bedsit I stared at a screen one Sunday morning and realised it had been over 50 hours with no sleep and I was staring at a screen trying to learn everything about e-commerce products and competitors. I locked the computer and walked out of the door. I walked. I walked for about 10 miles, I walked in silence. I ran away if you like until I found myself in a deer park and it was late, really quite late. I hadn’t eaten for 2 days and I was sat on a park bench. I took my time inside my head to have the conversations, to talk, and put in place my personal protection plan. I realised there and then how close I had become to just disappearing into a world that would have been difficult to come out of.
I knew I had to protect myself and my Personal Protection Plan is still in place today. I won’t go more than 24 hours behind a keyboard. I will always break it. I own the computer not the other way round. Recently my family went camping to an area with poor phone signal and for 2 weeks I spent a total of 2 hours on the internet. It was heaven but I also felt that twinge – like an addiction.
We need to un-jack ourselves. Power down. Step away from the keyboard. In the 80s the UK kids TV program had it right…
Why don’t you just switch off your television set and go and do something less boring instead?
I am still obsessed and still have this compulsion, but concentrating it into shorter burst means I am more effective which gives me greater pleasure in being always connected.
Or should I more accurately put it - the lack of depression. It is normal to have depression, it is a chemical reaction, but I don’t get the same reaction. I recently was told by a senior member of staff that he had been concerned about me, was I depressed, having a breakdown – I found the comment very amusing as I knew what he was trying to get to, but he also was being quite offensive and unfortunately did not understand what was actually going on. Let me explain.
As a child I was bullied. I was bullied for many reasons, I was short, fat, intelligent, socially awkward and I had an accent which didn’t fit with the school. To protect myself, I lost my accent – try doing that when you are 5 years old! I took control of my emotions – yes, I could be beaten up, kicked to the ground and yet I would not cry, I would not show emotion. I had mastered my emotions. This was so useful as a child in that I could not break in front of my attacker. However, the danger was there was no place I could let it out. And so one day I held my attacker by the throat against my classroom wall holding him about 18 inches off the ground and screamed in his face “Don’t ever touch me again.” I came to my senses very quickly and realised he was struggling and I let him go and walked out the classroom. I hid and cried. I cried for about 10 minutes before sorting myself out. Then when I came back to the classroom, the silence was deafening. My bully eventually became a great friend and he later apologised for the years I had been bullied.
As I have spent now over 30 years with my emotions in control, manipulative and pressure tactics used by managers have rarely worked. This control means that I can put myself into difficult situations and control my emotions enough to control the output. It also means that I have an interesting life – I don’t do stress, I don’t do depression. These negative emotions and habits are just not needed, so I find emotional workarounds. If I am feeling lower, I use music to raise my mood. If make sure that tough deadlines become realistic ones.
But … and this is a big but … I have to find my releases. I have to find a way to allow natural emotions come out. I have many ways to do this – and each of them is done in a controlled manner.
How do you control your emotions ? I have absolutely no idea if I am totally honest. I wish I could. Part of it is definitely having an understanding about what you want as an outcome to a situation and understanding how you need to behave to get it to happen. But depression is a no-no. It only serves to undermine your view, your psyche, your emotional stable. I therefore don’t let things get me down. No matter how hard things get, I am not at the bottom of the tree. I believe some of this is also my own personal integrity. Knowing myself means that I also know what I am sacrificing if I needed to and what I won’t compromise on.
So there we go, maybe next year I will share some of my other mental health areas. If you want to talk to me about your mental health and how healthy you think you are or not, then please feel free. I will listen.
The world is too small to not get on with each other.
You’re a long time dead, so enjoy the living.
In the infosec world, we have lost too many great people to mental health problems, depression, anxiety, autism, adhd, today is a time to talk.
Many thank to my old friend Mariel for bringing this to my attention.