As a consequence of both the severe depression I’ve been struggling through, and the sudden and unexpected death of a family member last weekend, I wasn’t able to travel to Te Whanganui-a-Tara (Wellington) for two conferences that I had been planning to attend (see below). Having been involved on and off for many years in the organisation of community gatherings (both conferences and festivals), I know how much work goes into putting on events like these. To the organisers of both conferences, thanks so much for your work, and my apologies for not attending. I’m doing my best to participate remotely, including writing this post, sharing related links on GNU Social and so on.

Open Source Open Society (OS//OS) takes place today and tomorrow at the Michael Fowler Centre in the town centre. There is a livestream of at least some of the event, but according to the organisers, “livestream is only in the main auditorium”. You can also follow Scoop live blog updates, including reviews of the catering :) As always, various people like me are putting in our 2 cents worth from onsite and afar, using the social media hashtag #OSOSNZ.

The second conference, Social Movements, Resistance, and Social Change III: The Academic and Activist Interface, starts a little over a week after OS//OS finishes, and runs from 1-3 September at Victoria University of Wellington. This one looks to be more of a traditional academic conference in format, with papers by some of the conference presenters being published in a special issue of the Counterfutures journal. There is certainly a strong activist element too, as it will also serve as the public launch of Economic and Social Research Aotearoa (ESRA), the “left-wing think tank” project that came out of Sue Bradford’s Phd thesis. I don’t know how much opportunity there will be for remote participation, but I’ll post an update if I learn anything relevant.

I really hope there’s a decent overlap between the two, with attendees taking the opportunity to spend the week in between exploring Te Whanganui-a-Tara, and checking out some of its many experiments in open source social change.

Filed August 22nd, 2016 under Uncategorized

Dear friends, and anyone else who happens to read this blog,

For as long as I can remember I have weathered the storms of chronic depression and anxiety. In the last couple of weeks, I have been forced to admit to myself that I’m currently experiencing a severe bout of depression, one that’s been going on for at least a few months. I’m hopeful that realizing just how serious it is means I’ve turned a corner, but I have no idea how long it will take to get well, which is incredibly frustrating.

The symptoms include the obvious; general despair, lack of enthusiasm for life and work, loss of enjoyment, bursting into tears without reason, difficulty communicating, withdrawal from social interaction, and occasionally, suicidal thoughts. But I am also suffering a number of not-so-obvious symptoms, including constant fatigue, mental confusion and unreliable memory, loss of focus and attention span, and difficulty making and carrying out plans. Perhaps most frustrating of all, I’m struggling to write. Just getting this blog piece completed has taken me about a week from planning to posting. I’m definitely not in any condition to get work done reliably at this time.

If I have been doing work for a project you’re involved in, or we’ve discussed starting to work together, I need to let you know that I won’t be able to continue with that work in the foreseeable future. I’m really sorry about this, but I’ve resisted making this call for too long, to the point where my underpowered involvement is doing more harm than good in some cases. Please don’t take my departure as a withdrawal of support for any cause or project, nor as a criticism of any person involved in them. This is about me doing what I need to do to get well.

If my recent correspondence has been uncharacteristically grim or argumentative, I apologise to anyone this has affected. Because I wasn’t aware just how bad my depression was and is, I’ve continued to participate in far more online conversations than I can really handle, and the usefulness of my contributions has been questionable at best. I will be unsubscribing from all email lists and, as much as possible, avoiding Loomio or any other online communication channel other than essential email.

In the coming weeks and months I will focus my remaining energy on following a wellness plan that includes re-establishing healthy daily routines, regular counselling sessions, and spending more time with people in face-to-face activities that aren’t about work (paid or unpaid). If you are in Ōtepoti/ Dunedin, please feel free to get in touch about meeting up for a cuppa and a chat, and let me know about things going on in town. Wherever you are in the world, I’d love to hear from you by phone or email.

Finally, I also hope do some writing about my experience of depression. I will post these on my new personal blog on DreamWidth, if and when I feel up to it. I’m also determined to get back into doing little bits of work on the first draft of ‘Email Ate My Life‘, which I hope will help me rebuild my confidence in my ability to get work done. Watch this space.

————————————————————- 

EDIT 10/08/2016: Huge thanks for all the heartfelt messages of understanding and support I’ve received since I made this announcement. In contrast, I did get one email from some random who had this to say:

“sort your selfish shit out CITY BOY.

there are bigger welcoming aspects out there…

..still working with networks

and learning as well

or kill ya self

If you’d like to tell this person what you think of this as a response to a person being open and honest about a mental health challenge, you can email them at: sond at ihug.co.nz

Filed August 3rd, 2016 under News
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