Mr Robot - musings on the personal, professional and the political

by David Gilbert

August 30, 2016

I watch a fountain, and wonder whether my energy, like that water, is inexhaustible. I continue to heal, but may need another couple of weeks off and a ‘phased return’ to my role as Patient Director.

I ponder what I can do, and can’t do. What we can do and can’t do. How the personal and the political play off each other. And, increasingly feel that I want to place my energies elsewhere. But I am 54 and need the money. And, on the whole, believe in what I do still.

Don’t get me wrong. I am going to give the Patient Director role another shot. But I have to do less, and get more support. And the organisation is supportive.

However, beyond that, I need to think. I have been in healthcare and been supporting patients’ rights for over 30 years. But I am tired. And my latest bout of ill-health almost did me in. I am squarely in a mid-life (ha! Who am I kidding, two-thirds or three-quarter life) ‘crisis’

I’ve been thinking…

Mr Robot is an edgy drama where the protagonist, Elliot, an IT genius and inveterate hacker, is haunted by his father’s presence and by dreams of changing the world and wresting control from the evil ‘E Corp’.

No spoilers, but it plays on issues of control, politically and psychologically. His struggle with himself at present (I’m on series two, episode three) is between his enforced tedious everyday regime that he thinks will preserve his sanity from internal demons, and his ‘other side’ – the one that can take over and go up against the corporate empire (but ultimately destroy him psychologically).

The Labour Party seems to be tearing itself apart too. I am agnostic about Corbyn who seems to want to change the world for the better. I was a supporter, but have gone lukewarm after the EU referendum. But I am fascinated by the way a decent bloke (on the whole) seems to have allowed himself to to be surrounded by some nasty people.

I know it takes two to tango and the other ‘side’ aren’t perfect either. But the nastiness on social media has again made me wonder about the personal and political – on the whole, it is the personal trolling by Corbyn’s supporters whenever I ask a question that has turned me off him, which is probably wrong and sad. I really can’t be arsed any more to enter that hostile territory, and need to preserve my energy.

Meanwhile, Mr Simon Stevens, the NHS England boss, another man who seems hellbent on changing the world and speaks very fast, has been working on his latest wheeze – STPs, or Sustainability and Transformation Plans.

There’s another blog brewing there. But my point here is that I have been whipped up into righteous anger by the failure of these latest plans to involve patients and the public meaningfully in any way shape or form. It is, in my view, a policy destined to fail, and based on a fear of those in power to have difficult conversations with us. When the consequences hit the streets, so will people with their placards.

This has all made me wonder whether my thirty years of work have been wasted. And instead of coming out fighting, part of me just wants to give up.

I guess I’m tired

Last week, when sitting with friends trying to plot a project, I said that we should try and do something small, something local, something real, something that gets away from the bullshit, that I had had enough of acronyms and large scale plans to change the world.

My good friend Anya De Iongh smiled and said that I had changed. I have been involved in co-founding the NHS Centre for Involvement, worked in national agencies, co-founded the Centre for Patient Leadership and wanted to set up a national network for Patient Leaders…

Now I want to sit and watch the fountains, be with my kids, write poetry and do local meaningful work. Oddly, the most satisfying 'work' I have done is picking up litter - tangible, focused, under my control...

Am I just tired? Is this just a sensible rebalancing of a man who still feels like a lost boy sometimes, who has never really given to himself? Or is this a re-charging of batteries.

Yesterday, I watched some videos of snowboarding champions, with my boy Adam who is now into this amazing sport in a big way. Danny Davies is a snowboarding superstar, who has been badly injured and each time come back to the sport: “Each time I get injured, I am determined to come back and do better than before, do things that I couldn’t, work harder and help the sport more”.

I am not sure I am Danny Davies any more, or Mr Robot. For the time being, I just want to be me. I’m not sure I ever have been. And I am not sure what that means. Let’s see.

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2 comments on “Mr Robot - musings on the personal, professional and the political”

  1. DG - the most satisfying thing I do is gardening, growing plants - it is visual, positive, magical and produces pure beauty - DJ

  2. I think you would enjoy the series of podcasts "The Doctor Paradox" I certainly enjoy living a micro where I care for my family and the patient and student in front of me.

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