I Can’t Afford To Keep Sane

Hurrah!  The weekend is upon us.  For most of us a time to let our hair down, recharge our batteries, to go out and do something.

Often, it turns into catching up on shopping, washing, and other household chores, admittedly, but you never know, an evening in a bar or restaurant, or at the cinema or theatre, pub or club, may be coming your way.

Enjoy it, if you do go out socially.  For I, and millions of others in Britain, our choice extends to housework or housework.  When you’re broke, and living way below the poverty line, almost every day presents the same lack of opportunity

I’m lucky, though, inasmuch as I have plenty of naturally beautiful places within walking distances.  Weather permitting, I can at least avoid the trap I fall into of staying in when in the depths of depression.  I can also articulate how I’m feeling on here, too, if the weather isn’t so good.

I’m fortunate, too, in being able to afford the monthly interweb highway fees.  Just.  There’s plenty, however, who simply do not have that option.  The best things in life, so it goes, are free.  So, however, are the worst things, when you have no money.

There is a definite subconscious feeling of inadequacy that gets to me every now and then.  I’d love to be able to afford to move back to where I lived last year.  To provide for my lad, too, even though he’s getting on with his life.  An apprenticeship wage is minimal, and even less so when well over half of it goes on travelling there and having a lunch.

There’s a sense of shame that goes with not having money in my pocket.  Of course, as I’ve already demonstrated, there’s plenty of things to occupy my mind and body without having to part with a penny.

For the vast majority of people, however, to at least some degree, they have a choice of free activities, or paying to do something or go somewhere.  When almost everyone in your circle of friends and family have that choice, and you don’t, it feels embarrassing.

Depressed Money

I also feels it reflects on me in a wider context.  As you know, I do work, but without pay.  Voluntary work gives me some self respect, a feeling that I do at least earn the small welfare allowance I receive.  Something I paid into with full time work for decades, so not really something I need to feel shame about in receiving.  Yet I do.  Working as a volunteer at least relieves that emotion.

Still, however, there’s that drip-drip-drip effect of being deemed not healthy enough, not intelligent enough, not good enough to actually earn a penny in either full or part time paid work.  My empty bank account today reinforces it all too readily.

It’s not as if I want to earn a lot of money either.  Enough to pay the rent and the bills, and a small amount to put away for a pension and save up for that rainy day.  Having no holiday in 12 years is probably a testament to how little I actually am into material possessions.  Providing for my lad and earning my keep, and nothing else, will do me very nicely.

Until that time comes, it’s a case of making do.  Of peering into shop windows, watching tv ads, and sighing.  No money in my pocket, so no food for me this weekend, that is the way of my life at the moment.  Of trying to think of the billions across the globe who would give their right arm to swap places with me.

It’s tough, though, it really is.  I live in a society where money does, in a way, equate to self worth in the eyes of millions.  When you have none, it’s not only that you can’t enjoy the things lots of others can, or that you feel shame in not being able to give your family the best.  It’s that you feel useless, hopeless, and yet somehow guilty that you’re broke in the eyes of your peers.

One day, I will be earning a penny more than I spend, and will invest that penny for a rainy day, and feel great about it.  Until then, the sun is out, the weekend and the seafront awaits.  I will do what I do best, and keep my feelings of failure to myself.

Whatever you are doing, however poor or well off you are, have a lovely weekend  xxx

You Can Choose Your Friends, But …..

We all know the end of that well worn cliche above.  It’s born of truth and experience though, isn’t it.  How often do you get irritated, maybe even enraged by someone in the family, then instantly feel remorse for reacting?  Love ain’t easy in any circumstances.

It’s especially true of parenting.  Thankfully, I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve shouted at my lad.  To date he’s never been in any trouble, never courted any bother or had friends that were likely to be a pain.  I guess I must be doing something right, despite all the mistakes I’ve undoubtedly made as a single parent down the years.

In a way, though, I’ve had a helping hand, in the most under-handed of ways.  Now, it would be easy of me to blame all the woes and ills of my life on how I was brought up, on my own parents.  It would be palpably wrong.  For the most part life is what we make it.

It’s undeniable, though, looking back, that a contributory factor to my cripplingly low self esteem, and so often a lack of self confidence, came from the misguided actions of my Mum and Dad when I was growing up.  By trying to do their best for me, they’ve undoubtedly scarred me inside throughout my life.  They’d be mortified if they knew by how much.

They, of course, learnt their parenting skills from their Mums and Dad.  In that respect, they never stood much chance.  My Mum was brought up in a tough Scottish mining village, divided by religious lines, where as far as I can gather the mother acted like Lady of the Manor, looking down on everyone, while the father quietly put up with it.

My Dad, on the other hand, spent his formative years in an inner city suburb south of Hadrians Wall, a place famed in the UK for rioting on more than one occasion.  This time it was the mother who was quiet, while the father was a drinking, fighting, angry man.

With that in mind, it’s no surprise that in trying to do their best for me when I was a wee bairn, they ended up making errors that have affected me for life.  I’ve never resented them for it, I’ve just occasionally had an internal frustration about it and ask myself why.  I soon move on though.

Disciplining Child

Looking at their own childhoods, it’s no surprise that mine was punctuated with lots of shouting from either or both of them.  There was a real venom to it, as well, and I wince whenever I hear an angry parent in the street today shouting so vehemently and threateningly at their child.

Of course, at times I deserved the discipline, and every child has to learn right from wrong, and be aware there are consequences for misbehaving.  It may sound contradictory, and I can say truthfully having never raised a hand to my lad, but I do think the old fashioned ‘clip round the ear’ is a justifiable part of parenting.

What I don’t accept is the beltings I had.  Or the dog lead.  Or the sole of my father’s shoe.  Or a particularly vicious smack on my back in the bath tub, for the heinous crime of me taking a bath because I thought they’d said I could, instead of a wash.

At the time, however, I shrugged it off.  I never knew any better so thought all parents were like that.  I also, of course, believed I was fully in the wrong at the time, so never made a fuss.  Looking back now, though, it was crazy, and clearly abuse.

The bumps and brusies from the hands – and sometimes the sole – of Mum and Dad soon faded though.  They were temporary.  What has lasted longer was their words.  There’s things they’ve said from decades ago that has cut me to the bone.

Again, I have to stress it was done purely out of wanting the best for me, to motivate me so I can achieve and be someone they could only aspire to be.  It’s undoubtedly had the opposite effect though.

When I was at school, I struggled early on, and like every kid would get a telling off for my bad reports.  Something that stood out, however, was one year when I finally got what the teachers were trying to put across.

In all my academic studies I received high grades for either the standard of my work or how hard I tried.  One test I took part in I apparently recorded the highest mark in my district (the equivalant of an English county).

Yet my parents focused on the one thing I was hopeless at, pottery.  I was, and still am, pretty cack handed at any crafts and art, even though I enjoy having a go at it.  Yet that was the only comment that was made over the whole report.

Disciplining Child 2

It gave me a sense, their reaction, of that I couldn’t do anything right.  My reaction was, obviously, just as extreme as their response to a pretty outstanding school report, but somehow, that feeling of never being good enough has stayed with me.

Another seminal moment was when I soon started work, in a fairly awful environment, miles away from home.  I was clearly going through a terrible time psychologically, yet my father thought it reasonable to shout at my my Mum that I was “bloody lucky”.

He then sat me down alone when I visited and spent anything up to half an hour criticising every facet of my life.  He had it in his head what sort of person I was, what sort of life I was leading, even the quality of my work, without so much as asking me one single question to back up anything of what he was lecturing / shouting about.

As a result of that, my self esteem has been shot to pieces for decades.  Try as I might to fight it, I’ve always had an element where I feel I’m not good looking, or good company, or clever enough, to do and achieve anything.  That sadness and underachievement is all I deserve.

Again, though, I don’t blame either of them.  Because of their upbringing, this was the only way they could convey wanting what was best for me.  I’m certain, twisted though it was at times, it was done out of love, not spite.

They also instilled in me many good values.  A strong work ethic, which is why, just like them, I go looking for work when I’m out of work until I get some, or do voluntary work.  That however tough times are, and they were when I was growing up, crime is not the answer, that right is right and wrong is wrong.

They also took us on holidays whenever they could afford it, we had a roof over our heads and food on the table.  At Christmas, we either got what we wanted, or something just as good if it wasn’t possible.  Both parents worked tirelessly, every single day of the week, to do that.

In giving me all those great things and decent values, though, there was a price I had to pay, and still do right up to this day.  I wonder, if they knew how hurt I was at the time, if they thought it was worth it.

Even though I love them, I’m still not sure myself.  I just hope, in 30 years time, my lad isn’t writing the same things to you as I am.  If any good can come of this, it’s  maybe that I learned from my Mum and Dad’s mistakes, to make me that much better a parent for him.

Which goes to show the truth of another cliche I won’t finish.  In every cloud …..

Keeping Unkempt Appearances

Try as I might, it’s been one of those setback phases these past couple of days or so.  No matter how hard I’ve worked to stay positive, to keep doing, saying and thinking the right things, there’s been an ongoing feeling of doom, that I’m not good enough.  For anything.

It’s familiar territory so it’s not quite as scary as it used to be.  I’ve become used to living feeling very sad for no discernible reason and very adept at hiding it from others.

Walking down the street, especially in the rain, makes it easy.  Nobody bats an eyelid when they see a miserable face walking by.  In the wet and thundery weather, it’s also relatively simple to hide another tell-tale sign of depression.  How you look.

When I’m feeling so low about myself, everything about my appearance suffers.  For a start, toiletries can take a hike.  I do generally get up and have at least a wash, as I can’t stand the feeling of a dirty face or other parts of the body.  But deodorant? Moisturisers?  It’s not even thought of.

My hair is left straggly, unwashed for days, seen by me as an immaterial part of myself and paid no attention.  Why do I do it – or, as it seems, not do it?  Well, at the time, for whatever reason, I kind of feel that it’s all I deserve.  Difficult to explain but I guess the way I look is mirroring the way I feel.

As for the clothes, well, smart, stylish, attractive is out of the window.  Functional, comfortable, anonymous is all that I want.  No tight or figure hugging wear, or anything remotely showing my body in a positive light.  Generally everything bar the underwear is at least a size too big – including footwear.  And definitely no jewellery.

Despite the apparent randomness of the appearance, it’s a carefully constructed look to ensure people are kept away from me.  When I’m in this headspace, visitors are an unwelcome intrusion, even though that’s the very time I need someone with me.  What a tangled web the mind weaves.

Pregnant, Depressed, Overmedicated? Britney's Ragged Appearance Raises Concerns

Currently, it’s a comfortable, neutral coloured top I’m wearing.  Knee length shorts and flip-flops.  I have, though, bathed today, and the deodorant and moistureiser was liberally applied.  I’m fighting that bad feeling.  I may be depressed but at least I smell nice.

Appearance also comes from a multitude of other things too.  As I was wandering around looking for work today, the drookit weather meant lots of people were walking quickly, and under as much cover as they could find if they didn’t have a brolly.

I, however, was walking slowly, my shoulders slouched, feeling desperately low in my mind.  As the rain came down, it didn’t really matter whether I was walking under cover or not.  Every few hundred yards, I also sighed to myself, for no apparent reason.

It’s all giving out one message.  I’m ugly, I’m useless, stay away from me.  When you’re in the grip of depression, these are all truths, and it’s a message you wish to convey to others without communicating with them in any way, shape or form verbally.

It’s also a truth that I really don’t want people to stay away, that perhaps deep down I realise I’m not useless or inadequate, that I know it’s my mind doing it to me.  It’s a classic subconscious plea for help without really knowing a better way of saying it.  Of somehow feeling shame in needing help.

I’m not alone, of course, in having the way I look being the barometer of my mental health.  In the world of showbiz, Britney Spears, even if she didn’t have a billion trashy magazine articles gossiping about it, makes it obvious by the way she looks when she’s in the grip of psychological trauma.  At least being a nobody I have the blanket of anonymity to hide me from the world.

It’s a simple world we live in, really, but made complicated by our own actions.  Even down to what shoe we put on, or what bracelet needs to go on what wrist, appearances can deceive and repel, when all that’s really needed is something to look presentable in.

Now where did that One Direction tank top disappear to?  See, I told you I was depressed …..

Sunday Fun

I had one of those unexpectedly pleasant surprises today, the sort that you couldn’t make up, however improbable it sounds.

I was in a bit of a quandry.  I had a grand total of £5.34 for groceries this week.  I could shop local and buy less or have a long walk and able to get that bit more for my money.

I took a route that led to a crossroads to go one way or the other, past a rail station.  As I pondered on this drearily dull conundrum, I heard the distant sound of children giggling in the morning sun.

As I wandered by the main station entrance, there he was, entertaining the kids until the train arrived.  The man who fronted Stella Street, and was Dave Clifton, the nemesis of Alan Partridge, the one and only Phil Cornwell.

I, of course, slowed down my walk and kept looking, to make sure he was who I thought he was.  He glanced up at me, nodded and smiled, as if to say “Yes, it’s me, and this is great.”

I carried on, uplifted.  Given that unlikely feel good factor, I opted for the longer walk in the sunshine.  A lovely moment I’ll never forget.

It struck me then that a really good comedy, or something so very very funny, has always been the best cure for my depression.  I have a stack of dvd’s of stand-ups and sitcoms, which have provided endless hours of the best form of therapy, laughter.

Here’s a selection of some, and by no means all, of my real favourites.  One for each day of the week:

 

I couldn’t start with anything else, bearing in mind who I saw today, but I’m Alan Partridge, here bouncing off Dave Clifton.  Over the top Partridge may be, we can all recognise at least some of him in the radio presenters of today.

 

When I was growing up, Morecambe and Wise were the ultimate in comedy duos.  29 million viewers in the UK alone told its own story.  Good clean fun.  And just very, very funny.  Unless you are Des O’Connor.

 

A rarity.  An American comedy that I believe was an improvement on the British original.  While The Office’s UK version was much more straight and fly-on-the-wall, the Stateside version was more of a sitcom.  Both have made me laugh for hours on end but I enjoy Michael Scott’s struggles more.

 

Indisputably one of the finest sitcoms that’s ever been made anywhere.  As a child I remember the slapstick with Manuel, but the older I got, the more risque I realised the script was at the time.  Proper belly laughs thanks to the genius of John Cleese and the wonder of Fawlty Towers.

 

Still Game is a Scottish institution but curiously almost unknown elsewhere.  It baffles me as when I retire, Craiglang is without doubt the place I want the run the clock down in, with old these old codgers. After a six year hiatus, they are back this year, too.  I’m sooooo still game for that.

 

My current favourite.  I absolutely adore Leslie Knope.  She is the sort of person we can all aspire to be.  Totally selfless, without cynicism, but with a sense of fun, and a heart of gold.  People talk about Ron Swanson but for me Leslie makes Parks and Recreation.  It would be nothing without her.

 

My goodness, how this changed my teenage life.  Four anarchic students, saying the f word every now and then, slapstick violence, and funny that stands the test of time.  We’re no longer The Young Ones but we don’t need to be with this still around.  I haven’t laughed so much at a first viewing than this clip.  Bliss.

 

So that’s it, the comedies I lean to when I’m feeling down.  A little laugh can go a long, long way.

Enjoy your Sunday  xxx

We Are Still Friends, I Just Can’t Be Friendly

Saturday afternoon, a time when most of the world takes a little time off, to be around family.  And to see friends, to head off out with them.  Somewhere, anywhere, it’s the company that’s important, not where you’re going.

Meanwhile, I’m onto my third wash load of the day.  The storm clouds are gathering outside.  The tv is switched off.  Nobody else is about.  I am completely alone.

When you have depression, or people think you’re down in the dumps, you’re encouraged to go out and be among people.  Truth be told, though, I actually prefer my own company, always have done.  It’s very, very rare that I feel lonely.

Ironically, bar the last News Years Eve I endured, the loneliest I’ve ever felt was in a crowd of tens of thousands.  I was invited along to a football match.  I didn’t feel like going, as it was at the onset of one of my phases of depression, but out of social nicety felt obliged to.

Anyway, we get there, and with each and every step, I can feel this being a big mistake.  I just don’t want to be there, or around people, but at the same time don’t want to let anyone down.  I came up with a compromise that seems crazy, looking back, but at the time was perfectly rational.

The match was completely sold out, with hundreds of people looking for a spare ticket.  I sold mine at face value and waited outside, a good two hours, until my friends came out.

When I met up with them afterwards, I couldn’t say a word.  In a crowd of tens of thousands, I felt as if I was completely isolated from every person on the planet, and from everyday life, inside some invisible bubble.  I was so, so lonely in that mass of humanity.

It’s possibly that night which triggers off my behaviour towards the few friends I have.  They don’t number many, but tend to be good ones, who drop anything to help, even when you don’t ask them to.

Yet, after a while, I feel uncomfortable in their company, however good a time they or I are having.  I become distant.  Texts and Facebook messages tail off.  When we do catch up, the talk is often stilted at first, and I sometimes just want to get home.

Depressed in crowd

I can’t explain why.  I can only look at indicators of it.  One thing I tend not to like is to be pigeon holed into being a certain person, saying or doing a certain thing, people second guessing my behaviour.  One relationship of mine ended very soon after she told me once “I can read you like a book.”  Clearly she hadn’t bothered with the ending.

There also seems to be some sort of subconscious warning system in my mind, telling me “Don’t get too friendly, it’ll only end up going wrong.”  How can I tell, though, if my subconscious is indeed doing that?  Well, there’s a feeling I get in my body, inexplicably uneasy, maybe slightly anxious, then that’s it, I’m feeling uncomfortable in a social situation with them and I back off.

It really is illogical too.  Despite my misgivings about my looks, I am smart, I have intellect, I’m witty, I can hold perfectly entertaining conversation in any social environment.  I even mentioned to Lesley yesterday that she seems to be in my fan club, and she said it’s all from my conversation.

Yet there is this something holding me back which stops me being friends with my friends.  Which stopped me going into that football stadium all those years ago too, I would wager.  It’s an uncomfortable comfort zone to be in.

The zone is made that more comfortable, mind, with social media.  I was particularly touched this week by one follower on twitter sending me a direct message even though I knew she was at work.  But then, if I ever met her, I’m pretty certain within a short while, my mind would be saying something along the lines of  “This is going too well.  Get yourself home before something goes wrong.”

Which is the reason why I’m sat here, on a Saturday afternoon, with my computer and the washing basket for company while the rest of the world enjoys themselves.  It’s entirely my own doing, how I’ve become so distant to friends so close.  It means, as well, that getting out and about, enjoying the company of friends worry-free again, has to be my own doing too.

Until that time, the washing’s nearly done, let’s get that ironing board out …..

Therapy Log: Friday 23rd May 2014 – Untapped, Unwrapped, Undone

It’s a lesson I never heed.  Late night + early start = tired, drained body.  Especially when your mind is constantly telling you “What’s the point?  You’ll never come to anything.  May as well stay in bed.”

I don’t, of course, which is a vast improvement on not so long ago.  As I make my way to see Lesley, taking yet another different path, I muse that the improvement is more of a physical, practical variety.  I’m doing the right things, saying the right things, and mostly thinking the right things.

The path I take to therapy is by the beach, and though there is sunshine, a big dark cloud is in the distance, with a breeze rapidly becoming a wind.  Silent factors making a difference.  It’s the same with me.  Somehow there’s still this feeling of pain going through me, of uselessness, without articulating or consciously thinking it.

Despite the gloomy reverie, I’m in fairly good spirits when Lesley welcomes me in.   All the same, it’s not a session I’m looking forward to.  I’m making little progress, I feel, so I need to face down some of those demons.  Lesley has a way of making you fight your own issues without it being confrontational but it’s uncomfortable all the same.

By now, all she has asked is “How are you?” with my time honoured say-nothing reply of “Okay” filling about three seconds of time but the room full already of understated tension.  This isn’t going well.

One of my safety mechanisms is humour, which I suspect is many others.  I’ve never been a joke teller, just wry and sometimes cynical observations of life.  It’s exactly what I use now.  I can’t remember the words, only the small laugh I manage to raise between us to ease my unease.

The session is punctuated with Lesley and I looking at each other right in the eye, between some pertinent questions, and I trying, really trying, to give what are, or at least what I perceive, are honest answers.

We cover the subject of the local elections last night.  Lesley soon finds out that, politically, if I am or feel I am right about something, I will not and do not compromise.  Right is right and wrong is wrong, even if it sometimes means in the world of parliament and councils that right is wrong.

There’s a patient, yet frustrated, pause from her.   Lesley clearly wants to give me a good shake metaphorically.  She says I have so much talent but it’s the lack of self esteem, the lowliness of self confidence, that’s holding me back.

The frustration is because I’d shown her my confident, almost commanding side in our talk, but won’t apply the same attitude to life and living.  That grey cloud and wind is gradually creeping back from the beach and into therapy.

Cloudy

We touch upon previous relationships.  I admit to being the victim of domestic violence on a couple of occasions.  I never even thought about reporting it either time it happened, or leaving my partner.  I never saw myself as a victim at the time, just as it being part of the ups and downs of a relationship.

Lesley was rightly dismissive of that attitude and I agreed that leaving her and reporting it would have been the best course of action then.  It’s definitely something I’d do now too.  I’d never let anyone raise a hand to me, and even if they tried to, would be talking about why they did it not to me but to a solicitor in a police cell.

All down to state of mind, though, was my misguided response to the assault way back when.  I felt at the time I didn’t deserve any better.  In a way I still feel I don’t deserve much better either.  It’s so hard to explain why.  I just do.

We meander on into my reticence in seeing friends.  I don’t have many in any case but for most of the time, in spite of my depression, my crippling low esteeem, I actually prefer my own company.  I mention that I sometimes feel detached from friends and that some of it is at least partly down to my feminism and being uncomfortable when sexism is exhibited.

It’s really an excuse for not going out, however, even I can see that.  Lesley asks if I can make an effort to go out and see friends at least once a month.  I make no promises, other than promising to try to.  Something that simple yet I make it so hard.  Why, why, why?

We also discuss how I’m embarrassed by my body, how ugly I think I am, to what extent it’s affected my sex life.  Among it all is how I feel when I’m indulging in it, too, rather than talking about the act of it.  Inadequate emotionally, irrespective of any physical good and bad points.  Lesley says I’m not ugly, flat out, to which my guarded response was a sceptical look.

She then suggests that our next session, she’s going to give me a number of dating websites to possibly join up.  I respond, almost aghast, and splutter that I don’t have a pic of myself, and in fact make a point of not having one.  Lesley smiles, almost laughs, sensing my mood lightening up after I talk about a brief but fruitful experience of them over a decade ago.  She will take my pic!  Aarrrrgggghhhh!

We soon say our goodbyes.  I’m pleased the session ended lightheartedly because there was some heavy, challenging dialogue.  Which will come to the square root of sod all if I don’t act upon them myself in between sessions, and make the positive actions in my life regular, everyday habits.  Much as I like Lesley, I don’t want to see her this time next year, in the same seat, saying the same things

The wander home is hardly picturesque.  By the drab, dusty, fume filled main road to the shops.  I’m sort of pleased though as my mind was awash with what Lesley and I talked about and I barely noticed anything around me.  Going home via the park and seafront would have been wasted.

That’s something Lesley doesn’t want me to do.  Waste my talents.  Some of which I know I have, some of which she can see but I can’t yet.  However many I have, one of these days, I will realise them.  The untapped talents about to be unwrapped.

As soon as I’m done with being mentally undone.

Lies, Damned Lies, And Politicians

It’s that time of year again.  Where we rummage around for a polling card (I couldn’t find mine), toddle off to some musty smelling church, school or community hall, and show our disdain for those running our country by not voting for all bar one of them.  Or perhaps none at all.

Quelle surprise, I have a cynical streak when it comes to politicians and politics.  I’m not exactly alone in that.  It seems that around 60 million others in Britain have the same levels of mistrust and unease of them as I do.

It’s a subject that always depresses me.  It started decades ago.  A friend of the family was, and still is, a sitting MP.  When he was first voted in, way back in 1987, he promised to fight a government departmental decision to close local hospital services, and went on public marches.

He was then given a junior ministry post in the Department of Health.  When the time came to oppose closures in parliament, predictably, he towed the party line.  Whilst he remains a friend of the family, I’ve never voted for him since, though have for his party when other candidates stood.

My vote has changed throughout the years.  My compass, though, is a depressingly simple one.  It’s not cast on the basis of the party whose views most closely match mine.  I instead vote for the ones who I believe will damage the country, or my home town, the least.

It makes me sad even thinking of it.  I fully understand people deliberately abstaining if they feel the same as I do, that politicians harm the country, and a vote is for damage limitation rather than what is actually wanted.

It doesn’t help that the main parties have morphed into a media-friendly soundbite of froth, trying to mask what they’re up to with politically advised ice creams by the seaside, or chicken in a carefully choreographed ‘spontaneous’ evening out.  Behind that, if nobody knows what you’re doing, then nobody knows what you’re doing wrong.

It’s especially true of local councils and their councillors.  Do you know your local councillor?  I certainly don’t.  Next to nobody votes for them.  Local issues are hardly on the agenda.

All council elections are is a nationwide opinion poll for parliament.  The councillors voted in on the back of it are more or less unaccountable.  Don’t make waves and enjoy the ride is the name of their game.

It’s definitely not something conducive to good mental health, UK politics.  In recent times, there was uproar for sending troops into Iraq despite a million people feeling so strong against it they came out onto the streets to protest.  The decision to over-ride public opinion and send some British troops, and a lot of Iraqi civilians, to their death, upsets me to this day.

Politicians

The role the media play can’t be overestimated either.  Gordon Brown, to my mind, was and is a decent man, but totally unsuited to the task of Prime Minister.  The criticism he received, not just as a PM but also as a person, was disgusting.

It’s ironic that Brown is held in high regard by many outside the UK.  They believe his actions in 2008, when the global economic meltdown was at its peak, saved jobs and livelihoods across the world when other nations followed the steps he took in Britain.

He had to go, in my view, as he seemed to be out of touch on so many issues, and lost the confidence of the public within a few short months of taking over.  It’s quietly forgotten, however, that inflation, unemployment, and the national debt was lower in 2007 than 10 years before, when his party came to power.   The global credit crunch of 2008 caused the recession, not the other way round.

Of course it was forgotten.  The media had an agenda and were doing whatever it took to reach their goal.  Including burying an inconvenient truth.  The hostility knew no bounds in the papers, on the radio, and some tv news channels and shows.  The criticism became more savage, more personal as time wore on.  Nasty stuff.

Since 2010 we’ve been handed a government that nobody voted for, headed by a Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister who have never won an election – ironically a very loud criticism of David Cameron’s predecessor.  Since then, the nasty stuff has come from the politicians themselves.

It’s been a case of the blame game.  It seems to be the essential part of a politician’s armory, passing the buck, spinning to make out something gone wrong is someone else’s fault.

When blame hasn’t been given to the previous administration, the ire has been directed, disgustingly, at the victims of political folly and fall-out.  Single mothers, unemployed, immigrants, anyone who don’t have a voice in mainstream media have been seen as fair game to hide governmental inadequacies.

It depresses me to even think about the mess parliament, local councils, and the European parliament seems to be in.  Which isn’t surprising.  In the past 3 or 4 years, with so much bickering and blaming between politicians, all in the media glare, it is bound to have a depressing effect on the very electorate who keep them in their jobs.

What is the solution?  If I knew, I’d be on tv this very moment, or maybe on the hustings.  Perhaps even in Number 10 Downing Street.

On seconds thoughts, no.  Since I’ve given up lying about my life, and tried to take personal responsibilities for my own problems and situation I’m in, I’m clearly not suited for a career in politics.

And that is the most depressing thought of the lot.

Same Old Day, Brand New Beginning

Sometimes, you feel you get a second chance in life.  Maybe you, or someone close to you, has had a bit of a scare which makes you realise we never know when our time’s up, so make the most of it.

I’ve had one of those days today.  This time, though, no soul searching or internal analysis.  Here’s what I’m going to do my danmdest to achieve, in no particular order, to make mine and other people’s time on this earth the best it can be:

 

Beat this depression.  30+ years of it is far, far too long.

Get myself a paid job.  I have the smarts and the talent to hold one down, it’s a case of making employers see what an asset I’d be.

Lose that weight the doc says I need to lose every time I have something he can’t diagnose!

Step up my voluntary work.  It’s about time I went out and helped more people.

Holding Hands

Rather than try to find love, let love find me.  I’ve an awful lot of decent qualities, so someone wonderful will appreciate them, I have no doubt.

Let things go.  There’s things in this world I can change, and things I’d like to, but just don’t have that something extra to do it.

Stop being so self critical.  I really am my own worst enemy.  It’s about time I became my greatest supporter.

Help people who read this whoever they are, whenever they ask.  I want to help you.  I will help you.

To be the person, in mind, body and spirit, I know I really can be.  If I am, everyone will benefit.

To not throw objects at the tv screen or swear whenever Simon Cowell or Piers Morgan appear.  Though that may well be beyond me.

 

That’s it, really.  My own guide for a better life.  Let’s see how far I get.  It’s not going to be one of those fanatical, must do them all at any cost, things.  After today’s little jolt, though, there’s a realisation that life is what I make it.

So let’s make it good.

 

Can You Keep A Secret? So Can I

Of course you can.  We all do.  There’s always something we’d rather some people, or everyone, not know about us or a situation.  The diplomatic service would crumble into nothing if we never had any.

I’ve often wondered if those of us going through depression, or any illness not physical for that matter, might carve out a decent career in MI6 or Mossad or the KGB?  After all, we become pretty adept at hiding from the world what we’re going through, even though it’s the one thing above all else that needs to be shared.

I’m no different.  I told one of my siblings a few months ago that I’d been referred for group therapy.  That’s it.  Nobody else in my immediate family – at least not from me, anyway.  He has no idea, however,  about my one-to-one therapy, and no knowledge of that afternoon reaching out to the Samaritans for help.

As for friends, again, only one person knows, hundreds of miles away from me.  She has no direct contact with any of my family or other friends.  She wasn’t someone I chose to tell for that specific reason.  She was just nice so I told her.

It’s clear why we keep it all a secret from the world.  Shame, guilt, embarrassment.  In my case, it’s a permanent feeling.  I feel that somehow, being as ill in mind as I am is in itself an indictment of me as a person, some sort of weakness that is fair game for other people to criticise and be prejudicial of.

It’s daft, I know, and completely illogical.  I realise that if I did tell all family and friends, some, if not most, would be supportive and helpful.  Somehow, though, I feel I may be letting them down by being in this state in the first place.

There are probably a few, albeit very few, in my circle of family and friends who would take a step or two back, hold out their arms, and want to keep me at that length, while silently trying to think up one or two ‘mad’ jokes about me.

The result is the same.  I hide the fact that I’m depressed to almost anyone close to me.   It doesn’t take much either.  When people ask how you’re keeping, it’s generally only a social nicety, to which you’re expected to say “Great” or “Pretty good” or some other inanity before you get on with your conversation.

Fine

Often, in those circumstances, the emotional part of me is screaming.  It wants to tell them how unutterably miserable my existence is.  It wants, through tears, to say what has torn me to shreds inside.  It wants everyone to know “I’m not well.  Someone help me.  Please.”

It’s where the spying game comes in.  The voice from what I feel is quietly suppressed, hidden behind a smile and a witticism, like any diplomat worth their salt can do.  I’m playing the game, killing my heart and soul to spare social embarrassment.  Whatever the hell the game is, I tell myself that I am, in some way, winning.  Hmmmm.

The longer it goes on, the bigger that block becomes.  It’s now at the stage where my default reaction to any feeling I experience, any thought I have, is to hide it from everyone else, to keep it locked inside.

I’m not alone in this, clearly.  If I was, millions of therapists would find themselves out of work.  Although some would stay in their jobs, dealing with the therapists unable to come to terms with their unemployment.  There would be a distinct lack of blogs just like this, too.

It’s the reason why I’m committing all of this to print.  Anonymously of course.  The only way, outside of therapy, I feel I can uncork all those negative feelings and emotions building up inside of me.

Yet still the deceit continues.  I can’t bring myself to even put my initials to anything I write, let alone name.  In the cyber world, however, it matters little.  Nobody is interested in your name, unless you’re famous, and I’m far, far away from that.  It’s what the words say that’s important.

In the world of friends, family, and everyday living, however, I can’t look them in the eye.  The feeling of dread comes from within whenever I feel a need to talk about depression, mental illness and me.  So I hide it.  I keep quiet.  I suffer in silence, even though I know the damage it’s doing to me.

It’s a strange world we live in.  I often can’t make head nor tail of it.  Then again, who could make head or tail of me if they knew what I felt, if they realised what was going through my mind every single hour of every single day?

Best keep it a secret.

Nokay Computer

If there’s one thing I’ve learnt about myself since starting this blog, it’s that I seem to have a not very useful ability to remember old albums and songs and turn them into unpithy post titles.

Self criticism aside, which I clearly can’t help myself about at the moment, it’s been a half decent day.  Up early as ever, cooked breakfast , then job searching, out and about on foot.  Had a rejection but at least I was there to ask and be turned down.

Then onward to my fortnightly food shopping.  Money is always too tight to mention but done well today.  Sticking to economy lines, I managed to buy enough to keep my lad fed every day, and us both cleaned and clothes washed, for under £25, which I thought was a pretty remarkable feat.

True, it doesn’t extend to keeping myself fed for all of those two weeks but that’s for another day.  If it sounds indicative of a life full of struggle, it really isn’t.  Going hungry is something I’ve become used to, and recently I’ve come to appreciate the little things in life.

The glorious weather for example.  It made today so, so much better, and a joy to be outdoors, which so many others didn’t have the opportunity to.  An ironic bonus, too, was that it kept me away from the computer.  In life, having one is a double edged sword.  In depression, it can be a sword through your mind.

In my darkest days, when being physically able to get out of bed ceased to become an option, the laptop became my friend, my confidante, my link to the outside world.  And my tormenter, as it cast an insipid spell over me I still find impossible to shake out of at times.

It was a variety of things that kept me hanging to all those 0’s and 1’s which turned everything on my screen into words, pictures, animations, anything to stop my mind telling me how awful I am, how bad a person I was.

Facebook is the obvious starter, where I began to  look for updates every few minutes.  I became frustrated if none of my friends were doing anything, or if a group added a dull picture, but still I kept checking.  I knew it was making me feel worse but kept checking in the hope something interesting would crop up.

depression computer

It was the same with message boards.  I became embroiled with conversations, which sometimes descended into arguments.  Usually about issues I’d never give a second thought to in everyday life, mostly with people I haven’t and won’t meet.  Getting angry and upset with total strangers.

Still I held on, though, not being able to let some things go.  Mixing it in with my depression, the online arguing, the Facebook vigil, also came instant messengers, although on a much smaller scale.  People would demand my immediate attention at any time.  I soon fell into the habit of ignoring them, which was so rude, or the better option of not logging into them at all.

Another habit which didn’t help, however, was keeping the laptop on through the night, even when I finally went to sleep.  I’d be woken within an hour or so, the bright light hurting my eyes.  Instead of turning off, though, I was so skewed in my thinking I’d make myself become fully awake then get myself feeling terrible with more online bickering or waiting for others.

It took that time back in February, broken down, crying into my fluffy bathrobe on that Saturday afternoon, for me to come to at least some of my senses.  As my body shut down emotionally and mentally, so did the laptop.  It felt somehow liberating when, a few days down the line, I stopped using the computer as a dependency and instead as an everyday living aid.

I’m still not free of the addiction but it’s having far less of an impact on me than before.  Facebook still annoys me but when it does, one click, and the page disappears.  The laptop doesn’t come on until the afternoon and only after I’ve been out, whether it be job search, therapy, or anything.  Off out before I log in.

Even then I regulate myself.  Online job search first.  Then, if I have anything I can put together cogently, pouring my heart and mind out here.  Then comes all the other stuff.  I make sure, though, that the laptop is off every night before midnight.  It may not seem much but for me that’s a huge step forward.

There’s still more steps to come though.  I know there’s still a whole wide world out there.  Without adding a web to the end of it too.  One way or another, I’m going to explore it, simply by doing to my laptop what I always do whenever the two Jeremys,  Kyle and Clarkson appears on my tv screen.  Something I needed to do years ago

I switch off.