Much Ado About Nothingness

Another longish absence (for me, anyway) from the world of online therapy, confession and angst.  This time, however, it wasn’t because depression had such a hold of me that I couldn’t function.

In fact, it was probably a first.  I had absolutely nothing to say.  Nothing that was particularly bothering me, and nothing I could think of that might help someone going through a similar thing to me.  Best to say nothing than just say anything.

It’s a sure sign, however, that I’m getting better.  The last few days I’ve gone about my life thinking of little, going about my housework, my job searching, my wanders down the seafront, with a curious absence of thought process.  I’ve been living a life more ordinary for the first time in ages.

It’s still not been without attendant drawbacks.  My sleeping patterns are still way out of kilter, not going to sleep until the sun begins to rise again.  It might not be a problem in December but in the middle of the summer it means rest is minimal.  Somehow, though, I’ve become accustomed to the mild fatigue.  I’ve grown used to it.

My dreams are still very vivid.  It’s there that the catalyst for this years descent in depression has appeared yet again.  Yep, my ex.  It also showed some self awareness.  I was back with her, but just before I woke up I actually said to myself that this was a dream.  I could feel the hurt even before the dream ended.

Even so, life has been becoming more an everyday thing, rather than hanging onto an existence.  I’m not sure why.  I’m not specifically happier in myself either.  Just ticking over now.  Not feeling particularly great in myself, still with cripplingly low self esteem, but absent has been that voice beating me up, reminding me what a rotten, useless person I am.  Perhaps it’s gone for a summer holiday.

On the job front, still no luck.  At least not the paid variety.  It’s not as if I’m looking for full time work exclusively.  25 hours a week, even at minimum wage, would mean I could earn a living without relying on the state pot I paid into for so many years.  I’d live frugally, granted, but I would get by.

Yet still no luck.  Jobs are asked for, or applied for.  Even those with the shortest of hours.  Still nobody as yet wants to take that chance on me.  It’s so frustrating because I have so much to offer.  At some point, though, someone simply has to take a punt.  Haven’t they?

Depression Pee

It’s depressing to think about it, of course, but recently I’ve not exactly taken it in my stride, more become hardened to rejection.  As a result, my thinking time about finding a job and how it affects my self esteem has shortened considerably.  Is that good or bad?  I really don’t know.

With regard to food, I got by, just.  Though I understand fully, these days, that not being able to keep the cupboard full affects everyone.  A friend of mine confided last week that she only had enough food to keep her partner well fed but herself reduced to one meal a day, until the end of this month.  Even in the ranks of the full time workers, food banks might be needed.  It’s a tough old life.

The online dating?  Well, it continues.  My profile attracts attention, e-mails, and so forth.  Yet, there is that shutter still coming down.  I don’t believe they’re actually attracted to me, or if we did meet up, the attraction would soon finish.  That’s something to work on, obviously.

There’s even been an improvement in my reading habits.  A few longish articles in a magazine have been studied with interest.  Across the pond, too, there may be another seminal presidential moment.  From the first black president, onto maybe the first woman president.

Hillary Clinton may not be everyone’s cup of tea but I was curious to see what she said before she runs for the Oval Office.  I couldn’t afford the book but I downloaded a free sample and read the chapters avidly.  Not enough to tempt me spending money I don’t have, but the reading bug is happily returning.

Where does this leave me?  A little more content, a little more uncertain.  The road to recovery is festooned with junctions and crossings.  It feels as if, the past few days, I may have just been turning down the right ones.  It’s left me in unfamiliar surroundings.  Of actually being, in a small way, able to get on with an everyday life.

Doing much with nothingness.  I never thought I’d get to that stage after such a comparatively short space of time.  That breakdown in my bathrobe and desperate plea to the Samaritans seems a long way away.  I’m aware though, that one tiny wrong turning and I’ll be right back there, drowning in an ocean of tears and self loathing again.

Best carry on doing nothing then.

Driven To Despair

It’s a lovely day here, so the daily trudge for a job was a bit more pleasant than usual.  The flip-flops had worn away so it was deck shoes to wander about in and ‘enjoy the pleasure’ of being told that they were interested in me but not so interested in paying a living wage.

It’s something I’ve become accustomed to, as is a certain hindrance for being a pedestrian on these daily wanders.  Instead of using designated parking spaces near a bar and cafe by The Magnolia Treehouse, or a car park 50 yards away, drivers take it upon themselves to not just partially park up on the pavement, but to take their car entirely off the road, leaving us to walk in the traffic.

Of course, it’s an annoyance, but it’s of no importance in the grand scheme of things, and my road side behaviour is far from unblemished.  There’s been a few occasions when, lost in my own reverie, especially in the grip of depression, I’ve walked out in front of cars, completely oblivious.

In those, thankfully rarer than rare, situations, I’ve been glad of the toot of the car horn.  My immediately response has been one of shame / embarrassment, and I immediately hold my hand up and say sorry.  The majority of drivers, though irritated, have held their hand up in recognition that I’ve apologised for my error, and we’ve both gone on our way.

A few, however, have taken it upon themselves to lower their side window and shout the most horrific abuse, in public, in front of women and children.  When that’s happened, I’ve never replied, despite the urge to do so, and either carried on walking while they ranted, or at worst given them a hand signal of my own.

Afterwards, though, I have reflected.  It may be how I am generally, but when someone has shouted at me in such an abusive, aggressive and consistent manner, it upsets me, though I won’t show it.  It’s not something I’ve intentionally gone out to do, yet in seems some drivers believe they are beyond the law when reacting like that to someone else making an error.

It’s fairly obvious that those drivers, given a trigger and such an immediately aggressive response, are suffering from some sort of psychological ailment, whether they recognise it in themselves or not.

It runs a lot further than road rage, though.  That is the end result of something deeper.  It’s also something that is well overdue to be tackled and discussed, the deeper lying reasons that trigger it, as road rage incidents are now the biggest cause of child fatalities on the road.  A pretty sobering thought.

Depression Driving

With so many people suffering from depression at any one time, around five million in Britain alone, a considerable number will be driving around every day, going through the same mental torture I’ve put myself through, and very probably far worse in a lot of cases, too.  Would you want to be driving in that state?

It’s something the driving license people are hot on but can do little about.  If you suffer from depression, you have to declare it if it affects your driving.  If you don’t, and there’s an accident, and it’s found you didn’t declare the condition, a fine or a spell in clink might well be added to your woes.

The obvious thing about driving with depression is that it might critically affect your levels of concentration and memory.  A missed turning, a momentary phase of absent mindedness, and you don’t need to be outlined the consequences of it all.  There’s definitely been times, too, when on a pelican crossing I’ve had to retreat, due to the driver somehow missing the lights.  Scary stuff for a second or two.

We all know, too, that if we drive just after an argument, or full of some other negative emotion, our driving becomes slightly more dangerous.  Risks that would never been taken are considered, speed limits may be broken, corners cut, turnings made in a higher gear, as anger or irritation courses through our minds.

This is where it’s especially dangerous in drivers under 25.  Research has shown that drivers of that age, tend to take more risks in any case.  Add to that those going through depression and the repercussions don’t bear thinking about.

Overall, everyday living with depression is a long, hard battle against your own mind.  When that battle is taken behind the wheel of a car, though, it becomes a real danger.  Not just to the driver, but anyone within range of the road as it goes by, too.

‘If you can walk, do it.  If you don’t need to drive, don’t’ is an edict I’ve lived by even without depression.   Maybe, by doing that, I’ve saved a life.  Possibly, in spite of many suicidal thoughts, my own.  All thanks to a paradox.

Having the drive not to drive.

Heartbroken But Not Outdated

It’s amazing how often song lyrics from the most unlikely sources can truly encapsulate what you’re feeling.  This time it’s the gruff, gritty tones and words of The Boss.  Being somewhat more into Motown, Wham, and any sort of happy music, Bruce Springsteen is not high on any of my playlists.  Yet, he very succinctly once wrote …

“Lay your money and you play your part.

Everybody’s got a hungry heart.”

Ever since Lesley suggested I try getting back on track with my love life and join a dating agency, my eyes have been well and truly opened to how true that chorus is.

I did use online dating a long, long time ago, in its formative stages.  Being free and single, if not exactly young, there was an offer of a free month’s trial.  In that time I dated three different people.  It seemed most people then had the same attitude I had.  It was a bit of fun with the promise of a fumble with no strings attached.

Not so now, though.  I really did, and still do, have my doubts about Lesley suggesting the right thing, so perhaps my view is somewhat skewed.  From what I’ve garnered of it all, there’s still a few people looking for fun and nothing else.  A lot more people, though but, seem to take it so seriously, as if it is the definitive answer to finding love.

It’s good business for the dating industry.  They lure you in with promises of being able to view your matches for free.  It’s a clever ploy.  You see someone you like and think may hit it off with, feelings begin to stir, at which point credit card details are asked for.  As an impulse buy it must be right up there with the petrol station carnations on the way home.

Does it really work?  It seems to.  There’s testimony on countless sites of happy couples who met through them and living happily ever after.  The benefits for to all see are obvious.  Lonely people fall in love.  Big business make their money.  A match made in heaven.

Ah, but yet, but yet ….. Maybe I’m not the best person to dip my toes in the waters of online love.  A mix of low self esteem and broken heart isn’t the recipe of finding someone.  Nevertheless there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that something a little more sinister is going on.

Exploitation of people’s emotions for profit is pretty ugly, especially when no account is taken of people’s frame of mind.  It’s something that these dating websites evidently do, as well.  All in the name of money disguised as love.

The one that I predominantly use encourages you to answer scores and scores of questions, about your body, what you’re looking for, how you see yourself, and many seemingly inane ones about fictional situations.

Depressing Dating

If you don’t answer them, your screen and e-mail inbox gets bombarded about ‘improving your chances, or face missing out’.  The more you do, the more they jump onto you if you stop.  It’s annoying and something you want to ignore,  yet it induces an irrational fear.

Talking of bombardment, every few hours, e-mail after e-mail comes in, whether you’re online or not, telling you on their matches.  It’s also a big feature when using their site, drawing you to their ‘specially chosen matches based on what you’ve told us’.

It’s a lie.  The matches I receive become increasingly further and further away from where I live.  My match ‘range’ is that they be no more than 20 miles away.  Looking through the latest matches, one is 200 miles away.  Another is in a different country.  The age range?  Forget it.  Their ‘special’ matches are regularly a good decade out from my specific preferences.

I feel insulted, cheated by them, giving my time and money on the promise of finding someone nearby, of a similar age, to share some happiness with.  It’s obvious they just throw anything at you but do it persistently so you get the double whammy of being irritated and patronised.

As I said earlier, I’m probably not the best test subject for this at the moment.  I know I have to get on with my life, and that my ex is exactly that, and has been for some time.  Yet, I still love her deeply, I still miss her terribly.  I woke up this morning and my first thought was of her.  My first emotion was then one of hurt.

It’s probably just as well, then, that a lack of response from potential matches isn’t a big deal in the scheme of things presently.  E-mails, virtual nods and winks are sent out.  It’s obvious, however, that they’re not into me, with such a dearth of replies.  Apart from those damned ‘more special matches’ e-mails.

Some of the people on there, mind, I can really see need help but don’t get what I’m lucky enough to be having.  One profile talked of their carefully co-ordinated clothes, not even bothering to reply to anyone with children under 21, being materialistic, selfish, and looking for someone similar, and that they were worth it.

I felt sorry for them.  Clearly that person had been living behind a mask to their feelings, wrapping it in clothes and arrogance and money, to the extent that the mask had really become them.  Something has clearly been missing in their life to want to give an impression like that.  I hope they find help as well as love in its truest sense.

It can really damage your self esteem as well.  As hour after hour drifts by, searching for matches, sending e-mails out for potential dates and receiving nil in return, there’s a very real danger it can make you feel worse and worse about yourself.  So you click again, refreshing the page, hoping this time it will work, addicted and lonely.  They don’t tend to advertise that part.

So, sitting at home, relying on the interwebhighway for love?  It may work for some.  If you’re not enjoying good mental health, though, it can be a real danger.  Be careful.  For, as that famous bard, Bruce Springsteen once said:

You can’t start a fire without a spark.

Going Down

Funny old game, isn’t it?  Even the most indifferent and disinterested of  people knows that now, not just in Britain, but people across the globe are in the grip of soccer’s World Cup.

I have to say, as someone who really didn’t intend watching any of it, it’s becoming a gripping attraction.  Teams I would never in a thousand years take any interest in have somehow turned what I thought would be football overkill into an absorbing spectacle.

From the sheer drama of minnows Iran holding on, and holding on, against all the odds, until the cruel fate of some last minute genius from Argentina, right up to the beauty and expression of sides like France, the Netherlands and Australia, the World Cup has been an unrivalled spectacle.

The mood of the tournament has no doubt been helped immeasurably with it being in Brazil.  Everyone there appears to look upon it as a month long samba party with a few football games thrown in.  Camera shots to the crowd have been full of face paint, dancing and broad smiles.

Apart from, very noticably, England.  Of course, results haven’t helped, with them on their way home very early on, something that reigning champions Spain have the dubious pleasure of sharing.  Yet even during games, crowd shots among the English contingent showed more often than not standing, with arms folded, and faces at best sullen.

It was brought home to me how seriously English people take the game yesterday when, on a message board, someone complained that they had become depressed as the demise of England had sunk in.  My response to their usage of words to describe how unhappy they were was far too harsh, mind.  Perhaps I’m too touchy when the word, or derivative of, ‘depression’, is used in the context of something as comparatively meaningless as soccer.

I’m also, clearly, too full of pride and not enough humility, as I couldn’t bring myself to say I’d over-reacted, but that’s by the by.  A thought had occurred to me.  With the by now deeply entrenched overkill of the game on radio, tv and newspapers, maybe, just maybe, the environment is actually there where defeat in a game can genuinely trigger depression.

Of course, England failing in World Cups only happens once every four years, and even then that’s relative.  Having been brought up on Scotland qualifying for it more or less as of right, they never even get to join in the World Cup party at all these days, let alone leave it early.  Just as well I’ve always had an attitude of victory and defeat being twin imposters.

What happens every week for over nine months of the year, however, with relentless hype, is club football.  This is where, closer to home, the effect has been much more alarming, even if not exposed to a worldwide audience like the present Brazilian jamboree.

Depression Hibs Fans

In Scotland, Hibernian have historically been one of Scotland’s top six clubs.  Despite the Glasgow sides usually sweeping the honours, the side from the Eastern side of Edinburgh have considerable support, a tidy stadium, and a long history and tradition.  They’re never going to be in the frame to be champions, but competing for other cups, and qualifying for European competition is easily within their resources and potential.

Yet, over the course of 2014, the side, somehow, slid lower and lower down the league table.  Crowds remained loyal, turning up in good numbers, but disheartened by performances and the media hype surrounding their descent, Easter Road, where the Hibees play, became a genuinely unhappy place to be.  Something I know from experience a couple of times.

I was pleased, mind, as it got the club I own a few shares in, by family inheritance, out of the mire.  Yet it was also intensely sad to see.  To be sat around people reduced to silence, a sense of dread being seen in their eyes, with shouts of anger and frustration emanating as much as anything else, rubbed off even on me.  Despite not supporting them, I left their games feeling down, just as Hibs were going down.

Eventually, they had one last chance.  A play-off to decide their fate.  Hibernian took a 2-0 first leg lead after visiting opponents Hamilton Academical.  99% of the time that would have been enough for any side to have the confidence to push on and win, with the home leg to come.

Yet, having been around those Hibees faithful this year, I guessed their worry, their paranoia, their fear of their heroes conceding an early goal, would transmit itself onto the pitch and the players.  The atmosphere created over the months was one of doom and gloom and would be difficult to shake off.

Which is exactly what happened.  Hibs players were nervous and unsure when actually that had every reason to be confident and certain.  Inevitably, almost, they conceded an early goal, lost another with a minute left, and were relegated after a penalty shoot-out.

The response by some people I know from that day, three weeks ago, has had all the traits of depression.  One or two have, they said, either slept too much or not at all.  Meals have been missed out as weight has clearly been lost, too.  I’ve known this in one person only by knocking on their door to see them, as they’ve hardly been out.

It defies logic, sinking into depression just because the team you want to kick a ball into a net isn’t very good at it, while millions starve, millions more remain homeless, and billions of people live way below the poverty line.

Yet, in Britain, reflecting, it is almost inevitable.  The endless coverage of soccer, the need to bring in viewing, listening or readership figures and make money, means that every tiny detail is scrutinised, published and assessed endlessly.  The game is promoted as being far, far more important than it really is.

With such a media onslaught some people will be taken in by it.  They will be affected.  And yes, despite my own incredulity, people really will and do sink into depression because of football – and if you have depression, whichever way you fall into it, you need help, not the scorn I originally dished out.

So the next time you hear someone saying they’re depressed because County lost again, or Rovers were relegated, try to hold back from the judgmental side of your soul.  They might, just might, be speaking a truth and, unlike the media, not be hyping things up.

Right, now where’s that fixture list?  Ah yes, right next to the calling card of my therapist …..

Neurotica

I’ve been avoiding confronting this head on, not just the past few months with the written word, but through the decades of my adult life.  I find it difficult to talk about but it’s at the point where if it’s not resolved now it will forever be a mental block, holding me back from fully enjoying myself.

I have a real problem with sex.

I’m not sure when it first manifested itself but I’ve no doubt it contributed greatly to the break-up with my ex, the results of which have been plain for everyone to see, hear or read about.  In short, I feel not ashamed of my body, but embarrassed by it, and feel great reluctance in sharing it with anyone.

I guess, luckily, I’ve been with partners where ‘no’ has really meant ‘no’ to them, regardless of what stage of the lovemaking we’ve been at.  Never once have I ever been accused of leading anyone along.  Perhaps they have sensed my deep insecurities and made allowances for it.  In any case, I have always felt awful about it afterwards, letting them down like that.

It’s not even at a ‘got to the stage now where …’ sort of thing.  It’s almost always been that way.  When the sex has been full and complete, it’s been satisfying and I’ve felt loved and wanted.  Yet the very next day the same old insecurities return.  So, so annoying.

An integral part is definitely how I view my own body.  Some parts I like.  I have good legs, definitely, and when they’re not weeping in the sunlight or have dark shadows of sleeplessness below them, I have a little twinkle in my eye.  And a nice smile.

For me, though, that’s where it ends.  The rest of my body I recoil from.  I don’t see how anyone can find it remotely attractive and buy clothes to ensure as much of myself is hidden from view.  I sometimes think a black sack with a couple of cut-outs to see out of would be perfect.

It also applies to my nether regions.  I can’t bear to look down there, even when I’m washing.  Maybe it’s a more generalised thing though.  During sex I really don’t like catching sight of my partner’s either.  It’s puzzling as I’m far from a prude.

Now a real problem during sex occurs with those parts too.  I really, really don’t like anyone touching my nether regions, either, which is pretty much an essential thing.  I freeze and tense up when that happens, which is when I generally stop things too.  It’s terribly frustrating for both of us.  Or maybe the three of us (though that’s another story).

Depression Sex

As can be seen, my problems with sex run deep, and aren’t just in mind and spirit but also in body as well.  It has a detrimental effect on the other person, too, which in turn makes me feel worse.  More than one has said that they think I don’t find them attractive when that’s happened, which really isn’t the case.

I don’t just jump into the sack with anyone.  I’d like to think, for my age, I have had under the average for number of sexual partners, which is made up for with intimacy and meaning when we’ve had sex or generally in our relationships.

After all, snuggling up in bed is wonderful, as well as a lingering kiss and a whisper of love.  Walking down the street hand in hand feels magical.  Whatever I’ve lacked in sex, my relationships have made up for in love and affection in all other areas.

It can’t get away from the fact, though, that I have a real mental block which has lasted for decades.  My low self esteem has manifested itself into many shapes and forms, one of which has ended up with me stopping others from lessening that feeling, by preventing sex.

I have to, after all these years, somehow sort this, which is sending anxiety right through even this very moment.  It’s maybe why I was so enthusiastic about being referred to a sex therapist. I’m too afraid to confront it and do anything about it on my own.  That in itself is crazy because the act of sex is probably the most natural thing a human being does.  Apart from hating Piers Morgan and Simon Cowell.

So what happens next?  Do I get told I have a nice body so often I start to believe it?  Do I have to try to recall a seemingly innocuous moment in life that instigated this aversion to sex and being touched?  I’ve no idea, but it frightens me to think what is lurking in my mind, stopping me from enjoying the great fortune I have bestowed upon me by living here, under a roof, with food on the table.

I owe it to myself though to at least overcome this and be a lover to my lover again some time.  To my next one anyway.  After all, there’s only so much time you can fill in bed with Sudoku and the Readers Digest.

But allowing someone to love me sexually?  Hmmm, what a novel idea …..

Therapy Log: Friday 20 June 2014 – End Of The Line, Start Of The Curve

It doesn’t get any easier, this living lark.  Amount of food left in the pantry and fridge – 5 days worth.  Amount of money in the bank – less than zero.  Days to wait until that gets rectified – 10.  Where I am – up the creek without a paddle.

Oh joy of joys, in the post comes the latest stage in my dispute with the energy companies.  That symbol of poverty, the prepay meter card.  It seems that every day brings a new battle, with an arm tied increasingly more tightly behind my back.

As you can tell, I’m not in a great frame of mind.  It feels demeaning, not being able to make ends meet, and not being given any opportunity to earn a living.  The repercussions to my life, both practically and in mind and spirit, can be clearly seen.

It hides the truth behind why I’m feeling so down.  Despite all my efforts to carry on with my life, knowing that we are and have been long since finished, and realising that seeing her again would engender a very negative reaction from me, I miss my ex, I miss her company, I miss her humour, I miss her love.  It still hurts and is a lot more raw than I really hoped and thought it would be by this stage.

Okay, enough of the introspection, it’s the last time today.  Lesley and I.  Therapist and patient. Eighth visit out of eight.  End of the line.  What am I going to do now?  How will I cope?  These are the questions that probably most people would have going through their minds on days like this.  Me?  Nothing.  My mind is blank as I wander by the dank, overcast seafront.  This is going to be a right bundle of laughs in my state of mind.

20 June Westcliff Beach

I try to recapture the stimulus that sparked this very blog, namely the magnolia tree that petal dropped from which showed me a way ahead.  I wander up the same road, but without blossom, one tree or plant to me is much like another.  I go by that magnolia tree without even recognising it.

When I get there, Lesley greets me cheerily enough, as I do her.  It’s a relief, really.  An hour or so here is an escape from being left alone with my own thoughts.  Life is clearly better than my mind is making it out to be.  I just need to find a way to believe in myself, in my heart and soul, rather than what I’m thinking.

Lesley is disappointed in me.  A couple of weeks ago when I chose not to meet up with a writing group.  I didn’t realise it, but Lesley saw it as an opportunity to increase my self esteem socially more than the purpose of it itself, and as a chance spurned in order to pursue something else alone.

She’s right, and I did beat myself up over it at the time, but I really didn’t consider the actual social, getting to know people as friends, aspect of it all.  What was it I was saying earlier about not seeing things right in front of your nose?

As we continue a kind of review of my time in therapy with her, Lesley hands something over to me.  “Put your finger in there.”  I chortle as a wave of double entendre enters my head with her request and the Chinese finger puzzle she has in her hand.  Thankfully, Lesley seems to have a Sid James laugh and giggles away when I make the least lewdest comment I can think of.

I do as Lesley says, and put my finger into both ends.  “Now pull them.”  I do so and, of course, they don’t release, so instinctively pull harder.  “Don’t break i ….”

20 June Pull My Finger (1)

Lesley’s voice trails off as I pull too hard and the puzzle breaks.  She looks a little, not quite upset, but that feeling everyone gets when they see a present they’ve given smashed up.  I feel terrible about it and tell her so as well.

As an analogy for going with things, and not battling against myself, it’s a good one.  What made the analogy even better was me destroying the puzzle.  By pulling against everything for so long, my self esteem has been smashed into bits, and it will take time before I understand about how I can go with things and avoid that.

All too soon, as ever, the hour has gone well past the hour.  A referral, no less, to a self esteem group therapy is in the pipeline.  With my somewhat mixed feelings I had about previous group therapy, I’m surprised about how enthusiastic I instinctively am.

Another referral, as well, to a sex psychotherapist.  Life between the sheets has been as unhappy, frustrating and ineffective sometimes as in other areas of my life.  I know it’s all in my mind.  We’ll see how that pans out.

We leave for the last time.  It’s a mixture of sadness and uncertainty.  The sadness comes from Lesley being a decent person, even if you take the therapist side of her away.  You can tell when people are good or bad, and she’s definitely in the good books.  It’s always a pity when they’re no longer about.

The uncertainty is about whether I’m really giving myself and the therapy the chance I really need to.  It just seems to be a block in my mind once I get to a certain level of recovery.  Where do I go from here?  Will I always be like this?  Am I wasting mine and everyone’s time?

I’m not sure.  As I stroll home, with one therapy ending and another beginning, I know I can’t go on flatlining.  The learning curve about myself and my recovery has to become just that again, an upward curve.  It’s something I owe to myself as well as everyone around me to ensure it does.

Getting a job would help.  Getting over my ex would help even more.  Nobody has helped quite as much, though, as Lesley.  For that, whatever happens to me in life, I’ll always be grateful.  So …

Thank you for the magnolia tree, Lesley.

Thinking Outside The Goldfish Bowl

Another day, another lesson learned, that’s how I’m viewing things at the moment.  It seems that another part of me is revealed every step I take to get myself better.

Sometimes, though, things are so glaringly obvious that I don’t see it, if that makes any sense.  Like when you leave your keys on the table in front of you, yet somehow they’re not in your eyeline.  How could you miss them?  Well, today, I’ve realised something that was as clear as day to everyone else.

I have the attention span of a goldfish with a forgetful memory.  I’m not sure how this has crept up on me, and looking around me, I can’t believe I didn’t realise until now.  I’ve put it down, up until now, as to ‘being depressed’, that all encompassing phrase that covers multitudes of symptoms.

The only reason I never read books now, so my own thought processes go,  was because I wasn’t interested in anything, and that when my headspace is in a better place, I will be found burrowed in an absorbing biog or the academic and artistic history of the Kardashian dynasty or something.

The evidence is contrary though.  I have to the side of my armchair a book I bought over a month ago, about a subject I take an interest in every single day of the year.  I haven’t yet read past the foreword.  The book I received at that launch a couple of weeks ago?  I haven’t ventured past the foreword and first page.  Again on a subject I have a deep interest of, whatever state of mind I’m in.

It’s then that I noticed my viewing habits have changed too.  Not so long ago, I could easily sit through documentaries, films, dramas, anything that may have meant sitting down to watch for an hour or two.  What I reflected upon today, though, trying to find Parks & Rec on the iPlayer, is that it was the longest programme I sit and watch now.  It lasts just over 20 minutes.

Thinking back over the past few weeks, news channels I may have kept on for hours barely get a look-in, unless my irrationality breaks out and I want to see whom Kay Burley is irritating.  Radio programmes have fallen by the wayside completely.  My Spotify lists have remained unplayed for weeks.  The paper I bought on Tuesday remains unread, not a single page turned.  Which is ironic as that paper prides itself on being short and concise.

It’s particularly puzzling as I haven’t specifically gone out of my way to break off all avenues of communication or pleasure that need more than minimal time or attention.  Which sounds rather more risque than it really is.

Depression Book Throw

I could understand it more if, when around people, I had a similarly short span.  Yet when in therapy, our sessions without fail run late, losing sense of time as we talk and listen to each other.  If I’m talking with friends, too, either in person or online, I’m also on top of that, taking in everything.

Yet, here I am now, even as I type this, my mind, and my head, was moving away from the screen, thinking of nothing in general.  It’s an odd thing, the human mind.  Well, at least mine is.  To be so disciplined as to get things done every day, yet let other things fall by the wayside that would improve my lot so much, is a frustration.

Is there a cure for this?  Am I stuck with the short attention span for life?  Maybe it’s not so bad.  Twitter could replace the BBC as my main medium for getting news.  Facebook status updates can replace Question Time.  Short, sharp, intolerant media-friendly soundbites may be the way forward.

It’s not something I want though.  Patchy though my life has been, it’s been a pleasure to read timelessly classic books, to sit and watch in awe in a darkened cinema for a couple of hours, to feel the emotional frenzy at the climax of a sporting confrontation.

All these things have touched my soul, enriched it, given me experiences and perspective that I’ll be forever grateful for.  If it turns out that, for whatever reason, I’ll never be able to have these things in my life again, I won’t be depressed.  Just very, very sad.

There’s a whole wide world out there and it doesn’t just come in handy little 5 minute segments.  I want to grab it all, be consumed by it completely, 24/7, rather than in sizes fit for that forgetful goldfish.

Ah well, therapy tomorrow.  A new snippet of self discovery to chat with Lesley about.  Let’s see how that goes.  Until then, it’s the iPlayer,  20 minutes of Parks & Rec.

And the goldfish bowl.

Dreaming Of A Better Sleep

It was a return to a familiar, uncomfortable place last night.  The good news is that my sleep pattern is getting a little better.  Just after 2.30am and I was drifting off, which is much better than the gone 5am’s, or no sleep at all, that my body clock has been doing with me recently.

The down side is that there was a return to those rest killers, the vividly remembered bad dreams.  Yet again, I woke up exhausted, feeling far worse than when I went to bed.  It’s no dream life when you’re depressed even when in the land of nod.

It’s pretty much established medically, through decades of research, that people with depression dream more, and that their dreams are far more memorable.  I’m not an expert by any means but it’s something to do with the time spent in sleep is much more at the REM stage, hence the dreams becoming more prevalent.  The constant negative thoughts ensures the dreams themselves are generally vivid and troubling.

Mine were kind of out of the blue but I can at least understand them.  They also seemed to merge from one into the other.  The first centred around my ex.  I could hear her voice, of which the soft tone went right through to my soul.

She wasn’t there, though, even though her voice was as if she was right there with me.  I had in my hand some sort of tablet computer, outside, though I wasn’t paying much attention to it, just her voice.  No hugely difficult meaning there.  I still miss her, even though we’re finished, and I’m trying to get on with my life.  She still has a pull on me, is what it signified, I’m sure.

It then sort of went to an inner urban area nearby.  I sensed danger, I was anxious being there.  Around me, a lot of men were behaving boorishly and aggressively, although not specifically towards me.

Again, nothing too much to work out.  Football’s World Cup is going on, something I really don’t have much interest in.  The pubs, however, are full of people drinking throughout the day, watching match after match, including the bar opposite The Magnolia Treehouse.  It’s not nice to be around, a nightly dose of shouting, threatening, and the obvious sound of a scuffle going on.

This dream then went onwards.  I was getting out of that area, and for some reason, at a coach drop-off point, I waited for someone I knew was coming, but didn’t exactly know who until the coach turned up.  As the coach pulled up my curiosity turned to shock.

Depression dreams

Coming out of the coach was an old flame of mine from a good dozen years ago.  She was thrilled to see me, and I was lost for words, beginning to weep a little in happiness at seeing her again.

The joy was short lived.  She then told me that it’s over between us, and that there’s no chance of us ever getting back together again.  She was staying on the coach, so as the door closed and it pulled away, I was left there, utterly confused.  What the hell was that about?

Why she came into my dream I can understand.  She looks and talks uncannily like someone who played a prominent part in a recent popular tv programme.  Seeing the series, which I would add she’s not a main character in or particularly famous from it, has been the trigger.

What I don’t understand is the lecture to me about it being over and no chance of getting together again.  All those years ago, it was me who broke off with her.  I haven’t thought about her much, either, or tried to get in contact at all since then.  It’s so bizarre.

So when I woke up, very early and way before my usual 7.15am start, I was anxious, sad, upset, on edge, and utterly confused.  I’ve also been exhausted all day.  I’m beginning to think I may have been better off with no sleep at all once more.

I did find, however, that I was too tired to dredge up the negative thought patterns too much.  The walk into town, job search, and shopping was done with mostly a pretty blank mind.  That is, at least, a bonus.

I wouldn’t recommend it though.  I long for a time where I can have a normal night’s sleep.  Not no sleep, not a sleep punctuated by nightmares, not a night where I wake up and can’t get myself out of bed because the grip my mind has on me.

A normal night’s rest isn’t too much to ask for is it?  Dreaming of a better night’s sleep is the height of my ambition at the moment.  Make it through the night and I can get through the days so much better.

Until then, I look forward to tonight’s slumber with bated, anxious breath.  My depressed mind is clearly not sure how to torment me with the dreams it came up with last night.  So before it decides how to, I’m thinking “Take your time choosing how to, give yourself a night off.

Let’s sleep on it …..”

Making A Difference

Today was one of those fluctuating days, which I guess is pretty much a normal occurrence for most people.  It started off with heartbreak mixed with alarm, descended to upset, then took a real turn for the better.

Heading off out for an early appointment, my heart sank.  Directly across from my front door was the same make and colour of car as my ex’s.  Curiously, there was a change in my reaction.  I still love her, there’s no doubt about that, but when I saw the car, my first response was “Oh no”, followed by relief, when I saw the registration number was different.  Is that progress or not?  I really don’t know.

On my wander down the seafront to my meeting came the upset.  As a car drove slowly by, a pigeon flew leisurely groundwards, no doubt eyeing a crushed bit of takeaway food on there.  Something happened, though, that I’d never seen before.  The pigeon misjudged the speed of the lone car and was hit.  Nothing the driver could do about it.

It struck me, that moment, too, though clearly not as much as that poor bird.  I couldn’t help feeling a lump in my throat well up.  One moment, you’re there, doing your best to keep your head above water, getting on with life.  The next moment, gone for eternity.  The overhead gloom seemed very fitting, seemingly joining in with the Monday morning blues.

The tiny plus so far, though, is that it was my ideal walking weather, and my negative thoughts soon dissipated when I arrived for my appointment.  I was met warmly by Barbie, someone who helps hold Britain together.  A voluntary worker.

It’s a growing industry in Britain in these times of austerity.  Forget about the ill thought-out and transparent agenda of the Government’s “Big Society”, which essentially encouraged businesses to dispense with paid employees and take on coerced unemployed ‘volunteers’.  It was rightly and embarrassingly shoved to one side soon after its launch.

No, the out and out voluntary sector is something that’s forgotten about by and large yet plays such an essential part in everyday living.  From soup kitchens for the homeless to home care for the elderly in their kitchens, almost 20 million British people get on with making other people’s lives that bit better without fuss or reward.

Yes, that’s right.  20 million.  That’s the number of people who volunteered at least one day last year.  13 million work voluntarily in their spare time at least once a month, helping over 160,000 organisations survive and serve their communities. That’s an astonishing amount of goodwill that goes unnoticed in this country.

Depression Hands

It’s why I felt inspired as soon as I met Barbie.  Attractive, smart, down to earth, and clearly motivated to help who she can.  She works in the local Citizens Advice Bureau, an organisation I’ve had cause to use this year and before.

If you’re having a tough time paying bills, or getting a raw deal with your local council, or perhaps having trouble with welfare, tax, any consumer issue really, they are the people to go to.

They talk to you confidentially, they advise, they give information, they even accompany you to court if need be.  If you’re having problems staying afloat on a practical basis, they are in your corner.

It’s something Barbie has been doing, quietly and happily, for some time, standing in everyone’s corner.  What really struck me was her focus on how she wants to meet the needs of anyone who walks through the door.  Before talking about what I might bring to the table, or anything about herself, her main thrust was on other people.  She wants, and does make a difference, without making a fuss.

I felt comfortable, relaxed, motivated in her company.  The thought of helping other people, of using my own abilities to make a difference somewhere, that brought a little joy to me.  There’s no doubt that helping someone also helps yourself because you feel that bit better in yourself.

By the meeting’s end, the obligatory form was given for me to fill in and return, the expected hours were discussed, the training outlined, and the start anticipated.  It was the best news I’d had all year.  Yet again, Barbie had helped someone, though I doubt she knows just by how much.  Someone in the depths of depression given a chance.  That’s what you call therapy.

I wandered off for my paid job search, happy that at long last I will again be part of the silent backbone of this country again.   Shortly the 20 / 13 million voluntary work figures will be boosted by one.  Undoubtedly one of the most pleased, too, and the change to me emotionally and confidence-wise was immediate.  Thanks to Barbie, my depression changed purely because I will be doing something I’ve been yearning to do my whole life.

Making a difference.

Sunday Expressionism

A bit of an improvement.  The last time I remembered being awake was around 3am so a three hour step in the right direction for a sound night’s sleep after the recent flurry of staying up all night.

I’m keeping to my regular good habit too.  I’m taking Sunday off, stopping all that self analysis.  Six days a week of that self inflicted misery is quite enough.  No, today is about what makes me happy.

This week it’s the turn of a daft little internet invention that can say so much without you typing a single word.  The gif.  It comes in so, so handy, when you want to really say what you feel but know that if you do it’ll cause far more fuss in the process.

Instead, a mildly amusing small animation or vid clip can give the impression of what your reaction or emotion is, in a less-than-serious tone.  It defuses a difficult situation, whilst at the same time leaving a little underlying message.  Perfect for the media friendly soundbite era that we live in.

Here’s a few of my favourites and when and why I use them.

 

“So what?”

Never fails to make me laugh.  I’m doing it even now.  A more polite way of saying how little I care about what someone is saying.  But not much more.

 

“For the last time ….”

Whenever I feel pressured into doing something, especially socially, I feel very uncomfortable.  If I give in to peer pressure, I feel awful about it afterwards.  Yet I find it so difficult to say no.  This has been such a handy way around it, showing my frustration with whatever’s being repeatedly asked of me.  The message gets across.

 

“God I’m bored with this.”

I’m guilty of tedium as much as the next person, except I don’t have the social confidence to tell someone to shut up as, they do to me in these situations.  If I’m online, this is a fun ice-breaker, letting the other person that we need to change subjects.  It works as well.

 

“I’ve had enough of this”

When I get to a point of a discussion where it’s gone so far off track, purely because the other person can try to prove they were right and I was wrong about a fairly trivial thing, this one is often used.  It’s a clear signal of ‘okay, you’ve scored your point off me, let’s move on, please’.  It appears to be rude but it does the trick.  Until 10 minutes later when another petty point comes up …..

 

“Oh yes.”

When I’m happy about something, this is a regular online response.  A funny man, a funny programme, and a nice expression of how pleased I am with something.  Some people may take it as sarcasm, but I never use it in a context where any friends of mine could construe it as that.  They know I’m happy when they see this.

 

There we have it.  How I express myself without actually expressing myself.  Very handy in this day and age and a lot of fun.  Hopefully you have your favourites too.

Have a lovely Sunday  xxx