Bitchy Lessons In Life

A sign that this particular trough of depression has bottomed out.  Putting my thoughts into print for the second time in a week.  Usually when I can’t face the world, spreading my fingers across a keyboard for everyone to know is the last thing on my mind.  Not now though.  You can see the blood of my cut here.

Another sign was trawling through media sites and photo files, looking through old pics.  It would’ve been a painful, painful experience just a day or two ago.  This time around, well the eyes still watered and I sighed, but no floods of tears.

The best indicator, however, was a chance meeting.  Rooting through stuff, I came across something by someone I hadn’t spoken to for about five years.  Not by choice, we just sort of drifted out of the habit of staying in touch, then life and love took over.

I sent a message to her, not expecting any reply.  We’d long since lost contact, after all.  Yet, within a few minutes, there she was, delighted to see me, albeit in the virtual sense.  She, too, had no real idea why we drifted apart.  One of those things I guess.

Now, at the time we were close, she was known to me, and by everyone else, as Bitchy.  It was another of those ironic things.  She’s funny, friendly, smart, self deprecating, and enjoys seeing other people achieve.  The real complete opposite.

It being so long, though, I was caught between calling her Bitchy or her actual name.  I decided on the curiously British solution.  Avoid saying any name at all.  Instead we chatted and chatted.

Something I didn’t know about Bitchy, which made it especially karmaic in terms of timing, was her obviously extensive knowledge of depression and other mental health issues.  I talked, Bitchy listened.  It was almost like therapy except I wasn’t in a grimy, scruffy room.

Bitchy eventually, when I let her, talk.  She came up with some real words of wisdom too, not applicable just to me but to anyone who is or has suffered.  It will do well to remember these.

“Don’t expect someone else to cure you of it, i.e. new relationships.”

It’s so, so true, and something I’ve adhered to down the decades.  It’s hard sometimes though.  You feel as if the world will be a better place without you, then someone comes along.  All of a sudden things are looking up.

Depression Bitch

The danger is to associate the close, intimate, positive feeling when a new relationship starts, to everything in life.  In each other aspect, nothing has changed, so the probability is at least something that was leaving you feeling helpless and suicidal before is still lurking.  You can date someone with depression, but dating doesn’t delete depression.

“Counselling can be mind blowing.  Be open to change.”

This is something I was more circumspect of.  Whether it be group therapy, online, or one-on-one, there’s never been that moment of clarity of Road To Damascus turnaround, where everything suddenly works out in my mind.  I’ve been cynical to it but pleasantly surprised by some of its results, and that’s it.

That’s the thing, though, cynicism.  Because of it I haven’t really been open to change.  It’s only been on my terms, listening to therapy, and then deciding ‘yes, this bit’s good, okay, but no that bit isn’t, dismiss that’.  Being open to change is something I haven’t been.

There were, of course, loads of other things we chatted about, catching up on things, on old times, how people were.  It touched me, though, that within a few minutes of talking to her after a five year absence, I was confiding, and we were bosom buddies again, just like that.

Maybe I’ve been too hard on myself all these years.  Well, I know I have, with that voice in my mind telling me how useless, how undesirable, how worthless I am most days.  But even without the depressive mood, I’ve not given myself enough credit for being who I am.

The fact that someone so willingly wants to be in touch with me after so long a break shows that I must have something about me that people like or admire.  Sure, soon enough, that voice in my head will formulate a negative reasoning, but at the moment, I’m enjoying feeling slightly better about myself.  All because of someone Bitchy.

What to do next?  Well, keep in touch and make sure the periods between getting together are counted in days instead of years.  Another thing is to not only remember those words she uttered, but at least try to act on the ones I haven’t done so far.

Above all, be myself.  Because despite what my mind says, all the indications show I’m a better person than I think I am.

You see?  I really am getting better …..

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Therapy Log: Tuesday 29 July 2014 – A Living Loss

It’s been a while, and since then, it’s undeniable I’ve been worse and worse.  I was going through a cycle of depression, though, even before the last time Lesley was seen, magnolia tree petal and all.  I need help still.

So, once again.  A desk.  Two chairs.  A fear of what’s about to happen.  Yep, it’s therapy day.

This time it’s different though.  It’s a sexual psychotherapist I’m seeing.  There’s no doubt I have problems underneath the duvet.  My cripplingly low self esteem manifests itself in many ways.

One of them is to recoil when being touched intimately, another is to rarely have full sex with my partners.  It’s definitely affected my relationships down the years.  About time that, at least, was stopped.

There’s no special route to my session today though.  It’s in a rundown part of town.  Safest way is a train and then walk down a side street, eyes towards the pavement, with any luck going unnoticed.

The reception area is dark, despite the summer sun.  Uncomfortable wooden seats, nailed to a metal frame, seems to fit in with the grubby surroundings.  The receptionists are separated by an oval glass, as if protecting themselves from the diseased.

I try to hide myself away from the grim ambiance by burying my head into the Daily Record, pretending to be impressed by its quality and entertained by its stories.  It’s a lie, of course.  Big on headlines and populist cliches, short on facts and quality, it’s a paper that appeals to … well, I’m not sure.  Rather like myself, I find myself thinking.  What or who on earth could I possibly appeal to?

My mind, as ever, is punishing me.  I miss my ex as much as ever.  I feel lost, bereft, heartbroken.  It’s almost like a bereavement.  Except, and it’s sad to admit, I’ve never been this upset over the passing of any family or friend.  It’s a living loss I’m dealing with.  Not very well at all.

In all this gloomy reverie, my name is called out.  Show time.  I look up and Anne is there to greet me warmly.  The first impression is one of mild shock.  She’s beautiful, genuinely beautiful.  Slim, dark hair, a nice smile, and big wide eyes that are mesmerising when she looks through you.

Curiously, I seem to have some sort of reality chip lodged in my subconscious.  Despite being in the presence of someone so good looking, there’s not a scintilla of desire in me.  Clearly I’ve somehow put in my mind a strict non-transference rule.  A very handy tool, especially today.

We adjourn to Room 19 and her smile is as warm as the heatwave outside.  The room itself is small and there’s no air conditioning or open windows.  Had this not been the first session, I would’ve asked if I can take off my top.  It was that uncomfortable.  Or perhaps the discomfort was within me rather than the environment.

Depression Sex Therapy

As ever, with first sessions, it’s a getting-to-know-you vibe about it.  As ever, a ‘scores-on-the-doors’ form is filled in to measure how depressed, anxious and stressed I am.  They don’t make great reading.  Anne gives me a concerned and earnest look and asks about my suicidal thoughts.

When the conversation turns to the underlying reasons, and my inability to get over my ex, Anne’s eyes widen more.  Slightly disconcerting but I carry on, breaking gaze occasionally to look at a biro on the desk as I speak.

Anne’s response takes me by surprise.  She confirms something I had thought myself but believed would be in a minority of one about.  What I’m going through, Anne considers, is a living loss.  Not only that but there’s no closure on it either.

All this time I thought I was over-reacting hysterically to a relationship break-up when in fact it’s a not uncommon response.  She takes me through the stages of dealing with a living loss.  It seems I get to the stage where disorganisation in my life is about to come reorganisation, then an event triggers it all back to the start of shock, anger, and so forth.

We also touch on sexuality.  It’s something I’m comfortable talking about and Anne is pleasantly surprised by my attitude, especially in view of the somewhat old-fashioned views my parents had on it.

Kinks are touched upon too and again, I feel no embarrassment in discussing what I’ve tried.  It all builds up a picture as to why, when it comes to deep intimacy and sex, there is a problem.  It’s a reason that I use to blame myself for my ex leaving me, too.  I know it’s partly why but not wholly, but when you’re depressed, the part becomes the whole.  It has to stop some time.

Before long, the session is over.  No pithy remarks or anything like that.  Anne is, of course,  a different soul from Lesley, so there’s a different rapport.  I like her, I’m pleased that I find her beautiful without having any emotional attachment to it, and she seems to exude a mix of informality and certainty.

Anne asks me if I can practice some pelvic exercises, and when bathing, take time when using the flannel, to concentrate on feeling it against the skin, to see what parts of my body I enjoy the sensation of, and which parts I don’t.  I laugh, thinking of the cartoon character on my flannel.  So does Anne when I tell her.  It’s a good time to end the session.

I walk out into the heat, not feeling any better, but then that wasn’t the point.  Today was groundwork, a summary.  The next time it begins.  Until then, though, I’ll be living a loss.  Except that now I realise that other people feel the same as I do.  Up to five years it can take to get over a relationship, Anne says.  At this point, I’ll take that.  So one session down.

And only four years and six months of a living loss to go.

A Listed Development

One of the things that my therapists have recommended, whether it be one-to-one, group, or the annoying voiced online variety, is that for each action I either have regrets about, or not being sure what to do, write a pros and cons list.

The idea is good in embryo but it comes to a grinding halt because of the very thing it’s meant to help, my mind.  Writing a pro is all well and good but as soon as I write a con, it acts as a trigger and before long I’m shrouded in self loathing and recrimination.

Nevertheless, the principle is sound.  There’s no specific thing I need doing at the moment, and very little time recently where I’ve been navel gazing.  Perhaps, taking the step out of that comfort zone, a pros and cons list might just be helpful as a synopsis for where I am with my depression currently, as opposed to six months ago when it overwhelmed me.  Let’s see …..

 

Pro:  The suicidal thoughts have come down drastically the past six months

Con:  They are still there and are stronger in stressful situations

Overall:  Work to do but better

 

Pro:  Accepted that I will never speak to or see my ex ever again

Con:  I still love her deeply and miss her like crazy.

Overall:  I’m far from over her and still let it affect my life entirely.  Probably worse.

 

Pro:  I’ve proactively addressed my financial problems and complained when I felt I’ve been wronged.

Con:  Still a cripplingly high energy and water bill to pay.

Overall:  A lot to pay but arrangements in place to pay them.  Better definitely.

 

Pro:  The long spells of tears and sobbing have all but disappeared.

Con:  I still regularly feel like my heart has been ripped out of me.

Overall:  I’d rather get rid of the feeling than the physical effects.  No better.

 

Pro:  Very positive feedback for more voluntary work and starting soon.

Con:  Still nobody wants to take a chance with me on paid employment.

Overall:  The self respect of feeling like I’m earning my income returns.  Much better.

 

Pro:  Settled into a pattern of housework every single day.

Con:  Sometimes slovenly completed.

Overall:  Pleased with how much more pleasant the home looks.  Better.

 

Depression Pros And Cons

 

Pro:  Walking longish distances every day.

Con:  Opens up a raft of negative thinking while I walk along.

Overall:  Better physically, worse mentally.  Given the choice I’d swap.

 

Pro:  Haven’t dropped into a habit of switching on daytime tv.

Con:  Have recently lost interest in reading or writing to fill any spare time.

Overall:  Worse.  I need to keep disciplined and my mind occupied or I’ll end up in the company of Jeremy Kyle in the mornings.

 

Pro:  Rise from bed early nearly every morning.  I can count on one hand the days I’ve not been able to get out of bed.

Con:  Sleeping patterns terribly out of kilter.  Seldom asleep before 3am.

Overall:  This just isn’t healthy, despite eradicating entire days under the duvet.  Worse.

 

Pro:  Positive thoughts about myself sporadically appearing, boosting self confidence.

Con:  When one bad thought hits me, it snowballs.  And still happens often.

Overall:  Despite the impression of it being otherwise, my self esteem has actually improved ever so slightly.  Better.

 

Conclusion

Pro:  I’ve taken many positive steps to improve my life.  It’s taken a lot of gumption to do it too.

Con:  The bad, long term stuff, cuts me to the quick, and hurts me to the bone, just as much as before.

Overall:  There’s not much in it, and I do feel awful about myself and inestimably sad often, but overall I’m in the black and getting rid of that black dog.

 

So there we are.  Despite my angst and misgivings, I’m probably in a better place than at the start of the year.  Looking back, I’m surprised I’ve come through it and actually done so much to change my life around.

Still lots of work to do, but the last six months have been a start.  All I need do now is something that has to be not just a one-off, or limited, process.  It has to be continual.

And that’s develop.

A Broken Life In The Day

And so we get to a painful, painful day.  While friends around me are celebrating birthdays, I’m just left to think of the empty shell in my heart and soul, unable to celebrate without the love of my life.

I’ve come up against a brick wall.  I’m fully on-board with not seeing her again, that I need to move on and carry on with my life.  It’s something I’ve been focusing on, getting the bills paid, getting a date, getting a job, getting on with life.

Yet this morning, once again, that familiar feeling of my heart being ripped out of me.  It doesn’t help that, in the middle of a heatwave, it’s been so hot and humid all night.  I finally went to sleep just before 7am, the night spent fruitlessly trying to sleep and my mind tormenting me of the love I lost, with it being her birthday week.

I rise, though, at 11, too hot and too miserable to get anything other than fitful dozing, and vivid, troubling dreams, full of aggression directed at me and revenge, which I then regret.  I guess depression has got a hold of me big time.

Nevertheless, the day has to be met full-on.  A meeting with my employment advisor awaits.  I would’ve had breakfast but there’s simply nothing in the pantry.  I’ve £1.12 in my account to get through the rest of this week and the weekend.  I’d better get used to an occasional meal for the next few days.  Hello hunger, my old friend.

As I look out to sea, a beautiful walk into town, on a beautiful day, it’s the same old feelings.  I seem to go against the grain.  I think positively in dull or bad weather.  When it’s as lovely as this, the darkness pervades my thinking.

Maybe this time, however, I could be forgiven.  Around this time last year, my ex and I were celebrating her birthday at a place equally as beautiful, but many many miles from the Magnolia Tree house.  We just wanted to be together, away from anyone and anything, a long long away from everyday life.

I treated her to an ironic lunch and we spent the afternoon on the bank of a canal, cuddling, watching the world go by, and loving each other.  This time round, though, nothing, just a black empty feeling.  No wonder I was cursing how nice the day was.  Couldn’t the weather have done the decent thing and be miserable with me?

Depression Birthday Remembered

When I get to the advisor, he’s more than helpful.  He can see, clearly, that although it’s paying no dividends, I’m out traipsing the streets, applying for the jobs, wanting desperately to earn a crust, to provide for my family.  Believe me, these JobCentre people can pick up on just about anything you can do these days.  At least they acknowledge that I’m doing the right thing.

I also drop by the Sally Army, when an employment trust are also trying to help me out.  I let the kindly woman know how I am, what I’ve been doing, how I’ve been feeling.  It can’t be much fun for her, listening to me, I’m thinking.

She then dropped a bombshell.  “Remember that woman who helped you with your cv and job searching?”  I do.  She was youngish, helpful, friendly, and attractive.  The sort of person you notice if she walks into a room.

“She’s dead.”

The shock, I could feel course through me.  It seems so impossible.  I keep thinking nobody that young can pass away.  The truth, as ever, a sheer folly of that thought.  But a heart attack at that age?  If depression seems so, well, unfair, then taking someone like her, at such a young age, someone who helped so many people, is downright cruel.

We wisely agreed to reconvene the appointment for next week.  Not before another token of kindness passed my way.  I’m given the train fare home as it was so unbearably hot to be walking miles.

Yet, to my shame, with an empty fridge and vastly reduced larder, I instead invest in some bare food essentials to get us through to next week.  I genuinely feel rotten about it, and regretted it as soon as I left the store.  Hunger and depression does strange things to you.

So I get home.  My lesson today?  Life really is too short.  All this time I’ve spent mourning a loss, tending a broken heart, letting it take such a grip of my mind.  Yet I was lucky enough to love, to have fun, laughter and wonderful times, with someone who truly loved me as much as I did her.  Strangely, as I write this, there’s a glimmer of a smile on my face.  For the first time in days.

So, wherever you are, I hope you had a happy birthday.  I still love you, for sure.  But life moves on and so must I.

With a smile on my face.

Back To Black

It’s difficult to convey how exactly I’m feeling at the moment.  Which is a pretty sure sign depression has taken a big, big hold of me again.  When things are going better, articulation, erudition, all those clever turns of phrases, are so much easier.

Yet now it’s ….. black.  I haven’t been able to face writing about anything.  Every single task seems so, so much harder.  My mind has resumed its self destruction.  This is a real battle to keep myself going.

To the outsider, it would seem that the termination of my therapy, albeit temporarily, has been the reason behind it all.  Yet I’m really not so sure.  I know that in a fortnight, it resumes with a sexual psychotherapist, an area that’s been overlooked until now but is all tied up with the problems in other areas of my life.  It’s with a mixture of relief, fear and happiness that I look forward to it.

No, I really think it’s been a coincidence.  Depression, for me at least, comes and goes in cycles.  I recover, do all the little self-help exercises to keep the positives in day-to-day living foremost in my mind, gradually feel better about myself, more confident.

Then ….. it’s not a sudden descent.  I can feel it slowing enveloping me, like a blanket of gloom.  It feels grey, which gives me time to fight the onset of it, but then too late.  I’m back to black.

My sleeping patterns are out of the window.  The other night, stayed up until 5, way after daylight was seeping through the curtains, feeling worse and worse about myself.  On another occasion, going to bed at a good time, around 10pm, I couldn’t get up until late the next afternoon, and only then to go to the bathroom.  Over and over in my head that voice was telling me how wrong life had gone, how usesless I was, how ugly I was, that I was getting what I deserved.

One event that exacerbated what I was feeling was doing something that Lesley, my now ex-therapist, suggested.  I’d been making use of my time when I couldn’t face going out by signing up with dating websites, with a little success.

Not exactly brimming with confidence after that, but having a boost that people actually liked me, I ventured onto a dating website’s chat room.  All was going well.  I wasn’t hogging the conversation, only chipping in every now and then, and was well received.  I could feel my self-esteem start to rise.  Only slightly, but hey, feeling even minutely attractive was such a positive.

It had to come crumbling down though.  It was quick and shocking to me though.  One of the women in the chat room, after a period of talking nicely with each other generally, suddenly accused me of making lewd comments, and asking if she was bisexual.  She also claimed that, somehow, I’d changed my name online to do it and then back again to avoid detection.  This in a public chat room, which is monitored, with registration a pre-requisite of entry.

Depression Returned

The accusation was riddled with expletives, too, and really upset me.  Human nature being what it is, some of the other people in the chat room, despite there being not a shred of truth in it, took what she was saying as gospel and joined in with the general character assassination.

I wasn’t, however, prepared to accept this.  I was prepared, though, to believe I may have been the victim of a hacked account, so amended my security details.  I also contacted the website’s customer service section, by e-mail and via their live chat help service.

Their logs bore out that I had made no indecent remarks to anyone, or anything of a remotely suggestive nature.  They also took the step of banning the woman who made the accusation.  I may, naturally be entitled to feel vindicated by that.

I don’t though.  My faith in people has taken a severe denting, that someone of an age where they long since really ought to know better, feels it perfectly acceptable to make such unfounded accusations and be so abusive to someone, and that so many others were more than happy to join in.

Yet, this is the illogical thing, the voice in my mind asks, almost hints at “well, you must have said something.”  I’m taking ownership of a shame, that rose from the embarrassment of the incident I guess, that belongs to someone else.  So very beyond logic but that’s the way my mind rolls.

I was extremely upset by it for a day, and haven’t been back to the chat room since, though I’m intending to venture back later now the accuser has been banned, and kept in touch elsewhere with someone I met through the website.  That incident, however, only flared up in the past four days.  I’ve been feeling awful about myself again for some time before that.

There’s been no tears, but the rest of my body has been feeling like it was weeping.  Not only has the blog not been updated, but every other little project I’ve started, things with a purpose, to fulfill ambition, I haven’t been able to face.  The only constant has been the paid job searching.  Walking around, feeling awful, hoping against hope for something, both job wise and in myself.

Where do I go from here?  I have no idea.  I’m hoping for the best, fearing the worst, so maybe it’s going to be somewhere in the middle.  My ex’s birthday crops up next week, mind.  That’s going to be a test.  I’ve gone from being destroyed and heartbroken, to just missing her and the closeness anyone has in a loving relationship.  Let’s see if that changes.

What has changed since last week, though, is that, at last, I’m here writing about it.  That, at least, is a sign of no longer being back to black.  It may be in a miniscule way but perhaps, just perhaps, it won’t feel so awful for much longer.

I’m back from black.

Paranoid On Android

Only because I can’t afford a Mac or an iPhone, mind, but I’m guessing the play on yet another song title applies to Apple users as much as it does me.

It’s one of the more curious things about finally deciding to tackle your mental demons.  Finding crimps and quirks in your personality you never knew could exist in anyone, let alone yourself.  In this digital day and age, though, I guess new behavioural traits are going to become a part of you.  They certainly have me.

It sounds very dramatic, but it really isn’t, yet at the same time is definitely something else I have to overcome to get back to everyday living.  It’s a creeping paranoia – and for me it’s spread to the world of social media.

It’s come to light for me in the face of a real upturn in fortunes.  Despite my misgivings, I became particularly friendly with someone on an online dating website.  We’ve exchanged pics, phone numbers, talked into the night, and to the stage of sorting out some time to see each other.

Yet there is something holding me back.  I wonder about sending her a Facebook message in case in looks like I’m wanting to take up all of her time.  Yet if she isn’t seen online I wonder if she doesn’t like me and is discreetly staying out of contact’s way.  This isn’t healthy especially now, writing it down, I can see how nonsensical my thought processes have been.

It also occurs in the world of the twittersphere. A few times I’ve engaged in direct messages with someone, or engaged in conversation on the public timeline with them.  That’s absolutely fine once or twice.  It’s natural, too, that if you get to know someone and like them, even on Twitter, you’re going to reply to them directly or on their public timeline more often.

Yet that impeccable logic flies out of the tweeting window with me.  After a while I wonder if I’m giving the impression that I’m stalking them.  As a consequence I rein myself in and spend much less time exchanging pleasantries with someone than I really could – and in all probability they enjoy my online company as much I do theirs.

It’s not the behaviour of a sound person, I know that only too well.  It’s as clear as day that my self esteem issues are at the heart of it.  One therapist, rightly, said I am the most inoffensive person they know (but perhaps wrongly as the most inoffensive person in the world!)

Depression Paranoid

Me being me, though, instead of relaxing at what is clearly a compliment of my placid, easy going nature, I somehow get it into my head that I have to go out of my way to not cause even mild offence, or give the slightest impression of hinting I might.  It’s like putting layers and layers on during a baking hot day so nobody can see sunburn if you ever got it, instead of buying sunblock.

I do, of course, have social anxiety away from the superinfowebnet highway.  I have good friends, of course, but they tend to be thin on the ground.  I try to keep away from parties and other social events.  If I do turn up to them, I’ll skulk in a corner, away from the central activity.

It’s nothing to do with how nice or otherwise people are.  I genuinely feel uncomfortable in social gatherings larger than, say, half a dozen people.  I mostly keep that side of it to myself, as the majority of social gatherings, surprise surprise, involve seven or more people.

That unease has been with me ever since I can remember though.  When I was of a drinking and socialising age, I headed off to a club regularly.  Not a night club, of course, but the bar of a sports club.  It was quiet, it served drinks cheaply, and I had no social pressures.  When work issues drove me to the edge, though, I managed to even make myself feel uncomfortable there, but that’s another story.

It’s that very same social agoraphobia, though, that has permeated it’s way onto Facebook, Twitter, and online dating websites.  I’m clearly personable, and comparative strangers take to me.  Yet after a short while of this happening, I become paranoid on Android.  My mind has a lot to answer for.

So what to do?  Well, I’ve sent her a text message earlier today.  I’m on the dating website as I write this.  It’s not going to be a 24/7, keep logged on but say nothing sort of thing, though.

After all, I’ve been bought a new dvd of Parks & Recreation, and that will see me through this evening.  I’m only socially abnormal some of the time – when there’s something good on tv I’m as normally, happily withdrawn as anyone else.

Which, one sunny day, is all I aspire to be.

Seasonally Disaffected

A typically British summer’s day here today.  The sun is trying to shine but is being blocked out by the low cloud.  Showers have been intermittent but it’s remained pretty mild.  My goodness, this weather girl lark is easy.

It’s among the very first things anyone in the UK will speak to you about, whether they know you or not.  Fahrenheit and Celsius, sunshine and rain, they are as much part of being British as fish and chips and warm beer.

It seems to be, as well, one of the first stereotypical things anyone will say if they know, or if you reveal to them, that you’re suffering from depression.  It’s not only well meaning friends or pub bores, though, that talk about Seasonal Affective Disorder, as soon as they ask how you are and you reveal you’re not too good.  Even my therapists have at least hinted that what I have is part ‘to do with the weather’.

I can see where the perception comes from.  If you’re not feeling great about yourself, and you peer out of the window to see grey clouds and pouring rain, it’s easy to feel that bit worse.  I used that very excuse earlier this summer to not get out of bed and go to an event I was invited to.

That’s all it was, though, an excuse.  The underlying reason was, and still is, my cripplingly low self esteem in social situations.  I was subconsciously looking for anything to get out of it.  After all, later that same day, I sauntered into town.

It goes to show that the label of having a seasonally affected disorder, where feeling suicidal or euphoric is down to whether it’s a bright summer’s day or a cold winter’s evening, is often a very easy yet misguided conclusion to reach.

Further evidence that what I have is a psychological, rather than elementary based, disorder is in something I do every single day.  The humble walk, whether it be searching for working or getting some exercise, is what I usually enjoy doing regardless of what the skies are bringing down towards Earth.  It’s in those times where I often feel things the deepest.

My ideal weather is, more or less, as it is today.  I could with it being a little less brighter, mind, as I regularly fall foul of weeping eyes.  I guess the occasional looks of concern of strangers when I wander by, for no apparent reason I can think of at the time, is because of those streaming tear ducts.  I’m not crying though (well, not usually).  Just sensitive around the eyeballs.

I love to feel light drizzle, too.  Somehow it makes me feel a little more alive.  I’m not sure how, it just does.  A light breeze is great, too, preferably slightly on the cool side of mild.  I feel comfortable in those conditions.  I feel as if I can walk and walk and walk.  Then, because of that spring in my step, positive and determined thoughts begin to pervade my mind.  It’s a good feeling.

Depression Weather

It also has the advantage, especially if the drizzle is persistent, that the seafront walk is done with hardly anyone else around.  There’s a world of difference between being alone and being lonely.  I enjoy the solace, the sea gently sweeping in, with the soft tones of the waves caressing the shore.  It’s a wonderful place to be, both physically and mentally.

Perhaps it’s the Celtic side of me, with those Northern Scottish roots, but I ‘m also okay in the winter, if it’s cold and wet, maybe even snowing.  So long as there isn’t a freezing wind, I’m fine.  Like everyone else, though, I’m not particularly happy with being chilled to the bone.  Yet, if I’m out in the darkness of the winter, it’s not a catalyst for triggering anything negative.

The weather that brings on by far the most negative thoughts, and engenders the worst feelings within me, is when the weather is hot, with the sun beating down.  The eyes squint and weep, even with the sun behind me.  Walking becomes more of a effort, presumably through being a bit more dehydrated.

It’s in those conditions, and with that sunshine bringing out the daytrippers, which means less quiet and more attention needed to where I’m going (often because others don’t bother to).  My headspace and my physical space is then filled with temporary irritations.

From there, I begin to feel down, chiding myself for being so intolerant of others, allowing myself to be bothered by being less than perfectly comfortable.  Then the damning negative thoughts come to me, of how useless I am, or how much I miss my ex.  It snowballs in the heat.

It’s a blessed relief that I live in Britain.  The weather that triggers me to feel worse than I usually do is never around for long spells.  True, it may annoy the 60 million or so other Britons, but dull, mild weather is in plentiful supply every spring, summer and autumn.  If I’m seasonally affected, then it’s actually in a positive way.

On that note, I’m off for a wander.  I’ve just seen the first few spots of afternoon drizzle.  It may be raining on the beach and on the few daytrippers left now.

But not on my parade.

In Dependence

And so the topsy turvy life of suffering depression continues.  Still very much feeling as if someone has ripped my heart out (which someone has, figuratively speaking) and replaced it with an empty shell, echoing negative thoughts through my mind, and achingly bad emotions around my body.  It hurts and hurts and hurts.

I’m trying to do all the things that therapists and books have suggested, like writing down my successes, keeping an activity record, getting myself out and about every day.  I’ll keep on at it too.  Yet it still comes back to pain, feeling useless, and occasional thoughts that people wouldn’t miss me and be better off without me.

It’s going to be a long, long road, this recovery, but this morning came the possibility of another big step.  Such is my distress, though, at opening a letter presently, that I checked the postcode of where it came from before deciding it was something I could face.  Not a good sign.

Nevertheless, confirmation came through that towards the end of the month I began sessions with a sexual psychotherapist.  This is something I’ve needed for a long, long time, definitely decades.  I have a real mental block with my sex life and I have no doubt it’s played a big role in ruining my relationships.

I’m not expecting miracles.  You can’t undo decades of low self esteem and repression in a few hours of someone asking you questions or making observations.  It’s encouraging, however, that there’s someone who has been assigned to me specifically to help with a cornerstone of my behaviour that has been so troublesome in my life.

Another plus is something that, paradoxically, is something that really brings shame to the country where I live.  I’ve been given an appointment for a food bank.  As you’re probably aware, on such a low income, I’ve found it incredibly difficult to make ends meet.  In fact, I often haven’t, and go without meals most days.

In the current British climate of blaming the poor for the mistakes of the rich, it still feels a little shameful to be in need of it, as if I’m somehow stealing something from someone, that I haven’t earned or deserved it.  Totally irrational, I know, but that’s how it feels in times of forced austerity.  This will, at least, ensure that I eat properly, which is pretty paramount to good mental as well as physical shape.

So, slowly, despite my inner sadness, things are and will be getting better, and while depending on charity and a health service to remain independent, can reflect on Independence Day the other side of the pond.

Depression John Adams

It’s very fashionable here to resent and criticise the US.  Their interventionist ways in the Middle East, in particular, has caused ire in the UK.  We also tend to stereotype American holidaymakers in our country as brash, loud, and a wee bit ignorant.

I’ve always taken the opposite view.  It probably stems from my father.  He was a marine stationed out in the Chosin Reservoir out in 1950’s Korea.  250 British and 750 American marines held out for 72 hours against 10,000 Chinese troops in the teeth of a bitter winter, with snow around their knees throughout.  One second of sleep will have ended their life.  They held on, and eventually made the lives of millions of South Koreans they never knew or met that much better.

Another result of that is that I’ve befriended many ex US servicemen and their families through reunions and spent some happy days in their presence.  Brave, kind, and friendly would be the three words I would use to describe them.  Lovely, lovely people.

Even when I’ve been Stateside without the presence of anyone I knew, the people have been among the nicest I’ve ever met.  Almost always polite, courteous, warm, and with a humour bereft of cynicism, which is probably why sarcasm doesn’t sit well with them.

They’ve also had their share of people suffering the effects of depression and other mental health issues, stretching right back to one of the founding fathers.  John Adams, the second president, said something which I’ve remembered since my History O grade exams at school.  “Liberty cannot be preserved without general knowledge among the people.”  So, so true.

On a more contemporary level, comedienne Ruby Wax is someone I admire so, so much.  A funny, sassy woman, but with a raw honesty and integrity, being so open about how she has been affected by depression and how she combats it.

Ruby has led the way for depression no longer being swept under the carpet, so that people can talk openly about this dreadful illness they suffer.  It’s no exaggeration to say she’s saved someone’s life that she’s never met.  Something my father, all those decades ago in the Korean snow, and her have in common.

So to all Americans, have a truly wonderful Independence Day holiday.  Despite all the problems and issues in your country, you deserve a day off to feel good about yourselves.

Maybe it’s advice I might follow myself one day …..

Falling Down Back Into The Discomfort Zone

It was probably inevitable that, after the last few days where I was consciously aware of significant steps on the road to recovery, there would be a setback.

As I’m writing this, I’ve let out a big sigh.  I can feel pain running through my heart and soul.  It’s only the lack of tears that keeps it from being one of those bouts of uncontrollable crying.   Why am I hurting so much?  Yet again?

It perhaps didn’t help that I had what can only be described as a ‘Falling Down’ moment the other day.  Between the rail station and my home is an open alleyway.  It’s strewn with rubbish, urine filled bottles, clearly the leftovers of house burglaries, and at the weekend there was a dead rat on it’s path.  In the bushes beside it lurk people, their bodies hidden but not their voices.

Unfortunately, it’s the only way to get home from the station, other than a considerable detour, of around a mile.  A three minute stroll would turn into a 20 minute slog uphill and then back down.  Up until this point it’s been one of those necessary evils to walk through to get home.

Anyway, as I wandered absentmindedly towards the Magnolia Tree House, coming my way was a youth, in his late teens.  Despite it being a roaring hot day, he was dressed in a royal blue hoodie, which of course was worn over his head.  As we got closer and closer, his walk became a swagger, taking up the entire pathway.

As I tried to get by, he informed me, in a voice reminiscent of Ali G, though no doubt he thought was intimidating, that I would have to pay a toll to get by, though not quite as eloquently, littered with expletives.  This was around 20 past two in the afternoon, but nobody else was around.

My reaction surprised me.  On the very few occasions I’ve been confronted physically, I’ve been frozen with fear, unable to even run.  This time, however, something was different.  I could feel tension, not terror, coursing through me, and I began to hold my breath rather than hyperventilating.  My body tensed up and I clenched both my fists.  There was no clamminess about me.  This was cold, brooding, intense anger building up inside of me.

Perhaps the hoodlum thought I might be easy pickings because of my age, or my sex, or the placid, mild mannered expression my body language exudes most of the time.  This particular day, though, to my own shock as much as his, he made a terrible misjudgment.

I informed him, looking him straight in the eye, in a  calm, soft but somehow snappy and spiteful tone, that he would be getting not a penny, and that even if he succeeded in putting me into hospital, he was going to get hurt in the process too, no matter what.  The sneering ‘Is that right?’ – with the now obligatory f word, was met with a step right in front of him, and a very soft, calm “Yes”.  By this time the nails of my fingers were digging deep impressions into my palm, so clenched were my fists.

Depression Falling Down

It may have been just a few seconds, but it felt like a minute or so, my gaze never flinching.  Eventually, he backed down, and took a step to the side, arms slightly raised, as if to say ‘Okay, okay’.  I walked past, deliberately putting my shoulder into his, making him swerve out of the way and into the bushes.  As a parting shot, though, from a safe distance, he threw some object at me.

Just as I reached home, I even turned back, wondering if I might go and take this further.  Fear had long since gone.  I was quite prepared to go after him and, rashly, turn the incident into something more violent.  Totally out of character for me.  I did, of course, think better of it, and calmed down, with a small measure of satisfaction that I faced him down, and that maybe he will think twice before doing anything like that again.

It seems more than coincidence, then, that so soon after something like that, my mood has swung back into deepening depression.  Maybe all that negative emotion was rising up in me and was about to be taken out on a teenage thug.  Then just at that moment, it stopped, which left all of those feelings floating around my mind and body.

Or maybe the answer is more simple.  That it’s one of those setback days which my therapists have faithfully assured me would be coming and needed to be ready to deal with it.

It didn’t help, mind, that various companies took it upon themselves to harass me by phone, and that Lesley annoyed me intensely by a somewhat terse message after she had asked me to get in touch with her.   If she didn’t want me to contact her via a certain number, then why on earth put it on her business card that she gave me?

Put all of that together and the result today has been pining for my ex, even though it is well and truly over, missing her, extraordinarily sad that I’ll never see her again for the rest of my life, and upset that I can’t improve my life one iota, whether it be job searching, dealing with everyday bills and housekeeping, or anything about me.

I’m not giving myself a chance to get better, and haven’t done for some time.  But like William Foster in the film, it’s getting to the point where something is going to happen soon.  We all know, though, how that ended.  I’m back in the discomfort zone and not happy to be there, with thoughts of suicide creeping back in.  For the moment, though, I’m making no plans to walk down my local pier armed with a water pistol.

Teaching thugs a lesson is about my limit.