Therapy Log: Tuesday 26th August 2014 – Mushroom For Manoeuvre

Again, a longish absence from the world of venting my spleen, revealing my soul, call it what you will.  Again, too, no emergency, crisis of confidence, or any drama, whether real or perceived, in my life.

Strange as it may seem, it’s been an ordinary existence.  Nothing especially warming going on, simply plodding on.  Work has been good, getting me into a rhythm of daily living, leaving less time to damage myself with those dark thoughts, and occasionally actions.

There’s still reminisces about my ex, who I still miss.  Perhaps not as dreadfully as before, although I still have bad days and nights, when it seems losing her is unbearable.  They are far less commonplace, though, and the memories are becoming warmer, looking back at happy days out and times together.  A broken heart, still, but mending.

It’s also reached a stage, at least at the moment, where I don’t think I can talk here with any great knowledge or experience of mental health issues any more than I have done, so I don’t.  I’ve shared my experiences so far.  Any more would be waffling and pointless conjecture.  Which I’ll leave to the Scottish independence debate.

There is still, however, a big problem facing me, and I so, so need help.  Between the sheets, there is that mental block.  Why does it happen?  Everything in my body physically at the time of intimacy is extremely aroused and clearly wanting to become far more intimate.  Yet, there once more, is that voice in my mind, stopping me.  No means no, even when I so want it to be yes.

The paradox in my mind and body is duplicated by the weather.  Not quite hot enough to show my legs off, but still, looking outside, mild enough to wear a short sleeved top.  As soon as one foot stepped in front of the other, though, the heavens opened.  I was a drowned rat by the time I took my seat in the grimy, low ceiling reception.

Anne was her usual self, despite her own troubles in making it to the poky little cupboard masquerading as a therapy room.  Upbeat and perky, which is a natural trait for her, without a doubt. I’ve been around enough therapists to know which ones are genuine in their positive warmth and which ones are reverting to a ‘professional cheerleader’ mode.

Yet again, that ‘scores of the doors’ form so everyone can see just how stressed, anxious, depressed and suicidal I am.  I have to tell the truth on these forms – but what you see on the form really doesn’t translate to how you’re feeling.

For example, I still have the odd all nighter, staying up for no reason other than not being able to get to sleep.  Yet they are far, far fewer than before.  On the form, however, the option flips straight from ‘no days’ to ‘several days’ when you tick how often you have sleeping problems in the past fortnight.  No box for just one day.  It skews the truth incredibly.

Depression Sex Therapist Door

So yes, I’ve been worrying too much, sleeping poorly, and had suicidal thoughts for ‘several days’ in the past fortnight, according to their forms.  They were the only boxes I could tick though.  It’s an odd and clearly misleading anomaly.

It’s skirting around the issue though.  Despite the down to earth empathy and insight, at times, of Anne, it was a tough session.  You can always tell when I’m uncomfortable when talking about an issue.  I steer conversation away to such a tangent that it becomes completely irrelevant from the subject matter, by which time I hope that’s forgotten.

Today, the conversation was steered so far away from arousal that it became an exchange of tips for keeping food that bit fresher.  I was pleased to find out that putting a tissue between cellophane and mushrooms stops them getting damp.  Don’t say you never learn anything new from me.  Despite my diversionary tactics, however, there was no room for manoeuvre and those piercing eyes looking into my soul.

Anne, well anyone really, could see right through what I was doing.  Questions were asked, confidence given, about how I perceive my body, and where my ultra low self esteem originated.  Anne ventured that perhaps in my subconscious, when I find someone really attractive, that I feel I don’t deserve them in some way.  I thought long and hard, squirming internally.  Nail on head though.  Every partner I’ve had at some point I believed was out of my league.

Usually I say the session ends all too soon but it couldn’t come quickly enough.  Especially when asked to do something at home.  This time is to think of something that gives me arousal but without going any further, to hold that arousal, then let it fade.  To be fair, that may not be too difficult.  I often think of Sharon Stone but fall asleep or lose the thought before any arousal turns into something more.  No sex please, we can’t be bothered.

So came the return home, which couldn’t come quickly enough.  Which of course is another paradox because Anne really is someone you can really enjoy being around.  This is hard though.  She’s actually getting to the root of my problems and the truth feels distinctly uncomfortable.

I simply don’t love myself in any form.  Which is a pity because I truly am worthy of being loved.  Especially as I now know how to store a mushroom.  Hopefully, though, that’s not the only thing Anne can help me with.  I hope, at least.

Because if this doesn’t work, there really is no room for manoeuvre.

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She’s Out Of My Life

The blog posts are becoming fewer, I know, which is usually a clear sign that in my topsy turvy mind, I’m on the way back down.  Happily, not so this time round.  Now I’m in the thick of voluntary work, time is less of a luxury.

I’m enjoying it immensely.  It gives me a feeling of self respect, and also that I’m earning the small walfare payments that are paid out.  I don’t look at it as voluntary work, actually, as I am getting payment for doing it, albeit not from the organisations themselves.  I’m a working person and it feels good.

That said, I was confronted with a situation, that I know would be painful, but really was unavoidable.  The good thing is that, instead of hiding, and fretting, I confronted the issue head on.

As luck would have, the location of one of my work places is within a few hundred yards of where my ex lives.  Now, I know that logic dictates that giving into temptation, walking down that road, and knocking on the door, would lead to some sort of Pandora’s Box being opened.

Nonetheless, whatever the advice others would give to me, and I’d even say to myself, I knew this is an itch that had to be scratched, whatever pain it may cause.  Logic flies out the window during the pain of loss, but then logic doesn’t feel the agony of not knowing, of not having, of not being.

So it came to pass on my walk home yesterday.  I could feel adrenaline running through.  It wasn’t transformed into excitement though.  It was trepidation, worry.  I had no idea how I’d react.  Still, inside of me, instinct told me it was somehow the right thing.  Getting some sort of closure rather than wondering.

The street is unremarkable, and as the sun was setting, the clear skies had becoming overcast, making it almost dark.  It seemed to match the significance of what I was doing, a metaphor for all the dark times since the sunshine of being with her had been taken away from me.

I even gulped as I walked down the road.  House number after house number, nearer and nearer, looking out for that familiar silver people carrier with a hub cap missing, momentarily taking any silver car parked as hers.  Telling myself every time she’s here, she’s again so close to me.

Depression Searching

It was almost pitch black as I stood outside her home.  The silver people carrier was nowhere to be seen.  That was nothing unusual, however.  It’s a very tight road with a disproportionate number of cars parked throughout.  She often needed to park in neighbouring streets.

What was unusual, however, was the house as I stood before it.  No lights on.  No curtains on the windows.  No signs of life whatsoever.  An empty house.  And an empty hollow feeling ripping through me.

The heart beat was still quickened as I realised that, no matter what has happened, I know she doesn’t live here any more.  Whether I like it or not, wherever she is, she’s out of my life.

A wave of negative emotions overtook me.  I stood before the house for a good few minutes, hoping against hope of a movement behind the windows in the gloom.  Then panic swept through as, in my troubled mind, I still refused to accept what was plainly in front of me.

I walked up and down the street, a good half mile long, searching desperately for her car.  Each silver coloured vehicle was checked.  My heart skipped a beat when one car started with the same registration number.  Oh my …. oh.  A good half hour of walking up and down like some cheap prostitute later, I came to a conclusion.  “Her car must be parked in a nearby street.”

For a moment I considered searching every road within a half mile radius.  Just in case.  At that point, though, even I realised the insanity of what I was thinking.  I took one last, longing, loving look at where she used to live, and sadly trudged home, eyes moistening, suicidal thoughts permeating my mind for the first time in a week.

A strange thing happened though.  As I let myself in at my own home, fully aware it will be probably as a single person for a considerable time, a weight lifted off me.  The sadness dissipated.  There was a sense of at least partial closure.  She’s not around any more so it’s not worth fretting or searching for.

It’s carried on today.  I’m feeling positive.  Of course, I miss her dreadfully.  She’s gone but my love for her never will.  I just feel, though, not quite closure, but confirmation I will never see her again, hear her voice again, adore her again.  It’s sad but life really is going on.

And on that note, it’s time to get stuck into work.  Life really is getting better.  Even if sometimes I can’t feel it.  She’s out of my life.

And I’m out of the mess I was in.

Socially Immobilised

It was always going to come, after the recent steps towards recovery and normality (whatever that is).  A setback.  Funnily enough, it hasn’t triggered a particularly negative cycle but it’s there nonetheless.

I’d arranged to go to an event today and even contacted the organisers yesterday to see if it was okay for a late agreement to come along.  It being the summer, we have to enjoy these open air events while we can.  Especially in Britain, where normally ‘summer’ entails two days of scorching sunburn and three months of cloud and drizzle.  I was looking forward to meeting up with old friends.

Yet, this morning, once again, my mind was ticking over with reasons not to go.  The main one was, with money always being tight, can I justify paying to get the train over there and then pay to get in?  I wrestled with myself mentally, until I came to the inevitable conclusion.  No, it wasn’t.  Save the money for necessities, even if it was comparatively inexpensive to get and go to.

I know the real reason, though, and was just trying to come up with a half decent excuse for denial.  Even I can see through it though.  I didn’t want to be around a lot of people in a social setting.

A few nights ago it was different.  I was out of an evening, at an open air function.  I knew most of the people, which numbered around 70.  The conversation and the ambiance was as gentle as the sea breeze coming in.  Quite lovely.

Today, though, was an event where hundreds would attend.  Sure, old friends would be there, but could be counted on one hand.  There may be no reason at all to be anxious of that situation, but a block came into my mind.  It wasn’t panic, but just a feeling of ‘I don’t want to go, I don’t want to go, I don’t want to go.’  As soon as I made the decision to not go and instead nip out to the bakers for a loaf of wholemeal, my body and mind relaxed.

It’s not only in large-ish groups that this phobia, if that is what it is, kicks in.  Now back into the swing of voluntary work, the person who runs the organisation I’m helping out wanted me to come over of an evening for a friendly chat.

Depression Social Agoraphobia

I was fine over the phone and online about it but as time drew nearer to walk over and meet up, I didn’t want to go, I felt somehow worried and concerned but didn’t know why.  In spite of myself, I still went, but even arriving outside, I sat on a park seat for 10 minutes before plucking up the courage to call and say I was there.

Lesley mentioned that I have what she termed ‘social agoraphobia’.  I’m not sure exactly what that is and by the sound of it I’m not sure if I agree.  It’s undeniable, however, that I do suffer social anxiety.

It probably stems from childhood.  I was always a home lover.  I never went on any school field trips and I remember one holiday, where we were just an hour and a half from home, when I cried and pleaded to go back.  Then again, families can make you feel like that, anyway.

I don’t find it difficult to make friends but I tend not to make good friends with anyone until after a certain amount of time.  Even then, they soon fade out of my life, as I then get anxious and insecure at how I’m seen in their presence.  A fool to myself, some might say, but it seems like a sort of switch that’s remotely activated in my mind.  One second all is well, the next, no, I’m not going, or I want to go home.

Often my behaviour at social functions is mistaken for being snooty or aloof.  I’d like to think I’m not.  If I don’t know people, I’m quiet and introvert, until I gain their confidence, when I’ll come out of myself.  It’s always been that way too.

Yet, as can be seen by the trip to the bakery, if I can be anonymous, just another customer or person in the background whilst completing a mundane activity, I’m absolutely fine.  The social anxiety doesn’t extend to day-to-day living so I’m extremely lucky on that score.

All it means is that, instead of enjoying something I was looking forward to, and writing the latest installment of my getting better tomorrow, I’m here this Saturday afternoon, socially immobile, fully aware that I still have a way to go.

Do I want to overcome this though?  I’m not sure.  Just as a tester, I thought about going to that event right now, getting there just before the end.  Immediately I felt my body tense up and my mind begin to worry.  Perhaps I’m not a social animal.  Amiable but not social.

At least the bread is fresh.

Therapy Log: Tuesday 12th August 2014 – Seeing The Uncomfortable Picture

How could I forget?  Not the day, of course, or the time of the appointment.  Or even what my therapist looked like, which I recall was somewhat easy on the eye.  No, what was bugging me was that I have clean forgotten her name.

I knew I could easily find the answer by reading back on the blog a fortnight or so ago but that wasn’t the point.  My short term memory is showing signs of fading.   It’s not just her name either.

For the life of me I also can’t remember the name of that world famous Jamaican sprinter who has smashed all world records and on terrible ads for cable tv.  It’s relatively unimportant, not remembering who he is, but still not a great sign for my mental health.

Nevertheless, it’s in a much better frame of mind that my visit today begins as opposed to the first session.  There’s been various factors.  Above all, though, it’s been the subconscious.  Without thinking I’ve been doing all those things which creates a positive headspace.  Something, without my knowledge, has clearly clicked.

All this before meeting with my therapist.  If only I could recall that name.  I wait in the grim, grubby reception.  Outside I can hear the lunchtime tones of two people having a fight.  I do hope I gave the receptionist the right name.

Only one way to find out.  My therapist calls my name out, actually looking even better than I recall.  Her smile might just disappear when I utter my greeting though.  “Hi Anne.”

My own face breaks into one, however, when she asks how I am, nodding in acceptance that I got the name right.  Phew.  She has no idea how much a trivial thing like that meant to me.   Outwardly I’m happy, inwardly sighing with relief.

The ‘Scores On The Doors’ depression and anxiety indicators are a hotch-potch.  Much better and chilled in some areas, yet more suicidal thoughts, and being unable to concentrate on tv.  To counteract that, those morbid musings last a lot less longer than before, and I’ve found having the radio on in the background has curtailed an awful lot of tv viewing.

Counselling and Support

Onto what Anne asked me to do in that first session.  I did, indeed, touch my body all over in the bath, in a state of relaxation, with a face cloth, to find the areas I like being touched the most.  It turns out I feel aroused by my head and inner thigh being stroked.  That could prove problematic during sex if my partner has a short arm span.

I’m then shown a number of illustrations showing in detail genitalia and how it works.  A slightly embarrassed grin spreads across my face.  I find looking at them uncomfortable but I’m being shown in what area my sex organs decide not to perform, and what is physically happening.

It all makes sense but I know the answer lies locked away in my subconscious.  Something inside that  is not allowing me to either perform or enjoy penetrative sex.  It’s not the inclination, that I know.  I do feel attraction and arousal, even anticipation.  That’s when my mind walks into some block and the shutters come down physically, leaving my partner and I unfulfilled.

The session moves onto my ex.  Anne is pleased at the progress I’m making in finally getting over her.  I admit to still loving her, and if she walked in right now, I’d drop everything and go back with her.  But I hardly long for her and am actively moving on.  I don’t feel like dating again but it feels good to think of it.

Then came more questions, inevitably, of the sex life my ex and I had.  The nice thing about it all is that, problem aside, we both enjoyed long snuggles, lingering kisses, and slow, increasingly passionate foreplay.  I adore the closeness of it, the feeling of being loved, and showing someone I adore and love them equally by smooching and caressing.

Yet again, the session flies by, and I’m given some recommendations to explore my own body a little more in the next couple of weeks.  Nothing overtly physical, or necessarily meaning quick relief, but just being aware of all my body, what it actually looks like, warts and all.

There’s some parts I’m embarrassed of, so confronting the issue by actually bringing myself to look at them seems a reasonable step forward to take.  There’s only one way to find out what sort of step it is.  I’m game.

As the first spits of an incoming shower hit my face when I leave, I start to wonder how Anne is going to help me make that breakthrough in my sex life.  She explains things well, and is at the same time very realistic yet positive of things.

Maybe understanding my body first, understanding my mind later, is what’s happening.  Yet I feel a strange mix of appreciative yet frustrated.

Ironically, just like my sex life.

The Write Stuff

To my pleasant surprise the recovery continues.  With each passing day I seem to be feeling that little bit better about myself and more positive living habits are subconsciously slipping back into my daily routine.

That’s not to say everything is rosy in the garden.  Thoughts regularly come into my head for no apparent reason of  “I wish I was under that car” and the ilk.  Yet that bizarre coping mechanism – hearing the Spice Girls singing ‘Stop right now’ – puts an end to it almost as soon as it pops into my head.

I’ve noticed, at long last, a radical and positive change in my sleeping habits too.  I’m tired before midnight, and usually asleep by then, or at least have been the past fortnight or so.  I’ve still woken up at the usual 7.15 in the morning as well, not even needing an alarm for that, so well is my body tuned in.  It’s undoubtedly made a big difference.

There’s also been another change, which at first glance would seem to encourage an environment of negative thought.  I’ve stopped taking those long walks in the summer warmth.  Strange as it may seem, and contrary to popular wisdom, whenever I had a wander in the sun, it made me irritable, annoyed by passers-by, and brought on wave after wave of self criticism.

Instead, I’ve bought a weekly railcard for my area, to get to the place I like to spend time in locally more than anywhere else.  It’s relatively cheap and within a few minutes I’m in a place I want to be.  The meandering may be curtailed a fair bit, but in my mind, I feel so much better.  We all have to find out what works for us, and sometimes it turns out to be the exception that proves the rule.

A moment of clarity came to me yesterday as well, the most surprising of the lot, too.  It doesn’t take a genius to realise, after over 50,000 words revealing my soul, that I love to write.  It’s a therapy in itself, whether I’m good, bad or average at it, and serves a wonderful purpose in getting me well.

On the back of that, an opportunity came up to take part in a writing challenge.  Spread out over a fortnight, you’re given a certain set of guidelines, which vary from day to day, and have to respond with your finished work within 24 hours.

Depression Writing

Now yesterday’s task was to concoct a piece containing certain words.  One of those words just happened to be in the name of a pub that my ex and I often drove by.  We never went in, it’s absolutely horrible, but seeing it signified we were close to where we wanted to be.  Apart from in each other’s arms, of course.

In the past, seeing that may well have triggered a rash of thoughts, a sense of loss and longing, and snowballed back into the grip of depression yet again.  Not this time though.  Not this time, you horribly twisted mind of mine.

No, what happened was the normal rush of memories of us together.  Then, however, came a warm glow as one day in particular came to mind.  I thought to myself ‘I love you’ to her, and smiled.  Then I started tapping away, quickly, without thought, about that day, what we did, the little quirks and idiosyncrasies of it, and the feeling I had in that moment.

It was wonderful to commit it to print.  As far as prose went, I wasn’t particularly happy with it.  Some phrases were repeated too often, as were certain words.  For the casual reader, though they might have been taken by a little insight into my life, the quality of writing might have been a wee bit off-putting.

It mattered not one bit to me though.  I loved the feeling of writing it, and so  enjoyed reading it back again and again.  Instead of mourning what I don’t have anymore, I was enjoying the time we had spent together.  I still feel a deep love for her, but at long last, it’s engendered a really positive feeling in me.

Will I do this again?  Probably.  Will it be a regular thing?  Probably not.  I don’t want to push it.  But it was a revelation.  The thought of writing about her and the times we spent together was too hurtful to contemplate even just a few weeks ago.  But now?  Well, I have to be getting better now, haven’t I?

I think she would be proud of me today, seeing how I’m fighting back against my depression, and starting to get over her.  The lingering feeling is love now, not loss.  I thank her for and treasure the happy times we spent together.  Sad?  Maybe a little but it’s with a smile on my face.  My love for her is still there, she isn’t, I move on.

Anyway, therapy tomorrow.  I wonder what Anne will think of this all, as I caress that flannel across my arm?  There’s only one way to find out.  Turn up and keep this positive vibe until then.  Who knows, I might even start loving myself a little bit.

That’s for the future though.  But thinking of it?  That has to be some of the right stuff.

Reasons To Be Cheerful

I had hoped a day like this would come around.  Believe?  No.  Hope?  Yes.  We all know, mind, that it’s the hope that we can’t stand.  At last, though, it’s being vindicated.

I’m getting better.

It’s a number of factors that have come into play.  Changes have been brought into my lifestyle.  Ironically, with all the therapy and advice I’ve been given, it’s been a subconscious rather than a deliberate effort that has taken me to this stage.

That perhaps is the most pleasing aspect of it all.  My mind has been the catalyst for the change and not the words of a book or therapist.  Nonetheless the tinkering to my everyday living can be seen by everyone and are numerous.

First off, without really noticing it, has been a change in diet.  I was never the best of cooks, going for something quick and convenient, or a number of snacks to get me through the day.  E-numbers, sugar, and little time over a stove was the order of the day.

This week, however, has seen me visit the local greengrocer.  The fresh veg has been cut and prepared, and meals cooked properly.  Even the bread has been fresh from the local baker, and wholemeal, rather than processed white bread from the supermarket.

Mineral water has replaced the fizzy pop, too.  Almost.  I still can’t resist the odd can of cream soda or Irn Bru, but the odd can is all it’s been, not multi-pint bottles.

A result of this has been three square meals a day and very few hunger pangs in between.  The craving for the sugary or caffeine laden products have passed.  Physically I feel a tiny bit fitter and better for it.

Another reason why my body feels better as well as my mind is getting out and about.  Not just for the daily job search, cv and sense of mild cynicism in hand to pass to each shop owner.  No, doing that, and just that, leaves me sometimes with a grey cloud over me on a clear day.

What I’ve done the past fortnight is to take a short trip to a place I really like, not just for the scenery but also the facilities there, and have a wander.  I don’t think of anything in particular, just do my own thing in an environment I’m happy in.

Depression Handwritten

It’s worked as well.  I feel good as soon as I set foot in the area.  It’s a place well out of my financial reach to live at the moment, but then that sets me an ambition to earn enough to be there 24/7.  It snowballs all that positive thinking.

To earn enough, of course, I have to find a paid job.  In the meantime, though, the voluntary work is coming through thick and fast.  That in itself gives you a feelgood factor.  Doing something for the benefit of someone else, solely because you want to, does your soul a bit of good.

Other people have given me a boost, too, without realising the effect they have.  Yesterday I spoke to someone I hadn’t been in touch with for a while, blanking her out whilst dealing with my demons.  I was also selfish enough to speak to her while she was at work, and it’s a job where plenty of people depend on her to be on the ball the whole time.

She, of course, indulged me, and one of the first things she said was “Stay strong.”  Now, up until that point, I had in no way thought I was in the least bit strong.  I’ve reacted terribly to the loss of a loved one, and unable to do something billions of people over the world achieve with ease every day, work.

Yet, through all that, and all the time my mind telling me how useless I am, how ugly I am, here I am still.  In demand for work (whether it’s paid or not, work is work), back to forming relationships with a view to dating, getting out, exercising, feeling better about myself.

After everything my mind has put me through, I guess I have been really strong to get through it, fight it, and start to beat it.  One woman, two words, endless wisdom.  I will stay strong, too.  Even when I look and sound weak, I know that something deep down inside will keep fighting.

So this is where I am at now.  At long last, despite the rain and grey clouds outside, that long grey depression cloud has begun to lift from me.  The self confidence, the knowledge that I’m getting better, gives me sunshine on a rainy day.

Where do I go from here?  Who knows.  Physically, therapy next week.  In mind and spirit, the setbacks will come, but for the first time this year I feel in control of my mind, of my destiny, of myself.

Have a cheerful weekend.  I know, at long last, I will …..

Going On That Journey

As if I was going to wax lyrical about that cliched voyage of self discovery.  No, no, no, I’m far too self conscious to be that self aware.  Introvert all the way with me.

I was ruminating, without any thought of euphemism, on one of my rare train journeys recently.  I was lucky.  The train was clean, comfortable, air conditioned, and hardly anyone in the carriage.  It was an environment that, if not exactly engendering positive thoughts, was very relaxing.

It’s not always that way though.  Without a doubt, if it catches you at a bad moment, travelling on public transport or in the car, can deepen your negative moods to alarming levels.  It rarely has the opposite effect.

Now, when I’m in the car, by and large I’m fine.  I like the solitude of it all, even with other people in the car.  I can switch off from the traffic around me, the radio, passengers or driver chatting, everything.  I can just gaze out of the side window or windscreen, and either concentrate or relax.

Even traffic jams aren’t a hassle for me.  I tend to see it as a chance to chill out.  If the car is cramped, or the weather is one extreme or the other, that may be different, but by and large the car is a sanctuary for me.

The bus, however, is a completely different kettle of fish.  Normally grubby, invariably draughty, and the variety of people getting off and on makes it extremely difficult to switch off and chill.

When buses get into traffic jams, again, it doesn’t bother me.  When it trundles slowly along in normal traffic conditions, however, it serves to irritate more and more as the journey wears on.  As a case in point, one recent voluntary job required me to be relaxed and happy throughout.

Without a car, though, the only way to get there was with two buses.  A trip of 25 miles took uncomfortably over two hours each way, on packed vehicles, with passengers either sprawling over spare seats, playing their iPods so everyone else can hear them, or unruly kids being ignored by parents.  Horrible.

Now the coach may seem similar, and very often it is.  Their seats, however, are far more comfortable, and they are a fair bit quicker.  When I’ve needed to travel hundreds of miles and money has been low, the overnight coach has been a good choice.

One Saturday night sojourn of over 500 miles had only 11 people in the entire coach.  We stretched out, slept, and got there refreshed and relaxed.   Daytimes can be the polar opposite, admittedly, and a rammed coach in sweltering heat is no fun.  But for me, they’ve been the exception that proved the rule.  Coach travel has been better for my mind rather than worse.

Commuter Chaos - Silverlink Metro Line: Packed Train - Westbound .

The trains?  Well, what can you say.  Such a mixed bag.  If the inter-city is chocker, with a loud group nearby, and you’re crammed into their pokey airline seats, the journey can be a nightmare and really stresses me out.

When I commuted into London, in my much younger day, I hated that too.  Even if you managed to get a seat, you were crowded in by the sheer numbers and size of people.  I found it eerily disarming, too, that nobody said a word the entire journey, preferring to bury their head in a paper or stare vacantly at other commuters.

Having said all that, I’ve found so many train journeys to be really good for the mind and spirit.  A lot of my time has been spent on Britain’s East Coast line.  The stretch from Newcastle to Edinburgh is absolutely glorious to see.  You can’t help but feel better for seeing it.

Elsewhere in Scotland, the route between Perth and Invernees is breathtaking at times.  Dozens and dozens of miles of hills, greenery, or dark brooding moor.  It’s mesmerisingly beautiful.  Whenever I’ve had to travel northwards, I’ve chosen train over anything else simply for that.  It makes me feel wonderful.

The planes, however, offer little in the way of such mind enhancement.  The seats are uncomfortable, the windows small, the air stale (although I’m kind of pleased the air is there), and the queuing, the waiting, the scores of people really make me feel, not quite claustrophobic, but uncomfortable.  I’m fine being in a crowd of people, I just don’t particularly like it.

What is also a little unnerving is seeing or hearing other people on the flight who have an anxiety of flying, rather than outright phobia.  I don’t think too many people particularly like the banking just after take-off, and there’s always a feeling of relief when the flight soars through the clouds.

But to then hear someone talking of how long it is to land, how they wish they weren’t here, really adds to the negativity.  There’s always a slight feeling that you’re inside a sardine tin, too, so again the claustrophobic senses kick in again.  No, if I don’t need to, I won’t fly.

So where does that leave me in mind and spirit?  If I’m in the car or train, I’m better for it, more positive.  Yet, put me on a bus or a plane, you can guarantee I’ll be down and feeling depressed by the day’s end.

The moral of today’s scribblings?  A journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.  But if the rest of it is on the 28A, avoid me.

For your good as well as mine.

You Can Choose Your Friends But …..

An unaccustomed situation for me over the weekend.  Instead of needing help for the machinations of my mind, I was in the role of helping someone else.  It also gave me some perspective, too, on how bad, or otherwise, my life really is.

It’s a friend that I made all those months ago back in group therapy.  Despite my own misgivings, and tendency to avoid communicating with anyone there if possible, I started to have convivial conversations with someone while we waited in reception before each session.

We kept in touch, too, to give each other a bit of support.  This is where, sometimes, I see things in a less gloomy light than before.  I’m missing my ex dreadfully, and has left my heart shredded.  My friend?  Well, their partner died.  Ouch.  And ouch again.  That’s too painful to even contemplate.

Anyway, as far as I can tell, a domestic crisis blew up.  Like a lot of people who suffer mental health problems, this particular person is introvert, and enjoys their own company more than in the company of others.  Frankly, I’m amazed they actually confide in me.

It’s no surprise then, that when a domestic situation arises, my friend tries to keep it quiet, and get it sorted quietly between the people it directly concerns.  Relations with extended family tend to be friendly but without living in each other’s pockets, everyone getting on with their own lives.

It all sounds fairly routine at this stage but then I received a call on Saturday night.  My friend, sadly, was distraught.  From what I can gather, their family was extremely put out that details of the domestic matter was not given to them.  Which is surprising, given that you would have thought family would know each other’s personalities by heart.

From what I could gather, they were told in no uncertain terms, angrily and aggressively, that they were “bottom of the pile”, that the way they live “hasn’t worked”, and an insinuation that they weren’t hard-working.  Now, all this from someone who knew their sibling was in therapy.  The domestic issue, I would add, had nothing to do with any action or behaviour of my friend thenself.

Of course, a lot of the evening was spent placating and reassuring.  I guess I’m lucky in a way.  I have family so distant but if I need to, I can give them a call, and they speak to me as if I was round the corner and last chatted only half an hour ago.  It was difficult to know what to say.

Depression Jeremy Kyle

That’s the thing with life.  We all mistakes on our own.  There’s no simple template that we can all adhere to, just a rough guide, and what we’re not sure off we somehow muddle through.  Badly, at times, obviously, but that’s life in itself.

It’s clear this family care about what’s going on.  Maybe my friend is dealing with things badly but that’s their nature, to be quiet, to not make a fuss or waves, and try to deal with problems as surreptitiously as they can.  An introvert lifestyle is always going to lend itself to that behaviour, and errors will undoubtedly be made because of it.

The family response, however, well, I was dealing with the fall-out from that.  By putting things in such forceful terms, it was tantamount to bullying of someone with mental health problems.  A phone call yesterday revealed that they spent the night having bad dreams, feeling punches being thrown at them by their own flesh and blood.

It was a humbling and unnerving experience, having someone on the line to me, talking about their darker and darker thoughts and wondering whether they might turn up at the local A & E to prevent themselves from doing anything.  Thankfully it never came to that, but my goodness, I was shocked that it came to be like that in the first place.

So what to do?  It’s difficult.  When someone’s lived their life quietly and without fuss for nigh on 50 years, it’s terribly difficult for them to come out of themselves and talk freely with their family.  That Jeremy Kyle moment on Saturday evening was all too evident of that.

Equally so, family has a duty of care to each other.  We look out for each other, we care for each other, though don’t necessarily live in each other’s pockets.  Again, mistakes are bound to be made adhering to this, which was evidently that somewhat panicked Saturday evening.  They may have meant well, but they caused someone to feel awful, awful anguish at a time they needed understanding.

Still, what do I know?  I’m just a passing observer helping someone out.  We all know you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family.  Blood, however, is thicker than water.  So where does it leave us all?  Mixed up, usually okay, sometimes great,  sometimes angry, and sometimes in bits.

I hope, for their own mental health, my friend can pick up the pieces of their life soon.  Like family, I will be there when I can.

But without the anger and judgment.