Decisively Unsure, Happily Saddened

Oh my, that’s the thing about mental illness, isn’t it?  You never know from one day to the next how you’re going to react to anything that everyday life, however humdrum, throws at you.  Sounds fun but it really isn’t.

In theory it ought to be going all well.  The job, the security of bills being paid, that feel good factor, after all these years, of being to afford to buy decent Christmas presents and give more and more to the causes than mean the most to me, it’s all there.  And yet ….. gah, why do I do it to myself?

At work, there’s still this almost implacable lack of belief and confidence in myself despite my performance, so far, being comfortably above the expected standards.  It’s that voice telling me how useless I am still there, whispering away, hinting that a cataclysmic error is just around the corner.  I get so annoyed with myself for thinking that too.

It’s got to the stage where, although I haven’t put anything in writing, I’ve told people there I’ll be leaving at Christmas and moving hundreds of miles away.  Is that the action of any sane person, a couple of months into their first paid job in half a dozen years?

The thing is, though, is that at the time, my mind was made up.  It’s certainly true I find living in the area I do unbearable, but that’s down to something other than work, my inability to get over my ex.  Maybe moving out of the area but still able to get into work was logical.  But to say the move was not only out of the area, but to a different country?  That’s pretty much running away from a problem which won’t go away in any case.  And making things worse in the process.

I’ve gone back to the doc and, as ever, filled in one of those ‘Scores on the Doors’ forms so he could measure how stressed, depressed, anxious and screwed up I was.  The points were totted up and were fairly high, into the 20’s.  Apparently I needed help as soon as possible.  Again.

Of course, when I rang up the therapy service, it was a case of ‘Sorry, still too soon, come back just before Christmas’.  Meanwhile, my GP continues his search for an antidepressant that doesn’t react with all the other pills and potions I take to keep the body ticking over.

The obvious response to this would be some retail therapy.  It’s a strange thing though.  When I’m getting something for my lad, or giving him a few shekels to see him through now he’s swapped his summer work for the college year, I get that warm glow of knowing I’m providing.

Depression Napoleon Dynamite

Yet when I’ve bought something for myself, latterly a weekend city break away with friends, a terrible sense of guilt overcomes me.  I somehow get this feeling that, after so many years of living frugally, spending on something for myself which isn’t an essential or £10 or less is a frivolous waste, an unnecessary extravagance.  This morning was spent chastising myself.  Yet again.

I need help.  That I do know.  So what do I do when I can’t get it?  Nine months ago I simply dissolved into tears.  Which was also something I did, admittedly, three days ago, but on a much smaller scale.  Today, though, it was the turn of harmless, gentle films to lighten the mood and my mind.

What usually does the trick is the loose tale of an Idaho man’s teenage years.  If you’re a fan of those high school prom and reunion films like Clueless and the sort, this one isn’t for you.  But Napoloeon Dynamite, despite me being way above it’s target audience age, never fails to make me laugh, smile, and feel good.

I love the fact there’s no swearing in it, no drinking or drug taking, no teenagers dressing like prostitutes or rent boys, but instead an hour and a half of laughing with dysfunctional brothers rather than at them, poking fun at vanity and selfishness, and a tale which shows that sometimes, just sometimes, good things do happen to good people.  It’s lovely and gentle, and when I’m down, is exactly what I need.

So while I sit here, knowing that I don’t know what to do with my life or my mind, I’m happy in my saddened state.  Of course, life isn’t one long gently humoured film, but every so often, it’s lovely to simply step out of life for an hour or two and treat myself.  With something that cost under £10, too, so no guilt afterwards either.

What will the next few days bring?  I dread to think.  I love being me but I hate my mind.  If I want to get better, that has to change.

Of that I’m decisively, happily, certain of.

Broken By My Boulevard Of Dreams

Ouch.  Even after all this time, after all the therapy I’ve had, both by professionals and the cathartic experience of writing what I’m going through (or perceive as what I’m going through, which may be a different thing entirely), it hurts.  It still hurts so very much.

It’s lucky I’m not trying to pass this off as some guide to living and beating depression, stress, low self esteem and other conditions seriously affecting our states of mind.  Whatever I try to do, however I lead my life, there’s this grey cloud hanging over me.

It feels good to convey how I feel, mind, and the hope has always been that if just one person who reads this identifies with only a single thing, realises they’re not alone, and somehow feels a tiny bit better for knowing so, that it will be seen as a help to someone besides myself.

I also know, as does every one of us, that mental illness isn’t only fought and combated during our waking hours, but when we are asleep too.  It’s where I’m having my biggest struggles currently and there’s no doubt it’s really taking it’s toll on me.

Elsewhere in my life, it’s perhaps the same mix of ups and downs as most people.  There’s that extreme lack of self confidence at work, despite the assurances I’ve had from the employers about my abilities.  I have to start believing in myself and other people when they tell me how good I am, but it’s a tough ask to.

Counterbalancing that is that I’m effectively balancing my pay between bills and getting out and about.  To be able to give my lad a wee treat every now and then, as we did yesterday with a day out, and not have to worry about affording even so much as an Irn Bru, feels so so good.

The one thing of balancing the bills and pay is that I really can’t afford to live where I am any more if I want to have even the merest of social lives and afford even the most basic of foods.  Nae bother though.  I have a couple of properties lined up to have a gander at tomorrow evening.  No fuss, no panic.

I’ve surprised myself with how calm I’ve been emotionally to dealing with what could be a stressful situation.  Not only that, when I have been down, I’ve been boosted and delighted by some of the messages and contact that’s been made with me by some people.  When you wake up to someone asking how you are and a kiss, even though it’s of the virtual variety, it really helps.

Depression Road Sign

So far, then, so good, at least when it comes to waking time.  When I head for the Land of Nod, however, my dreams break me down, crush my spirits, and ensure that when I awaken I feel more tired, upset, and fearful than if I’d not bothered going to bed at all.

As ever, the dreams that are most vivid involve my ex.  The one last night, we embraced, content in each other’s arms, but then she soon disentangled herself when a member of the family turned up, became distant, and eventually turned her back on me, despite my outstretched arms.

I don’t need any dream analysts to tell me the underlying meaning of it all.  It’s evident for all to see.  What I do need help with is the deep feeling it creates within me during the dream.  It’s so, so vivid and real, and I can feel the emotions as if she was right there with me.

This carries on into my waking up stage too.  For a few, beautiful, blissful minutes, I wake up convinced that it’s real.  So the morning was spent for a while thinking – against logic, odds, and cold hard fact of the impossibility of it, at least in this lifetime – we were reunited.

When the reality dawned, as I somehow felt and knew it would during the dream itself (but curiously dismissed it in those waking moments), the familiar void within me opened right up once more.  The pain of loss was screwing with my mind and emotions yet again.   I’m in a mess.

Oh what to do?  I’ve read that quote numerous times about the one you dream about is actually thinking about you, but I’ve yet to see or hear a shred of evidence to support that.  This is a one way thought process, and when you’re going the wrong way down a one way street, it’s hellishly difficult to manoeuvre, reverse, and carry on as normal.

Maybe therapy isn’t the answer, perhaps it’s the cards dealt to me for the rest of my days, and that’s what I have to adapt to over the coming years.  It’s not exactly a palatable future, though, spending it tired and upset however well other parts of my life are going.

All I do know is that in my Boulevard, it’s not the dreams that are broken, it’s me.  Somehow I have to mend myself.  There’s plenty of things going well in my life now.  It’s just that one last bit that needs fixing.  It’s always crossing that finishing line which is the hardest part though.

Cross it I will though.  Just you see.

I Want To End It All – Not My Life, Just The Pain

Hmmmm, absence is meant to make the heart grow fonder.  How often is that case, though?  After all, my longish absence from the world of interweb highway matters isn’t the result of a permanent upturn in the health of my mind and soul.  Quite the opposite.

As ever, it’s been mostly down to another absence, that of my partner.  Try as I might, I can’t get over losing her.  She’s still the first thing I think of when I wake up in the morning, and my last thought before I go to bed at night, with innumerable more during the day.

It feels as if my heart’s been ripped out of me in spite of everything I’ve achieved to make my life that much better.  Dealt with debts – check.  Found a full time paid job – check.  Take regular exercise – check.  Attend a variety of activities – well, you get the idea.  Everything I’ve thought, and therapists have recommended, I need to do to get my headspace back in a good place is being done.

Yet still, although admittedly there’s been the occasional good day, there’s an intense sadness lurking within me, and often overwhelming me, a pain that physically goes through my body as well as heart and soul.  If there aren’t tears streaming from me, then they’re at the very edge of my eyelids.  I can’t go on like this.

Yet there’s plenty of plus points in my life now, that are pretty trivial and almost meaningless in the grand scheme of things, but help everyday living go that little bit better.  One thing is, after so many years, my credit rating is improved now to such a point that I’ve been issued with a credit card.

It’s nothing in itself, and the occasions I’ve used it, I’ve paid off what I spent in full within a few days.  It’s purely the convenience of it all.  One thing I bought was travel tickets over Christmas and Hogmanay.  Without having that card I’d have missed a couple of bargains.  Very minor, but gave me a little warm feeling of simply being able to do that.

As for work, I’ve been told by a number of people in managerial lines that they’ve been impressed at how well I’ve taken to things.  I knew if I was given the chance I would be an asset for anyone prepared to take a punt.  It’s heartening to be proven to be correct.

Not only that, but a regular wage coming in means decent food is affordable, rather than the normal mix and match of fruit, veg, and cheap processed foods.  The benefits of that are obvious and are richly enjoyed.

crying woman's eye, black and white image, low key, selective focus

Yet despite all that, the demons in my mind take such a grip on me.  At work, it tells me how useless I am, that eventually I’ll be found out, and every error I make, however minor and even when corrected, is pounced upon, and I hear that voice whispering that it’s yet more proof of being unfit to do the job, no matter what anyone says.

It was that turmoil which earlier today lead me to seeing my immediate line manager, after I had sought help from my GP and therapy services.  I couldn’t keep it to myself any longer.  To say he was surprised was an understatement, which I guess shows how little notice companies take of application forms, where I disclosed what illnesses I had.

I seem to have mastered one of those tricks people with depression try to learn, that of concealing their state of mind to all and sundry.  He said that, by my demeanour and behaviour in the workplace, he would never have guessed there was anything wrong at all, that I was just a good worker doing their job.

The bottom line is that they’re very keen for me to progress my career with them, and that calling it a day will be an absolute last resort, not a first response, as well as encouraging me to seek the help I need.  That’s so reassuring, knowing that work will support me as much as they can.

In a way, though, that’s the frustrating thing.  It’s getting to the point where almost everything that was wrong in my life, which were factors in my depression, have either been eradicated completely or changed into a positive.

Yet for some reason it’s not enough.  Every morning, without fail, is the familar feeling that I’ve had my heart ripped out of me, an involuntary build-up of tears, and that voice in my mind telling me everything I don’t want to hear, ensuring I feel worthless and miserable.

I don’t know how to combat it.  I’m out of ideas.  I don’t want to die, which is a solution many people tragically take.  I just want the pain to end.  I don’t know how to stop it either.  Maybe one day I’ll find the answer.  In the meantime, despite the many positives now in my life, I’ll have to put up with feeling awful.

Hello darkness, my old friend.

It’s Criminal What’s Gone On

Oh my.  After all those weeks of slow steps forward, getting my life together, and moving on, a week of setbacks.  All part of life’s rich tapestry, of course, but when so much happens in a condensed space of time, it takes it out of you in the mind and soul.

The first mishap is comparatively trivial.  The bank I recently changed to took it upon themselves to reissue my debit card, which I hadn’t asked for, and promptly sent it to the wrong address.

As it happens, the branch nearest to my place of work is a 20 minute bus ride away, so when the time came to get paid, instead of living in the 21st century and going to a cashpoint, I was left waiting in the torrential rain waiting for a bus that never came, with a soggy passport as proof of identity, to claim the few shekels I earned.

Again, though, a minor irritation.  As for work itself, although my attitude and work ethic continues to be as exemplary as I can be, it’s been very intense.  In truth, I’ve struggled, and let the people around know that I am as well.

It’s not so much the job itself that I find difficult, it’s learning all about codes, systems, and procedures in the right order.  I’m disappointed with myself that I haven’t learned as quickly as I think I could.

I will make a success of it, of that I’m certain, but it still grates with me that I’ve fallen behind others.  On the face of things, though, it’s just another annoyance, perhaps fuelled by me expecting too much, too soon of myself.

So it’s wet, bedraggled, and insecure so far.  That, to my surprise, I could handle when I arrived home of an evening.  It’s when I was at home that the real testing thing happened.

Perhaps I needed to have heeded an earlier warning.  A friend of mine close by had their tablet stolen from their home.  Nothing else, just that.  I, of course, empathised and sympathised, but fell into the trap of ignoring the danger of a local thief, and not thinking of the possibility it could happen to me.

Which, of course, it did.  Upon my return one night I was greeted to clothes and linen strewn across the floors, and electronic devices, with their plugs, missing.  What hurt most, however, was the items of sentimental value from times I was with my ex.  To anyone else they were pretty worthless.  To me they were priceless.

Depression Burgled

The upset came later.  The first reaction was shock.  Then came disbelief.  I wondered if, in the morning, I was in a rush and threw things around.  I couldn’t think back 10 minutes previously, let alone 10 hours.  I searched.  And searched.  And searched again.

All my trinkets, the saved and used ticket stubs, as well as the electrical gadgets, inevitably, didn’t turn up after a half hour’s searching.  When I finally accepted the truth, that I’d fallen victim to probably the same burglar who’d been active earlier in the week, I had that familiar black feeling ride over me.

I felt somehow fated to have a miserable existence however hard I tried to make my life a happy one.  One negative emotion poured in after another, soon followed by negative thoughts.  It was only a matter of time before thinking of suicide came to the fore.  If this is what life is going to be like from now on, why bother?

I’ve improved the past few days since then but there’s still a heavy heart and a sense of sadness to me.  After all the struggles I’ve had reorganising my life where I live, trying to make a fresh start after losing my true love and then my mind, it feels as if I’m banging my head against a brick wall.  I feel like screaming.

Much as I like the location where I am, and even though I’ve fought and battled to get myself back into paid employment, I get the feeling that karma is playing it’s hand, telling me it’s time to move on, that it’s fated never to work out for me here.

So many negative emotions I’m fighting at the moment, which experience has taught me is the worst time to make any decisions.   I will, of course, carry on at work, doing my damned best to make a success of it.  A five lever lock to put on my front door is an absolute imperative.

Above all though, I’m not going to let that anonymous burglar get to either my friend or I any more than they have already.  If karma is dealing me a bad hand, then sure as hell it will give that criminal their just desserts in some way, even if the due process of law can’t.

Not letting the bastard grind me down.  That’s what it’s about at the moment.

After all, it would be a crime if they did.

It’s All About The Headspace

So far, so good.  One week in and no buildings have burned down, no angry mob with pitchforks chasing after me.  Settling into a routine of regular, daily work has been less difficult than I imagined.

It’s still not without its insecurities.  I have this niggling feeling in my mind that I’m not good enough, that in some way I’m going to give the game away, and do something that will spoil everything, or not be able to do the work I’m now paid to complete.

Everyone has these thoughts from time to time, however, and considering that I’ve spent almost a year grappling with the dark side of my mind, thoughts and emotions, it’s probably a perfectly natural reaction initially.  Logically, I know I’m perfectly capable of completing the tasks at hand and every indication from peers and managers is that I’ve created a better than expected impression.  All well and good.

Up to a point.  There’s still the matter of missing my ex.  She’s still the first person I think of when I wake up and last when I go to bed.  The pain is still felt during the day too.  It manifested itself in an unexpected way one early afternoon too.  A little break to get a drink from the vending machine gave me a bottle with her name on it.  I have, of course, kept it.

It’s not something I talk about, however, and almost all of the work time is focused solely on getting the job done.  Now that I have a wage packet I want to earn it.  Inevitably, when you’re in the grip of, or coming out of, depression, it’s a big ask to achieve that, but I’ve gone out of my way to lessen any anxieties or any environment where a deep state of depression can creep back in.  It’s little things but I think they’re making a big difference.

The first wee adjustment was how I get into work.  With it being a few miles away, and public transport inaccessible, walking is the only solution for this non-driver until I’m fit and healthy enough to be able to pedal up hills on my bike without collapsing on the bed afterwards.  The quickest route looked to be the most scenic on the face of it, being able to walk through a favourite park of mine.

As it turned out, the whole wander was spoilt by the sounds of cars, buses and lorries droning by, car horns tooting away constantly as drivers became more frustrated with each other.  I found myself getting to work and home cursing under my breath.

A bit of variation ended with walking down a one way side street, where traffic is thankfully far less than the roads I’d previously encountered.  I also, just by exploring, found a cycle path I could walk alongside, in a wee bit of countryside I never knew was there.  It adds about around two minutes and incalculable positive emotions to my journey.

Depression Work Sleeping

I make sure, too, that during break times, I either get myself out and about, even if it’s to do nothing other than get out, or sit in a place where there’s natural light, so I can let my mind drift and relax for a few fleeting moments.  And something both Lesley and Anne would approve of, I’ve joined a gym I can head off to straight after work as well as the trade union.  It all helps.

The home life has had a few routines put in place too.  Before anything else in the morning – even dressing in underwear or a wash – breakfast, something I’ve often gone without.  When I get home, I chill out for 10 minutes in my bedroom, slowly changing my work clothes for casual, or simply undressing for another shower.

I think of nothing and take a few deep breaths.  It’s nothing special but it works for me.  As does actually cooking an evening meal, again something I’ve been prone to miss out on.  When your mind isn’t right, meals tend to go out of the window, so getting into a habit of making them is a good one for me.

After all that I still have that voice telling how useless I am, how I’ll soon lose the job, and the pain of missing my ex becomes more and more acute.  What I’ve found, however, is that time with these negative thoughts are severely curtailed due to an overwhelming sense of tiredness soon after 10pm.  Admittedly, no such thoughts is what I really need, to eradicate them completely, but to cut down from spending most of the day tormenting myself to a limited time is a big step forward.

With all these adjustments to my life, my headspace has been filled with far more positive reinforcements.  That in turn has undoubtedly been a huge factor in having such an encouraging start to my return to the ranks of the paid professionals.  It’s all about the headspace.

It won’t, of course, be this easy all of the time, but I feel I’m becoming equipped to deal with work, a broken heart, and everything else that turned my life into a mix of turmoil and mere existence.  I’m really starting to get there.

By foot as well.

That Letter We Never Send

So here I am, getting ready for work, work for which I’ll actually get paid for.  I can still hardly believe it.  I really felt that, somehow, I was fated never to get my life back in any sort of order again, that I will slowly drift before dying of a broken heart, most probably suicide.  I won’t though.  I’m going to be someone.

Yet it still tinged with sadness.  I cannot share my moment of joy with the one person who I shared my most joyous of times with.  She’s on my mind every day, still, too.

So what to do?  It’s pretty clear to me.  I’ve just written up that letter we never send someone, saying exactly what we feel.  Here’s mine, to my beloved ex.  No alterations, no stopping for pauses.  This is exactly how it came out of me, word for word.

—————

Not that I’ve been keeping record recently.  But it’s been 7 months, 1 week and 6 days since you drove out of my life.

Do you remember it?  I do.  Vividly.  After going so long without seeing me, looking out across the sea, together in each other’s arms, you whispered to me “I’ll never leave you.”

Physically, of course, we know that to be wildly untrue.  In my mind, my heart, and my soul, you have never uttered a truer word in your life.  Two hundred and twenty five days since you whispered those words so tenderly in my ears.  On two hundred and twenty five of those mornings, afternoons, evenings, and late at night, I have thought of you, loved you, and needed you more than ever.

It matters not one bit though.  I know I’ll never see you again, nor feel the warmth of your soul and closeness of our minds ever.  It’s something I have to deal with and move on.  Cold hard logic says forget the past, live in the present, and prepare for the future.

Life, as we know, though, isn’t just made up of doing the right thing.  What makes it a life, rather than an existence, are irrational, impulsive reactions, decisions based on instinct, and living by those decisions whatever the outcome.

Since that fateful day in February I’ve been through the hellish side of making a life changing decision based on heart and soul.  My head told me not to, but something inside me couldn’t help but fall in love with you, completely, and utterly, knowing full well what might happen.

Depression Holding Hands

It did, of course, and the hurt I’ve felt was unimaginable to me.  I’m not talking about tears, or pining for you, like any other heartbreak in the past.  No, this was on another level altogether.  The pain was so acute it was physical – and still is.  I can feel the discomfort in me even now.

It was nothing compared to the long, long days, nights, weeks and months of torment my mind has put me through.  Suicidal thoughts have been an obligatory constant, making plans to end it all always lurking, reduced to howling uncontrollably while the Samaritans tried to talk me away from the brink.

Yet, you know something?  It was worth it.  Every moment of excruciating mental and physical agony I’ve endured since.  Why?  For a fleeting time in my life, I knew what it felt like to love someone so completely, in mind, body and spirit, that I would have done anything, absolutely anything, for you.  Wow, is it intoxicating.  You gave me meaning, purpose, self belief, and you loved me perhaps even more intensely than I did you.

Slowly, but surely, life without you is getting into some order.  I know you will be so, so proud of me.  For I write this on the eve of my new paid job.  The ultimate irony, isn’t it?  All those years job searching so we could have enough money to move in together, and now the day is almost upon us, you’re not here to make the journey, and our lives, complete.

No matter, I know you will feel the same sort of anticipation as I do this very moment.  In a few short hours will be that giant leap forward in my life.  Paying my way.  Other than you, it’s all I ever wanted.  Just you see, my life will become better and better.

It will never be the same, of course.  I’m resigned to feeling that little lump in me.  That feeling of a part of me having died.  It will stay with me until the rest of my body catches up.  You will forever be an integral part of my mind, soul and spirit and even though you’re not here, you really are here.

It’s that which is driving on.  The thought of seeing your face break into that achingly beautiful smile, hearing and seeing of how I’m getting on with my life, is what drives me on.  I’m still doing it for you.  Mostly, though, I’m getting with my life for my sake.  I deserve a little inner happiness and, at this moment, the eve before getting back into work, I’m feeling just a little of it.

Wherever you are, whoever you are with, whatever you are doing, I hope you are happy.  Despite the turmoil of this year, you made me as happy as I never thought possible.  I truly love you still so very, very deeply.  But it’s a different love.  A love of someone I used to be with.

You’re in my past.  Tomorrow begins my future.  Which leaves me living in the moment.  And right now, in spite of everything these past 7 months, 1 week and 6 days, it somehow feels good.  Funny how life works out.

Thank you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(PS – I love you)

Woken Up Before September Ends

Another breakthrough.  After weeks and months of not going out to enjoy myself – well, being unable to, straitjacketed by my mind to not go – last night I attended a social event on my own.  For the first time in goodness knows how long.

Of course, I’ve managed to get out and be sociable when it comes to everyday things like job searching, shopping, and even the odd walk in the park.  Organised events, however, have been a different kettle of fish until now.  Social agoraphobia is what Lesley called it.  I just described it as not wanting to go.

This was different though.  A meeting of like minded people from the world of literary and poetic licence were in attendance a short walk from me, in that park I so loved walking though when Lesley was getting to grips with my depression.  Even if I said nothing to anyone the whole night, they were at least appreciating the same things I was.  Kindred spirits without even having to utter a single word.

Of course, as the time came nearer, the social anxiety grew and grew.  My mind began the familiar route of looking for reasons not to go.  There were none.  The event was free.  The weather was mild.  It didn’t start too early or end too late.  There was nothing unmissable on tv or anywhere else.  Joy.  The negative side of me had drawn a blank.

To make sure I went, I unplugged everything from home, including internet access.  I know my inertia of doing simple household tasks would mean I’d sit and get frustrated with myself for a couple of hours before bothering to re-plug everything – and then tell myself off for getting into that state.  So the choice was either go or stay at home feeling rotten about everything.  My mind, knowing the game was up, acquiesced.  I was on my way.

The wander through leafy lanes and into the dusky park was uneventfully nice but I could feel that knot well up inside of me.  Still my subconscious was looking for excuses not to go.  On one side of the venue were people taking part in some sort of training exercise.  Fleetingly, I thought I’d had the wrong place and wondered about returning home.

Then logic got a good hold of me.  Don’t be stupid.  Try the other side.  Which I did, up an unlit pathway.  When I arrived, there was clearly something going on, but the tall, black door was firmly closed.  I stood outside.  At that point there was no way I was going to knock.  Hang around for a few minutes, while my anxiety grew, then simply leave if nobody came out.  At least I tried to fight my mind, even if in defeat tonight.

Depression Poetry

Except that right behind me were a couple.  Who of course knocked on the door, to be greeted with a warm welcome.  I gratefully stepped inside with them, not giving my subconscious the chance to back out now.  I was in.  A small step into the porch but a massive stride forward in overcoming a mind that’s had me in such a tight social grip.

Of course, the first thing I did was look for a seat, away from the main hubbub of activity, remaining in the background, unnoticed.  Just how I like it, uncomfortably comfortable in that situation.  I found a group of three of four unclaimed chairs as far away as the main group of tables and bar it was to get.  I sat quietly.

For all of a few seconds.  A voice from the Emerald Isle began talking with me, asking if I was going to give a reading.  At that point I noticed the mic a few feet in front of me.  Oops.  Is this where everyone’s going to line up to speak to entire gathering?  What a mistake to make.  Hello edginess my old friend.

As I tried to keep my anxiety at bay, I was engaged more and more in conversation with who had welcomed me.  Maybe it was karma, as some sort of reward for walking through that door, but she knew what I was going through even at that moment.  She took my mind off things with conversation about herself, her poetry, even about the world at large.

When the time came for everyone to give their readings, I was there and in a different place mentally, less anxious, more chilled.  There were a variety of readings from sci-fi books, anecdotes about Turkish hospitality, right through to feminist poetry.  One woman in particular, Rachel, touched my soul with the power of her words.  If there’s any justice, Rachel’s voice will one day be heard above the billions for at least one shining moment.

In the end, although I still felt tense to a small extent all the way through, I was so glad I turned up.  Not only for defeating my mind, and another step to getting better.  But to listen for an evening to the words coming from the hearts and souls of people’s beings.  Wonderful.

I left quickly after the last reading, back into the mild autumnal evening, not wanting anxiety to build up and spoil what I’d done.  Turning up and staying may not sound the height of achievement.  Yet, to me, waking up my social side, before September ended, is a million miles from that February afternoon, when it seemed for all the world I’d be better off dead.  There’s still a way to go, of course.

But I’m well and truly on my way.

Independently Relieved But Sad

A little milestone.  Over two weeks without a suicidal thought.  It goes to show I’m doing something right at long, long last – as well as getting that one lucky break.

It doesn’t need an Einstein, though, to work out what’s been going right.  My mind has been filled up with preparing for the new job, getting things done.  Buying work clothes, and a bike to get there, as well as – oh joy of joys – tearing up my job search book in front an amused adviser in the local jobcentre when I signed off.  My, that felt good.

One thing I’m acutely aware of now, though, is that I need to get a lot fitter in body as well as mind.  The couple of bike rides I’ve had to get myself used to saddle sores and uphill gears has ended with me flat out on the bed, doing nothing except gasping for breath for a few minutes.  The bike won’t be used for the work journey until my legs stop turning to jelly and heart no longer feels like it’s about to burst through my body.

Having said that, I’ve loved the exercise itself, and exploring the local cycle paths, especially those by the seafront.  Any therapist will tell you that exercise is a great way to combat depression and, despite my physical agonies when finished, the feeling of the heart pumping, legs rotating, and wind flowing against my body in the late summer sun has felt so, so good.

If it seems to be all going swimmingly, hmmm, well, not quite.  I’ve been troubled by some bad dreams in the past week.  The most vivid of them was seeing a plane crash.  It’s one I’ve encountered often before and it always betrays a lack of confidence in me over a current issue.  It has to be, this time around, self doubts that I can do the job I’ve fought and battled so hard to get.  This time though – no, mind, you’re not going to destroy me, no matter what you make me dream.

Another dream involved a dog talking to me, which I remember I found quite disturbing at the time.  Not as disturbed, though, as being punched, as I was in another.  They’ve been deeply unpleasant, and when I’ve woken up have felt more tired than when I went to sleep, as well as anxious and a little down.  The reason why they’ve appeared in my dreams I have no idea, other than my subconscious worrying about something.

The main thing, though, is that I didn’t dwell on them, and spent the days getting myself ready for a new career.  Which is perhaps something I share with Alex Salmond now.

For the uninitiated, he is Scotland’s First Minister (Prime Minister or President in everyday English) and was at the forefront of the campaign to make Scotland a sovereign, independent state and break away from the United Kingdom.  His campaign fell short, and within 12 hours, he had resigned.

Depression Referendum

It’s something that’s affected everyone’s mental wellbeing, the referendum.  The full circle of emotions have been felt by everyone.  From those campaigning to keep Scotland part of the UK, for long spells there was complacency, assuming victory without lifting a finger.  That soon turned to panic when those in favour of independence whittled down a 20% lead in the opinion polls until, with a fortnight to go, the Yes vote took a small lead.

As for those wanting Scotland to break away and stand on its own two feet, there was determination, and then excitement as the effectiveness of their campaign began to reap its rewards.  It almost turned to triumphalism when that rogue opinion poll had them as the majority just days away from voting, after years of struggling way behind.

In both camps, the mood became progressively more negative as 18th September grew ever nearer.  The exchange of views between politicians and activists became intransigent arguing, with a hint of menace occasionally rearing its ugly head.  People went beyond animated, and became angry when discussing independence, whichever side of the vote was supported.  Despite what the media may tell you about the exhilaration of political debate, Scotland was a depressing place to be the past few weeks.

In the end, rather surprisingly, it was a comfortable victory for those wishing to stay British.  55% to 45% may sound close, but 25% more people voted no than the 1.6m who voted yes.  28 out of the 32 Scottish districts, regions and cities also voted to stay in the UK, indicating that 25% extra was spread over the whole of Scotland, and not reliant on one or two areas.

I felt for Alex Salmond.  He’d spent his entire political life for this moment and, despite what was acknowledged to be a superb campaign at grassroots level, despite all his achievements, his vision fell much further short than the opinion polls had indicated.

His eyes were raw from crying, clearly, when he made his resignation speech.  His face looked red and puffy, and his whole demeanour was someone who’s just had his heart ripped from him.  I still am nowhere getting over that with my ex, so I really felt for him.  I hope he gets help because he really did look on the verge of depression.

The vote itself has left me relieved.  Not that is in any way related to the result, just that it’s all over now, and we can get on with life.  The sadness, with the continuing undercurrent of bitching in some quarters at how it turned out, is that Scotland is a fractured nation at the moment.  At least that’s how it feels. Which is something nobody wanted or campaigned for.  Still, what’s done is done.  We’ll get over it and get on with it.

Preferably with a new job and a pain free bike ride.

A Thousand Rejections But One Lucky Break

It’s funny how life throws things up that are less probable than Simon Cowell having trousers that don’t rise above his nipples.  Sometimes good, sometimes bad, but always leaving with a thought of how and why it happened.

Of course, this is leading up to something, definitely life changing.  After all the angst and unhappiness being spilled last week about the callous way in which yet another job interview went up the swanee, all of a sudden I’ve joined the ranks of the paid employed.  For the first time in half a dozen years I’ll be getting a fair day’s pay for a fair day’s work.

Why they’ve chosen me I have no idea.  Imbued with cynicism from last week’s rejection, I turned up for an interview expecting nothing.  My attitude wasn’t surly, but pretty much defeatist.  I had no expectations, so instead of giving carefully rehearsed answers to their bog standard questions, I gave them a piece of my mind.

Of how people can see through anyone deceiving them eventually, that the worst sort of person for the job is someone so smart they think everyone else can be fooled by them, and that extends to management and the corporate world too.

Of course I could do the job, I said, I could do it standing on my head, but that I wouldn’t be at all surprised if they found someone younger, that they can pay a lower wage to.  Even if it meant for them it’d be a false economy, because that’s how the world works.  Balance sheets and cynicism.

I wasn’t in the best frame of mind, obviously, to see someone for the off-chance of being gainfully employed.  Too much consciousness came out of my mind and into the small, dull interview room.  The manager and HR person looked and sounded distinctly unimpressed and underwhelmed, even though I was given a mini-tour of the place.

I’d know by the end of the day or, at the latest, the next afternoon.  When that came and went, I thought nothing of it.  A call the following morning came from the HR person.  She asked me how I think it went.  I stifled a giggle as I said I wasn’t confident.

Which made it all the more of a shock when she said the feedback was they wanted to offer me the job as soon as the interview finished but had to go through the process of seeing others.  I was absolutely baffled.  How could they have chosen someone so clearly not expecting or too bothered about being offered the vacancy?

Depression Overcome

She explained that they were instantly impressed by how my answers came from me rather than from a scripted, downloaded guide they normally get from candidates.  She also said I demonstrated not only that I could do the job, but that I could read and see right through people straight away, which was an asset any company would want.

I found it all the more surreal as I’ve struggled year in year out, decade in decade out, to understand myself and how my mind works.  I’m still none the wiser after all these years, too.  Who cares how perplexed I am though.  A job is a job.  I accepted straight away.  Two months training will be given, too, so this firm are serious about me.

You would have thought I would be dancing for joy, overcome with happiness, at achieving something I thought I’d never do again.  Yet the overriding emotion was relief.  Part of the nightmare would soon be over and I could move on with my life.

There was also a real sense of sadness too.  I know my ex would have been extremely proud at that moment.  She wasn’t there to share it though.  It hurt.  A lot.  I wished and wished there would be a knock on the door and she would walk in.  I guess wanting to share times of happiness with someone you still love is natural, though, and if they’re not there, is bound to take the edge off it a wee bit.

Nonetheless many people were delighted.  I was amazed by how many people seemed thrilled.  Not just family, but even my local MP.  And a message from someone well known to millions of people.  She said to me simply “Grab it with both hands.”  Grab it?  I’ll squeeze this opportunity for dear life.

Since then, I’ve had offers of help from various people and organisations to make sure I start work smartly dressed and able to afford things in the first month without pay.  It’s pretty sobering to know how much people from all walks of life care and what they are prepared to do.

There’s still that anxiety, though, and that bleak little voice in my mind telling me “You’re not good enough and you know it.”  I’m ignoring it though.  After six years without a pay packet, I don’t care what anyone says (especially me), I’m going to earn that wage, achieve, and be who I know I can be.

And all it took was one lucky break.

Therapy Log: Tuesday 9th September 2014 – Basically Instinctive

Another moment, another day, another week.  I’m getting through them.  Small steps, as someone keeps reminding me, and to stay strong.  It sounds cliched but it feels right an awful lot of the time.

The steps seem to go backwards at times, though, which is why, yet again, I’m sat in an uncomfortable, gloomy, grimy reception area, the low ceiling blocking out natural light.  Perhaps there’s a subconscious contrast at work.  After sitting in here, in a run down part of town with a high crime rate, any time spent with a therapist seems to improve the mind and soul, whatever is said and done.

As it turns out, Anne knows her stuff, so here we go.  Warm smile as we make our way to a tiny, impersonal room.  Then the small talk as I fill in that scores on the doors form.  Pretty much the same levels of depression, stress, anxiety and suicidal thoughts.

It would have been so much better up until the weekend.  Anne looks at me with those big eyes inquisitively, yet with a slight hint of bewilderment, it seemed.  I mention that Sunday was spent pining for my ex, missing her terribly.  I didn’t mention the thoughts of suicide.  I guess I thought it was implied that I would think these things in that state of mind.

Anne asks why.  For a while I’m lost for an answer.  I grope unconvincingly that maybe walking past where she used to live on the way to and from voluntary work may have seeped in.  I consciously stopped myself from specifically looking for her again, though.

There was also someone I thought was a friend had something revealed about her which was a little unsavoury and duplicitous, affecting the entire friendship.  Again, though, consciously at least, my mind was decisive.  She’s gone, from my considerations, and in future my thoughts.  The cut was fairly painless.

Still, however, it doesn’t explain Sunday’s actions.  Perhaps the latest rejection of paid work, however, was the tipping point.  After going through the hoop jumping of two interviews, and demonstrating how I have not only the brains but the experience for the job, I was brushed off.  I had the experience they wanted.  It was deemed ‘not recent enough’ though.

Depression Sharon Stone

I was, and still am when thinking about it, infuriated.  I’m not sure how much more recent I can get than 2014.  If they don’t want me because they thought I wouldn’t fit in, or they could get in someone younger and cheaper, tell me.  Don’t instead fob me off by making up flimsy excuses, insulting mine and theirs intelligence.  No wonder they cost the taxpayer billions in the recession if this is how they make decisions.

With that off my chest, we actually got on with the problem at hand, why I have such a lasting, ongoing problem with penetrative sex.  Questions, of course, were varied, and went from how I felt looking for certain things online right back to my childhood, searching for some sort of recurring cycle of behaviour.  At least that’s how I saw it.  There was never anything as a child that would have me needing or wanting to call Childline so behaviourial patterns it has to be in my eyes.

The long term relationship I had, way back in the 90’s, we talked through as well.  For the first time I talked about it with emotional honesty.  We may have loved each other for a while, but for the most part the relationship was built more on our good points outweighing our bad points, and getting on.  Settling for something instead of waiting for that truly loving relationship.

Anne asked if there was something in my head telling me that it was all I deserved.  I thought back to my ex-partner’s father one night.  Maybe it was the denial from his own life, or disappointment of how her daughter turned out, but he said “You couldn’t have done better than her.  But she could’ve done better than you.”  Maybe that had more effect than I realised.

After all, while with her, I had that ‘thunderbolt’ moment, when eyes met with another across a bar.  But I gazing at someone else.  Every sinew in my heart and soul wanted to be with that woman.  I never said a word though.  Nor did I ever react to increasingly unsubtle come-ons from one of her friends.

Perhaps I felt I didn’t deserve to chase love, desire and happiness, and settling for okay was the safest way to be.  If I did feel that, maybe that Dad saw the signals and was trying to break things up sooner, without her little girl being hurt, rather than the later when it inevitably finished.

After these uncomfortable questions and equally awkward thoughts and answers, Anne unpeeled something.  From a young age, I’ve somehow got it into my head that acts of love and affection towards me are to be viewed suspiciously, despite me being an openly loving soul, and being deeply, deeply in love until early this year.  And, if truth be told, still in love, despite her absence.

Kay Burley Make Up

We move onto cheerier things.  The physical exercises to enhance my levels of intimacy and comfort are going well.  I find that I can feel aroused to a very deep level yet still able to hold off climaxing.  Anne asks what I was thinking of at the time, really pleased with my progress.  My immediate answer is Sharon Stone, answered firmly.

The fantasy itself isn’t quite as steamy as it seems though.  It’s from her at the time of Basic Instinct.  Yet it’s none of the leg crossing shenanigans or other sex acts that I think of.  All we are doing is walking down a street, hand in hand, and occasionally we glance at each other, our eyes smiling, feeling that closeness and intimacy.  It makes my breathing quicker to even type that.  Which is probably symptomatic of why I have such a mental block sexually.

We also touch upon the woman with whom I have what seems an irrational attraction for, but which in reality is perfectly reasonable.  I talk about Kay Burley, coming across, to me at least, as sharp and incisive on tv, with a touch of wit in her twitter feed.  She’s also carries on being herself, despite the dim view certain section of the media, the public and my friends have of her, a really admirable mental toughness.

I belied all that plausible reasoning, though, in the end, by blurting out “She’s lovely!”.  Anne smiled warmly at my slight humiliation, a rare moment of unadulterated emotional honesty coming out.  It’s not something I could ever say to Kay either.  If we ever met, I’d probably have my eyes looking towards the floor, mumble a little.  And probably curtsey, embarrassing us all.

On that slightly uncomfortable note, the early afternoon sun lifted the gloom and grime.  How do I feel?  Mixed up, uncertain, and unsure.  Yet, in spite of that, I feel Anne is getting somewhere with me.  Finding the crux of the matter.  On a base level, Anne is in touch with my instincts.  If she can see them, she can also see where I’m going wrong, and where the road to recovery lies.

Until then, though, the sunshine, and Sharon Stone’s hand in mine, will do for me.