Newquay Break

I’ve definitely needed this break. My heartrate falling from 86bpm to 73bpm while we’ve been here is proof alone of that. We’ve been walking or using public transport exclusively while we’re down here too, so it has forced a change of, if you’ll excuse the phrasing, pace.

The flat where we are staying overlooks Newquay harbour – as in we are maybe a minute’s amble to the steps leading down to the beach, skirting the decking of a hotel offering very nice morning coffee. Ten minute’s walk in the other direction and we’re at Fistral Beach, beloved by surfers around the world.

Our local is the Red Lion, which I can highly recommend for the food, beer, and unwavering welcome from the staff. Seek it out in favour of the more touristy bars and pubs in town, and they’ll see you right.

Today we braved the buses and rain to explore the Lost Gardens of Heligan near St Austell – if the return journey hadn’t been so fragmented when it came to threading bus times together we’d have stayed longer, but as it was we got a substantial amount seen, and a clear idea of what we’d like to go back to later.

Lady M faced her fears and braved the Burma Rope Bridge across the Jungle valley while we were there too – taking no nonsense from vertigo along the way.

We’ll be home soon. A sleeper train tomorrow night will ferry us back to London so we can fit more exploration in to our last day, and maximise our weekend at the same time. I wish we had longer away, but there’s still the end of the year to look forward to.

I’d forgotten how lovely this area is – we won’t leave it as long next time

On My Travels

We’re off out for a few days on what feels like my first holiday this year. We’ve had a few odd days off here and there, but they were back around my birthday and mostly consisted of a few days away in Brighton at the Malmaison. The rest of my year has been spent mostly working, which probably hasn’t helped the slow decline of my mental reserves.

So, we’re off to Newquay. I’m wearing shorts. I’ve only had three mild anxiety moments, and that’s despite our original train being cancelled and our having to spontaneously work out another route to Paddington.

Still, no one has been stabbed, or set on fire, so we’re off to a good start.

Meds Update

Work remains a challenge, which is no bad thing, but on top of adjusting to this week’s upped dosage… well it has felt like it has been a week of endurance rather than success.

The citalopram is now at 20mg – which isn’t huge – but I’ve likened the physical effects to feeling like I’ve drunk too much coffee. Sadly this doesn’t include any stimulant effect.

I’m sure it will pass. As a matter of interest I’ve been told that probiotic drinks help with the nausea, so I shall give them a try and see if that helps.

Onward!

An Actual Bank Holiday Off

This doesn’t happen all that often: I normally seem to end up working the Saturday of any given Bank Holiday. The break couldn’t come at a better time.

The sun has been out, the Charleesi is staying the weekend, and we’ve spent the day at Thorpe Park for the first time in ages. (Spoiler: it was very busy). Tomorrow we’re seeing friends for a barbecue, and who knows what Monday will bring.

Even better, I’m on leave next week, and a few days away in Cornwall beckon. I need the recharge, and so far it looks like I’m going to get it!

So Far So Good

I’m on day six of taking citalopram, starting with a 10mg dose, and due to go up to 20mg for a couple of weeks on Wednesday. At that point it’s another conversation with the GP to see where we go.

So far the side effects have been some dizziness and a bit of a fog in my head – and a bit of nausea from time to time – but the good news is that it does seem to be taking the edge off the depression and anxiety.

I think what is really helping is that this time around I know what I’m dealing with and have far healthier coping mechanisms. I haven’t hoped that the pills will sort things out (spoiler alert: they never do), and have instead focused on trying to get on with as normal a life and routine as possible.

Well, not normal – stop smirking, I can see you over there – but you know what I mean.

Keeping busy seems to be the key to distraction, but at the same time I know I need to also not drive myself into the ground with exhaustion. Being kind to myself seems both a scary and difficult to achieve target, even though I know it really shouldn’t be. It’s something I shall continue to explore in counselling.

Anyway, so far so good, and if this helps someone unsure about mental health issues, or just needing encouragement, then all the better.

Geeky Weekend

Lacking energy to go out much, I’ve split time between games, catching up on tv shows, helping Lady M stitch a hula hoop into a dress, and starting to paint a prop gun for the Harley Quinn costume.

Netflix and Amazon provided the Defenders and Preacher shows – talk about a contrast in styles – while Mass Effect Andromeda continues to be a good distraction. I particularly enjoyed the shout backs to the original games this weekend as I finished unlocking the protagonist’s locked memories.

As for the prop gun, I’m still blocking colours now I’ve properly undercoated it. I’m going for a mostly red and black colour scheme to match the rest of the costume. The black will likely get a bit of a metallic tint to it eventually, but I’m looking to create something a bit cartoony in style anyway, hence the steampunk stylings of the prop. There have been a couple of false starts and repaints along the way, but I should have a finished piece in a few days.

Spoiler-free: Defenders

Lady M and I binged the Defenders series this weekend, and it’s good. The increased time for shooting and choreographing really shows; and the shorter episode count keeps the pace at a mean trot. This is a good thing.

The differing styles and cinematography of the four disparate original shows blend into each other as the non-team comes together. It’s a little touch that is easy to overlook but I found effective.

I’m a shameless Marvel fan, so it should come as no surprise to hear me say I enjoyed the nods to wider continuity and comics history. The dialogue bubbles and twists with hugely entertaining quips and insults, and yet has a warmth that shows growing affection between the characters.

TL:DR watch it, enjoy it.

Self Care Mode

I’ve danced around with the black dog a good few years now, and the last eight or so of those I’ve managed without medication. So far, so good, or at least it was – I’ve gone back on a low dose today to get my balance back a bit.

At least this time I know what to expect from SSRIs, so my plan is to just get my head down and get on with it – and not beat myself up any more about needing to take medication for a while.

Wand Prop update

I spent a couple of hours the other day painting the prototype wand that I’ve started making for MCM Comiccon later this year. It’s a simple enough process but has proved very effective at helping to focus past the extremely low place I’ve landed in recently – and that’s partly because it’s a simple set of techniques that very quickly give a useable result.

The basic wand, larger than the types typically seen on screen, is composed simply of tightly rolled up magazine pages, with a lattice of hot glue lines laid over it.

In terms of the structure I’d defined with the glue lines, I would best describe it as a wand with a blade protruding from the hilt, so a clearly boundaried area needed to be created.

This was simply done with a ring of glue at the top and the bottom of a length of the wand big enough to accommodate my hand.

I started by blocking the colours with Sharpie just to see how colour changes would help emphasise the sections of the wand, before giving the entire length a simple black acrylic paint base coat. This covered both paper and the glue lines, and helped seal the paper spiral edges to strengthen the whole thing.

Then I used a combination of thinly painting and drybrushing silver acrylic across the whole length. This picked out details and gave highlights to the raised glue lines and knots. Finally, I lightly painted and distressed the handle area with an ochre acrylic which gave the impression of a leather binding in that area.

So far so good. I next intend to try using a diluted black ink wash to darken shadows and joints, and am considering painting the traditional wand area to represent wood between the glue lines. I’m also thinking of staining the handle with a red ink to differentiate it more from the “wood”

I’ll see how it goes from there. Making new wands is such a quick process that if I make a horrendous mess of the painting or break anything I’ll just make another. As I’m not trying to replicate any particular design I don’t feel any pressure as to its final appearance

Stigma and ICE

It sounds like the title of some buddy cop show perhaps – at least, that’s where my brain has gone even as I write the words. I’m afraid this is one of those mental health posts – so if you’re maxed out or uncomfortable here’s your “heads up” alert.

One of the things that has made this hard to write is that I know family members read it; along with a handful of people who know, or have at least met, me in person. As a consequence I’m suddenly very self conscious about writing. I don’t want to sound melodramatic. I cringe at the thought of talking openly about just how low I currently feel.

All the adages about not airing dirty linen in public and the sniffiness about people wanting attention are a hard narrative to battle through. I try to do the stoic bit, the tough as nails ‘men don’t cry’ bit, because that’s the expectation I’ve grown up with. It would no doubt be easier to write this if I blogged under a pseudonym rather than putting my name to it openly – but the whole point of this blog has been to own what I say.

I’m writing this blog entry as a distraction. I am not in what is generally referred to as a ‘safe’ emotional space due to a massive anxiety attack on top of my pre-existing low mood and energy. It makes for a dangerous state where everything seems very dark, and I have the energy to do something very stupid if I let myself. As an illustration: I’m writing this because I’ve just pulled myself away from the railings at the top of the Bentalls Centre, where I spent quite some time seriously considering throwing myself off.

In part, it was fuelled by the conviction that I had no one available, or equipped, or willing to listen to me panic. This is of course tied to the lonely falsehood fed me by my depression that I have no friends, and knowing how busy everyone is.

It’s a bit shit really, but that’s illness for you. I shall now reach for the world’s smallest violin. Being a stubborn bugger, I’ve stepped away and started to compose my thoughts on the screen of my phone. That’s what brought the appreciation of mental health stigma to the forefront of my mind. I have a counselling session this evening in which I will no doubt unpick this at great length.

The ICE part of the title means In Case of Emergency. This is what I need your help with, because here’s where I shy away from wanting to impose. If you know me and are willing to hear me – even if literally just to say “I hear you” – then message me privately and let me know. Just a simple text or IM of “yes” will do to help me build my ICE list.

I may never even use it – just knowing the list exists feels like it’ll be enough 90 percent of the time. This is reaching out as self-care, and I’m not great at it.

I’m going to stop now. The anxiety is quieter and I don’t want to stir it back up. I’m almost home, thank goodness for public transport.