I’m lucky enough to have a reasonable amount of flexibility in the hours I work as well as the locations in which I work. When I work longer hours than planned it’s usually not too difficult to plan time off in lieu. After a hectic week I took yesterday off and somehow I think I’m even more tired now.
My GP was meant to call first thing so I’d arranged to take a friend to Kingston for a gentle pootle around. Life being what it is, the call didn’t come until late in the afternoon so our decision to head out anyway rather than wait for it panned out.
I’d promised to show Lady T the art gallery I’d found earlier in the month, and we ambled around coffee shops putting the world to rights in a gentle and sunlit afternoon.
By contrast, the GP conversation around referral was a bit of a slog, and as draining as I’d feared. I’ve been quietly worrying over the last few days about it all – and hearing a read back from my notes of my mental health treatment history was difficult. On the one hand it was a testament of stubbornness and progression. On the other a series of blows endured.
I’ve spent a significant portion of my counselling session this evening sorting through both aspects and their nuances.
Perhaps it’s not surprising therefore that today has been one of near shutdown. I shall hit the gym tomorrow.
I’m currently stretched out in bed after a rollercoaster of emotions but all in good company. Lady M and boy s both had trainer appointments at the gym so it was a good excuse to make a day of it. I’ve been using gym visits this week to help get through muscular and joint pain I’ve had since having covid last week, so I also had a plan of attack. The cub wanted to swim.
With all the stress of this week, my mental reserves have been slender today, especially with the residual pains. It’s days like this where my partners rally round in support. Hugs and simple gestures, quiet moments and silliness all helped as we came and went from the table we were using as a base.
The space and quiet have been needed. This has not been a good week. This evening feels a bit brighter.
I am, unashamedly, a child at heart and one of the things that brings that out to play is having some googly eyes spare to brighten people’s days. Sometimes I will use them to decorate pieces of equipment for the purposes of a photo, or give a light switch a shocked expression. Other times it may be books destined to be pulped that find themselves enhanced. I use that last word in a qualified sense of “it looks silly and made me smile”
It may not sound much, but it has distracted me this week while supervising plumbers and trying to ignore the return of last week’s cold.
The brain weasels came out to play this weekend, on top of a general exhaustion that I’m putting in part on a change in my blood pressure medication. Still, we managed to get a rip-roaring Dungeons and Dragons session in this week, and that has done wonders.
There’s something about the social glue of people laughing and trying to overcome puzzles together that rarely fails to cut through a low mood for me, so thank you to the unusual suspects for this evening’s shenanigans, even if you did nearly kill your own characters off in the process..!
Every week in the UK Cosplay Community Facebook group I post a number of themes prompts to get people talking and sharing stories and ideas. Sometimes the most difficult one to do is Mental Health Monday, either because it’s difficult to think of a variety of positive suggestions beyond “what makes you smile?”
As someone who is open about their own ups and down it feels a bit twee to reduce it down to just smiles. Sometimes I ask people about their achievements, or their plans for one objective for the day. Each is responded to with varying degrees of enthusiasm depending on how people are feeling – as it should be.
Today I asked people to show a picture of something that puts a smile on their faces – a simple enough question – and posted my own answer to the question. My post was a picture of me holding a cup of coffee.
I explained that what makes me smile is picking out a mug that someone close to me has given me when I make a drink. When I am then drinking that cuppa, the heat is like I’m holding their hand.
I’ve had a lot of people saying they liked that, and Lady M went a bit dewy eyed too. So I thought I’d share, and ask you to think of what you pick up or touch that lifts your spirit or quirks your lips even just for a moment. Maybe you’ll surprise yourself.
Its my Saturday on duty (I get about one a month) where I’m one of the senior staff available to back up the branch managers, call in reinforcements, or provide some direction as required – and its the first time this year I’ve stepped back into one of the libraries as I’ve been partially isolating ahead of the hospital visits over the next few days. For the most part this has me sitting in my office working through a series of tasks I’ve prioritised while listening to the heavy thud of large raindrops on the window sill and roof edging next to me. It’s underlaid by the wet hisses of cars driving through standing water on the roads, and the faint clunk of doors opening and closing elsewhere in the building.
The biggest surprise for me this morning though was the anxiety that gripped me about coming in. There was a dread about getting up and getting in and being back in a public building – not because of any fear about the job but I think mostly tied in to my anxieties about the hospital and the active preparations I have to make next week for it. I may just take the next few days off as sick leave so I can focus on and deal with whatever needs to happen or that comes of it all – and I know that I’ll be supported by all in doing so. Indeed, there was some surprise by staff that I was in given they know how unwell I’ve been recently. I’m certainly not feeling chipper, as much as I wear the mask at the moment. I’m not sleeping properly, and my appetite has fled, leaving me with a hazy fog in my brain that isn’t doing any wonders for my mood.
I think its partly a legacy of working in the public sector on the frontline for so long that I want to fly the flag and be present as much as I can be. I appreciate the value of being visible on many levels, and one of those is just the reassurance that there is a more manager-y manager around on the weekend – that the wider support structure and hierarchy is up and running and so business as usual can take place. There’s also buried in there a guilt about being unwell that I just can’t shake – some kind of conflation of sickness as some kind of failing that I know is utterly false, and yet I can feel it dragging claws in my guts quite separate from the discomfort of whatever is wrong with me.
Right now, my mood seems to match the rain – a cliche, but then they all have to come from somewhere to be so widely recognised. Here’s hoping for a break in the weather in a bit.
I have various medical investigations over the next week or so, and I’d managed to get to the point of thinking “maybe I’m imagining things” as I’ve had a few weeks of good health. As if to remind me to stay in my lane, my body decided to flare up again the last couple of days and now I’m back to being exhausted and cautious again.
I’m so used to being the “strong and handle everything” person in and for family that the concept of not being able to bounce back so quickly from illness is proving a nasty shock. I watched Encanto the other day and the character of Luisa who is literally carrying other beasts of burden and treating every request as an instant order to prove their worth hit just a little too close to the mark. Her song about pressure is now living rent-free in my head at the moment (but then it is very catchy).
So, I’m going to try and pace myself in between the medical poking and prodding and keep thinking positive and practical thoughts to keep my spirits up. I’m almost looking forward to getting sedated next week to force me to stop…
I’ve done a couple of hours driving here and there the last few days, just helping ferry a couple of people around or doing shopping trips, and with it has come another round of my brain deciding that focusing on the road and tapping my fingers along to various songs wasn’t enough and that to keep itself from getting bored it would take me on a trip down memory lane – mostly as I zipped up and down the A3.
Of course, being my brain, it felt that the best use of this time wouldn’t be to reminisce on family holidays, or small achievements. It wouldn’t even touch on memorable journeys. No, my brain decided to let the weasels pick out a broad selection of cringe-worthy and relationship-sabotaging events from my mid teens to early twenties. Why? Possibly because I’ve been having a good time recently despite being tired and depression likes to keep things not just grounded but positively subterranean.
So passing certain junctions recalled conversations containing oversharing, while others sparked sort-of-pleasant memories that then bounced on to bemused introspection. One memory for example was of being at the Surrey County Fair with my girlfriend at the time and her family. We had VIP passes so had entry to a large food tent for lunch, which included arrays of whole cooked salmon and assorted side dishes and finger foods. Seeing the general melee of people and wondering where the queue started, I was told “Oh don’t worry about manners, get in there and tuck in. Only the middle class worry about manners – the rich and the poor don’t bother or don’t have time.” This would have been the late eighties, so make of that what you will. Funny how I’ve forgotten that for so long and a simple sign for Guildford brought it back.
That then of course led to more unspooling memories, both good and bad from around that time, and how badly I handled the aftermath of that relationship ending. I remind myself that I was little more than a boy, with some trauma in the background, and had a lot of growing up and healing to do. This isn’t the easiest to do all at once, so it took me a few years and along the way garnered enough moments to make me cringe for the best part of an hour while the show progressed in my mind’s eye.
As Lady M reminds me – I was young, I did stupid shit, the world hasn’t ended, and nobody was harmed along the way beyond some embarrassment or hurt feelings. My counsellor has pointed out on similar past occasions that the brain hides a lot of our memories until such time as we feel safe enough to begin to process them properly. Sometimes all kinds of things get caught up in the confusion along with the actual trauma events and suppressed at the same time so its not that unusual for the most random things to pop up all fresh and ready for inspection as other things heal.
My personal take is that my depression is getting desperate if it thinks that the merely embarrassing will get the black dog barking – especially when it starts looking at relationships given my wayward and idiosyncratic present. Perhaps its just my healthier brain pointing out that the lessons I’ve learned along the way would have served me well in the various memories dredged up and that therefore they were worth learning.
I’ve been a little subdued and quiet the last couple of days, and have generally put it down to post-Christmas and indeed post-work tiredness. Without the artificial deadlines to work to I’ve been allowing myself to not get worried about being productive, and therefore haven’t been plunging into being busy. I think I’ve fallen into the creative trap of actively trying to be productive and instead falling into making busy work that hasn’t really satisfied by the end of it. Whether that’s been attempts at drawing that I’ve given up on after a few strokes, or attempts at cleaning that have ended up just moving things around and solving nothing – its been frustrating because I’ve been putting the expectation of things on myself.
So, bearing in mind I booked this time off, I’ve been consciously giving myself permission to sleep – and to just be. It’s made me aware just how tired in my bones I’ve become, and how much rushing around I’ve been doing. Stopping a while has been needed.
With the stepping back from trying to wrestle my brain into a more creative space has come some actual creative work – like the sketch page presented here – which I have quietly developed over the last couple of days while we’ve caught up with tv shows.
The quiet grind of editing short stories has also brought some dividends too, with a growing number of more polished pieces amounting up to a respectable collection of pieces suitable for publication in the near future. I’m very carefully not putting a deadline on that happening, but in my headspace I have an expectation on how much more I need to do and it isn’t as daunting as that felt even a few weeks ago.
So, by stepping back from being busy, I’ve ended up being more productive – and I doubt I’m the first person to notice this or comment on the irony of it. Some people thrive creatively working to deadlines, others don’t – and some, like myself, perhaps are creative in different ways or find more satisfaction in pieces created when not pushing to be busy for busyness’ sake.
I’m going to go and play some games online now, and not feel guilty that I’m not creating something, or working on something, or worrying about some deadline that really doesn’t matter because I made it up and there’s no need to stick to it. The world keeps turning.