Good days, Bad days

With the weather a bit cooler today, its made me realise what about the steady heat blanket of this week has had me struggling a bit.

Essentially the lack of breezes had brought a heaviness that was reminding me of the dissociative parts of my depression. Everything was feeling dull and distant and my head was responding to the familiarity of those sensations.

Being a reasonably smart cookie, I recognised this on a subconscious level at least, because I’ve been making efforts to drag myself outside the flat in search of light and sound, and at least hints of moving air. Being around people, talking online, keeping busy, these have all kept my brain shaken from the old tracks. So thats a good thing, possibly even means I’m learning to look after myself.

That said i didn’t really put it all together until counselling this evening, but then that’s what its there for.

Filter Silliness

I probably spend far too much playing around with the silly filters on social media – mostly as we send updates to each other to put a smile on each others faces.

I’m a cute lil devil apparently

What I find interesting is to see how much fun I can have to produce the more unusual poses rather than just the stereotypical straight to camera glares. It appeals to me on an aesthetic level, and can be a fun way of practicing for the cosplay photos.

While that may seem of limited use – it a) is something that makes me happy and b) means I have more confidence when more official photos are taken. I recently had a shot taken at a work event to go on an ID card, and was able to pose enough within the limits that I actually appear to be full of life rather than sapped of the will to live.

Fabulous, or demonic? The jury is still out

Being able to have confidence in my own appearance is a relatively new development. My weight gains due to disordered eating while depressed were huge – at one point I weighed over twenty-one stone (135kg) which played no small part in my developing type two diabetes. I came to loathe images of me, especially when I compared them to the slim and athletic appearance I had when I was younger.

It has only really been the last couple of years since I’ve started cosplaying that I’ve begun to be comfortable with having my photo taken. Dressing up and putting myself in the hands of photographers keen to help me make the best images has both boosted my confidence and given me practical guidance in how to hold myself in healthier and more flattering ways – and to stop caring about looking silly along the way.

Discarding the voice that cares and frets about not looking ridiculous has been a freeing experience and helped me feel more comfortable in my own skin. It has helped me in my own journeys to know myself, and it has helped reduce my retention of stress.

And that’s why I love playing the Fool for selfies. I can let go, laugh at myself and with others. I can welcome the silliness and feel both childlike and more adult in my appreciation of using my body with at least a little less shame.

Yes, I do actually go out in public and pull faces too

Self Care Day

I’m still engaged in rehousing the black dog. Some days are better than others, and Sunday was a good day. It also took a lot of spoons so today has largely been devoted to pottering around, decluttering and watching YouTube videos. It’s also been spent thinking of lady s who is fighting her own battle with the black dog at the moment – dropping little notes into her messages to remind her she’s not alone and is loved.

I’ve also checked in with Lady M, and we’ve talked to make sure neither feels we’re taking each other for granted. Like any set of relationships, working at them and having time to reflect with each other is important. Talking can be hard, especially when moods are low, but it does help clear the air and sweep aside or address insecurities.

It also helps remind me I’m not alone or acting in a bubble, so helps challenge the black dog – and that’s never s bad thing.

Climbing Back

Maybe because I’ve been doing this for so long, but depressive moments don’t really tend to hold any terrors for me. It’s more like a “oh, okay brain, you’re pulling this shit again? Fine, but we’ve got stuff to do so you just tag along.”

Yes, I know about the spelling mistake, I just haven’t got the energy right now

Keeping busy, getting out and about, and taking my meds are all part of the survival net that more or less works for me these days. I kid myself sometimes I don’t really need the meds, but then my brain reminds me that feeling okay is actually my meds working. That still confuses me more than it should.

The other thing I’ve had to get used to is that sometimes there just isn’t any discernable thing that has made me stumble. Sometimes with a bit of digging in counselling I can come up with a weird working hypothesis based on past baggage unfolding in a weird way, but sometimes it can be as random as having a sinus headache in the morning escalating into another round of self excoriation.

On the plus side, sometimes it’s the littlest things that make all the difference. Today I had a brief text from a friend touching base. Later I had a lovely message from lady s. Some comments in reply to a stupid graphic I posted online helped too. All of these things reminding me I was loved, had people thinking of me and that I’d made a small difference in some people’s lives, even if that was only a groan of moderate amusement.

I’m still not really back up and running properly – this feels like a lingerer – but comedy shows and keeping busy are keeping the lid on things mostly. Reaching out and communicating is still hard work – this post has taken about three hours to slog through and create for example – but hey ho, I’m sure I can find more nonsense to entertain people with soon.

Accidental Boosts

If you follow me on any other social media, or know me in real life, you might have noticed that I’m drawing and doodling and sketching and painting, and generally being an expressive soul all over the place. I have work colleagues who are reassured to see my doodles all over scraps of paper as they know I’m based out of that location for a while, and others who in the past have zealously gathered up those scraps before I can throw them in the bin to keep hold of them.

I mention this because I’m starting to return to writing and drawing in my journals, especially as I’ve been gifted with, and also acquired for myself, a number of different sets of brush pens and other lineart tools. It has prompted me to develop new refinements of my artwork. It has also meant that I’ve returned to drawing around odds and ends that I’ve written in the books as I can’t stand having wasted space in them.

Drawing and Writing as usual

Sometimes these are fiction fragments or bits of a story that I’m working on, and sometimes they are more thoughtful pieces that I’ve written – often while the black dog is barking and worrying at my heels.

I write these pieces to ground myself and force myself to acknowledge the positives and available options around me. Sometimes they are light and fluffy, and sometimes they are from a lower and more stubborn place, plodding along like a donkey pulling a cart through the mud.

Many of these pieces end up on Instagram to break up the flow of selfies, cosplay pictures, book covers I’ve enjoyed encountering, or other random facets that I highlight in any given day. I present them “as is” without comment, simply because I want to preserve them somewhere, and I like some aspect of technique or design and want to show it off. I certainly don’t expect to enter into long conversations about them as they’re usually just dashed off while watching tv or something.

This piece however got a response from someone who read the text and found it spoke to them – that it was what they needed to hear at that point – and that even though they often use writing for similar purposes they don’t feel the confidence to post them online. This spoke to me – partially in recognition of the power of similar moments as I’ve encountered them, partially being glad to have been able to give someone a lift in that moment, and partially a disbelief that I have been able to affect someone in that way. Its humbling and more than a little cool to receive that kind of feedback, and I hope I managed to not sound completely awkward in responding to that person.

Tracking Anxieties

I’ve been given some homework by my counsellor to track the occasions when anxiety rises and to try and identify the sources. The overall aim I expect is to show me that the excuses picked out by my brain are all minor things that are being boosted out of all proportion by my misfiring brain.

So far so good, if only to confirm the usual suspects of timeliness and situations that I cannot immediately resolve. Intellectually I know the anxiety is out of proportion to the triggers, but it isn’t particularly helpful at the moment.

The other complication seems to be a side effect of the citalopram that makes my skin crawl and makes me want to keep stretching and rolling the joints of my limbs – and that does seem to be making it more difficult to draw a line underneath the anxiety and depression.

Oh well, I’m seeing the GP on Friday, so I’ll discuss it then and see what options we can come up with

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.

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.

A Mixed Week

I’m slowly coming out the other side of a low patch, hence the hiatus in posting and writing. Most of the last week was spent curled up and struggling to get out of bed or off the sofa, but at least it was in company while Lady M and I had a week off.

We did get some nice walks in, and it was good to recharge our physical batteries; there’s been a lot of stress going on so we both needed to shut down a bit.

Now we’re back to work and I’m brushing myself off to get back up to speed. I’m not one hundred percent, and won’t be for a little while yet, but I’m keeping my head down and plodding forward.

Running on Empty

In some ways I’ve missed the big old black dog, but he always reappears to sit on my chest sooner or later. I’ve been trying to ignore him. That said, the flat greyness has been gathering the last month or two, taking fuel from anything that might seem to reinforce my general low opinion of myself.

Today I wasn’t working, and if I’m proud of anything it’s that I didn’t head down the pub, or binge eat; I didn’t hide in bed, and I didn’t do anything stupid to damage my health or general body integrity.

What I did do was get some rest, got up and dressed, washed and did grocery shopping. I distracted myself with the XBox; I doodled in a big sketch pad, and I read for a bit. I bought things for Easter, and a birthday present and card for somebody. Then, when Lady M got home, I cooked a meal and we watched Fantastic Beasts on Blu-Ray.

I’m proud that I’ve managed to do all that, because I don’t feel much of anything at the moment. I’m running on empty. I’m too tired and remote to even feel worried about it; and intellectually​ I know I should be quite concerned about that.