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.

Tired

I need a holiday, there’s no two ways about it. Fortunately I only have to make it through next week and I can spin into neutral for a while – but I’m definitely fading.

I can tell this is true by my losing enthusiasm for engaging with people or projects at the moment – or if I do by overcompensating and frankly being a pain. The old joke: “If I haven’t annoyed you yet, don’t worry I’ll get to you soon” is feeling perilously real.

Perhaps I’m projecting a little into that. I hope so, and that it’s just the low ebb I’m feeling at the moment.

I’m Happy

It’s surprisingly hard to say that out loud, let alone in public. I think it’s in part due to my own battles that have led to a distinct appreciation that happiness is temporary, and has to be worked at to be retained or recovered.

As such I almost become suspicious of myself whenever I recognise happiness, because I half expected it to evaporate immediately either through the vagaries of the way the world throws curve balls or from my own brain having a meltdown.

This latter, fortunately, is happening less and less, at least on any level that is appreciable by most, and to a significant degree that’s down to hard work and bloody mindedness to not let depression derail my coping mechanisms, checks and balances.

Another significant element is the support and love I receive from my partners – particularly relevant as we approach Valentine’s Day – who continue to inspire and uplift as we bumble through life. I have no hesitation in saying that the parts they play in my life both contribute to my state of happiness and give me a gentle kick in the pants when that happiness is a little more elusive.

I just wanted to acknowledge that really. I’ll let you get back to things now

That Damned Journal

A while ago I wrote about a journal I had rediscovered, which was full of the ramblings and diary entries that I had made in the early stages of a very bad time for me.

Depression had me firmly in its grip, which was a bit of a bugger, and dipping back into the journal has reminded me that I ranged in this journal from delusional meanderings to deathly dull recitations of each day’s minutiae. 

If it were just daily minutiae, or just delusional rantings it somehow would be better. The problem is that they feed off each other in this journal, and it is painful to read. I’m not going to unbox all the fun and games from that period again here. The people who were there at the time will no doubt thank me for that.

I did put the book to one side for a while to see if my visceral distaste for it became less overwhelming, but it hasn’t worked. I picked it up this weekend and just felt revulsion as I re-read it. That was… unexpected.

It’s a window on a version of myself that was very flawed and very ill. It’s part of my history, but at this point it now feels counterproductive to keep looking back at it. If anything it’s a painful marker that evokes shame and remorse and I don’t need it any more.

So I’m going to destroy it. The journal cover is lovely, and I may try to get a fresh replacement for it some time, but I need to let go of this remnant now. I haven’t decided how I’m going to destroy it yet – but I suspect fire and a toast with select company may be involved

New Day

I’m still here. November 5th has been and gone like a storm and the new morning feels brighter than many I’ve seen recently. I’ve actually slept for a change, and the fog and numbness has lifted.

In some ways I’m coming to think of this time of year as my own personal New Year – not through some form of celebration of the time, but more for the sense of renewal I feel once it has passed. The lead up to the anniversary of the attack is like sucking molasses beneath my feet, but today feels… normal?

Horrible word, should be banned really – but for the moment it encapsulates where I am. There’s no dread, no head stuffed full of wool, no disconnect between brain and gut feelings – just quiet. I’m still tired, and I have the faint traces of a stuffed up nose and aches at the base of my spine, but if that’s the worst I feel today it’s such a huge improvement as to be a miracle cure.

As I sit here at my desk and look out the window, I can see the colours of autumn in the screen of trees out the back of my flat. There’s golden sunshine, and the upper branches are swaying in what looks like a steady breeze. There’s enough of a chill in the air that I’ve put on a hoodie over my t-shirt, but I have coffee and a sudden urge to write again.