Friday, 23 October 2015


Well it’s been a while, about seven months in fact. I’m back due to public demand, well one person but I’ll take it.

Can I still write? Obviously there are those that say I never could in the first place, well that’s the pressure taken firmly off my shoulders, most will expect this to suck big donkey balls. Who am I to not give the people what they want?!

I’ve just read my last piece to remind myself of where to pick up the narrative, I actually thought it wasn’t bad, fairly amusing and only a few spelling mistakes.

As always I’ll try to be open and honest, I’ve never been ashamed of my illness but am probably guilty of over sharing. Not everyone wants to know how miserable you are, not everyone cares, I get that. For those of you I’ll give you a quick heads up, this really isn’t the blog for you, I’d close it down and go and watch the X-Factor whilst kicking a puppy you uncaring heartless bastards.

Right now that they’re gone and I’m left with my loyal reader let’s get into it.

I’m tired. Tired of everything, tired of acting, tired of being ill, mentally and physically exhausted, knackered, pooped, shattered (add synonyms infinitum)…….

In the best Victorian traditions “I’ve taken to my bed” with a case of the “Vapours” not so much a melodramatic back of the hand pressed to the forehead more a complete and utter loss of interest in everything. If I don’t have to do something I won’t.

If I’m being honest and I said I would be I noticed a change back in July. I’d come off my pills and was on a fairly even keel. Family and work life was good, as I wrote in my previous piece just plodding on. Plodding was fine, it’s life and I could cope with that. I’d sorted out our finances after a year of not working, something I’d been stalling on but I’d done it. Coming off the pills was the final act, a grand finale to put behind me the annus horriblis of 2013/14. I’ve never studied Latin, apologies to all the academics reading this if the phrase can’t be used to describe a prolonged period, it just sounded a little better than ‘a shitty fucking couple of years.’

Off the brain meds what could possibly go wrong? Well nothing was supposed to according to the doctor and therapist. I wouldn’t say I was cured, to steal one of my favourite ever lines from a TV programme “there’s no cure for being a cunt.” (Game of Thrones S2 E04)

I was doing ok but I think once you’ve had depression you’re a little more in tune with the signs it may be returning, my problem was not wanting to admit it. I couldn’t face the abject horror of another episode.

My sleeping started to deteriorate, waking at 3 or 4am and not being able to get back off. The dread feeling returned, a stomach churning sense that something bad was going to happen that day. Plus loss of concentration and I was irritable as hell as well, now don’t get me wrong irritated is my naturally state. If a video of my birth should ever surface (now there’s an image forever emblazoned on your retinas) I’m sure my first look what be one of utter distain, ‘what have you done?’ Forcing me out in to this horrible place and I don’t mean Leeds.

During this time we had a holiday booked, visiting some friends in Spain, sounds good but on the journey to the airport I started with anxiety and panic attacks. I think it was due to being out of my routine and away from the safety of home, anyway they kicked in about 5 miles in. I lost track of the number of laybys I pulled in to be sick and can only apologise whole heartedly to those whose dogging activities I disrupted. I suppose there’s nothing worse than dulcet retching of a 41 year old mentalist at 3am when you’re mid stroke, unless you’re into that sort of thing of course.

Somehow we made it to the flight on time, I managed to compose myself but was on edge the entire holiday, my friend commented how I couldn’t relax and just enjoy myself. And it’s true the whole enjoyment thing seemed to be seeping away.

We got home and I returned to work, I’m still working in the bar but was and am finding it harder to act ‘up’ there were a few comments that I looked miserable, down, someone asked if I was suffering from the holiday blues? I'd have loved to put it down to that but sadly knew differently.

I had my Britney Spears moment and shaved my beard off, a vain attempt to look different feel different. Funnily enough it didn’t work my face is just colder and I’ve a saggy bit of skin under my chin that the whiskers were hiding, bastard.

Back to the docs and back on the pills, the hard part was/is no explanation no trigger. I’ve said before if you can neatly box things up it’s easier. This happened so I feel this way, had that thought about it, can deal with it and move on.

No reason is too hard to cope with and I can’t.

I’m hiding away, mainly in bed if I’m not working. If I make plans I spend the entire time working out how I can break them. I’m a lot more introspective about it all, it’s probably why I haven’t written.

I don’t want to put everybody through it again, I’ve cut myself off, not wanting to burden everyone. This is probably the overriding feeling at the moment. Speak to someone, talk about it, feel better for a moment, burden them, self-loath, repeat. Oh it’s fun.

The things I enjoyed and which gave me a little peace and calm have disappeared. My painting was going ok, I’d sold a few but now unfinished pieces sit on the wall mocking me every morning over a cup of tea.

I don’t see the point in anything. I’m questioning everything maybe it is an existential crisis, the point of existence just seems meaningless. If I’m not going to be a writer or a painter why bother doing either? I need to see some point, some goal, an outcome for my actions, doing something ‘just because’ doesn’t cut it anymore.

The doc thinks it’s Endogenous Depression – where treatment resistant symptoms often appear ‘out of nowhere’ and for seemingly no reason. It’s characterised by feelings of guilt, worthlessness and anhedonia.

Anhedonia – the inability to derive pleasure from once pleasurable activities such as exercise, hobbies, socializing or sex. (Never say you don’t learn anything from this drivel I write.)

So if your hobby is energetic public displays of coitus, you’re truly fucked or not as the case maybe.

The low point has been a rather spectacular breakdown at work. It all got too much, I couldn’t act any longer. There I was crying in the beer cellar. And no not because I’m not drinking and staring at 108 gallons of beer I couldn’t taste had was killing me.

Eighteen months of pent up tears came pouring out, the emotional dam burst and I couldn’t stop. Crying for me is not a good look, I’m far too pretty to have big blotchy red eyes.

I feel so guilty about it, not the meltdown itself but to the poor 18 year old working with me at the time, I’m guessing it’s the first time she’s seen a grown man (well nearly full grown) cry.

What scared me most was not the outpouring of emotion, unaccustomed as I am to it but more the rational irrationality to my thoughts.

As I drove home from I worked out how long the family would miss me for if I weren’t around anymore. A sort of twisted mathematical equation, a year of upset and the occasional future day remembrance set against the rest of their lives happy. It all seemed to make so much sense and that was the scary part, how could those thoughts be so normal to me?

Next day it was back at the docs and a double dose of brain meds, plus pending therapy. It’s group therapy I’ve been offered, I’m sure I’m being mocked, some bugger is really fucking with me. I’ll need a sign round my neck, one of those from a Dickens novel, instead of ‘this one bites’ I need a ‘doesn’t play well with others’. As I said to a friend, if those poor bastards thought they were miserable before give them two hours with me…….

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

Plod On

Where to begin, I find this the hardest part. What opening line to use? What’s the attention grabber? Invariably I use the word ‘So’, as if you've been waiting in anticipation of the next thrilling installment and now you can expel the baited breath you’ve been holding for the last four months.

I thought of using an overused quote, something pithy like “the reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated” but then those who see my life played out in pictorial form on instagram would see the quote as pointless.

I think my favourite quote would be “I told you I was ill”. It pretty much applies to my whole life and attitude, as my nearest and dearest will attest to. If I were to have a headstone that would certainly be on it but, as I don’t see the point of being buried, it can be written on a post-it note and stuck to the beer bottle placed upon the fireplace in which my ashes will sit. A reminder to the family of the grumpy old bastard who used to inhabit the chair by the fire.

Wow not even two hundred words in and I’ve shuffled off this mortal coil, cheery as ever, Levine! Obviously the phrase ‘mortal coil’ would suggest there is another coil that we shuffle on to. I'll clear this up for you, there isn’t. However, we won’t get into my or indeed your existential crisis now.

My ability to witter on really does astound me at times.

So *massive expulsion of breath around the world* what’s been happening in the last few months and why the sudden impetus to update you all?

I’m no longer a dinner lady, rocking the tabard look has gone; I’m now assistant manager at the bar I was doing a few shifts at. I’d like to say that my meteoric rise from having never pulled a pint before September to a management position was down to some innate ability, a genetic disposition to the hop and not just drinking it. The truth is less inspiring, everyone pretty much left and I didn’t. Last man standing and all that.

I was signed off from the doctor and therapy, no longer a mentalist...and then I was signed back on again, a mentalist once more. A temporary blip people say, the increase in my medication a preventative measure they assure me. Internally it’s a failure and a realization that I’ll never be ‘better’ or ‘normal’. Don’t get me wrong, I have no yearning to be normal. It’s not me. And, as I’ve discussed before, I have no idea what ‘better’ means. I’d just like the waves of uncontrollable sadness and emptiness to fuck off.

What I struggle with most is that things are pretty good at the moment. I really love working at the bar, although I find having to ‘act’ constantly upbeat tiring. I’ve never been upbeat about anything. I’m naturally dour and morose.

Home life is good again. It goes without saying that we all do each others heads in, argue, fight, make up but what family doesn’t? You try living with my lot for 24 hours!

The main canon of my therapy was that it’s ok to feel sad, low, and miserable. We all do - events happen and you will have emotion. It’s your reaction to that emotion that can lead to problems. You feel low so you shut yourself away and spiral. We all have our own patterns of behaviour. I do shut myself away - as I’m writing this I’m meant to be at a brewery I was invited to. I made my excuses but the truth is I can’t face people today.

What’s happened then? What’s the X that’s led to me feeling Y and behaving like Z? The answer is nothing, I can’t explain my current state and it’s pissing me off.

It all leads to the question of why can’t I be happy? What’s wrong with being content with what you’ve got right now?

*No Spoiler alert* The next part will give you absolutely no insight or answers to the above questions.

Happiness – a mental or emotional state of well-being, characterised by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy.

Sounds just like me.

Have I ever been happy?

I’ve certainly felt warm and fuzzy inside, albeit fleetingly, but I do think that part of me is missing at times. When I’m on form I’m really on form, I find myself a rather witty and charming character, fun to be around.

These times are just infrequent, highs of being out with family and friends to massive lows within the space of days. I made a throw away comment to the doctor that I’m probably bipolar, she agreed!! And put up my dose. Well, at least it filled some time for me, researching the symptoms of being bipolar and also the side effects of the medication.

There are things that I enjoy and derive pleasure from but these are tinged with a massive fear of failure. It's not that I have to be the best at something - above average will do fine - I just don’t want to be shit.

I’m the same in whatever I do, whether it’s sport, baking or my new addiction to painting.

I don’t like getting things wrong; some of you will remember the time I decided I was going to make macaroons. I couldn’t be satisfied with a good attempt or those that tasted good but looked shite. Nope. I made the fiddly little bastards for five days solid until they were to an acceptable standard. The house was full of them and Mrs. L hasn’t eaten one since.

It’s like the painting now. I’ve never painted before but I expected to be able to do it. The first day I sat in front of a blank sheet and couldn’t bring myself to put pencil to paper for 30 minutes, the fear of producing something utterly appalling was crippling. I eventually produced something and although it sounds pretentious, which I am, I do enjoy painting. It lets me switch my brain off and get lost in it for hours.

Maybe it's age, the illness or the medication but the list of things I enjoy are diminishing. Currently I have to abdicate my title as king of ‘self abuse’, as the pills leave me chemically neutered. Now that was something I did enjoy. If knocking one out had ever become an Olympic sport I'd have been captain of that team. My record is seven in a day; I was 15 and had taken the day off school sick. Why seven? That’s like asking someone why they climbed Everest? The answer - because it was there. Though I have to admit the climax (see what I’ve done there) to the seventh was more a puff of exhaustion rather than the spurt of triumphalism that the feat truly deserved.

Anyway, away from such base things. As I said I have no answers and part of my problem I know is the constant search for the answers.

I'll just have to accept that I feel a bit shit at the moment and plod on. I’m sure it's what most people do.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

One Year On...

Well I’m still here. I actually had the idea to start off with the line “I’m still standing!” but ever since a friend’s Dad once commented that he thought I looked like Elton John it’s soured my relationship with the Pinball Wizard. To be honest I’m not sure who should be more offended Elton or me?!

Anyway it’s almost a year since I was diagnosed with depression, which progressed into a major depressive episode. I suppose the diagnosis was just a way of dotting the i’s and crossing the t’s. It does however put a date on it for my own documenting purposes.

Being still here may not sound much but it makes me happy and please believe me there were times when I didn’t want to be here and never thought I’d be happy again.

A year, it’s a long bloody time but if someone was to ask me what I’ve done this year I wouldn’t be able to say. I know there’s been a lot of rumination and self-loathing. There’s been a fair amount of drinking, although if my doctor asks it’s in moderation. Plus miles of dog walking and more than enough crying for a lifetime.  I’d not worked until recently so on a day-to-day basis the time would drift away into nothingness, it wasn’t laziness more a stagnation.

A constant throughout the year has been the love and support from family and friends. I’ve not always accepted it but it has been very much appreciated.

So I’m back working, Vino’s Kitchen is on hold, it’s been more a case of getting back into a routine and ‘functioning’ (urghh, horrid fucking word) again in society. And No this isn’t part of some ‘Care in the Community’ scheme before any of you ask.

My work history has been chequered to say the least. Let’s just say work and me haven’t always seen eye to eye. The main problem being actually having to do it.

I’m not lazy, though certain ex bosses may argue to the contrary. It’s more a case of not seeing the point of working, especially not everyday anyway.

I always remember at the end of the school year some kids would receive a certificate for 100% attendance, I really couldn’t see the point. I mean going everyday? What for? Why the fuck would you?

I think the problem lies in the fact I always found school and exams easy, whether it was GCSEs, A-Levels or even my degree at University, it was all relatively straight forward. I wrote my final dissertation the night before it was due in and got a 2.1. Not that I’m proud of this, it’s just the way it was and in no way prepared me for the reality of work life.
So actually having to go to work on a daily basis coupled with hating pretty much every job I’ve ever had hasn’t really helped things. It’s not that I’ve grown to hate the jobs I’ve had, I’ve hated them before starting.

I’ve loathed my bosses and in the main the people that I’ve worked with.  Although if you’re reading this and you’re a current or previous colleague I don’t mean you, you’re alright. I’d like to say that it’s not arrogance or an air of superiority over my bosses but it really is. I struggled not to look at them and think they weren’t complete fucktards, most were.

I guess it all harks back to not knowing what I want to do, I still don’t but I know what I won’t do again.  

If you’re interested in knowing what I am actually doing read on.

I work in a school kitchen a couple of hours a day over dinnertime. I’m a kitchen porter so there’s minimal cooking, lots of washing up and I get to serve the kids. It’s the school where N and M go, this in itself has had a varied response from them. M is pleased to see me everyday and N refuses to acknowledge my existence. Thus M gets a large pudding and N gets extra vegetables. Not that I’m childish you understand.

I enjoy working at the school, it feels like I’m doing something quite worthwhile.  The current school cook has been there for 20 years and is looking to retire so I’ve made it clear that I’d like to take over. Plus the cook feeds me a school dinner and does my washing for me. If she wasn’t in her sixties I’d contemplate a little dalliance, she looks after me better than the current Mrs.L (joke!!).

Of course there are a couple of issues, the main being the uniform. I have to wear chef whites, I want to wear a tabard. I reckon I could totally rock a tabard. And contrary to what my friends say, I don’t need to wear a beard net, I think it’s character building for a 5 year old to find a grey curly beard hair in their custard.

Although there is a girl who without fail bursts into tears every time she sees me armed with a jug of gravy. I haven’t worked out if it’s me or the gravy that scares her the most?

I’m also working in a real ale bar in the evenings, I’m the oldest barman in town. This point was proved to me when I was chatting to a colleague.

Now I like to think I’m down with the kids as they say, I know a bit about popular culture, YOLO and all that shite. However after instigating a conversation about music I was left feeling like a proper old fart, I didn’t know a single band she named. Obviously I’m putting it down to her poor taste rather than my advanced years.

To some these jobs may not seem a lot and I’ve been guilty of doing the me thing, thinking I should be doing more but you know what it’s a starting point and I’m ok with that.

The thing is I’m probably the happiest I’ve been for a long time and that’s ok, I’m not worried about being happy I don’t think there’s some payoff to come because things are good at the moment.

So thanks to all those who’ve supported me over this year, whether it’s a text, a call, an email, just reading this old rubbish. It means a lot.

I’m going to finish by doing something I’ve not done in a while and that’s a recipe, it’s where the writing first started and feels appropriate to do it again.

Sticky Toffee Pudding

Until this weekend I’d never made this classic pudding before, I’d eaten plenty but never had a go myself and I have to say it’s really easy. The recipe comes from The Guardian, it’s one of their ‘perfect’ recipes where they test variations and amalgamate to find the best version. Their recipe contains walnuts, mine doesn’t, and I don’t see the point.



175g dates, stoned and roughly chopped

1 tsp. bicarbonate of soda

300ml boiling water

50g unsalted butter, softened

80g golden caster sugar

80g dark muscovado sugar

2 eggs, beaten
175g flour
1 tsp. baking powder

Pinch of ground cloves


115g unsalted butter

75g golden caster sugar

40g dark muscovado sugar

140ml double cream

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Butter a baking dish approximately 24cm x 24cm.

2. Make the sauce by putting all the ingredients into a pan with a pinch of salt and heating slowly until the butter has melted, then turn up the heat and bring to the boil. Boil for about 4 minutes, until the sauce has thickened enough to coat the back of a spoon. (I stirred it constantly, not wanting to ruin another pan by burning it.)

3. Pour half the sauce into the base of the dish and then put it in the freezer while you make the rest of the pudding.

4. Put the dates and bicarbonate of soda in a heatproof dish and cover with the boiling water. Leave to soften while you make the rest of the pudding.

5. Beat together the butter and sugar until fluffy, and then beat in the eggs, a little at a time. Stir in the flour, baking powder, cloves and a pinch of salt until well combined, and then add the dates and their soaking water and mix well.

6. Take the dish out of the freezer and pour the batter on top of the toffee sauce. Put into the oven for 30 minutes, until firm on top.
6. Heat the grill to medium, and poke a few small holes evenly over the surface with a skewer or fork, and then pour over the rest of the sauce. Put briefly under the grill, this almost gives a crunch to the top. It’s personal preference to do this or not, I wouldn’t. Take your eye off it for a minute to see what the screaming from the other room is about and you’ve fucked up a perfectly good pudding by burning it to a crisp. Best thing to do is pour the sauce over and stick it back in the oven.

Serve with cream, ice-cream, custard or whatever floats your boat, I’d stay away from yoghurt or crème fraiche, I mean if you’re making a sticky toffee pudding you’ve already surrendered to the calorific content, in for a penny and all that.