Friday, 24 January 2014

Decisions

I struggle with emotion always have, I don’t’ know how to be emotional. I’m not a great crier, I didn’t when the girls were born and held it together when Dad died. I cried after and went through a period of shedding a few tears each day with little things setting me off.

However public shows of emotion and affection are and have always been a big no no. I don’t hold hands with Mrs.L in public and there’s certainly no kissing and I just couldn’t be a dogger.

I’m a little of dead inside really and the Prozac has finished me off, the emotions are felt but there’s no way they’re going to appear.

I don’t ‘do’ inspirational quotes I’m just not built that way. The sorts of things people post on Facebook drive me insane, not a long journey there these days, I know.

On Twitter I mute or unfollow those who persist in tweeting or retweeting this kind of crap - “a true relationship is two imperfect people that refuse to give up on each other. The world needs more of that” I know some of you will be ‘moved’ by that but I’m not, my world really doesn’t need that.

Maybe I just don’t have a soul, it has been said by someone close to me. Maybe it’s because I’m not religious or spiritual, I can’t tell you why this doesn’t emote me but it doesn’t.

So it’s always been slightly hypocritical in my mind when I tweet #KeepOnKeepingOn

I stole the phrase (obviously) from one of my favourite Bob Dylan songs, Tangled Up In Blue. The line goes “the only thing I knew how to do was to keep on keepin’ on like a bird that flew”

To me it sums up life, it’s just what we all have to do. What ever happens you face it, deal with it and move on to the next.  Our autopilot takes over.

My problem is along the way I’ve forgotten how to, my autopilot is malfunctioning; I still love the sentiment but can’t follow it through.

At the moment I’m scared of the future probably because of mistakes in the past, making me unable to function in the present – there’s inspiration for you, it came to me after a bottle of red.

To me Twitter is about having fun, playing out my miserable persona to the fullest, ‘meeting’ like-minded people, being informed and also the much maligned and overused word – banter.

I’ve shared a joke and a tear with some really great people. The kindness people have shown amazes me, those who’ve messaged me whilst I’m at my lowest point will always be special.

And I can’t put into words how astonished I was that people from twitter would actually make a journey to visit my business, purely because we’d tweeted occasionally.

So it may seem odd that I’m contemplating saying goodbye again and yes I know I’ve disappeared in the past and come back with my tail between my legs and who knows I might in the future.

I find giving up things easy, I’ve done it hundreds of times, whether it’s booze, carbs or gambling (types while eating a bacon sandwich with a pint next to me keeping one eye on the results from Southwell)

The problem for me is that I’m using twitter to hide from real life, in my strange little mind it excuses the reality that I’ve not really left the house in January.

I get to socialise without actually having to. I can have a night ‘out’ from my armchair, discussing sport, film, TV, music, food, and literature. There’s generally nothing too highbrow, let’s not get silly about things. I pour myself a drink and settle in for the night.

It’s been great, I don’t have to face up to any problems, people don’t judge me and I’m safe and the feelings of self loathing and failure are numbed.

The big BUT to this is that it’s not going to help me in the long run I know this. My fake life isn’t going to help me get better and certainly isn’t going to pay the bills.

I worry that in some ways it actually makes me worse. I can’t keep on relying on other people for my happiness. I’m also finding that my ‘shouty’ brain has me misconstruing the 140 characters people type.

The reality is I’ve probably got more out of twitter than I’ve put in but I do worry you all won’t survive not reading that I’ve walked the dog, loved my fish finger sandwich and the wine is open #DullAsFuck

Deep down I realise by leaving I’m probably clutching at straws, trying to force myself to function in society again. No doubt I’ll replace it with something useful like obsessive macaron making, or drinking.

Anyway I’m undecided, I’m not going to put it to the public vote you buggers will pack my metaphorical bags for me.

But if I do go, then in the words of Jerry Springer – Till next time look after yourself and each other.

If I don’t leave disregard the last line, I’ve just always liked it.








Saturday, 4 January 2014

A Confession for the New Year

To steal a favourite quote "sometimes you eat the bear, and sometimes, well, he eats you."

Earlier in the year I had a brief episode, flirtation, whatever you’d call it with General Anxiety Disorder. Working in a sales environment that you don't believe you're suited to had taken its toll. A panic attack in the park at 6:30am whilst walking the dog and thinking about the working week pretty much signaled the death knell for my sales career.

Don’t get me wrong this had been on the cards from day one the only surprise to me and was that it had taken 5 years for it to go completely tits up.

At that time I decided against any medication, I thought pills were a step too far for me. I registered with the Primary Care Mental Health Trust and pretty quickly had a telephone assessment. You have to fill out a questionnaire about how you’ve felt over the past 2 weeks. It’s multiple choices and designed to categorise you – Depression, Anxiety, Phobia and how these are impacting on your life.

I fell into the general anxiety category and was offered Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. I was to be reprogrammed, well when they had an appointment that was. In the mean time I was to stay away from the medicine cabinet and sharp objects.

If I’m being truthful the CBT was a waste of time for me, I knew the problem and by the time I’d had my first session I’d pretty much resolved to leave my job and start my own business.

Slightly knee jerk, masking deeper issues maybe? Hindsight is a fucking wonderful thing unfortunately foresight may have been more useful.

The rest of the year has been pretty well documented already in another blog.

Business due to open, Dad dies that week, fall apart for a bit, pick self up, open business, get Scarlet Fever, get laughed at for disease, reopen business.

From that point it’s a bit of a blur really, I can only liken it to sliding gradually into a pit that you can’t get out of and you don’t know why you’re in it in the first place.

I can look at the year and think yes that was mightily shit but other people have it tougher and don’t fall apart. 

Am I predisposed to mental illness? Was it an inevitable outcome?

I have no answers all I know is the so called Black Dog has bitten me.


My slide was gradual initially but really gathered pace October onwards. 40 was looming over me, along with Christmas and the New Year. Being self-employed although really enjoyable brings its own stresses.

Ever since I quit my job there was always the nagging doubt that I’d let everybody down and that my decisions were all wrong. How could they be anything but wrong when you can't trust the brain that keeps you awake all night telling you that everything is shit and the next day something bad is going to happen. 

I call it my sense of impending doom – the worst superhero power ever. Spiderman gets ‘spidey-sense’ to warn him of the danger he’s about to face. I get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that keeps me awake.

As I slid down I found myself withdrawing, everything was an effort, I had no motivation or inclination to do anything. The smallest things became huge. The thought of having to go to the supermarket before work would send me into apoplexy. For fucks sake it was only the supermarket and it didn’t matter what time I got to work. Yes my boss is a major tool but I can deal with him.

Deep down I knew what was wrong I just wouldn’t or couldn't admit it. 

I continued not to sleep, I drank more and as my wife put it 'found no joy' in anything. No matter how ‘good’ the day had been the inevitable doom feelings would appear, just like Groundhog Day without Bill Murray and the cute furry animal.

Now don't get me wrong I’ve always liked to think of myself as miserable; Woody Allen and Larry David are my heroes or anti heroes as it were. I can relate to their neurosis and grumpiness, I actively embraced them. I've never done cheery and don't really understand those that do, cheeriness is masking something if you ask me.

But as a close friend put it, 'if you’re not even enjoying being miserable anymore' then you know something’s wrong.

This was very true. So I made ‘that‘ doctors appointment.

And there I sat, one doctor’s appointment later, head against the steering wheel, tears streaming down my face and a prescription for Prozac in my hand.

40 years old and diagnosed with depression. 

To be honest I felt ashamed. In my head I was one of ‘those’ people, the pathetic type who couldn’t cope with everyday life. I hated myself, thoughts that I’d let everyone down were overwhelming.

I’d failed.

I'll be honest I didn’t know if I was going to take the Prozac, was it an easy fix? Almost a coward’s way out? Being reliant on Anti-Depressants really didn’t make me feel warm and fuzzy inside.

A lot of the issue was that I really didn’t know what to expect from the pills, the thought of waking one day with the urge to skip down the street humming a merry little ditty was enough to make me want to stay depressed. It would be blindingly bleeding obvious to anyone who had ever met me, even fleetingly, that I was on the happy pills. And I didn’t want that.

Throughout all of this I wasn’t looking for a magic wand to make everything better, I just wanted to feel like me again.

The advice sheet that comes with the Fluoxetine (Prozac) is extensive. It doesn’t make great reading either for those suffering from anxiety or depression. Mainly that it was likely to make you worse before better and if you were feeling suicidal it would heighten this.

As a side note I’m lucky that I’ve never had those feelings, yes I’ve wanted to do a Reggie Perrin and escape but never to harm myself.

So back to the extensive list of side effects, the ones that mainly caught my eye were:- Priapism - a prolonged and painful erection known to last for up to four hours 
Loss of libido 

Just a perfect fucking combo, all dressed up with nowhere to go.

Well that was something to look forward to.

I did take some advice, it was a big step but I spoke to my in-laws who are retired GPs and have been really supportive.

I had it in my head that they were of the generation to tell me to pull myself together and stop being so pathetic, after all it was what I was telling myself over and over again.

Anyway the long and short of it is that I did take the Prozac and I’m about 5 weeks in.

There have been side effects but thankfully nothing in the trouser department. My main one was yawning in the initial weeks I couldn’t stop yawning for neither love nor money.

Plus increased insomnia, I get 4 hours broken sleep occasionally but it's worked out really well what with The Ashes being in Australia I've been able to watch or listen to most of play (and I wonder why my mental health is shot!) The impending doom has waned a little but creeps up occasionally.

I haven’t skipped nor felt the urge to, which is good.

I can’t tell you if I feel better I really don’t know. I’m numb to things almost devoid of emotion, which I've been told is a result of the Prozac.

I did survive turning 40, Christmas and New Year – just. It wasn’t great but it’s done.

The thought of the year ahead scares me, I don’t subscribe to the idea of things can only get better. I’ll need a hell of a lot of convincing on that one.

I do think I’ve fucked things up to some degree but that’s ok isn’t it? If I feel I’ve hit the bottom of my pit then I can start to climb back out of it.

I'm not asking for sympathy, not even a kind word. I haven't written this because I'm proud, I'm not wearing mental illness as a badge of honour but I'm learning not to be ashamed of it either.

So that’s my 2013, you’ll forgive me if I don’t make any resolutions or plans. At the moment as cheesy and clich├ęd as it is I take it one day at a time.


Ax