Not A Chance

think stencil art & graffiti cat

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Today’s Daily Prompt: “You receive some wonderful, improbable, hoped-for good news. How do you celebrate?”

How do I celebrate? Wonderful news comes along and what do I do to celebrate? Wonderful news?

I’m suffering from major depression. According to DSM IV “Depressed people may be preoccupied with, or ruminate over, thoughts and feelings of worthlessness, inappropriate guilt or regret, helplessness, hopelessness, and self-hatred.”

So the hard part of this question is not thinking about celebration. The hard part of this question is imagining a world in which I get good news. I just don’t believe it. It was only a few months ago I was telling my psychiatrist that I could find no evidence that I wasn’t in a universe that God had created for the sole purpose of torturing me and causing me pain to punish me for not believing in Him.

It starts with having no hope. I don’t even have any hope that I will get better. Nothing good can possibly happen to me because that’s not the way the world works, maybe it’s because I’m broken, maybe because I’ve had a life where at the moment all I can see when I look back is bad decisions.

Then there’s the constant feeling that nobody wants to help, nobody can help, nothing can help.

How can good news intrude into that? Where is the space for it to actually be good news? At the moment if I received news that you thought was good then I’d find a way of turning it into pain or anxiety. A million dollars? I’d find a way to lose it. A better job? Probably just more stress. A long lost relative? What do they want?

So, celebration. I don’t think so. I guess I’d tell Jessica my daughter and leave it at that. Oh, I know, blow a few dollars by going out somewhere nice for dinner with her.

One Tiny Change

English: Johnny Depp in Cannes in the nineties.

Johnny Depp in Cannes in the nineties. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today’s Daily Prompt: “For a moment today, time stands still — but you can tweak one thing while it’s stopped. What do you do?”

A myriad of possibilities open up. From the almost infinitesimal to the huge. I think about the day I had today and what changes I might make.

There are, of course, the fantasies:
– Make me as rich as Rupert Murdoch
– Make me as handsome as George Clooney
– Make me as sexy as Johnny Depp

Then there are a few philanthropic ones:
– Reverse the Federal election results
– Give the illiterate Aussies the ability to read
– Trash all the poker machines in Australia
– Abolish nine out of ten liquor licenses in Kings Cross and the Sydney CBD

They all have their appeal. Are they really the “one thing”? “Tweak” implies a small change not a huge bunch of wholesale changes so it doesn’t allow us ot go for the really big ones, the almost impossible, such as
– Make cancer disappear
– Make poverty disappear
– Fix TV so there’s always something worth watching
– Give the Liberal/National Party Coalition a heart

Then there’s the elephant in the room. The one I’m not talking about. The big one. “I am wounded with knife, sting, and tooth, and a long burden. Where shall I find rest?,” as Bilbo asked Gandalf.

So while time is stopped, all motion ceased, reactions halted I reach inside my bruised and battered brain and tweak those hormones and proteins and structures and erase a little, adjust a little and cure my fevered mind. Major Depression gone.

It would be nice if it was that easy. That’s not really a “tweak” is it? That’s a big change. It’s a lot of tweaks all together.

Small changes, minor adjustments or tiny alterations just isn’t going to do it. If I can’t have the one change that will actually effect some change in my life, some change in my future and make tomorrow even a little less lonely and painful then you can keep your “tweak”. Nothing, thanks.

Have A Talent?

Talent Show

Talent Show (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today’s Daily Prompt: “Tell us about a talent you’d love to have… but don’t.”

The first thought I had when I read this question is what the difference might be between a “talent” and a “skill”.

So it turns out that a talent is innate, it’s something you have, while a skill is something you can acquire.

The last time Daily Prompt came close to this topic it asked about learning something that came hard. In that case I talked about drumming.

Most of the things I’d like fall into “skills”. In that post I also mentioned Italian and Haskell programming. They are skills.

What talents do I already have? I think I have a talent for writing with some experience and skill in editing. I’ve also shown a talent for computer support.

What would I love to have that is a talent not a skill? Quite a lot of my desires are skills. A talent? I don’t really need to know how to dance, paint or sing – none of those artistic talents.

Where I sit at the moment I’d have to look at my life and say “relationships”. I’m not good at relationships, both platonic and romantic, and there are parts of finding and maintaining them that I think are innate. Some are skills, skills like knowing how to care for people and being a good listener.

Other parts of it I’m sure are innate, they are a talent. Making friends, understanding people, even seeing problems in a romantic relationship. These seem to me talents rather than skills. I’ve tried over the years to learn these things but they never seem to come to me. I lack the talent. I try hard, I’m a good friend to anyone, I’m always the first to help in a crisis and don’t mind doing any of those small favours. In a romantic relationship I always try to make the other person feel loved, I always make sure I say it and I always do a range of small things to make the other person feel good. It just doesn’t seem to work, I just don’t have the talent.

There is another talent I seem to lack, particularly at the moment. I’d like to be able find pleasure and happiness. As I sit here writing away with my major depression leaving me grey and lifeless I look back on the last thirty years and it seems that happy has been a fleeting state of affairs, never with me for long and always far too fragile. At the moment with major depression there are medical reasons I can’t find it – anhedonia, the inability to experience pleasure from activities usually found enjoyable, is one of the defining symptoms.

People tell me that finding happiness is actually a skill rather than a talent, that it can be learnt. I wish I believed that. It’s another thing I’ve tried to acquire, I’ve read any number of books, tried meditation, yoga, positive affirmations and all manner of things.

Could It Be?

English: Katy Perry performing "E.T."...

Katy Perry performing “E.T.” in Budapest on October 1, 2010. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

After seemingly an improved mental state on my current medication for quite a while I have suddenly this week felt myself slipping back, felt myself slipping away into black moods. My insomnia is back with a vengeance, I’m waking early with no chance of getting back to sleep. It has left me wide awake but physically tired and shaking. I’m also back to weeping a lot over the past few days.

So what has caused this? Why suddenly are the old problems back? I can think of three possibilities.

The entire time I’ve been on my current medications the one thing I’ve continued to feel is anger and frustration. I’ve described the mental state the two combined have given me is “grey” and still leaving me without will or desire and still unable to find pleasure or fun but at the same time I find myself angry at the silliest things.

It could be that the anger and frustration have built up to make me say and do things I then turn into a black mood. I’m certainly harder to live with and I’ve said some things to Jessi that have upset her which then makes me feel terrible. The thought of driving off the one person who has stood next to me through all this is pretty upsetting.

The second possibility is that the stress of a job interview last week and anxiety about the preparation and now the outcome are weighing more heavily on me than I thought. I really want the job but truth be told I am lacking experience in Linux support for it and probably wont get it. That’s not good for me considering how I had to build myself up to get through the interview prep and the interview itself. Every rejection hurts a little more.

The third possibility is the one that interests me most since it deals entirely with the subconscious.

Last Sunday out of the blue I received a totally unexpected email. It was titled “Thirteen parts of the puzzle” and was just “I miss walking by your side, up the steps to The Wharf.” It was obviously from my ex, Sonia, who had left me in such a bad way that it triggered my descent into full blown major depression.

I had fired off both a quick reply and then a few hours later a quick short poem:

The Wharf
Ancient boards beneath 
My feet, white walls on
One side and bare bones
Of a mercantile
World long gone to sea
On the other lead on.Beside me the clack
Of heels and soft hand
In mine as we pass
Posters and photos, on
To an evening
Of shared art and joy. 

(A creative way of saying I remembered doing the same thing.)

I then pretty much dismissed it. It’s not the first time I’ve had a similar email out of the blue. Last October I got a link to Katy Perry’s song “ET” out of the blue. Back then it seems I quickly forgot about it.

Certainly there is a huge amount of mixed stuff associated with Sonia inside my head that has yet to be properly dealt with. The big one is the usual with a messy break up of dealing with the two different “people” – the one that you loved and made you happy while you were in a seemingly good and happy relationship and the person that caused so much pain and unhappiness at the time of the breakup that is so easy to hate.

A while ago, when the pain of major depression and loneliness was at it’s worst, I couldn’t help but yearn for the love and care of the first person while knowing that going back to that was impossible.

I had thought that while that stuff hadn’t really been dealt with that it had no effect on me stuffed away in it’s box.

So right now I’m wondering if right now, when truth be told I do feel a little lonely and friendless, that email has triggered some feelings that are not quite at the conscious level, that my subconscious is back to that yearning and churning up the old pain.

A couple of interesting data points.

I had no real trouble writing this post, I’m not sure if writing it made me feel better or just that the change from the early morning grey outside to a sunny day is responsible but when I went back to start the edit I found myself getting weepy when I was fixing the paragraph about Jessi.

So Jessica has quietly left for the day and won’t be back till after dinner she tells me.

Now I find myself finishing this up and totally stuck. I just started to call or SMS three different people to see if they were free for lunch or dinner but stopping before making a call or sending a message as I’m not sure I could cope with them saying no. Instead I sit here feeling lonely and weeping.

An Interesting Day – R U OK?

R U OK? DAY Bondi Beach. Awesome morning! Hope...

R U OK? DAY (Photo credit: andy@atbondi)

Today was R U OK Day here in Australia. It’s a day promoted by the foundation of the same name, “a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to encouraging all people to regularly and meaningfully ask ‘are you ok?’ to support those struggling with life”, as they put it. They believe suicide prevention is everyone’s responsibility.

Over the past few days I have shared a fair number of their posts on Facebook so it would be almost impossible for any of my friends there to not know it was on. It would also be impossible for anyone who knows me to be unaware that I have been fighting major depression for the last eighteen months.

Socialisation is so good for me. Getting out and talking to people and connecting to the world. As I’ve mentioned Jessi just turned 21 and her 21st birthday party was better than drugs. It had a knock on effect, I felt better after the party so I managed to get some serious tasks done and that also made me feel better. Of course it eventually faded.

I also have to admit that I am not the best social companion at the moment. I am prone to spending at least part of the time telling you about how terrible I feel and my current anxieties, though not all the time. I will, as an example from a recent drink and a meal with a friend showed, be perfectly happy to spend half an hour on a pointless argument about the digital review system in international cricket or listening to how you are going and some of your troubles.

I now find it difficult to try organising or asking for social connections. It only took a few misses, knock-backs and last minute cancellations before I found myself with a terrible anxiety about rejection. I have tried to make it clear that I would really like social contacts from small gatherings to just a cup of coffee or a drink with a friend.

Given all that how many of my friends do you think were reminded today that they haven’t talked to me on the phone or made any contact apart from Facebook in many months? Don’t know the answer to that but I can tell you that not one actually picked up the phone.

It’s pretty easy to find yourself feeling lonely and isolated when you’re suffering depression. I don’t have a full time job at the moment so I can sometimes go weeks without talking to anyone apart from Jessica or the people in the supermarket. Beating myself up is easy. Feeling that nobody cares and nothing helps is all too familiar. Having a day like today makes it almost impossible to not think of myself as friendless, worthless and a failure.

In case you’re wondering, yes I did. I rang a friend who lives at a long distance and spent a few minutes checking how he had been going. He’s fine, a new job has lifted him out of his hole. Oh, and to my friends, don’t feel guilty, that’s not what this is about and you were (obviously) not the only one.

Please, if you know someone going through a rough time then make sure you stay in touch. If you really care then you might even want to put a repeating entry into your calendar, “Phone Steve”. Google Calendar even allows you to have something repeat with a gap in any number of days so you can set it to some number like 17 or 23 so your friend doesn’t think “Pete rings every third Friday”. Then be prepared for a little real conversation, be ready to arrange a cup of coffee or a drink. If you go to the R U OK Day website they have some tips on how to do that.

You could save a life. Perhaps even mine.

I Can’t Help Myself

English: The Four Tops in concert, New Rochell...

The Four Tops in concert, New Rochelle High School, New Rochelle, New York. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today’s Daily Prompt was “Take the third line of the last song you heard, make it your post title, and write for a maximum of 15 minutes. GO!” The last song I heard was ‘Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch’ by The Four Tops. (Do yourself a favour and go see those dance moves. Them and The Temptations are the slickest movers on a stage.)

It’s true, I can’t help myself. Not totally. It’s part of major depression that you are easily confused, find it hard to stick to a task and lack energy. That makes it hard to find and organise the care you need. You need care and help to fix your problems.

The peculiar thing is that managing to achieve something makes me feel better. I organised insurance for my scooter and went down to the Motor Registry and registered it and renewed my license. I felt such a sense of achievement my analyst was amazed.

So the Catch–22 is that by the time I manage to get myself together enough to find and organise the care I need doing all those tasks will have me well on the way of getting out of the hole of major depression but I won’t be able to do that until I’m well on the way to getting out of the hole.

I also feel a huge lack of care. It seems that nobody around me cares enough to follow through. I can’t help myself but nobody around me seems to be capable of helping either. They all seem too busy to worry about me. They seem too involved in their own life to care about me.

Major depression is a terrible disease. It takes your life and leaves you unable to take care of yourself. Major depression kills people, sometimes swiftly with suicide sometimes slowly by destroying your health.

I can’t help myself. I hope I can find others to help me.

Not Really Laughing


Today’s Daily Prompt is “Do you consider yourself funny? What role does humor play in your life? Who’s the funniest person you know?”

Am I funny? What role does humour play in my life? No, not much.

As I’ve mentioned I suffer from major depression. One of the defining symptoms of major depression is anhedonia, which can be quickly defined as ’an inability to feel pleasure, particularly from activities usually found enjoyable. Combined with the anxiety and self-loathing typical of all depression this makes it hard to find humour in what most would find funny.

I usually love good humour. On my shelves you will find several Monty Python movies, the complete set of Fawlty Towers and a bunch of other comedies. Humour used to play a large part of my life. A couple of night ago I was watching an episode of Fawlty Towers and while I still enjoyed it the humour had left me.

I also feel the same about books at the moment. Usually Terry Pratchett or Douglas Adams would have me giggling but at the moment they somehow leave me cold. I can still read them but the pleasure at the humour is not there.

I miss it. It would make a depressed life so much easier if I could laugh more. When you suffer from major depression you lose so much of an ordinary life and one that I miss almost constantly is a good laugh.

Walking The Precipice

Front quarter view of the notorious winged kee...

Front quarter view of the notorious winged keel fitted to the winner of the 1983 Americas Cup, Australia II. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today’s Daily Prompt asks “We all have things as need to do to keep an even keel — blogging, exercising, reading, cooking. What’s yours?”

An even keel is a rare thing for me, I usually settle for moving forward and not taking on water. Writing is one o the things that keeps the keel in the water. Music is another. Tonight Jessica is taking a run through the 85,000 or so tracks in my iTunes library playing some of my soul and R&B collection so Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding and a bunch of others are blasting away.

To that I’d add reading but the two biggest things in my life that keep water flowing under the bow and that keel wet are two brilliant women. Strong women have always been important in my life.

My mother, now dead, was a woman who was both strong and one capable of asking for help. She can’t help but come to mind as I sit here listening to Al Green sing “Lean On Me”. A song that sums her up so well I played it at her funeral. As much as my relationship with her for the nine years we lived together after my father died was tempestuous there was something about her love and strength that kept me going through some dark times.

It was at the same time that I came to lean on my local doctor. Sheila is an amazing GP with an understanding and compassion that are increasingly rare in the medical profession. It was Sheila that got me through my first bout of major depression by getting me to focus on who I would hurt if I let myself succumb to the demons.

Now that I am going through another bout she is stil one of the people keeping me going. It’s important to have someone strong and capable when it comes to such things as trying the various cocktails of medication available that attempt to treat major depression. She also provided a shoulder and an ear before I found an analyst.

Then there is Jessica. I have to say that I don’t know how her mother and I managed it but she is a strong, intelligent and capable young woman. Just having her around the house is good, she provides an excuse to cook more often and more healthy, she is someone to just say hello to in the morning and goodnight to last thing. She also understands my need to yell at the teacher on “Dance Moms” or spend all of Monday night watching current affairs on the ABC.

Then she does things that surprise me and are make me happy. Tonight’s a great example. After we finished watching “The Sapphires” (a great feel good movie with some great music) she said “soul night” and I set her up playing iTunes through the good stereo and she started playing all her favourites from the 60s. Just the thing to get us both singing and tapping our feet.

I think people are the most important thing to keep you on an “even keel”.

Do It Later

A pile of Lego blocks, of assorted colours and...

A pile of Lego blocks, of assorted colours and sizes. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Today’s Daily Prompt was entitled ‘Procrastination’ and asked “What have you been putting off doing? Why?”

Procrastination is a huge problem for me at the moment. My depression has robbed me of a great deal of my drive and will to do something. At the same time one of the symptoms of major depression is anhedonia, an inability to experience pleasure in activities that were once enjoyed. An effect of this is that I put off doing things I previously enjoyed, for example I have a bunch of Lego models that I don’t find the time or drive to put together. I think I’m afraid that it won’t be as much fun as it used to be.

Indeed my procrastination is so bad that before I started writing this post I had to make a cup of coffee and have a cigarette. Then I had second thoughts about writing it.

As a result of all this I have a long list of things I am procrastinating over. Some of them are even costing me money, I have a bunch of medical expenses I could claim that are on my list.

Another effect of major depression is a loss of concentration. This means that sometimes when I start a task I can’t keep at it long enough to complete it. These uncompleted tasks are another source, I think the failure and a fear of further failure adds to my procrastination. Sometimes I won’t start a similar task for the same reason, at the moment I am putting off reading any number of good non-fiction books as I haven’t had the concentration to enjoy and finish the last couple I’ve started.

A lack of concentration and a fear of failure have also made me procrastinate over writing for the Daily Prompt for the last couple of weeks. I look at the prompt and can’t quite get myself to start writing and on the few occasions when I start I can’t seem to finish. Of course those failures strengthen the procrastination for the next one.

So there’s a partial list of things I’m procrastinating over, Lego, bureaucratic paperwork, reading non-fiction and writing. I hope you can understand some of what’s driving it.

As short as this post is I think I better get it posted before I start procrastinating over that.

My Little Secret


anxiety (Photo credit: FlickrJunkie)

Today’s Daily Prompt : Tell us something most people probably don’t know about you.

That’s a hard one. Most of me and my life is an open book, I don’t have much hidden away.

The only thing really hidden is my internal life and even most of that has been told. I feel the only thing most people would find surprising, that most don’t know, is how much of the time I’m scared and frightened.

I try hard to project an air of calm and confidence but when I’m talking to you I’m scared of saying the wrong thing. If I don’t know you when we start talking I’m frightened that you’ll find me weird or strange, too different to like.

With almost every task I undertake I’m scared of failure, anxious that I’m going to do something wrong. Professionally I’m OK, when I’m working on a systems task or fixing a computer problem I start out believing I can do it. It only takes a minor setback and that anxiety is there, though it is in the back of my mind and usually well controlled.

I have the same problem in my relationships, I’m full of fear. I don’t think my partners ever knew how anxious I was.

I’m anxious that as my lover you don’t know how I feel, I’m scared that I’m not open enough. I’m frightened that I’ll get left, get hurt. I’m frightened of hurting you, I’m nervous I’m asking too much, I’m scared about not doing enough, I’m fearful of controlling and I’m concerned I don’t leave room for you. A litany of anxious thoughts.

Of course there are times when I don’t feel anxious, frightened or scared. They are the moments I can relax and I treasure them all.