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.

Dead Already

On the Threshold of Eternity

At Eternity’s Gate by Vincent Van Gogh (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There are many reasons not to write and post this article. It’s a little too honest to be out in the world.  I’ve written it and discarded it several times over the past few months, somehow writing seems to help me but it’s scary to post it. I haven’t given it my usual hard edit as that would require putting aside for a few hours and I’m afraid if I do that my anxiety will overcome my desire to publish and once again it will be trashed. I hope getting it out there is useful to someone.

I’ve been suffering from clinical depression for about eighteen months, for quite a while before that I was suffering from mild depression. This is the third major episode in the last eighteen years.

While I have had clinical depression I’ve been living in a different world to most of you. I’ve been living in a world devoid of hope, absent of energy, empty of will and without any love in it. A world of anxiety, sadness, regret and self-recrimination. I don’t have a full time job, I don’t have a social life and I can’t relax without my mind filling with the self-loathing of depression.

My anxiety can easily become crippling. Recently there was two weeks where I couldn’t answer the phone, couldn’t seem to answer an email or an SMS. I also have strong social anxiety, I find it difficult to talk to people and I find it hard to be around people I don’t know. It’s hard to leave the house.

About three months ago I found an anti-depressant that almost works. It was, according to my GPs records, the fourteenth I’ve tried over eighteen years. This one actually has a positive effect, none of the others seemed to, and the side effects are just annoying rather than disabling. I’m staying on it as better than nothing.

When I say it almost works it lifts me from a totally black hole into a grey void which descends into the hell only every few days and only for a few hours.

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Person of The Year

Malala Yousafzai

Malala Yousafzai

Today’s Daily Prompt: “You’re asked to nominate someone for TIME’s Person of the Year. Who would it be, and why?:”

An excellent question. If we are talking about 2012 then several people immediately spring to mind but first I’d like to think about the idea of “TIME’s Person of The Year” (TPoTY).

TIME have long held that TPoTY is not an award as such, it is given to the person (and sometimes a group of people or a thing) who “for better or for worse, …has done the most to influence the events of the year.” Note that in 1939 they chose Adolf Hitler despite the blitzkreig across Europe and the Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979. More often though it has been awarded to someone admirable in the yea and we have come to see it as an award.

What do we mean by “influence the events of the year” and “admirable”? Who would I choose from the year 2012? Would I nominate someone that was a huge personal influence or someone who influenced the world?

I’d like to look at two young women and nominate them both.

In study after study it has been shown that one of the best ways of relieving people from poverty is by educating the women in a society. When you educate women family incomes rise, social stability rises, infant mortality drops at the same time as average family size drops, malnutrition drops and disease morbidity drops. It’s universally successful.

That’s why a young woman who is outspoken on women’s rights and education will always deserve our praise. When we see one who does so for many years in the middle of a repressive and violent regime it goes beyond that.

Malala Yousafzai was 11 when she first started writing a blog for the BBC on the repression that surrounded her in the Taliban controlled Swat area of Pakistan and her views, she was particularly vocal in her condemnation of school closures. She was so politically active and so loud a voice that her life was threatened by the Taliban.

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Half Empty

Is the glass half full or is the glass half empty?

Is the glass half full or is the glass half empty? (Photo credit: Pimlico Badger)


Today’s Daily Prompt is “Is the glass half-full, or half-empty?”

This always seems to be a question of optimism against pessimism. A question of seeing what you have against what you don’t have.

If I sum it up that way then I am a half-empty sort of person.

I suffer from depression, bad chronic depression, and one of the symptoms is an ingrained pessimism. I can’t see anything positive in the future and I can’t see the pain going away. At the same time I am beset with a sense of failure in that, according to my inner thoughts, there is little positive in my life situation.

That’s really where depression gets you. Some seem to think that depression is just an extreme form of feeling sad but that’s not where it hits you. Sure, you feel sad, you feel really sad. I can cope with sad, I’m really good at coping with sad. The hard part is to try and be at least a little positive and get things done when there’s a part of you that sees yourself as an unappealing failure incapable of achievement. When the black dog is barking in your ear it’s hard to hear anything else.

In the face of that I’ve become a glass half-empty guy. I try very hard to think it’s half full and at times in my life I’ve been there but it never sticks.

Room 101

Today’s Daily Prompt is an interesting one. They title the post “1984” then ask the question “You’re locked in a room with your greatest fear. Describe what’s in the room.”

So we harken back to 1948 and the writing of Orwell’s great novel with the ultimate torture chamber, Room 101.

O’Brien, the anti-hero of the novel, puts it well, “You asked me once, what was in Room 101. I told you that you knew the answer already. Everyone knows it. The thing that is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world.” He defines it so well that the quote is on the Wikipedia page for ‘Room 101’.

So we are consigned to a room by a state so totalitarian, so omniscient that it even knows our darkest fears, our nightmares.

My dark fears don’t so much lurk as swim close to the surface. If you were to ask me what would be the worst thing that could happen to me I’d probably talk about losing my sight so I could no longer read or losing the ability to type so I could no longer write.

Down another level are the darker ones. Loneliness, insanity, loss of my mental faculties.

Fear of things though, what could be in Room 101 that would scare me? Scare me so totally that it would become torture?

Well the last twelve months have taught me well –

I have supp'd full with horrors;
Direness, familiar to my slaughterous thoughts,
Cannot once start me.

Macbeth. There’s a man who has seen horrors enough by Act V, Scene 5 of Shakespeare’s play.

As have I, looking depression hard in the face. There were moments when I feared for my mind, doubted my sanity. One particularly bad bout had me up and out of bed for six days without any peaceful sleep and finally I could no longer discern my tired awake from fitful doze with dream and reality so confused that I swear I started hallucinating.

My Doctor’s attempts over many years to find medication to control my depression fed straight into one of my other dark fears. On even quite low doses and soon after starting each of the drugs so enamoured by psychiatrists I could feel my brain start to struggle, get fuzzy and confused. I could feel my cognitive ability and intellect, so vital to me, draining away. I couldn’t do it, my anxiety climbed as the side-effects took hold.

In Orwell’s novel his hero, Winston, seems to have similar dark fears. He fears loss of identity, loss of self, loss of self-consciousness. I know that black.

These, however, are incredibly hard to put in a room with you. In 1984 the Thought Police when they lock Winston in his Room 101 have to descend to the plebeian, the pedestrian, they use a simple, common fear of rats.

So too with me. You can’t lock me up with my darkest fears so you may as well use rats or cockroaches.

Slash and Burn

(c) Alexis Tejeda

(c) Alexis Tejeda

Today’s Daily Prompt: Write 500 words on any topic you like. Now remove 250 of them without changing the essence of your post.

When you’re in a bad mood, who or what makes you feel better? A Daily Prompt from a week or so ago.

Lifting my mood can be a difficult thing. You see I suffer from depression.

The best way is to silence the negative thoughts. If my befuddled brain gets no other input I spend my time listening to the voice inside my head that tells me what a failure I am and rehashes my past. I can end up feeling a total failure, unloved and unloveable.

To silence those thoughts I need high quality input. Reading a good book, but good TV or a good movie can work as well.

Getting out of the house helps. Riding my pushbike or motor scooter. Sitting in a coffee shop with a double macchiato.

The other thing that can replace the silence is intellectual work. My job or writing. Writing can be ideal as I take whatever is coursing through my head and turn it into words.

The problem with that is when the depression gets particularly bad the first thing to suffer can be my writing.

Writing should come easy. For all the joy I get it can be hard. Sometimes you sit at the keyboard and the words **do** come easy but sometimes nothing comes and when it does come it’s hard and ugly and nothing as you want.

Reading and writing and TV. Those are the things that lift my mood.

Audience of One

Today’s Daily Prompt was “Picture the one person in the world you really wish were reading your blog. Write her or him a letter.”

So the question is who. Who is the “one person”? There are the obvious candidates. Either of my late parents, my late paternal grandfather or a number of ex-girlfriends (either in anger or enquiry).

Then there are the people who might actually read this. My daughter and a number of close friends.

There is the audience I would like for this blog. Due to my split nature that falls into two camps, people interested in Macintosh computers and other devices made by Apple and those interested in art, politics and culture.

Who to write for?

The person I have the most to say to is my daughter, Jessica. Those words though need to be said in person and privately not here in the public realm.

For the same reason I’m not going to write the words I would like to say to those that have died, my mother and father.

I’m not going to write a letter to my typical reader, I have so few regular readers that I don’t think there is such a thing as typical.

So I’m going to write a letter to the person who reads every word written here, myself.

Dear Tony,
Today is another day that will unfold in front of you in a way that you cannot exactly predict. There will be moments of pain and sadness but may well be moments of fun and pleasure.

Be warmed that there is more in your life today than just depression. There are people; a few, a happy few; that love you and care that you still walk this world.

Remember that you are not defined by this moment and how you feel right now, you have known love and happiness and will do so again.

Take care of yourself as well as you can and do as much as you can, do not beat yourself up for not achieving the impossible.

Continue to love and live and write.

Always yours,