Tag Archives: writing

The unsubtle knife

15 Jun

As always the challenge comes not when times are good, but in times of adversity and it is here that I hope I can take strength from the last year and a so of my life and remember that, when I am making a real, concerted effort life is better and indeed fun. When the next bout comes I believe/hope I’ll be able to deal with it.

 

Those are my words from the end of this post, where I talk about taking back control. In the last week and a half I have had my first, and what I knew would be inevitable, brush with adversity.

It started in the usual way insomuch as that I could feel myself slowly being sucked into the black hole. Alongside this I could also recognise the patterns of behaviour that accompany it – the sudden unreliability as I struggle to fulfil plans I made when I was feeling myself, the sudden disruption in the quality of sleep coupled with the lack of energy and appetite, plus leaning towards a drink or two for a quick mood fix and of course my old personal favourite, spending money for the same mood elevation reasons.

As I already knew these bumps in the road would appear I’ve almost been waiting for it, to see if I could force myself to react differently – to put in motion what I hoped would become a new norm in the way I deal with things.

Now I realise that above this I listed the things I found myself doing and it would appear that all has not gone well but in reality, I have certainly cut short the length of time I normally spend doing these things. I’ve twice forced myseIMG_0277lf to keep plans I made even though I really didn’t want to (I also failed a couple of times in this regard), as well as keeping myself active.

I mentioned previously how important exercise can be in keeping your mind healthy and so, alongside starting to run again I signed up with a friend to do my first 5k at the end of this month, as I believe goal setting is also an important part of keeping your mind ticking over.

The way I see it at the moment, I think this current episode will always be a benchmark I measure against in the future because in all honestly, this has been one of the worst, sudden onsets I can remember.

The picture I have used to accompany this blog is taken from ‘Life of Pi’. The character Pi is talking about fear and how it can take you over and conquer you but suffice to say, for me he could easily have been talking about depression.

I was on a train on Thursday to Charing Cross to meet a friend when it hit me – a feeling of complete despair – hopelessness like I haven’t felt in years. It cut right through me, it felt like I had too much weight on my shoulders to handle whilst my insides felt like they were sinking, being pulled down into nothingness. It felt like all my thoughts and words were coagulating – they became thick in my brain and impossible to vocalise or shift away from a feeling of dread.

Nonetheless I have persevered and forced myself to go for a run yesterday and even though I still feel devoid of energy (even after spending 14 hours in bed last night/today, which is exceptionally bad for me) I am still going to watch the football with my friend tonight.

Lets face it, I know what the alternative is, especially during an episode such as this. I must force myself not to react in the same way because that would be admitting defeat and being out with my best friend is the better choice.

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I’m looking for an artist to collaborate with

3 Jun

In my recently finished final year at uni I did a poetry portfolio.

I decided to approach it like a concept album and have ideas and themes running through it. The main themes running through the portfolio are alienation, identity and disillusionment. I looked at these through various aspects, such as depression, the media, politics, racism, day to day interactions and personal circumstances.

When I was writing it the thought kept occurring that I would love to put on some form of exhibition – but I really want pictures to go with it. The thought hasn’t gone away but seeing as I can write but have no talent in drawing, I thought I’d reach out here via my blog.

I have ideas and influences that I have in mind but essentially would like to see what someone who is creative in the visual arts could bring to it.

If you’re interested and want to know more, leave a comment and lets crack on.photo

Attempting To Take Back Control Of A Life With Depression

20 May

My blog updates here have certainly dried up recently. There are two reasons for this, the first of which I mentioned in my previous post, namely that I had a lot going on with finishing my degree.

The second reason is that I have been thinking about a lot of things in my life and making some decisions. The first big decision was making a real, concerted effort to try and get back to a happier, healthier state and frame of mind.

Every bout of depression is different in its severity and a bad one can leave a long lasting, residual mark on your mentality that can lead to unhealthy and unhelpful wallowing.

Looking back and analysing the last few years, I could clearly see the point where I was happiest, and it coincided with the time that I decided to make a real effort. Obviously that isn’t rocket science but a bad bout certainly derailed me and it all lead to me beginning this blog.

What exactly do I mean about making an effort? Well it means not coasting and really taking control. If I’m completely honest a kind of ‘woe is me’ attitude was setting in and if I’m really really honest, I have to admit I was sleepwalking through a vast majority of my final year of university.

So in the last couple of weeks I’ve made an active effort to ‘wake up.’ I’ve been readying my writing portfolios and have started looking for freelance work whilst continuing on with my novel and scripts, plus I’ve started doing other simple things like exercising again.

Regular exercise is genuinely such a great tool in fighting and coping with depression. Getting back into the shape I was, regaining the muscle I lost when I was wallowing is not only a great self esteem boost, the endorphins from exercise really are a great, natural buzz. I’ve also taken control of my alcohol consumption which is a huge step.

When it comes to my writing/professional life, all of that side is in my real name and does take up a lot of time so this blog will almost certainly revert to being updated once a week at best, but I’ll be keeping it as an outlet.

As always the challenge comes not when times are good, but in times of adversity and it is here that I hope I can take strength from the last year and a so of my life and remember that, when I am making a real, concerted effort life is better and indeed fun. When the next bout comes I believe/hope I’ll be able toKeep-Calm-and-Take-Control deal with it.

 

I had to go with a Rocky video here didn’t I haha.

Haven’t done this in a while….

9 May

I finished my degree last week – well I handed everything in anyway. So that’s that, three years done and dusted.

 

Feel pretty spent after the last few weeks of making sure everything was ready. The main thought on my mind since is how much I would love to just get away and relax. Get away and forget everything. That would be cool.

Of course when I say everything I really mean depression. It really wasn’t that very long ago that I started this blog and all because certain things were coming into sharp focus, like being 27 and having unsuccessfully coped with depression for nigh on ten years and not wanting to be 37 and still be in the same boat.

I still haven’t made any proper steps to remedy the situation which of course is nobodies fault but my own and that plus finishing uni has mixed together and it’s feeling rather claustrophobic in my head at the moment.

I guess it just annoyed me that I felt no accomplishment at all from finishing uni, I thought I’d feel something but instead it was just a feeling of ‘I don’t deserve to feel happy’ type feeling.

I think the weirdest thing is that I don’t feel unduly depressed – I’m certainly not in the black hole I was when I started this blog. It’s just a rather surreal feeling of ‘well, what did I expect, this is your life now’ which I know is depressing enough.

Well, to end on a positive – yes I know finishing uni is definitely a positive, but to add another one I’ve given myself till Monday to completely switch off from writing (professional writing I mean) at which point it will be back to the screenplays and working on my novel. That would have made it a complete week off, something I can’t remember doing since I decided I wanted to be a writer.

I’ve actually gone out a couple of times as well since I handed in my work. I’veblog tried to be more sociable and see my friends again and it was pretty cool to see they genuinely seemed pleased to see me out.

And it’s my best mates birthday night out tomorrow so something good to look forward to there as well.

Council Estates, Ex Girlfriends, love and Uni

17 Apr

I try to keep my posts focused on one thing at a time but on this occasion there are a few things on my mind.

I’ll start by saying that today was a lovely day here in South London; it was sunny and warm. You often hear how the weather can affect your mood and I always forget just how true this is until those first proper sunny days appear and you really do feel better about things. It just puts a nice tint on your emotions; even those things that are making you feel rather melancholy can be diluted down in their effect by filtering them through the happier disposition the sunshine can give you.

I was travelling on the train today, going through Norwood Junction, Crystal Palace, West Norwood, Gypsy Hill etc on the way to Balham.  I grew up in these areas, specifically a council estate in West Norwood; as I looked out of my window at my old stomping grounds I felt this pain deep within me, this void that I feel and know could never be filled. I was thinking about the council estate I grew up on and how I wished I could go back; experience it again as I was when I was younger, when things were so much more simple. My mind was sound, I had a happiness that I doubt I’ll ever recapture, a boundless enthusiasm for life I feel I’ll never rekindle. I rarely get such thoughts but today it was an urge that was – I don’t know – I’ve wracked my mind and the only word that comes close to describing it is an existential urge; probably because I know I can never go back in time but that somehow, some way I hope that I can experience those emotions again.

These days my happiness and forward thinking is filtered through the mechanism of simply coping; coping with depression, coping with bi polar, coping with a life tinged and tainted with an unremitting sense of ‘this wasn’t how it used to be, it used to be more fun but at least right now I’m doing OK because I know how to cope.’

As for uni, one of the other parts of this headline, I’m in the last two and a half weeks of my degree, which just seems strange. Three years gone but it feels simultaneously much longer but also that it has passed in the blink of an eye. Time is a strange concept. One thing that made me smile recently was that as part of my dissertation I obviously had to do an essay. I chose to look at Sherlock Holmes and why his popularity has endured through the years and unbeknownst to me there was a Sherlock Holmes story set in Norwoodwest-norwood1 called The adventure of the Norwood builder. After doing some research I found out that part of the story was in fact set in West Norwood, very close to where I grew up. Conan Doyle actually lived in South Norwood, again close to my local area.

Another point about Uni was that when I started I was going out with my most recent girlfriend. Tonight I met her for a couple of drinks; we still meet up quite often. She told me yesterday that she had split up with her current boyfriend (I briefly mentioned her in my last blog post). As much as I do not think we could work out (we were on and off for three years) I can never escape the fact that she was the one woman that I truly, deeply loved. I know she feels the same way because she says so but again love is a strange concept. Not complicated, just very…. strange is not the right word but I’m running out of steam now so strange will have to do.

Depression Update via Questionnaires

6 Apr

In this blog, I talked about how I would track my progress by doing depression questionnaires every couple of weeks.

Each time I do these I’ll be picking out a couple of questions from each one and expanding on the reasons behind my answer.

Last time for the ‘Goldberg depression questionnaire’ I scored a hefty 69. Anything above 54 is severely depressed. As you can imagine I wasn’t in a very good place. This time I got –

Total score of: 29
(22-35, Mild-Moderate Depression)

You appear to be suffering from mild to moderate depressive symptoms commonly associated with depressive disorders.

As you can see a marked improvement, tallying with what I have been describing in recent blogs. The improvement in my mood has been brilliant and has felt brilliant as it always does.  One of the statements you have to rank according to how it applies to you is –

2)  My future seems hopeless.

My answer this time was ‘just a little’ as I am scoring for the whole week but really today I could make that ‘not at all.’ The difference in outlook when you have come out of an episode is incredible and I plan to blog about these differences soon.

Moving on, my tri-axial Bipolar spectrum screening results last time were 32, which means –

Your answers indicate levels of experiences which are consistent with bipolar disorder, including those associated with both manic and depressive symptom 

This questionnaire takes into account how you have felt and behaved over your life so I won’t update this one for a while as I’ve blogged about the bipolar side recently in regards to money.

Finally we have another depression one but with different depression questions that I can talk about. This one is called the ‘Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale (CES-D)’ and last time I scored 41. Anything over 21 means a possibility of major depression. Like the Goldberg questionnaire it asks you to take account of the last week in your life.  This time I got –

Total score of: 17
(15-21, Mild to Moderate Depression)

You appear to be experiencing some mild to moderate symptoms of depression.

Again a huge improvement. As for one of the questions –

14. I felt lonely.

The crazy thing I find with my depression is that whilst you tend to isolate yourself when you’re going through it because you don’t want to be around people, you can also sometimes simultaneously feel this intense loneliness that really cuts right to your core. That feeling can even arise when you’re with people. It’s just a very unpleasant sensation.  At the moment though that sensation is a lovely distant memory.

As I said before I decided on doing these as a way of tracking my progress and to have some concrete signposts as I go forward.

Doing them this time was a much more enjoyable experience as I chart just how much better I have felt recently.

That’ll be it today I think. Signpost

Late Night Writing and My Tuesday Girl

26 Mar

Last Monday I had a tutorial with my screenwriting teacher at university. Getting feedback on your work is always nerve wracking but it’s one of those things you have to get used to, as is criticism. Imagine my surprise then as, sitting opposite my teacher, he flips his page of notes over and the only word I can see – written upside down from my vantage point – is ‘excellent’. Underlined. It was just the first 10 pages of the script but he also had the treatment so knew how the story was going to end. He then proceeds to tell me he thinks it’s excellent. I’m obviously pretty happy with this, I respect his opinion highly because he’s aTuesday screenwriting professional currently working in the industry. So I thank him and try to hide the smile dying to break out.

So obviously I resolve to crack on and I have a lot of added enthusiasm if a little tight for time. We only have to submit the first ten pages for this module plus the treatment and, being now fairly confident of a good mark could just leave it till May to finish, what with a dissertation to complete and the first quarter of a novel to redraft for my portfolio to. But I enjoy all the work – well the creative aspects anyway, the essay part of the dissertation is a pain – it keeps my mind occupied.

Anyway, typically I aim to do 5 pages a day when I’m working on a script project. It doesn’t sound much, to me it doesn’t anyway but it means that in less then a month I can have a project finished. Last week didn’t exactly go to plan so tonight I thought, tonight is the night to catch up, except I got carried away and now I’m on page 70 already which is great.

Now for something completely different.

It was only when I looked at the time that I saw it was gone 2am. Tuesday morning is here. As your mind is prone to do at these times of the night my thoughts wandered to a girl I used to see on and off. Every Tuesday afternoon I’d go and meet her for lunch. I don’t know why that memory is so strong tonight, just going for lunch and chilling, there are certainly other, more recent and noteworthy memories to think of. It turned out to be quite the rollercoaster with her in the end but right now I’m just thinking about Tuesday lunches and it’s quite soothing haha. This really has nothing to do with the first part of this post.

In fact this post really doesn’t say much at all does it.

Alcohol and Depression/Oil and Water

21 Mar

They don’t mix. I know this. I suspect most people know this. Why do then do I, like many others with depression, turn to alcohol so readily as a means of escape, knowing that in the long run you will definitely make yourself worse as you slowly slip into one of those black holes that epitomises a ’bout’ of depression that knocks you for six for varying degrees of time.

I suppose the first reason is lack of awareness of the problem. Apart from the fact that it took me a while to fully realise that I was suffering from depression, even after I did I didn’t know that alcohol was a ‘depressant’ that would in fact negatively impact on depression. Even after I did know this, and here is the key point, you can go for years, just like I and many others have done, and embrace the short term mood elevation of drinking. It is very easy to do this because alcohol is a big part of social life. When you are in a place whereby the thought of telling people you have depression is the last thing you ever want to do because you’re scared of the stigma, of being seen as weak etc. it is simply preferable and easy to fake your way through social interactions by embracing drink. In all honesty drink can just become a crutch that you can’t imagine doing without because of the escape it brings.

Of course I am reaching the point of my life where I am determined to start making new and improved lifestyle choices and decisions and one of those is shunning alcohol. I’ve been down that road so many times in the past that it doesn’t appeal to me any more. In saying that I have to be honest and say that in the course of this week I have slipped up drink wise, stemming from the fact that I still haven’t plucked up the courage to come out and tell everyone yet about depression etc. so in the course of being out and being offered alcohol I haven’t refused.

The journey has certainly begun though, writing what I have done for my life writing class, which is being workshopped in class tomorrow I think is a big step that will help in telling the people closest to me. I certainly know that turning around the habits of a lifetime will take a while to achieve but the willingness is there as areImage the beginnings of change.

Second extract from my life writing piece.

21 Mar

So this follows on from my previous post, which is the first draft from a piece of work for my life writing class which is being workshopped in class tomorrow. Life-Writing-Color

 

Still, I decided it would have to be a memoir written from the experiences to come, over the course of say a year, unfolding I guess more like a journal but with the memoir elements of touching upon the important stages in my life that have lead me to where I am today contained within it.  At least the hope of something positive to arise from the choices I now plan to make going forward is there. In the ensuing days I have of course asked myself the question ‘why write about it?’ I think the answer has various elements to it. Catharsis from writing being one. Adding my own story to the ones already out there being another. Depression has a nasty habit of not only isolating you but making you feel as if you neither have a voice or that your opinion means anything at all. In the grand scheme of things I suppose this is true, but the emotion of me reasserting myself, telling my story, having a voice, is both a strong one and a powerful driving force. It is certainly true that depression is something that is much more widely discussed than ever before and I wish to be part of that conversation, to give my version.  

Building a framework

OK, so let’s assume that you agree that you would like to read what I write, you’re probably looking to gain insight from what you read. How else can I aid this I thought? Well if you’re on a journey you’d probably like a few signposts right, to see where you are going and where you have come from etc. So I tried to figure out what these signposts could be. Signposts that would make it easier for you to engage. The answer came in the form of questionnaires. I came across the website http://counsellingresource.com/ and found a wealth of information and also questionnaires on depression, bi-polar disorder etc. Fantastic I thought, these will not only give me a base line from which to properly start from, but my progress could easily be tracked by taking the test every, let’s say two weeks. You’ll get an added sense of the variable nature of the illness and hopefully over time the scores would be getting better as I try to take control and manage it properly.

I took two tests, the ‘Goldberg Depression Questionnaire’, which came back with

Total score of: 69 (54 and up, Severely Depressed)

“You appear to be suffering from severe depressive symptoms commonly associated with serious depressive disorders, such as major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder or dysthymia.”

And the Tri-Axial Bipolar Spectrum Screening Quiz (TABS), which came back with

Total score of: 32

(13-64, With Both Depressive and Manic Axes Elevated)

Your answers indicate levels of experiences which are consistent with bipolar disorder, including those associated with both manic and depressive symptoms.

I will add that these were taken on the 11th March and that the preceding week had been one of those ‘rougher’ ones.

To be fair the results could do with more elaboration so here are a couple of questions from the questionnaires with my answers (the actual questionnaires are just tick boxes by the way)

4. The pleasure and joy has gone out of my life. (depression test)

This. This is one of the principle reasons for embarking on this project. They talk about ‘episodes’ of depression, or ‘bouts’. To be perfectly honest I’m worn out from it all, the constant cycle of boom and bust. The good times now are just horribly diluted by the knowledge that the demon is around the corner. I’ll give you an analogy. If my happiness was say a river, then depression would be what the river would be like after an oil spill. Now there’s thick, black, sludgy nastiness on the surface. Sure, the waters still there, you can reach for it but you can’t avoid the oil, your hand is still going to be tainted by it. Or how about, you know how once your mind realises that the fridge is making that whirring sound you can’t unhear it because you’re tuned into it? Well there we go.

 

3. I have been enjoying activities that I know carry a significant risk of causing me problems later (e.g., buying sprees, sexual indiscretions, or unusual business investments). (Bi-polar test)

19. Some of the experiences listed above have caused me problems at work or in my social activities; led to arguments or fights; or left me with family, financial or legal difficulties. (Bi-polar test)

I grouped these two together for the simple reason that after thinking about them they, along with the question from the depression test, provided the stimulus for change. After thinking on the Several thousand pounds of debt, with a credit rating so far gone I can’t even get a ‘vanquis’ credit card, when I think about the failed relationships, the shrinking of my friendship circle, the jobs I’ve quit when the depression got bad but I couldn’t bring myself to admit I was struggling, the breakdown in communication with my family, that rather embarrassing trip to the STD clinic, not remembering the last time I was truly at peace and happy (alcohol excluded), I just feel this is a good time and place in my life to begin to try and turn things around or at the very least, learn how to cope and live with what I have.

So I guess the journey will now begin.

 

 

 

 

 

An extract from my life writing creative piece

17 Mar

It’s 8pm. If I’m going to make the 8’30pm train I really have to leave in the next ten minutes. I try to will my legs to move but they won’t. They won’t because my mind is set. It’s set and there’s a resolve there that has never been there before. I’m not going out tonight. It’s come right down to the wire as usual. The same question I always ask myself before departing for a night out is going round in circles inside my mind – ‘stay or go, stay or go?’ – the fight or flight reflex crashing into my consciousness. The flight reflex has always had the upper hand in the past – ‘You have to go, you’re committed now, you can’t rock the boat, they’re expecting you, you can’t just not turn up, the tickets have been bought’ – but tonight my legs still aren’t moving, so it continues – ‘they’ll be angry, you’ll be letting everyone down’ – I don’t care tonight, my position is set, I’m actually staying in, not only that….I cannot finish the thought, the flight reflex pipes up again – ‘do you really want to go down this road? Do you honestly think you’re tough enough, you’re weaker then you have ever been’ – I really am weaker than I have ever been, and for that truly bizarre reason, I think I am tough enough. You back a dog into a corner, even one that has never barked in anger before and make him truly believe you mean him harm, he aint going quietly. I’m not going quietly. Tonight the fight reflex wins. I pick up my phone, type out a message quickly, letting it go from my mind through my fingertips into the phone like a stream of consciousness, not allowing myself to think, just getting it done.

To: Simon

Date: 09/03/2013

Time: 8:06pm

Bruv my heads gone man i can’t face going out. Sorry mate not trying to annoy u guys but im properly unhappy. Will pay for my ticket. Been feeling fucked for time, feel like i want/nd to talk to some1 but cant with my mates. Drink don’t help. Im happier when im alone at the moment, gona switch my fone off for a couple days, il be on emails tho. Im just telling Lana that something came up. X

 

Ground Zero

I really did send that message and I really did turn off my phone, albeit for longer than “a couple days.” I had never spoken in such a way to a friend before. Reading it back there’s definitely elements of a ‘cry for help’ but more overtly it is me laying the groundwork to be able to come out and be open and honest with the people closest to me. The root cause behind this rather bizarre opening is depression. Depression with bi-polar tendencies to be accurate. I recently turned 27 and whilst the thought that I had crept over into the ‘late 20’s’ chapter of my existence really holds no sway over my outlook on life, there had been an undercurrent of dissatisfaction swirling round my mind for a few months. This dissatisfaction stemmed from the understanding of a fact that was at turns corrosive, disheartening and, in a plain simple word, sad. To put a time frame on how long “feeling fucked for time” is, the answer is nigh on ten years. Ten. Years. A decade.  What were you doing ten years ago? How much have you changed in that time? I’d wager you’ve changed A LOT. I know I have – except for one thing.

The actual idea for a memoir came about from an essay I had to do for my life writing class. In the course of this essay and class I came across definitions for things such as memoir, diary, autobiography. Definitions for things that I had taken for granted that I knew, such as

An autobiography tells the story of a life, while memoir tells a story from a life. Memoir is more about what can be gleaned from a few years or a moment in the life of the author.

Correct me if I am mistaken but my struggle with depression is certainly a ‘moment in the life’. Now of course I could speak retrospectively about my depression and work my way to present day, using that as a basis for a memoir and you and I can glean from that what we will. That to me though seems a rather hollow premise with an unsatisfying resolution along the lines of ‘and as I write the last words of this memoir, I am still riddled with depression. Take care everyone.’ Not exactly positive, not that everything and every story in life is necessarily positive.

 

I shall add more at a later datemeaning-of-life