Category Archives: Health

In Blackest Night: Disclosure & Addenda

I’m feeling rather lost lately.  I had my last appointment with my MIND counsellor last week and the loss of that crutch seems pretty pertinent lately.  After some minor highs and some right kicks to the balls (the reasons to which I cannot go into because of other factors that preclude me from free speech), metaphorically, I’m left feeling pretty bewildered and I’m still trying to come to terms with my disability (or disabilities, as the case may be).  I feel disgusted, dismayed, disappointed, betrayed, fucked over and fucked off.

It occurred to me that, when I refer to my “Depression” or my “Anxiety” it is said in a similar fashion to me talking about my wife and kids.  It’s like the tone and ownership have given them this status of being more than just in my head.  It’s almost like I’m talking to someone who looks at me as if to say, “Aren’t you going to introduce us?” And then I oblige, “Oh, by the way, this cheeky little rascal is Depression”.

I’ve had a number of conversations which have steered towards me and how I’m doing and it feels like I have to make a little disclaimer about my condition(s) just to clarify/excuse certain things I may do or say.  Kinda like when an embarrassed parent will say, “Don’t mind him, he’s special.”

In hindsight, it’s a horrible way of belittling or trying to excuse something that one shouldn’t have to explain or justify.  But that’s the self-awareness kicking in.  We know what it’s like to feel uncomfortable by situations and try to consider others in our every day-to-day activities.  It would be easier and less anxiety-heightening to just hand them a dossier with everything to save addressing or even mentioning that elephant in the room.  I find it feels like (how I’d imagine based on seeing it in movies and TV shows) getting up to speak in an AA meeting – Hi my name is Craig and I suffer from social anxiety, general anxiety, depression and agoraphobia (to a degree).

I was asked recently what I’m like on a ‘good day’.  The very notion of a ‘good day’ makes me laugh (in more of a ‘you haven’t got a fucking clue’ kinda way).  A ‘good day’ would be none of the aforementioned issues.  No such luck.  So, as I’ve said before, a ‘better day’ is where the anxiety and all the internal workings and physical manifestations of it are less than usual and I don’t keep fantasising about how I want to die or generally just cease to exist.  A ‘better day, could very well involve me looking at something and working out the pain/success ratio but I daren’t mention that because, to the uninitiated, it seems to extreme and cannot possibly be a ‘better day’.

The irony of the situation is that I know I shouldn’t bottle things up and should be open and express myself in a constructive way so as not to tumble down the deep dark hole again but to get by on a daily basis I have to choose what I say carefully so as to avoid awkward conversations or concerns and so I end up bottling things up again.  It’s a very contradictory cycle to try and fly low on the radar to keep the virtual men in white coats away.  Every day becomes an increasingly difficult test of will and mental ability, applying tension to simple conversations and experiences where the only reward is getting through another day even though the noose will become tighter tomorrow.

I’ve seen a number of things on TV and online covering mental health and the importance to talk and offer/accept support and, while I appreciate the efforts of those fighting for the cause, it seems society is still not ready to openly accept the hard work that that entails.  And because folks like me know this, we hold back which makes the demand for such a thing seem a little less than the stark reality would show.  It’s easier to say I’m okay than it is to say I’m not doing so well.  Why?  Because the response to “I’m okay” is something along the lines of “Okay, good.”  If I gave you the honest answer, your mind would be like “Oh fuck, I’ve opened a can of worms here, how do I close it again?”

It’s such a shame because now, more than ever, we need to be talking about these things and I do find it helps but because I don’t have a strong support network around me, I minimise my thoughts and concerns and that drives the negative feelings to spiral out of control.  If only you could just read the notes that accompany me to save me from having to explain it all again.  If only.

Despite one in four people in the UK likely to be affected by mental health issues, the level of ignorance and lack of support is astounding.  It’s like a cosmic joke that we are made to feel isolated considering our conditions cause us to feel that way anyway.  If only our thoughts gave over and let us enjoy the silence.

In Blackest Night – Indicators Of A Slump

My ‘In Blackest Night’ posts are my way of cataloguing all things depression related.  My experiences, musings…just a way of getting those thoughts out there.  My Mind appointment last week concluded with me having some ‘homework’.  We talked about it a little but I needed to do it objectively.

The task was to document any indicators of mood change.  Not just your typical bad mood days but when the darkness appears to be seeping back in and trying to take control.  I was able to identify a number myself from conversations I’ve had with people before or upon reflection with the new found wisdom that I seem to gain every time I relapse.  Different people may have different indicators, whether they be invisible or plain as day.

This list is in no way a reflection of what every person who suffers with depression will display or attest to.  It is merely me sharing what I know or what others observe.  I’ve said it time and again; I considered a lot of my dark thoughts as normal–everybody has to think like me, right?  This is a common thought process for folks suffering with depression and other mental health issues.  Because we know what we are thinking and those thoughts seem natural, we assume that others do the same.  It’s almost like an extension of Descartes‘ cogito ergo sum.

Perhaps my list won’t be dissimilar to yours.  Perhaps it will prompt you to consider your own and break the thought cycle that you endlessly run.  The cycle is almost like a chase scene in ‘Scooby Doo’ with the recycled scenery, predictability and the inability to change the ultimate outcome.  Perhaps it will help you to relate to someone close to you who suffers and won’t/can’t let you in.  Whatever your takeaway is, if it helps then awesome.

So here goes.  There may be things I haven’t added to the list because I haven’t identified them yet so I may end up editing this post with any subsequent observations/considerations.

  • I become increasingly irritable and find myself needing to shy away from people
  • Tying in with the first point, I become very quiet and avoid social situations where I can
  • Typical, every day noises irritate me to the point where I feel like I want to scream
  • I put my earphones in/headphones on and try to block out all the noise around me
  • If I’m wearing a hoodie, I will put my hood over my head (and often have my earphones in too)
  • I swear a lot more than usual and there is an element of vehemence behind it
  • I feel my neck tense up and the pulse going up the right side of my neck and face pounds away like a jackhammer (I liken this to Stressed Eric)
  • I often become incredibly drowsy and lie down and go to sleep
  • I (unintentionally) take a lot longer to do things like get out of bed in the morning, get washed and get out of the bath/shower, get dressed and often turn up late despite being an early/punctual person on my ‘good’ days
  • I tend to write a lot more (blog posts etc.)
  • My concentration span becomes non-existent and I need to get people to repeat themselves as the words they’re saying fail to register
  • I struggle to speak clearly–I stumble over words as if they are physical hurdles and I become increasingly angry at myself for it which then makes me do it even more
  • I fail to think rationally and simple problems seem insurmountable

There are probably a lot more that could be added and it may be the case that myself and others have become fairly complacent and unable to differentiate the different behaviours I may display.  But, to be fair, that’s a pretty hefty list.  A few months ago, I would probably only be able to write one or two.  That’s the funny thing about behaviours; we get so wrapped up in our own shit that we don’t stop and think how certain mannerisms, body language, physical manifestations etc. come across.  For the majority of the time we don’t even realise we do these things until our attention is drawn to it.  It’s a bizarre paradox considering I have a hyper-awareness and focus on how I am perceived by others and try to inhibit myself to avoid ridicule and such like.

A word of caution, though–these behaviours and other indicators I have outlined are what convey/feel myself.  Just because others may have similar traits doesn’t necessarily mean they are like me.  They may suffer less or worse than myself and the situation itself can be a minefield.  Until about a year ago, I refused to believe I was depressed.  It angered me that people banded the term about when talking to/about me.  It could easily have turned a lot uglier than it did and it’s a thin sheet of ice to walk.  If you think someone close to you may be suffering from depression or any other mental health issue, don’t go in all guns blazing.  It’s a tricky situation because pussy-footing around it can be just as damaging.  Maybe there’s a knack to it or maybe it’s just pure luck/a mater of time but they have to come to terms with it themselves and in their own time.  The stark reality for myself is that it took me around 14 years to come to terms with it.

In Blackest Night – After The Darkness

Hey folks.  So I haven’t written in a little while and it’s not from lack of trying.  In my teen years I discovered that I could only write when I was in the depths of despair.  The darkness fuelled my writing similar to the monsters behind Sutter Cane’s addictive series of books in John Carpenter‘s ‘In the Mouth of Madness‘.  I fucking love that film.

As I’ve grown older (and uglier), I’ve come to realise that my mind jams up regardless of my mental state but when it’s in a ‘better’ condition I have less to write about.  Or it feels like it at least.  I’ve recently spent time reading up on stuff and studying and [trying to] put into practice in regards to mindfulness.  One notion I came across and it really got me thinking is that creativity isn’t something that can be learned.  Children pick up pens pencils and whatever the hell else they can get their grubby little hands on and they draw.  They write.  They create.  As we grow older the majority of us succumb to the constraints of life.  We adapt and conform to the rules life imposes us with and we lose that freedom.  Creativity has to be unlearned.  It’s easier said than done.  Like most things are!

So, here I am.  My head is in a much better place and thoughts of suicide, hopelessness and all manner of negative and draining thoughts pushed away.  I could say they are gone but I know they’re not.  If I lie to myself I’ll go back full-circle.  During my first proper bout of depression, I failed to fully understand it and when I came out the other side I thought I was cured.  The naivete can be forgiven.  After all, how was I to know?

I still don’t understand it fully and I’m under no illusion that I ever will.  And I’ve stopped trying.  I know, as I always have, that there will be good times and bad.  There will be days I will struggle to get out Of bed or spend a stupid amount of time getting dressed or doing other basic tasks.  There will be days where I will feel on top of the world and that I have so much energy I’m spoilt for choice as to how I can expend it.  There will be days that I hope I don’t wake up the following morning or regret that my eyes opened.  And then there will be days that I’m glad I’m awake and look forward to tomorrow.  In all honesty, I don’t think it gets any easier.  It just gets different.

I’ve had a number of ideas for projects to undertake  over the past week or so.  I have no idea how to start them or what to do with them.  At times it’s very difficult to form an idea and other times it’s easy to form them but I’m still none the wiser as to how I’m supposed to execute them.  Sometimes I blame time (or the lack of) but a lot of the time I’m busy doing nothing.  Not many people seem to understand how hard it is knowing you want to do something but have no drive to do it.  Motivation is not something that you can learn or accumulate through osmosis.  In my opinion, you either have it or you don’t.  If you don’t then it’s a hard slog to rewire your brain and reroute the network in your brain.

It doesn’t help when I read back what I’ve typed and feel like I’ve missed the point I wanted to make or to see my ideas mash up in to an indecipherable mess.  I can feel things slipping away.  My grasp on words is as fleeting as the ideas in my mind.  Verbally, my ability to form coherent and articulated sentences has, at times, become as limited as my concentration span. It’s not so bad when writing as I set the timescales and can come back to it later but in a conversation, it can (and has) lead to some awkward moments.  I’ve recently come to struggle with names too.  This past week or two I have gone from being the personification of IMDB to a stumbling mess unable to recall actors’ or characters’ names.  I’d normally worry about it but it is what it is.  If it’s temporary then cool.  If it’s a sign of my faltering/failing mind then there’s not much I can do about it.

Boy, this post seems to have taken a turn for the worse, eh?  Case in point.  Once my mind starts running it runs away like Forrest Gump.  But I think this Gump is all outta steam and shall draw this post to a close.

 

In Blackest Night – It’s Okay…

As part of my journey with depression, I have been trying to learn how to just chill.  It’s hard work trying to let go and stop focusing on things that are outside my control but it feels incredibly liberating.  It’s easier said than done but it’s a worthwhile venture if you struggle with anxiety and depression.  Don’t worry, I’m not talking about becoming a hippy or getting all zen-like.  It’s just a case of filtering the shit out.  Like I said in my last post, by reducing how much time I’m on Facebook and other such apps/sites I’m cutting out all of the negative responses that can be drawn out of me and it has certainly helped me gain a perspective I desperately needed.

Along this journey I also came to realise a number of things that was either doing or had wrong.  My approach to life has been at odds with other sentiments.  For example, I looked at life through world weary eyes.  Having perhaps grown up too soon, I always carried a sense of scepticism and cynicism and felt victimised by the various events that I had endured.  Growing up, I felt that approach was a realistic and mature method and through continual thought processes it almost became my mantra.  While I still maintain there is method to that madness and a wisdom that only life experience could teach me, I know there is a better way.

As a kid I always wanted to fit in.  Although my school days were not rife with cliques of the like you see in American TV shows and movies, there were a number of ‘survival’ techniques I used to get by.  From burying my love of comic books and other geeky traits to forcing myself to go out and partake in underage drinking and what-not, it was a tough grind.  I wanted to be liked.  I always had the belief that everyone could and should get along.  I’m turning 33 in about 1 month and a half and only now it hit me.

It’s okay not to be liked by everyone.  By having the ability to form opinions and develop tastes such as foods, music, movies and whatever else we are conditioned to be different.  We are designed to be different.  Society today seems intent on working on something that can never happen.  We can’t all get along and it’s fine.  Political correctness has a lot to answer for–forcing people to doubt their feelings for fear of hurting others.  While tact and consideration should still play a big part, we shouldn’t feel bad because we don’t like someone.  It’s only when that dislike turns ugly and is used as a mechanism for bullying and so on.  I don’t like lamb.  It’s as simple as that.  I don’t get all up in a lamb’s face and tell it that or plaster it all over the internet.  So why should people go out of their way to hurt others because they don’t like them?  Just move on.

It confuses me but I’ve stopped concerning myself over it because I can’t alter or control it so why should I worry about it?  Not liking a person is okay but you have to be mindful of the reasons and how you act in regards to it.  I no longer slate things like movies, games and so on because, even though I don’t like them, someone (or a number of people) made them.  They did more than I did.  Why should I get to hammer home my thoughts on someone’s livelihood just because I’m not their intended audience?  The same could (and does) go the other way with my work–my job is to offer technical support to customers and, while they may not like some of the information and answers I have, it doesn’t change the fact that those answers and information are correct.  I wouldn’t and don’t appreciate being told that I’m “shit”, “haven’t got a clue” and whatever other absurd comments come my way just because people don’t like the truth.  It’s a horrible experience having your best efforts in your job dragged through the mud because a small number of people don’t like or appreciate them.

The old adage “if you can’t say something nice then don’t say anything at all” has started to be a mainstay.  While I still have opinions and may not like something or someone, I keep those opinions to myself unless asked or find myself in a situation where I have to make them known.  What value to anyone’s life does it add for me to keep on about what I dislike?  In this, I have become rather selfish in so far as I don’t really care what impact it has on others but it certainly doesn’t make my life any better so what’s the point in doing it?

This post isn’t your typical “be nicer to each other” spiel–quite the opposite.  It’s just a simple case of not dwelling or focusing on things that hold little to no value for you.  It hasn’t completely cut out the stress and anxiety in my life but it has changed how I perceive things and it may hold long term gains.  I certainly notice a difference in myself and that can only be a good thing.  If I keep chipping away at specific aspects of my thinking it may free up some processing power to be more productive and perhaps creative.  Who knows?

When depression gets so bad, even the smallest ‘win’ can regain control over the blackened and poisoned mind even if it’s just for a minute.  The more little ‘wins’ we have the greater the chances of reclaiming more and more territory in a psychological game of ‘Risk’.

In Blackest Night – Turning Point

As I’ve mentioned in recent posts, I have been feeling much better.  I have had a certain…clarity that I had been lacking for quite some time.  As always, any new experience or feeling gets questioned by my probing mind.  I have come to realise that by avoiding things that don’t particularly add value to my life, I am able to think and function much better.  Whereas I once would flick through my newsfeed on Facebook and become irritated/annoyed/bored/repulsed multiple times a day I barely go on it any more.

I’d suspected for a while that Facebook was a catalyst in my negativity and to express that previously felt sad and pathetic.  But, just like chemical and substance abuse, it acts as a form of addiction.  When bored, I’d open the app and just trawl through the banal, bland and irritating drivel.  ‘Newsfeed’.  Interesting choice of words considering the ‘news’ consists of narcissistic selfies with stupid filters and shit, share after share of hearsay, memes and “Hey look at me trying to make my life look more interesting than it actually is”.  One of the more irritating facts is that I am guilty of most if not all of the gripes I have with social media.  One of the largest troubles nowadays is that it is very hard not to use social media.

Lately, I have shared things which I genuinely find interesting, funny, educational or that add some sort of value to the otherwise dismal, boring day.  As a result of me sharing articles from other sites and so on, I circumvent the actual Facebook app so avoid all the other nonsense.  As an inadvertent side effect I also miss a lot of things like birthday reminders and other events that crop up , but it’s a small price to pay considering the general benefits it has had on me psychologically.

Over the last few weeks I have spent time looking up techniques and activities to change my way of thinking and to aid my current therapy with MIND and cognitive behavioural therapy.  I’ve resumed and delved deeper into ‘Mindfulness’ and tried to focus more on a) what’s important to me, b) what I can control and c) what adds value to my life and others that I care about.

I picked up ‘Mind Hacking: Jedi Mind Tricks To Unleash Your Hidden Potential‘ and started putting some of the techniques into practice straight away.  If you’re looking to make similar changes or even just looking into it it’s a worthwhile read PLUS you can buy it pretty cheap or read it free if you’re a Kindle Unlimited user.  Obviously it’s too early t say what affect it has had on me but the fact that I took to it whilst riding higher than usual given my elevated mood of late, I definitely believe it will help in multiple areas of my life.

My mind had taken a jaunt down to ‘Negative Town’ initially over Facebook and social media in general.  Growing up, I always believed everyone should get along and be friends.  Seeing my ‘friends list’ drop numbers and knowing exactly who was no longer my ‘friend’ hurt the ego a bit.  But then I came to realise that not everyone will get along with everyone.  It’s human nature to like and dislike.  No doubt a lot of people don’t like the fact that I swear, have a particularly vulgar and cruel sense of humour or that I have come to talk openly about things like my depression etc.

Perhaps they did the same as I’m doing now–removing the things that do not add value.  Numbers on a social media account don’t really mean anything anyway (unless you’re running a business).  The greatest lesson I’ve learned is that, while it’s okay to be okay it’s also okay to not like or be liked.  If I were to base an analogy on a recent experience it would be my wedding – we couldn’t please everyone.  We had limited room so couldn’t invite every single person we thought of and had to focus on the people we spent more time around recently and the relationships that were more prevalent to us and needed to be maintained.  This meant that those who had slipped into the acquaintance category or simply ‘people we know’ wouldn’t get an invite.  Ultimately, people were undoubtedly pissed off that they didn’t get invited but that’s just how it goes.  Such is the way with life.  There will be more people that don’t like you than like you.  It’s simple math.  If you were to base your perspective on the number of friends on Facebook, subscribers on Youtube or followers on Twitter then you’d think the opposite but, bearing in mind (not to mention the bots and other interwebs nonsense) that it’s easy to be a friend with someone digitally but if you break it down, in a lot of cases, the majority of those friendships mean and equate to nothing more than knowing someone in passing or through a friend (of a friend of a friend etc.).

And so I reach where I’m at now: I don’t really care who friends me or unfriends me, how many likes a status or picture gets, whether I get birthday wishes from people that only know when my birthday is thanks to a notification on their account or what people I may or may not see again in real life think of me.  My name is no longer Blurryface and I’ve stopped caring what you think.

Based on a recommendation in ‘Mind Hacking: Jedi Mind Tricks To Unleash Your Hidden Potential‘, this blog post was powered by ‘Coffitivity‘ and ‘Pomodoro‘.

In Blackest Night – Another Bad Day

I’ve been feeling a bit better lately–stocked up on my meds and haven’t missed a dose and I attended an assessment with MIND on Tuesday.  I ordered some stuff from The Works for the kids’ creative box and ‘treated’ myself to a mindfulness colouring book.  My energy levels are still fairly low but more noticeable at night when I’d normally stay up and play the PS4.

Today, however took a different turn.  Perhaps it was too much sun yesterday or, most likely, the ever-increasing pain in my stomach.  It’s been six days so far where I have had really bad pains in my stomach and each day brings additional pain and discomfort.

I wouldn’t say I was bouncing off the walls yesterday but I was pretty productive–I did some cleaning, tidied the garden a bit and spent time out in the sun while the kids were on the trampoline, swings and seesaw.  The pain had been pretty bad but I managed to work through it and it only really became a larger impact in the night when I was in bed.  I awoke three times due to the pain and it took lengthy periods of time to get back to sleep.

Today hasn’t been my worst day but it may be a sign of things to come.

In Blackest Night – Forgeticus

As you get older three things happen. The first is your memory goes, and I can’t remember the other two.

–Norman Wisdom

It’s no secret my memory is a terrible wasteland that sits somewhere inside my mind.  Whether it be ethereal or physical, the once honed tool now sits atop a mantle blunt and decaying.  Remembering something is like a war between brain cells – the one side fighting to regain that memory, that errand or life event that needs to be brought to the forefront and then the other side, hammer and tongs at burying and ultimately disposing of the memory ne’er to be recovered.

It feels like a losing battle; the frustration at myself over the increased rate of forgetfulness is a daily reminder of that.  Age is the obvious culprit, although my memory lost its shine in my late teens.  I used to pride myself on how sharp my mind was.  Technology, among the usual suspects, is standing there proudly in the line-up.  My mind doesn’t get used as much as it once did.  Mental thought process are so dusty and rusty that mental arithmetic and other forms of problem solving introduced and enforced in school are but a faint memory soon to be forgotten.

Repetitive tasks I once did can now be down via the plethora of apps and devices removing the need for the super highways of my brain.  While I can do a lot more thanks to technology I find myself doing a lot less.  Part of it is the lack of motivation and part of it is because, when I’m spoilt for choice, I retreat and shy away because of the anxiety I feel at having such a range of choices.  I get angry at how unproductive I’m being but I can’t set my mind to something tangible that will remove that feeling.

A common question is how can I forget my medication?  If I’m really struggling with depression, how can I forget to take it or put in a repeat prescription?  The honest answer is I don’t know.  Forgetfulness doesn’t work in a rational way that you can reverse engineer.  I can try and rationalise by saying that I take my medication at night, as instructed, and usually don’t put a light on to do so.  I keep the blister strips down by my side of the bed and reach down and pop one out when it’s time.  I try to take them at the same time each night but sometimes a hurdle gets in my way.  The main hurdle is tiredness.

So I usually take my Mirtazapine at about midnight.  Sometimes I fall asleep and so miss my dose.  I have, on occasion, taken it in the morning as soon as I wake up.  If I remember that I have forgotten.  I ran out on Saturday of last week.  I meant to put my repeat prescription in sooner but by the time I realised I was on my last three tablets, I put the repeat in on Thursday.  It wouldn’t be ready to collect until the following Monday.  I had three tablets but four nights to cover.  So I deliberately missed a dose on Thursday night; after all, one dose won’t hurt.

Things were a bit hectic on Monday so I ended up forgetting to go and collect it.  Tuesday was much the same – I had a few appointments and after my shitty start it never even entered my mind.  Thankfully, I set aside time to go on Wednesday but, as I had to go to a different surgery to collect it, I wasn’t near the pharmacy I usually go to.  I’ll get it later.  Only, when later came, I forgot.  So here I am on Thursday, three nights worth of Mirtazapine down and I’m starting to feel incredibly low.  I have felt a lot more tired than usual these past few days and ended up falling asleep – something I had pretty much put to bed.  So to speak.  Even as I’m typing this I’m fighting to keep my eyes open.

Words can’t truly describe the way it feels when trying to wrack your brain t remember something.  The missing memory is like an item on display that vanishes but you can’t quite remember what item it was as there were too many–you just know something is missing as you can see/sense the gap.  The ethereal cogs grinding and churning inside your skull to be met with further clunking and clanking with no end product.  It’s a horrible feeling and it physically hurts.  I can feel my head aching when trying to think so hard.

Comfortable

This post has been a long time in the making.  Only now am I coming to write it because I was scared to tear the wound open and delve back into the raw emotion of the time.  I couldn’t think of a good title for this one but ‘comfortable’ is a word I tend to avoid using these days.  Its definition changed by the fact that it is synonymous with death.  See, in relation to terminally ill patients, it basically means doped to the gills so you feel fuck all and pass away fairly peacefully.  While I suppose it meets the definition of what the word means in essence, it’s a horrifying concept to tie such a calm and serene situation to that of a pain free death.

I read my buddy Scott’s blog post and it inspired me to finally come to terms with writing about this.  I have spoken about it and mentioned it in previous blog posts but I’ve never really delved deep.  Maybe this will be a cathartic experience–reliving the horror to set myself free.  Or maybe that’s me romanticising.

After driving almost six hours from Wales to Scotland, I dropped my fiancee (now wife) and the kids off at my Mum’s house.  I helped them settle and then sped off to the hospital to meet my sister.  It was around 2am and I was absolutely shattered.  I hadn’t seen my sister for a few months so we had a catch up in one of the family rooms.  We were shushed by a nurse for talking to loud.  We were both rather pissed off.  After the nurse had soured the atmosphere, we went into the room my Mum was in.

The smell hit me like a shovel across the face.  A mixture of chemicals–anti-bacterial stuff from the floors being mopped and so on, I imagined–and piss and shit.  The piss and shit weren’t as obvious to me initially; the veil of chemicals hid them well.  It’s a smell I attribute to death.  Well, the process of dying.

Seeing my mum hooked up to a syringe driver and buried within pure white sheets.  She was never known to have carried any lumber before but she was more than half the size she was when I saw her a few mere months previous when we came up for mine and her birthdays.  I used to re-watch Se7en but haven’t watched it again since seeing her that night–the junkie in the room full of air fresheners is the closest comparison I can draw to how she looked.  Her skin looked clammy and her eyes were shut.

Every so often she would wince as if a stabbing pain was tormenting her and there were  couple of occasions where my sister would call the nurse.  This was the first time I’d heard the word ‘comfortable’ used in a different context.  I didn’t like it one bit.  It felt like it was just an idea from some guy in PR who decided that medical staff needed to use more positive sounding terms for terrible messages.  Like a glass half full, can do attitude will make all the difference.  Every time I heard the word thereafter my mind would voice-over the real message – we’re going to drug her even more so she can’t feel shit.

You might think I should have no beef with that.  After all, they’re easing her pain and would I want her to suffer?  No I wouldn’t.  However, the word just doesn’t seem like a natural fit for the context.  To me, ‘comfortable’ is lying in bed or on a nice sofa chilling out.  Not hooked up to a variety of drips, catheters and whatever else.

I stayed up all night that night, insisting my sister get some sleep as she had stayed with my Mum every night since her admission.  Her face showed how worn out she was and I could feel her pain.  Being almost 400 miles away from everything doesn’t make it easier.  The guilt and feeling of uselessness is exhausting also.  In the morning I left to go back to my Mum’s to see the girls.  What we did in the day is a blur.  All I remember was leaving to go back to the hospital.

My brother was with my Mum and was leaving around 18:30.  I was running late and sped the whole way.  I had ‘Oats in the Water’ on repeat and I belted out the words through tears that made it look like my windshield was being lashed with rain.  There were a number of points where I’d look at a bridge or a wall or something I could just smash the car into.  I refer to that as my ‘Dark Knight Returns intro’.  This would be a good death.  Aside from wishing I had the guts to hurtle into something at full pelt and kill myself, I kept thinking how my Mum would be on her own and if she passes away with no one there I will never forgive myself.

I swung into the car park and almost forgot to lock the car in my whirlwind approach to the building.  I rushed in and felt a sense of relief wash over me as she was still with us.  I normally can’t stand to be in a hospital for hours on end.  Usually I’m waiting.  But this felt different.  Although she was asleep and unable to speak anyway, I was spending time with my Mum.  Just the two of us.  Something we hadn’t done since I moved down to Wales.  Star Wars was on ITV and I had my tab to read my book and comics.

I had my phone set up as a WiFi hotspot as I couldn’t bring myself to ask the staff for the WiFi password.  I felt like a good son that night.  I’d insisted I’d stay the night on my own to let my sister have a break.  It’s the least I could do considering I’d have to go back to Wales the next day.  Most of that night is a blur.  I’d keep glancing over at my Mum to make sure her chest was rising and falling as it should be.  I’d hear long silences and then an eventual inhale/exhale which would have my heart in my throat each time.

I think it was around about 10pm when she started to struggle.  She was fighting to get out of bed, as she had the night before but with much more gusto.  She seemed to have gained some strength from somewhere despite having not been able to consume food for days.  Her eyes darted open and I could she she recognised me almost immediately.  She was trying to say something but I couldn’t make it out–the cancer had infected her tongue to the point it was as good as having a tennis ball in your mouth and trying to speak.  Knowing my Mum and reading her eyes, I didn’t need to hear her words, she was telling me I shouldn’t have come.  She was never one for a fuss.

She cried big, glacial tears while trying to talk to me.  I told her I had to come because I had to see her.  I told her I was sorry for how I had acted in my teens and treated her like shit.  I told her that I wished I could trade places with her.  I told her I loved her.

I had to call the nurses as she became too restless and she would end up falling to the floor if she kept on.  Two came in; one pressed some buttons on the driver and the other was comforting her.  My Mum was clearly wanting something but it was unclear what.  After a few attempts I figured out that she wanted a drink so the nurses grabbed some water but had to squeeze this little cotton square into her mouth after letting it soak up a small amount of water.  It killed me to see her like this.

When she became unsettled, I’d stroke her hair and rest one hand gently on hers.  I wanted to hold her hand but the slightest pressure caused her extreme pain.  Her hair felt like steel wool and her hand was clammy but cold.  It felt like she was withering away right before me and there was fuck all I could do to stop it or help her.

She had some fight in her that night and I couldn’t help but feel that me being there sparked it.  Maybe it’s wishful thinking or maybe it was typical Mum.  She hated a fuss being made over her and part of me thinks the fight stemmed from her very nature that I had made an effort and so should she.

A lot of the little details have fled my mind but I have many visioned burned into my minds eye.  I still wish, to this day, that I could have swapped places with her and not a day goes by where I din’t think of her.  The bulk of my thoughts are how much of a disappointment I must be after showing promise initially.  I think of all the mistakes I’ve made and how I’d always vowed to be nothing like my dad and to be a good man and at what points I took the wrong turn.  How I wish I could rewind the clock and take a different path.  The righteous path.

I then come to think about how my wish to cease existing is an affront to my Mum and her memory.  She gave me life and I just want to waste it/destroy it.  I remember our arguments and how I was, in essence, a mistake and that I never asked to be born and wish I hadn’t been.  And then I think of her and how she was always there for me.  And now, I have to brave it alone.

A better man would have taken this anger and emptiness and channelled it into something productive, courageous, bold…worthwhile.  Maybe there’s no hope for me or maybe it’s not time yet but I have not been driven by any of this trauma to go on to do great things.  Maybe I’m just coasting waiting to be made ‘comfortable’.

In Blackest Night – Impatiently Waiting

Tunes blasting in my right ear, the sound of my surroundings in my left.  Workmen milling about, hauling stuff in and out.  The room was full when I arrived and it starts filling up even more.  Stacks of boxes, computers, files, more boxes…my only company was my music.

I arrived at 11:40, five minutes early for my appointment.  My anxiety was already running high.  Gearing myself up to speak and open up to yet another person on this production line of support.  I knew of the building but had never been inside – I have walked past it countless times.  The shutters were down and immediately mine went up.  What do I do?  Where do I go?  I hate alien situations…especially ones that inevitably alienate me.

I walk around the side and spot someone–an employee, I hope seeing as she has a lanyard on.  I ask her where ‘Mind’ is and how to get in.  She advises me the offices are being moved around–outside, the furniture stands guard as if emphasising her point.  She walks me into what would be the reception area but is acting as a store room.  She clears a chair for me and advises me that the person I am there to see is with someone else and she shouldn’t be long.

11:55 and I’m still waiting.  The only person to acknowledge me is a workman who apologises for piling up yet more stuff in front of me.

12:04 and I’m still waiting.  Not long after, a gentleman with a briefcase and luggage on wheels steps in and opens the door to my right.  No one in there so he toddles on in search of somebody.

12:15 and the workman makes a joke about me being forgotten.  I laugh and say I hope not but his comment tied in with my feeling of solitude and reinforced a notion that I tried to dismiss.  After all, the place is in disarray–one would expect there to be an upheaval of schedules too.

12:20 and I try texting my wife to find ‘Emergency calls only’.  Thankfully my Google Play Music is still working.  To a degree.  Fittingly, the songs that don’t fail to play and skip to the next are the ones I tend to shove on when I’m in my dark place.  Coincidence or cosmic joke?  Probably a bit of both.

After having searched for a network manually in the hope I get a tidbit of signal in order for my text to go I end up leaving the building at 12:24.

To the workmen who popped in with boxes and whatnot and then popped back out, I must’ve looked like a regular person sat in a waiting room.  A scene we are all familiar with.  I’m certainly no stranger to it.  Although this was the first waiting room where I was the only thing on a seat with a pulse.  Well, I say pulse…it was more like vibrations from a jackhammer.  Every time I heard a door open I’d be on edge.  This is it.  Time to open up.  Again.

While I may have looked calm and collected, my mind was anything but.  How do I start?  What do I tell her?  Do I start at the beginning or give her something more recent?  What if she looks at me in a way I perceive to be judgemental and shut down?

It took a lot of effort to attend this appointment.  Today was already looking to be stressful – my Mind appointment and then a meeting in work.  I had hopes that my first appointment would appease my racing mind and put me in a better place for the latter.  Perhaps I invested too much stock in that notion because my anxiety is at the highest it’s been for a while and I just want to sleep.  In my sleep, I have no accountabilities.  Maybe I won’t wake up this time.  Please, I just want to sleep it off.

Right now my head is pounding.  A combination of the poor sleep last night along with the stress no doubt.  That pinched never thing is back again and has been for a few days.  It has been a huge factor in my sleep in all senses of it.  I don’t stay up late like I normally would because I just want to sleep in the hope that the pain has eased or even gone by the time I wake up.  I can’t get comfy when I’m lying in bed.  I usually go to sleep on my right side but my shoulder feels like it’s popping and the pain surges up my neck and down my side.  As a result of this bullshit, I tend to toss and turn and wake myself up in doing so thanks to the pain flares.

All I can hope is that the rest of the day goes better than the shitty start it has gotten off to.

In Blackest Night – The Hyperawareness Paradox

I’ve been thinking too much
I’ve been thinking too much
I’ve been thinking too much
I’ve been thinking too much
Help me
I’ve been thinking too much (I’ve been thinking too much)
I’ve been thinking too much (Help me)
I’ve been thinking too much (I’ve been thinking too much)
I’ve been thinking too much

–‘Ride’ by Twenty One Pilots

I’ve recently fallen in love with this song, along with ‘Stressed Out’.  I’d heard them before — ‘Heathens’ was what brought me into the flight-path of the band — but my recent state of mind has opened the doorway to the lyrics and my interpretation of them.  I’ve added the remixes at the end of this post.  If you’re not familiar with ‘Ride’ the above lines will seem rather lazy but I used them to demonstrate the primary workload of my brain.  Repetition plays heavy on my mind.

From replaying various events in my life over and over in the hope that I can change the past to going back and impart knowledge to my younger self to equip me better for what the future would bring him.  I analyse every interaction I have (or don’t as the case may be) to determine if people are being ‘off’ with me or judging me or countless other possibilities as to what’s going on in their head.  The paranoia of what people are (may) be saying about me.  When I’m walking to or around town and I hear laughter behind me my mind quickly jumps to wondering if I have something on my back or if my ass crack is on show or a variety of other things regardless of the logical part of my mind trying to explain to me that they’re not concerned about me in the slightest and are laughing and joking as I often did previously.

I see people I know who appear to be looking at me then look away.  I assume the worst.  I assume they took one look and didn’t want to acknowledge me despite the fact they have their own shit going on and quite possibly didn’t see me at all.  I walk around feeling like I have ACME Invisible Paint on me.

Enter stage right, HYPERAWARENESS PARADOX.  One of the pitfalls, that I have found anyway, is that the exact aforementioned ‘observations’ end up being behaviours that I act out.  Despite being hyperaware of my surroundings (some through choice – like taking the kids to school and making sure they’re safe), I often don’t see what’s right in front of me.  There are many an occasion where I go to look for something and can’t find it only to have it pointed out to me that it was right there in front of me (or close in proximity).  Having my head on a ‘swivel’ I look around a lot but fail to register what I actually saw.  Examples are where there are people I know that I fail to actually see despite looking that way or lose my bearings even though I should know exactly where I am.  It’s almost as if my brain is failing to process the visual data that it receives or there is a substantial delay in that information passing from the eyes to the data centre inside my skull.

It’s almost as if my brain functions backwards–the awareness works on an upper level where it can project thoughts, feelings, motives and whatever else upon those around me but when it comes to physically seeing things, it falls short.  I don’t think it’s something I will ever come to understand and that, in itself, is a concern.  Just like a virgin doesn’t think she’s pregnant, I am fully aware of my situation and the strains it takes on me both mentally and physically.  But getting to the crux of it and stopping it is a whole different matter.

The mental health counsellor I saw earlier in the year told me I “think too much”.  I knew that already but what I didn’t and still don’t know is how to stop it or, at least, reduce it.  Like when your friend tells you not to laugh at someone’s false teeth slipping and, if they hadn’t mentioned it, you would never have noticed it–once you’re aware of it you can’t stop thinking about it.  What a conundrum.  I think too much, but in order to figure out how to stop thinking too much I have to think about it.

What can ya do?

 

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