Nearly Fell In Love…

I started writing this post about something else – I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to say, but I started writing and after about 8 lines I realised that I knew exactly what I wanted to write about. So I’ve deleted all the waffle and will get straight to it:

I thought I had finally met somebody. Someone who I could see myself entering into a long term relationship with. Someone I was really attracted to, and thought I might for the first time actually fall in love. If you haven’t read the rest of my blog, you won’t know that this is a huge deal for me. Possibly the most momentous thing ever to have happened as far as my love life is concerned, and my attitude towards love and relationships in general. I have been (happily) single my whole life, with all the emotional barriers and defensive walls that go with it.

I really fancied this guy I kept seeing at a gay bar that I frequent – usually on a Monday night. At first I wanted to do the usual – jump into bed for a meaningless, no-strings one night stand. Then I realised that I’m actually bored of all that, so I took control of my urges, and over a period of a few weeks I got chatting to him & his little circle of friends who all meet there on Monday’s for what they affectionately call ‘Monday Club’. He seemed to like me & it was all started to go swimmingly. I also discovered he was the same age as me, which is also hugely significant, as I’m usually only attracted to guys 10+ years my senior (with whom I generally have nothing in common outside of the bedroom… which is another reason I have always been single) To find myself attracted to someone my own age… wow! Brilliant! At his request, we swapped numbers and arranged to meet for a drink – just the two of us, which we did and was great. We got on really well & talked a lot about all sorts of stuff. Still we didn’t jump into bed – didn’t even kiss. I felt very old-fashioned, but it was nice. We sent texts to each other, met again with his circle of friends at Monday Club. Taking it all slowly, calmly – something completely alien to me. I was proud of myself & I was enjoying the kindling of this really lovely, refreshing relationship.

Then it all went wrong. I still don’t really understand why or what happened.

Having dropped my impenetrable emotional barrier for him, I suddenly found myself in the position that I have spent my whole adult life avoiding at all costs – I got hurt.

It all went wrong in the pub on Monday (it’s Friday now as I write this). To explain, I wasn’t actually going to go on Monday as I was busy in another part of London and it was getting late, but on my way home decided to divert to the pub to go and see (let’s call him John) – John… I turned up & at first everything was fine. Then he just went… weird.

He kept saying cryptic things and I just could not understand what he was actually trying to say. It was like he was having some kind of internal struggle, where he wanted to say something but couldn’t. It could honestly have been taken two entirely different ways – I didn’t know if this was him wanting to take things to the next level but was shy and felt awkward saying it, or if he was actually trying to push me away. It was that ambiguous. He just kept saying: ‘I’m not very good at this…’ He never did explain ‘what’ he wasn’t very good at.
I asked several times what he meant and that I didn’t understand, but got nowhere. In the end he said ‘I really think I should go, I’ve got to go’, we had a really nice hug (the first and only one of it’s kind between us), then he just turned and walked out without looking back. Very odd. I figured I had somehow upset him but for the life of me couldn’t work out what I’d done. I was baffled.

On my way home I felt pretty upset – I didn’t understand what had just happened at all so I decided to send him a text & try and get to the bottom of it. Below is the full conversation, which ended on Wednesday – when my emotional self-preservation instinct kicked in and took over before I got really hurt, and I ended it.

Here’s how it finished – starting from my journey home on Monday night, finishing with my final text to him on Wednesday:

Me: John I’m confused – what just happened? I think I just upset you but I don’t understand 😦

no response

Me: You know I fancy you rotten right? I made a special trip to (Monday Club) this evening just to see you. I can’t work out if you’re trying to push me away or pull me closer though – I’m finding it all very confusing.

John: Aw. It was extra nice that you turned up 😉

John: You didn’t upset me of course

Me: I’m glad I didn’t upset you, but I still don’t really understand what just happened or what you were trying to say

John: I have issues

Me: Ok but you gotta help me understand – I don’t really know where I stand with you – if you want me to back off I’ll back off.

no response

Me: Are you worried about getting too close & getting hurt again? (NB. I knew about this from a previous conversation with him) Or am I just completely barking up the wrong tree here & you’re not actually interested?

John: Right. You are great. I find you attractive. That makes it worse. I will talk to you about this x

Me: Makes what worse? Worse how? When did it become a bad thing to be attracted to someone? That’s good isn’t it? What do you want me to do?

John: Nothing wrong with that. It makes me sad though 😦

Me: Why does it make you sad? Do you suffer from depression? Bipolar?

John: No I am neither bipolar nor suffer from depression. We can talk about this another night 😉

I didn’t reply. I figured I’d wait for him to get in touch over the next couple of days so we could have that chat & he could explain.
Tuesday passed and I didn’t hear anything, so I sent him a text in the evening:

Me: Let me know when (or indeed if?) you’re up for that chat

John: Thanks. Right now I am still hung over! 😉

Wednesday passed, still no word so I sent another text:

Me: I’m around for a drink tomorrow evening if you want. I think I’ll give (Monday Club) a miss on Monday though.

John: I am already out tomorrow. I also am thinking of not going on Monday.

That was, to me, when the penny dropped. He’d gone icy cold & would not engage in conversation or want to arrange a time to meet up. Fine that he wasn’t around, but not fine he didn’t offer an alternative. I felt bruised and upset & now I was also becoming incredibly frustrated, so I took about an hour (yes, an hour) wording my final text to him:

Me: Ok, so I will take the lack of offer of an alternative date for a drink at face value – that you are not interested. At least now I know. I won’t pretend I’m not really upset – you’ve tied me up in knots. I lowered my impenetrable barrier for you & will now pay the price. Not your fault, or problem, but mine… and right there, is the reason I have always remained single. So now I will leave you alone, retreat & lick my wounds. I’ll still go to (the pub), but I hope you understand if I don’t come & join you if you’re there too. Take care of yourself John x

There was a pause of about an hour and he replied:

John: Sorry

And that, was that.

So, that was my brief and rather painful foray into the world of relationships. I’ve survived it, but it hurt me. I’m still upset, disappointed, let down & pissed off, but I think I behaved pretty well – didn’t go an a rampage, throw drinks over anyone, start stalking him, call him names or do anything inappropriate. I calmly walked away and removed myself from a situation that was causing me pain.

Did I throw in the towel too early? Maybe. Maybe not. I’m certainly really disappointed & upset it didn’t work out, but I think I did the only thing I could to keep my integrity and sanity intact. If things had become this complicated before we’d even kissed, then it didn’t bode well for the future.

I should have just had a one night stand with him. I just don’t think I’m cut out for this relationship thing… I tried.

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Family Holiday From Hell… Coming My Way…

In 4 days time I go away on holiday with my parents, my sister, her husband and children and my brother, his wife and their children. It’s a very rare full family holiday which I have organised. I feel very lucky in that I get on very well with all members of my family including my brother & sister in-law.

As human beings we all have our faults and flaws, but ultimately we’re a pretty close family who get on well together. This post is about my sister.

For some reason my sister has an ever-increasing problem with my mum. I’m pretty good at reading between the lines & understanding complex inter-personal issues, but I have to say this one has me totally stumped. I suppose it’s been slowly brewing for many years but this last week it has taken an unexpected and unpleasant turn for the worse.

I’ll try to give a bit of background to this without recounting our entire family history.

The original idea was to hire a villa in Portugal for this family holiday, then my dad was diagnosed with bladder cancer which made it impossible to really plan ahead. Rather than ditch the holiday idea, we agreed to holiday in the UK instead. Dad has had treatment which hasn’t gone too well and he’s just found out he will have to have his bladder removed which obviously has been pretty rough news to deal with for my parents. It’s a really tough time for them.

Last week my parents drove up to my brothers in the midlands to spend a week offering some much needed childcare to my brother & his wife while the kids are on holiday. They thought it would be nice for my sister’s youngest to go up with them for the week as all the cousins get on really well and her older siblings were off on holiday with friends etc. so was a chance for her to spend some time with her cousins.

They all had a great time despite my mum & dad having to make an unexpected day trip to London to see a consultant about dad’s cancer. Luckily my sister in-law was able to cancel a couple of meetings and look after the children that day.

I got a phone call on Sunday from my parents apologising for what they were about to tell me but they thought I should know (never a good opening gambit from your parents).

They explained that my sister had behaved really aggressively towards them on the day they drove up to the midlands when she dropped her youngest of with them. She said they were stupid to be going up to my brothers, especially in dad’s condition and what on earth were they thinking (this was not delivered in a ‘concerned daughter’ way, this was aggressive and unpleasant apparently. She was behaving very unpleasantly and in the end she left them without even saying goodbye. My mum was incredibly confused and upset by her behaviour, but as my mum always does, she tried to just excuse the behaviour as just a particularly bad example of my sisters occasional bad behaviour (especially towards her).

A week later my parents return home with my sisters youngest, all having had a lovely week at my brothers – especially my niece who for the first time was alone with her cousins and not walking in the shadow of her older siblings. Apparently she really came out of her shell and was almost a different child. Then my sister arrived to pick her up and take her home.

My mum had hoped that she would get a call during the week apologising for being so rude before… there was no call. In fact my sister didn’t phone once during the week to speak to her daughter which I have to say I find extremely unusual – very unlike my sister.

Not only was there no phone call and no apology, but the aggression picked straight up from where she’d left off before and was apparently ranting – about really stupid, dare I say irrational stuff. For example my dad mentioned that my brothers cat woke them up a couple of times at 5am, which turned in my sisters head into ‘my brothers cat has prevented my child from sleeping. They shouldn’t let the cat have free reign in the house, now you’re handing me back an exhausted child – it’s unforgiveable’…. wha…???

As they were sitting talking, my sister’s youngest put her feet on her mum’s lap as is quite usual, my sisters response was to push them off and said ‘oh god don’t put them on my lap they stink’ (my niece is 8 years old by the way). This visibly upset my niece who hadn’t seen or spoken to her mum for a week, so my dad jumped in protectively, saying ‘oh don’t be horrible she’s just being affectionate’ to which my sister flew off the handle and literally started ranting ‘oh that’s right, it’s always my fault isn’t it, I’m always the one whose in the wrong, well I’m sick of it…. etc. etc.’

Now, my sister has her faults, she’s cut from the same cloth as my dad as far as having a temper is concerned, as am I. I, fortunately, have managed to control the ‘dark side’ of my temper, my sister less so. However she is not a monster – she is certainly not the monster my description of her recent behaviour has painted her to be. True, she has had a very odd resentment towards my mum for years, but she seems to have moved up several gears and it has really upset my mum and dad at a time they need us to be supporting them.

In 5 days we all go on holiday. My brother is cross about my sisters behaviour, my mum & dad are upset, my sister is possibly having a nervous breakdown or maybe going through the menopause… this is potentially going to be the most disastrous holiday I have ever had…. like going on holiday with a live bomb.

I tried to spin things around in my parents heads a little so that rather than upset and outrage at my sisters behaviour, I have suggested we should be worried and concerned.
I think my mum is at snapping point (which I have never seen her reach before… ever), my brother has a really stressful job and this holiday is really important to him, so I think his tolerance of bad behaviour from my sister will be very low. I am in dire need of a stress-free, relaxed holiday too – I’ve been really looking forward to it, but now I’m just absolutely dreading this holiday.

I am also genuinely concerned about my sister and don’t really know:

a) what is wrong – I can of course ask her, but I believe she won’t know what I’m talking about – she seems oblivious to her bad behaviour.

b) how to handle her without making things worse (bearing in mind her apparent and total self-unawareness)

c) what we should do moving forward… assuming we are all still talking at the end of all this.

Wish me luck.

 

Perhaps now would be a good time to tell them all that I’m gay….

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10,000 views on my blog

Just a quick post to mark the 10,000th view on my blog!

I want to take this opportunity to say a big, heartfelt ‘thank you’ for everyone who has taken an interest in this blog, read about my innermost thoughts, demons and musings, followed me on my journey and especially to those of you who have contributed with comments and insights, or shared your own experiences.

When I first started this blog, I assumed it would remain hidden and unread… I also thought it would be something I would tire of and eventually forget about. But because of you guys, my interest has remained strong (even if I post less frequently than I used to) and I’m really happy to see that you are now even talking amongst yourselves in the comments beneath the posts which is great!

My journey has been a long and arduous one, but I’m in a really good place now – I wish I could share some of the truly exciting things that have happened since I emerged from the gloom and got my life back on track… but unfortunately that would compromise my anonymity. I’ll just say that I’ve probably never been happier and things never looked brighter, life is great and I think I might just have found that elusive golden path to a better life…. now I never thought I’d get to say that, but it’s true.

On a final note to those of you who are still suffering under the terrible curse of depression; there is always hope – cling on to that with every ounce of your being and keep fighting for that little corner of happiness you so deserve. Also remember:

You are not alone.

Be well.

 

 

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Experiencing Life as a Cancer Caregiver – Guest post by Cameron Von St. James

Foreword: Cameron contacted me asking if he could write an article for my blog about his personal experience as a caregiver for his wife who was diagnosed with a particularly deadly form of cancer – Mesothelioma. It is a story of immense heartache and struggle, yet it is also a story of hope which Cameron now wants to share with as many people as possible in the hope that it will help somebody, somewhere, who might be going through a similar experience. I am delighted to do what I can to help spread his story, and I am honoured to share that story on my blog. RML

Experiencing Life as a Cancer Caregiver

The day, November 21, 2005, is a day that will always have a place in my mind. It was on this day that my wife, Heather, was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma, which is a rare and deadly type of cancer. On this day, I also took on the role as a caregiver for a person with cancer. No amount of preparation could have made me ready for this. Only three months earlier, we welcomed our daughter, Lily, into the world, and we thought we would have been celebrating our first Christmas together as a family. Instead, we were embarking on different type of journey.

That very day is when my role as a caregiver began. After the doctor explained about the different options for mesothelioma treatment, he told us we could go to the local university hospital, a regional hospital, or to Boston to see Dr. Sugarbaker, who was a renowned specialist in mesothelioma. Heather just had a blank stare on her face, and I knew she was full of shock and disbelief. I took charge of the situation and let the doctor know that it would be off to Boston for us. This was the first life or death decision of many that we would have to make on this long and arduous road.

Within the next two months, our lives completely changed; I felt chaos that I had never felt before. Our routines were totally altered. Even though we had both been working full-time before the diagnosis, Heather was not working at all, and I was working only part-time in order to be able to care for her and Lily. During the rest of my minutes and hours, I was making doctor’s appointments, putting together travel arrangements and going to Boston, and taking care of Lily. My to-do list grew as the fear in my mind also expanded. I was terrified that Heather would die, and Lily would be left without a mother. On some days, I just completely lost control of my emotions; I would lie on the kitchen floor and cry until there were no more tears. Fortunately, I was able to pick myself back up. I knew that I could never allow Heather to see this weakness; I needed to remain strong for her.

We were so incredibly blessed with all of the help we received, and it came from family members, friends and even strangers. People offered us words of comfort, and others even offered us money to help us make it through. One extremely valuable bit of advice I can impart to you other caregivers for someone with cancer is to be sure to take help when people offer it. No matter how big or small of a burden it relieves, it is one less burden for you to bear. Additionally, these offers and acceptances of help remind you that you are not alone; I cannot stress how valuable this feeling truly is.

Taking care of a person who has cancer is the most trying thing I have ever done in my life, and that fact cannot be overstated. Indeed, you are going to feel out-of-control, and you will experience so much anxiety over what is to come. Unlike some other challenges in life, you cannot just walk away if troubles start; a loved one’s life is at stake. You must not let fear and anger take you over. Let yourself have those bad days, but allow yourself to move away from them as well. Whatever you do, do not give up hope; use all of the resources that are around you as strength.

Over seven years ago, Heather was diagnosed with mesothelioma. Today, after surgery, radiation and chemotherapy, she is cancer free. Our lives returned to normal, and I gained a new appreciation for living along the way. Two years after Heather was diagnosed, I went back to school full-time to study Information Technology. Indeed, this ordeal truly prepared me for college, and gave me the courage to pursue this dream. I wound up graduating with high honors, and I even gave the speech at my graduation. My speech, as you might have imagined, was about Heather’s diagnosis with cancer and what we all went through.

I never could have imagined that I would be up on that stage giving a graduation speech when just a few years earlier, Heather and I were dealing with the toughest situation we have ever faced. From all of this, I learned the power of hope. If we are to keep hope, then we always have a chance. I also learned how important it is to look for our own inner strength. This strength, truly, is the source of so much motivation that can help all of us get through the toughest challenges and the lowest lows of life.

Cameron Von St. James
Mesothelioma Cancer Alliance
http://www.mesothelioma.com/blog/authors/cameron/
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Superstition – The Lone Magpie

Whether we admit it or not, most of us are superstitious about something to one degree or another. It is certainly true of me. Superstitious nonsense perhaps, but in my experience superstitions can be the source of great anxiety and obsessive behaviour. They are born of irrational fears and therefore i suppose belong to the same unpleaasant family as phobias. So what superstitions am I afflicted with? Well, I touch wood for luck, I believe bad things happen in 3’s, I don’t walk under ladders (although I would say this is more common sense than superstition), I don’t divulge my wish when blowing out the candles on a birthday cake. I refer to Shakespeare’s Macbeth as ‘The Scottish Play’ when in a theatre. The list goes on, but they are all pretty standard, silly little things. There is one superstition however, which for years enslaved me and became an almost intolerable nightmare…

Greeting a Lone Magpie.

This damned superstition plagued me and became my hell. I first heard about it whilst driving a van across Ireland from Rosslare to Kerry during a terrible storm in the mid 90’s. My passenger (who will remain nameless), was a friend of a friend and we were driving to Kerry with a van full of stuff for the wedding of that mutual friend… the Champagne, candlesticks, ushers suits, order of service etc. It was an eventful and memorable journey with roads flooded out, trees down, strange humorous animals running down the middle of the road in the torrential rain… Anyway, during this journey, we had stopped at a junction, somewhat lost, and my passenger suddenly saluted and shouted something along the lines of “Good day to you Mr Magpie and how is your good wife Mrs Magpie today”… I can’t remember the exact greeting he used, but I absolutely roared with laughter at this totally unexpected, seemingly random outburst. He explained the superstition to which I seem to remember responding something along the lines of ‘oh for gods sake that’s insane, I’ve never heard anything so utterly ridiculous in my life…’

…15 years later as I walked to work across Green Park in London, greeting each and every one of the 10 lone Magpies that I saw every single morning, with “Hello Mr Magpie, how’s Mrs Magpie today” through gritted, angry teeth, I would think back, seething, to that fateful journey across a stormy Ireland and curse my passenger for burdening me with this most terrible, crippling compulsion. The lone Magpie demanded a ‘greeting’, which absolutely had to be said out loud. Green Park was a busy park at that time of the morning, yet people walked in silence. So if the timing was particularly unlucky, I would have to greet the damned bird at exactly the moment someone walked past me… I perfected the art of ventriloquism so you couldn’t see my lips move, but it was always audible… this went on for years. I’m sure there are people who walk through Green Park to this day, who will forever remember ‘that mad bloke, with his teeth clenched in a peculiar way, looking shiftily at each passer by and talking to the Magpies thinking that nobody noticed…’

I remember I would see a Magpie ahead and swear angrily under my breath, knowing that I had absolutely no choice but to go through this ridiculous routine, even if it meant embarrassment and humiliation in front of complete strangers. To say it aggrieved me, would be an understatement. It crippled me, haunted me, infuriated me. It was a hateful thing… a burden, but I was compelled, it was law, I had to, I must…

About 3 years ago, my beloved female tabby cat had to be put to sleep. She had been with me for 17 years. I had the vet come to the house to do the terrible deed – partly for the cat’s sake, partly for my own. I lay on the floor with her at the end, looking into her eyes and stroking her head as I witnessed her final breath, and as her heart beat for the very last time, my own heart broke. I was utterly bereft and completely inconsolable. After the vet had gone, I held a large glass of Cognac in shaking hands as the wretched pain of loss raged through me. I looked through my tears, out into the back garden and all of a sudden, at the most inappropriate moment, a lone Magpie landed on the fence, startling me, mocking me in my moment of wrenching grief. It rocked me, like a slap to the face, encroaching upon my very private moment of terrible pain…. and I bitterly resented the intrusion.

At that moment, the curse was lifted permanently and forever, because I didn’t greet the Magpie in the usual, compulsory manner, instead I angrily shouted at it: “just fuck off and mind your own business!” …I then defiantly turned my back on that Magpie and have never since greeted another.

Now, when I walk through the park, and my eyes fall upon a lone Magpie, I merely look at it and marvel at its beauty.

Magpie

http://www.squidoo.com/magpiebirds

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How To Find Happiness

Life is strange. Even stranger when one’s mental health is thrown into the mix. The brutal truth about life is that we are born, we live, we laugh, we suffer and we die. What a cheery thought on a cold, dark, dreary afternoon in January.

So here I sit, having had a minor falling out with a colleague at work, with my back in mild agony after a gruelling session with the osteopath, a bit of a headache, my dad recently diagnosed with cancer of the bladder, minor money concerns, my mid-life crisis still chasing my shadow, a failed musician and songwriter still desperately wanting recognition – however small – yet knowing in my heart it will never come, an irreparably broken heart from my teens, permanently single despite a constant yearning for companionship, gay but wishing I wasn’t because I would like nothing more than to get married to a woman and have children and therefore lead a ‘normal’ life… (it ain’t gonna happen), a permanent feeling of underachievement, a burning desire to better myself but with not an inkling as to how, desperate for a total change in career, but unable to think of anything I could or want to actually do…. a dwindling circle of friends, a smoking habit I can’t shake, a penchant for a few glasses of red every night that I don’t want to shake, a need for a joint every night so I can sleep, too much time in front of crap television wasting away my precious hours of life, constant awareness of the grim reality that no matter how good I am at anything, there are always thousands of people who are much better at it than me. Shattered dreams, fading hope, painful truths…… yes, here I sit with all these things, yet for some unfathomable reason, I feel happy.

So why on earth do I feel happy? I feel almost guilty about being happy. It’s wrong that I am happy – I don’t deserve to feel happy because, well, I’ve got a whole world full of shit on me, behind me and ahead of me, which should surely stop me from ever experiencing happiness again. I know that some people have that peculiar need for a crisis in order to feel invigorated and alive. If everything is running smoothly and there are no problems and everyone is happy, then they are miserable, grouchy and unfulfilled. My boss, unfortunately, is one of those people. She seems to regularly makes things go horrifically wrong, just so she can jump in and save the day like some kind of twisted superhero. I am not one of those people. I am the opposite, I like things to go smoothly, I like everyone to be happy and I like the easy, pleasant life that goes with it. Don’t get me wrong – I’m pretty good under pressure, but I like ‘busy’ pressure, not ‘ohmyfuckinggodwearefucked’ pressure.

I digress… why do I feel happy? Honestly? I have no idea. None. Perhaps it’s because I appear to have successfully worked my way out of the darkness of a 2-year major depressive episode. Perhaps I feel like I have succeeded in something by writing this blog. Perhaps I have come to terms with the fact that I am just Mr Average and will never be successful, rich, famous, revered, celebrated, remembered… I will die and in a very short time, I will be forgotten. Completely. Dust. How will it all end for me? Maybe I will drown – I would wholeheartedly approve of that bitter irony – I really would then be the ‘Anonymous Drowning Man’…but perhaps that would have to change to ‘Anonymous Drowned Man’.

I think maybe part of my new found, strangely unwarranted happiness, is because I have stopped expecting so much of myself. I take each day as it comes. I don’t set my sights so high that I can only fail. I’ve stopped looking enviously at what other people possess (both materially and intellectually), and have started to appreciate what I do have and what I have actually achieved, and allow myself to feel satisfaction from those things… no matter how small or insignificant.

If I write and record a song, for example, and I really like it, and feel pride and satisfaction with the end result, then who cares if not another living soul likes it or even ever hears it? Why is it so important for as many people hear my new song as possible? (leading to the inevitable crushing disappointment when you realise that actually, no one is ever going to hear it). What is it I seek? Recognition? Why? So people remember me when I’m dead? Why should that bother me? I’ll be dead for fucks sake. Ash. Dust. I won’t be looking down from my puffy white cloud playing my harp and feeling satisfaction that the world still remembers me. So fuck it. Take the enjoyment and satisfaction out of the creative process, enjoy and feel satisfied by the end product, listen to it over and over again until you are sick to death of it, post it on the internet for everyone to ignore and then forget it. Move on. Happy.

The need and desire to improve oneself is both admirable and in my opinion essential… but it mustn’t go too far. If you are a serial killer, then yes, it is essential that you try your very best to stop. However, if you are guilty, for example, of being addicted to reality TV, then ok, probably best not to admit it to too many people, and probably a good idea to try and cut down on it a little, so you can enjoy some of the other things that life offers. But why make yourself miserable by destroying your television and engaging in self-flagellation? …I am aware that this argument is full of holes, but I’ve written it now, so it stays…

Ok, let’s pull this back to me and my curious happiness…. One of the vices I would prefer I didn’t indulge in, is my nightly joint to help me sleep. I’m 43 years old and I still smoke pot. One half of me berates myself for this juvenile habit, pours scorn on my weak will, feels shame at my secret vice. This half of me was undoubtedly the ruling half during my depression. Now, the other half has the upper hand. The other half that says ‘so fucking what’, ‘who cares’, ‘do what you damned well like’, ‘you enjoy it, so do it’… this half also has a more sensible, cautious side which says ‘as long as you have control over it’, ‘as long as it doesn’t effect your day to day life’, ‘as long as it doesn’t hurt of effect anyone else’, etc… I like this half. It allows me to continue my bad habits, but without the guilt. It allows me to feel happy and contented despite my flaws and my faults… it allows me to feel comfortable with my imperfections, rather than overwhelming, self-hating disgust.

This is the key I think, to my current happiness. Life is still full of the same old shit, and with all the usual unpalatable ingredients, but it now also has a good, healthy sprinkling of ‘don’t let the bastards bring you down’ and ‘always look on the bright side of life’, and it’s working for me.

Life really is a bitch and then you really do die, but if you can just stop looking over the fence at what you don’t or can’t have, and instead marvel at the flowers growing in your own garden, then it is entirely possible to find your very own, small piece of happiness.

I’ll drink to that.

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Even When I Smile

Coming off the Sertraline has been pretty tough, but I’m doing ok. Instead of more of my ramblings I thought I’d just post this song I wrote & recorded yesterday…

http://www.reverbnation.com/open_graph/song/14666197

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Coming Off Sertraline

Since February (2012), I’ve been under the happy, contented haze of Sertraline. It seems to have worked a treat for me and I have been busy reclaiming parts of my life which had previously been extinguished by depression. I have kept away from this blog, as I haven’t wanted to dwell on my depression and also haven’t felt like I’ve needed this particular crutch. Now I’m sat here writing this, I actually feel a bit guilty about that – like I’ve been neglecting an old friend.

At first the Sertraline was great – seemingly no side effects especially compared to my time on Fluoxetine. However over the last two months my sleeping has been degenerating badly (to the level the Fluoxetine had effected it), my stomach has been a disaster area (nausea, sickness, diarrhea, stomach cramps) and I have been feeling generally pretty shitty, so despite the depression being very much at bay, I booked an appointment with my GP to discuss options.

I reported to him that my depression felt very much under control and that I had a renewed interest in recording music (which had always been my first love), as well as interest in, and enjoyment of holidays, sex, friends and the world in general. Then I explained about the sleep deprivation, stomach problems and lethargy which seemed to be getting steadily worse, and after I convinced him that I wasn’t after a prescription for sleeping pills (they don’t agree with me), he relaxed and we had a proper discussion resulting in me agreeing to try coming off the Sertraline… if my mood started to slide I could always go back on them right?

So, over the last month I have slowly taken myself off them – 2 days on, 1 day off for a week, then 1 day on, 1 day off for a week, then 1 day on, 2 days off for just over a week. I had my last pill last Thursday 16th August.

I have definitely been feeling more anxious, grumpy, irritable and moody, but am aware that this is to be expected when coming off an SSRI… however it’s a dangerous thing when these are elements of my personality which I loathe. I have to be so careful it doesn’t just send me tumbling down that dark staircase which has taken me so bloody long to climb to the top of. It’s all very well these withdrawal side-effects being common, but nobody ever mentions how long they will last for. A week? Fine. 2 weeks? ok. 3 weeks? Really? 4 weeks or more? …Houston we have a problem.

On top of the state of unrest and agitation I am currently experiencing, (such unassuming words when read on a page – the reality of them is far more unpleasant that I ever expected), I am also experiencing rather disturbing weird brain zaps / shocks – like sudden, brief waves of dizziness / disorientation. Strangely, it is almost a pleasant feeling, however it is ultimately rather alarming. It feels like if I had a ‘big one’ it might send me into some kind of a fit, or make me pass out. Some of them are strong enough to make me grab hold of whatever is nearest to me in order to steady myself.

This seems to be getting worse not better…

I’m trying to book a telephone appointment with my doctor, but who knows when I’ll manage to speak to him – it seems to get harder and harder to speak to or see my doctor these days. I just want to know whether I should ride it out, or start taking low quantities of Sertraline again to try and reduce the withdrawals. Guess I’ll just have to do a bit of research and make that decision myself.

On a more general note, I liked my mood while on Sertraline. I was rarely grumpy or irritable, I remained cool-headed, calm and focussed… and happy. The way I’m feeling right now I’m not sure if I’ve made the right decision to come off them… so I now find myself caught between the devil and the deep blue sea.

Coming off Fluoxetine was nowhere near as difficult or unpleasant as this….

 

Posted in Self Discovery | 119 Comments

Banned from Depression Forums

Yes, it’s true. I was banned yesterday from a depression forum. Despite deciding to write about it, I am not after revenge or anything like that, and for that reason I am not going to mention any names or the depression forum in question, but I want to share what happened as I feel I was treated really badly… perhaps others might disagree.

The background to this particular story started when my doctor switched me from Lofepramine onto Sertraline. As is usual with any new drug that is prescribed to me,  I searched the internet for information about Sertraline. I read all the usual blurb, and noticed that it was recommended to avoid alcohol. I enjoy my wine so that is a big deal for me, so I did a search for ‘sertraline and alcohol’, so I could gauge how much of a big deal it really was or whether this was just a general precautionary thing… a rule that could tolerate a little bending so to speak…

I came across this particular forum which had many, many replies to a thread which asked the same question I wanted to know: is it ok to drink, even a little, while on Sertraline? There were three pages of replies to this thread, and it seemed that every single reply held one horror story or another about terribly dramatic, horrible experiences when drinking on Sertraline. My heart sank, but hidden in amongst these were one or two other replies which were trying to dispel a lot of the inaccuracies that were being stated in most of these posts. It all seemed a bit odd and terribly over-dramatic, so I moved on and continued reading about it elsewhere on the net.

Ultimately I decided I would continue to drink in moderation, as I had with both Fluoxetine and Lofepramine (without incident). I remained very alert to any potential unwanted side effects, but I decided I would be my own judge on this. Three weeks later and everything is fine. Alcohol is having no strange effect and the Sertraline is working wonders. I thought back to all the comments I had read on this depression forum and decided I would go back and add my own experience into the mix just to bring some balance to the thread and offer useful information about my own personal experience on the subject, to people like myself who were looking for honest reality about the subject…

Here’s my post:

Hi,
I have just finished my first month on Sertraline. I switched from Lofepramine and before that Fluoxetine. I always read up on each drug before taking it, which is how I found this forum. I have signed up to this forum so I can post for the benefit of those who are similar to me with their drinking habits and to share my experience on this subject.

I’m male, 42 years old, I live by myself and I drink alcohol pretty much every evening and I love it. I do not drink to get drunk. I have between 1 and 3 glasses of wine (usually red), occasionally I swap that for 2 or 3 cans of lager. Every night. I am a constant, regular drinker but do not usually drink large quantities.

When I was prescribed Fluoxetine, I asked if I could drink alcohol and my doctor said ‘yes in moderation’. So I continued to drink and had no bad/unusual effects from the alcohol. I moved from Fluoxetine because of other side effects which were effecting me.
When my doctor prescribed me Lofepramine, there had been no discussion about alcohol. When I picked up the prescription it said on the label ‘not to be taken with alcohol’ (or something similar). I checked it out on the internet and despite all the startling warnings from seemingly everyone, I decided to continue drinking and judge for myself. Again, there were no noticeable bad or unusual effects from the alcohol.

When I moved from Lofepramine onto Sertraline, I again looked it up on the internet as the label said ‘not to be taken with alcohol), and after reading this thread on this forum, became very concerned about all the horror stories and warnings, but again decided to continue drinking as usual and judge for myself – I remained however, very conscious of the warnings.

I’ve now been on Sertraline for a month and once again, there have been no bad or unusual effects. I don’t get ‘more drunk than usual’, I don’t have ‘terrible hangovers’, I don’t become aggressive or angry and more importantly, it is not diminishing the effect of the drug which seems to be working fantastically well.

I am left wondering about all these terrible stories and experiences. Let’s not forget that regardless of what medication you are taking, if you drink too much, you will get a hangover! I do not want to belittle or bring in to question anyone else’s experience here, but I did feel the need to add a little balance to this thread for the benefit of other people like myself whose evening tipple is terribly important!

I wrote it with honesty and openess. It was was the kind of post I was looking for when I was searching for information about it. I felt quite good about myself for taking the time to share my experience.

Then I got an email…

RescueMyLife,
I just unapproved your topic <removed to protect identity>sertraline mixed with alcoholwhich goes completely against all our Terms Of Service.

[quote]DF will not discuss posts dealing with illegal drugs and/or alcohol abuse while you are on medications or not. Clearly alcohol is a depressant. Self medicating with illegal drugs or alcohol will not be discussed on these boards. Your posts will be deleted and you will get a formal warning.
We do have a Substance Abuse Forum for members who are able to discuss their abuse with alcohol, drugs, co-dependency and who are in recovery.

We are here to help one another in recovery. Alcohol is a depressant. Anybody that drinks while taking an antidepressant is taking irresponsible chances with their physical and mental health!

There are specific warnings not to combine alcohol and antidepressants.

1. Both are processed by your liver and you risk liver damage.
2. Drinking affects how much of the meds are absorbed into your body.
3. Meds affect how the alcohol is absorbed and can result in being extremely drunk, huge hangovers, and/or alcohol poisoning and chances of seizures.
4. Alcohol is a depressant – you are making your mental health worse by drinking.
Do you *really* need to drink? What is more important, having a couple drinks, or getting your mental health in order?
Is it realistic to ask people not to drink? In our minds, yes. Pregnant women stop for 9 months because they know it isn’t safe to drink – for your mental health, surely you can not drink for the time you are on antidepressants. It’s a matter of setting your priorities straight.

If you personally choose to drink and mess up your mind, go for it, but don’t come whining back here when you drop into a pit of depression. There are enough people here that tried and learned the hard way. But don’t go around telling other members that it’s alright to drink while on meds when it is not.

We do not want to know how ‘well’ and ‘good’ you felt self medicating. (Whether it is from alcohol or illegal drugs)
Your posts will be edited and you may be warned by Administrators, as we will have no part in such discussions on these forums.
It is not in your best interest and posting such can trigger other members. There is no substitute for getting the help that you need through therapy and legal medications.
We suggest doing a search on alcohol (here on DF) and see what you come up with, as we have implemented these forums rules for a very long time. (2002)
Your Antidepressants And Alcohol, Don’t Feel free to PM the Admin/Mod Team if you have any questions. -Forum Admin[/quote]
Take good care of you
<name of admin removed>

Now, I must admit, that when I first read this, I did not notice that she was ‘quoting’ the forum rulebook, so thought these were her personal words to me… I was furious. Unfortunately, when I read the email that was generated by the website to let me know I’d had a message sent to me, I could not see that the main body of comments were actually quoted. So my reply was perhaps a little harsh… however, the fact remained that I was upset and angry to have received such an unpleasant email when I was just trying to help by sharing my experience. True to form, ‘outraged from London’ immediately started typing a reply… and here it is:

Wow. Your message has left me nearly speechless. How incredibly self-righteous and rude you are.

If you refuse to hear a rational point of view from a sane, intelligent fellow MH sufferer about their personal experience on a subject or question posted in your forum, then you shouldn’t let the subject run AT ALL. How dare you say my opinion is any less valid than anyone elses. Other people’s abuse or problem with alcohol which I may remind you is a LEGAL substance, is neither my fault nor responsibility – I don’t see why my personal experience should not be shared with those looking for truth, just because it might upset somebody. How ridiculous.

I now understand why the thread I posted in is so utterly and completely misleading to unfortunate people like myself who are looking for honest experience about an important subject. Your total demonization of alcohol helps nobody. It might surprise you to hear that the vast majority of people drink alcohol responsibly – not to get smashed out of their faces.

Your ‘opinion’ about alcohol is just that – your opinion. Personally, I believe in honesty and freedom of speech. What happened to that?

Your ‘specific warnings’ about alcohol and anti-depressants are based on no proven medical study – I have read extremely widely on the subject – have you?? it does not appear so.

Your statement “you are making your mental health worse by drinking” is rubbish. I am very much on the road to recovery and still enjoy drinking alcohol responsibly.

“Is it realistic to ask people not to drink? In our minds, yes.” – Well I respect your opinion and wholeheartedly disagree. What a shame you can’t show me the same courtesy and respect my opinion.

“It’s a matter of setting your priorities straight.” Well once again, thank you for your opinion, but I do have my priorities straight. Making myself miserable by abstaining from something that gives me enormous pleasure I would argue is completely counter-productive and would actually be damaging to my mental health. That’s MY opinion.

“If you personally choose to drink and mess up your mind, go for it, but don’t come whining back here when you drop into a pit of depression.” – My god I don’t even know where to start with this perfectly despicable statement. Firstly, I DO choose to drink and it is NOT messing up my mind. Secondly, your implication that people in the pits of depression come onto your forum to ‘whine’ about it, is nothing short of outrageous. Is that all us depressed people do in your opinion? Whine about it? Next you’ll be telling me to ‘snap out of it’. Unbelievable.

My personal experience is no less valid than anyone elses on this forum – just because you don’t happen to agree is your problem. It certainly doesn’t give you the right to censor and then insult me.

I write a blog which is all about my fight with depression. It is honest, open and about my personal experience and views. It has helped countless other people suffering depression who are less able to express themselves verbally or in writing. I don’t pretend to be perfect and I know that not everyone will agree with everything that I say. I certainly don’t take the attitude that I am right and all other opinions are wrong. So, when people leave a comment about one of my posts disagreeing or questioning any element or something I’ve said, I don’t slap them down and tell them they’re wrong or bad for their opinion. I welcome and thank them for their opinion and their honesty.

We all have problems and struggles with mental health here, and we all fight them the best we can and in our own way – with or without help. I do not consider myself to be ‘self-medicating’ with alcohol, as I don’t drink it to ‘make myself feel better’ or to ‘forget’ or any other such reason and I think that is an incredibly important distinction to make. I drink it because I appreciate it and enjoy it. I thought that was perfectly clear in my post.

If this forum will not allow open discusssion about such important issues, then I want no part it. Such narrow-minded and blinkered attitudes and opinions help nobody.

Thank you for your rude, patronizing and deeply unpleasant message. I will never post here again. I will take my very relevant post which you have discarded as trash and post it on my blog instead – along with your message, and open up a proper discussion. Unlike you, I will not be censoring anybody’s comments just because I happen to disagree. I will welcome them.

You take care of you– and perhaps think about your attitude towards other peoples opinions and personal experiences before trampling on them with such self-righteous bigotry.

What an incredibly unpleasant afternoon you’ve given to me, when all I was trying to do was help.

I hope nobody does the same to you.

RescueMyLife

Quite a rant huh? I believe I had a point… perhaps I pushed it a little further than was strictly necessary…. but actually, I am still angry at their attitude. I hate reading back emails/messages that I have written in the heat of the moment when I feel an injustice has been done towards me – I do have a tendency to go a little ‘over the top’…. At least I didn’t resort to swearing and kept the tone down to a simmering fury rather than a ranting rage… there’s progress for you.

So fair enough – I had my say and that was that…. except I couldn’t quite resist…

…. the ‘welcome to new members’ section of the forum. Before I knew what was happening I had written and posted the following…

Warm Welcome?

I am a MH sufferer who is recovering well with the help of antidepressants and I am new today to this forum.
My first post on these forums was removed and I received a very unpleasant message from the admin team for my trouble.
My post was about my personal experience about a particular question that another user was specifically asking about.
I found the thread because I was looking for answers to the same question about a month ago. I noticed the responses all seemed to be very one-sided. My personal experience didn’t tally with anything I had read here so I decided to post my experience on the subject.
My post was honest, helpful and truthful.
My post was deleted because it contravened this forums rules (it was regarding alcohol and anti-depressants)
Censorship.

I feel unwelcome and demonized here.

Thanks <name of depression forum> – now you can delete this post too.

RescueMyLife

…sigh… Yes I know I know – I shouldn’t have done it, but I was so annoyed and upset and they were making out how lovely and supportive they were to all us newcomers, whereas actually they had just knocked me to the ground and kicked me in the face. Again I must point out that I wasn’t rude… and nor did I swear.

Anyway they banished me from the site for all time. I am persona non grata, the devil, an outcast, unwelcome, a troublemaker and a drunk, trying to poison the minds of poor, defenseless MH sufferers.

I would be very interested to hear other people’s opinions about this – I promise I won’t sent you a horrible email if I don’t like what I hear… I may well argue my point if I disagree though… to my mind, it’s ultimately about truth or censorship. I will always go for truth.

Thanks for reading.

Posted in Self Discovery | 25 Comments

Quelling the Raging Storm

Yesterday was a bad day at work. I had a row with my boss because she was being rude and unreasonable which sadly is all too common. I can usually ignore it and let her vileness bounce off me with a smile, but my defenses were down a little yesterday and I suppose I just didn’t have the strength to take it on the chin like I usually do. I won’t go into the details as they are irrelevant, however words were had, she asked me what the matter was (in her very best, delightfully insincere sneering voice) and so I just came straight out and told her that she was being extremely difficult and unpleasant today, to which she flustered and flapped a bit and said some ridiculous things which I successfully ignored (rather than escalate the situation) and finally I got ‘the apology’, which she only does to make the point that she is the better / more grown up person because she has apologised. Everything is a mind game with her. The fact that she will make me pay dearly for that apology, over at least the next 2-3 weeks is never lost on me.

So I got home last night and tried to take my mind of the days unpleasant events by watching a movie and sinking myself into a much needed glass or three of red wine.  This morning I woke in a bad mood, and the realisation that I was in a bad mood, set off the fear. I needed to be strong today to get everything back on track with my boss as quickly as possible. The last thing I needed was for me to take her on if she decided to be a total bitch again today (which was a definite possibility). I got on the train and a dreadful, familiar feeling settled in: Anger… preparation for a conflict… arming myself for a showdown if she started trying to bully me again… if she says this I’ll say that… if she does that I’ll do this… who the f*** does she think she is?… why the f*** should I put up with that… oh boy, this is not good. I had to stop myself thinking like that, I had to be calm and together today.  But it was too late,  the storm had already begun to rage inside my head. Out of control.

I knew I had to try and stop this self-destructive, internal tornado that had erupted in my head… I had to try and take control of my galloping raging thoughts. Fear crept in, mixing with the rage. I started screaming to myself in my head to stop… STOP! But it wouldn’t stop. I couldn’t stop it. Then from nowhere, I suddenly remembered a comment someone had left on a blog I was reading yesterday (the blog was by someone who is plagued by suicidal thoughts (@suicidaholic)). The gist of the person’s comment was this: when it all just gets too much to cope with and you feel you feel totally out of control, concentrate on breathing. Nothing else, just concentrate on breathing in, then breathing out and push all other thoughts out of your head. In… out…. in… out……. I wasn’t feeling suicidal, but really negative thoughts were running wildly out of control – I would do anything to stop it. So in that moment, sitting on the train on my way into work, I tried it – I focused all my conscious thought on breathing and pushed everything else out. It took a little while to work, but I did succeed and the rage, and the panic left me – the torrent of confrontational thoughts subsided and an uneasy peace descended in my head.

By the time I got to work, I was in control and calm. Thank you to the anonymous commenter on someone else’s blog (@suicidaholic), you’ll never know how much you helped me this morning. It’s a neat trick and one I will definitely remember for the future.

Things are a little ‘sticky’ with my boss today, but my defenses are back up, the anger and rage is gone…. and my head is no longer about to explode.

I’m exhausted.

Posted in Self Discovery | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment