Thursday, 25 July 2013

One of the many reasons why my friends are awesome....

They send me cards like this one....

Part of the note inside reads "You are truly splendid and I belive have the good taste to find this card appropriately amusing"

I do indeed have the good taste Na'amah, you lovely loon you :)
Now just to figure out how to display it in all its glory.......

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

So much time, yet also so much to do

I feel a little like I'm missing the perfect blogging opportunity right now.

I've moved county! I've got a new job that I love! I'm discovering whole new sides to life re social media, the amazing place in which I live (seriously Rochdale haters have you looked around? I keep finding so many great and surprising things in this place) and the general brilliance of being able to take on the world without Depression presenting problems! I'm re-engaging with many things that I'm passionate about once again!

And yet this blog is all....

It's not even that I'm not writing anything, there's loads of draft posts on my Blogger dashboard just waiting to be edited, as well as lots of dog-eared sheets of paper collected from train journeys and coffee-consuming sessions in the local library. Finding the time to edit them has been a bit difficult though.

I've got 5 weeks left before I start my new full-time work in a high school. There's a lot of things that need to be done, and I'd be kidding myself if I pretended that updating should be my highest priority right now. But hopefully by the end of the summer I should have enough things in place that more areas can just be maintained rather than being completely re-evaluated and overhauled, as they are being at the moment.

Come September I'll start updating on a 'proper' twice-weekly basis, and you'll have your ears talked off (or appropriate written medium equivalent) with all these things that I'm feeling incredibly excited about and want to share with you. Til then I'm putting one of those things into practise and not placing unnecessary
pressure on myself by setting yet another unrealistic goal.

Here's to getting the boring yet practical things out of the way, and to going out and living enough to have the raw experience to provide material in the first place. This is supposed to Essaying in the Real World after all...

Monday, 1 July 2013

I am very excited because...

It may be a good 14 years after it's original release, but I've just installed Planescape Torment. One of the seminal RPG pc games in terms of character creation and development as a consequence of your actions in the game rather than just a roll of the die, and with a wonderfully messsed up, complex storyline to go with it. I now just need to find the time to play it.....

Saturday, 2 March 2013

In Five Years' Time

I've been thinking recently about where I'm headed in the longer term. It's taken me a little while to make the mental switch from viewing life in terms of the academic year to building towards a general sense of my future, investing in things that may be years down the line.

Here's some of the more visible froth at the surface of my still bubbling cauldron of hopes and plans for where and who I'd like to be.

Specific things that I'd like to do in the not-too-distant-future:

Learn to drive

Visit another continent

Make a wedding cake, or another equally fun celebration cake

Host Christmas dinner

To have paid off at least 1/3 of my student debt (more would always be nice but there's a possibility that I might retrain and add to it over the next few years, and who knows what financial hurdles may be ahead)

I dare you not to whistle for the rest of the afternoon

Monday, 9 July 2012

Letting myself be ill

One of the things that the Depression has forced me to do is re-examine the limitations, or lack of them, that I place on myself. It's an area that's becoming more of a focus now that I'm functioning 'normally' and picking back up a lot of the things that I had to drop during the worst periods.

By means of a paradox that never fails to amuse me, I somehow manage to combine a sense of hyper-criticism and an easily shaken self-esteem with a deep-set belief that I can pretty much do everything. I have to assume that this stems from the fact that pre-university, academically at least, I was pretty much guaranteed to be in the right, or at least quick enough to recover from a mistake that people tended not to notice. Which sounds rather arrogant, but I discovered just how deeply-rooted this idea was to my understanding of the world when I started at Oxford, and that certainty was very effectively shattered. I went from marks of between 90%-100% to ones between 40%-70%. Even when I really put the effort in there was no guarantee I would even understand the concepts we were studying, never mind gain the easy confidence with material that I was used to. It really threw me, and it took a while of working it through with my tutors and myself to not let it completely crush my sense of competency. The degree took an awful lot of work, and an awful lot of admitting that I was ignorant in an area to be able to then move on in it and learn. I'd tended to, subconsciously I think, avoid things that involved admitting to my ignorance before my degree, and it was an interesting learning curve to realise that I could grow through that.

So I eventually got it into my head that I couldn't necessarily do everything academically, and that this was ok, but didn't quite manage to transfer that realisation to the rest of my life. I tend to be late for deadlines and appointments, because I try to cram so much into the time I have, all without realising that I'm cramming rather than taking on a reasonable level of work. When I agree to tasks I do so in the complete confidence that 'yep, of course I can do it', which I'll say to a ridiculous number of things with the belief that I'll manage them all, and for some reason find myself constantly surprised that I'm burnt out and unable to do half of them.

     Some of it could be because I pressure myself with the expectation that I should always be able to help people and meet whatever needs are there, another element that I'm still working on. But a lot of this attitude is built out of my genuine underlying belief that I'll be able to do everything.

 Somewhere in my head, I seem to think that I'm actually Wonder Woman... 

See the similarities?....

Instead of looking at the cumulative level of tasks that I've committed to, I see a lot of individual tasks that I know I can do perfectly well, so why would there be a problem with trying to do twenty of those in one day? I don't tend to factor in my own needs, especially rest, as things to spend time on and prioritise, not particularly because I'm being all self-depreciating and don't consider them worth valuing, but often because I simply forget that I need to. Without previously being aware of the assumption that I was an Amazonian goddess, I seem to have built my approach around the idea that I will be constantly functioning at 100% capability, always full of energy, positive attitudes and good health. When I stop and think about it, the only way this could be possible is if I did indeed possess super-speed, super-strength and super-stamina (go the wikipedia page on Wonder Woman!) but I haven't stopped and thought about it before, I've just kept on going until it ploughed me into the ground.

The 'non-functioning' phase of the Depression, as I find it easiest to call it, forced me to put my own needs first. I literally couldn't manage to take on what anyone else might expect of me, getting myself fed and sleeping at some point during a 24-hour period counted as a pretty big achievement. One of the most frustrating elements of the experience was being faced with the the cold, hard, very obvious fact that I couldn't do all the things I expected of myself. At some points that I meant I couldn't get out of bed, and at some points that meant I couldn't find the space to create that hand-made birthday card that I'd meant to.

It took a lot of effort to start seeing things that I'd usually dismiss as almost effortless, like sorting myself some cereal or making a phone call, as the achievements that they really were right then. Learning to change my perspective like that really helped with the recovery process, although there was still my sense of the ridiculous undermining it sometimes.

Since I've started functioning again, mentally and physically, I've had a tendency to completely forget all that re-evaluation that I had to do when depressed. I'm 'better' now, why do I need to value the things I do, build in time to rest or turn down invites or requests because I don't actually have the physical or emotional resources to follow them through?

Because it's all still just as necessary!!!!!

               I need rest...

               I'm not always going to manage...

               I do need to give myself chance to recover from the daily grind of
               life, even if I don't feel like it should be wearing me down....

                                                                                    ..... And actually that's ok.

Somehow I need to learn to move from my overly ambitious and hyper critical sense of shoulds- what I should be able to manage, what I should expect of myself, who I should be to people around me-  to working on the basis of what actually is and in response to that what is realistic for me to achieve with the resources I currently have?

One of the really helpful things that my counsellor mentioned recently was the idea that not only can I not do everything, but that actually I'm not expected to do it all, even by God. She pointed out the fact that Jesus, despite being completely capable in his character, didn't try to do everything, that he took times to be by himself to pray and rest, that he delegated and sent others out and despite the thousands of people asking for his attention he drew the line when he knew that actually he needed to move on, to work with them in a different way or just to go to sleep.

If Jesus found a way to cope with the literally Messianic level of expectations that people were putting on him, then I can probably learn not to be dominated by the expectations that I put on myself. There's hope, and there's space.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

All the small things

There's been a marked difference recently in my mood levels. My general mental state at the moment is one of default happiness, and depressive symptoms are unusual rather than a constant. In fact at some points I've been feeling so full of life that it's slightly worried some of my housemates, prompting questions such as 'Is this a good kind of manic or a bad one?'. Amusingly I don't even feel like I'm verging into manic, just a fairly normal state of excitement for me when I'm not depressed.

I'm not sure whether it's the antidepressants kicking in or just that things seem a bit easier to cope with at the moment, but either way I'm not complaining. It's so good to feel like laughing and dancing, to be able to recognise some of the lovely things in life without having to force myself. I keep describing it as like the way that the first summery days of spring make you realise how much you missed the sunshine without knowing it, the strange newness of something old and familiar. I'm experiencing the repeated realisation that what feels like a rush of positivity, excitement and appreciation is actually just my 'normal' state of mind, albeit on a good day.

I don't want to try and squeeze out a long-winded post when I'm mostly just enjoying appreciating things. So I'll just keep doing that instead.

Things I'm thankful for at the moment;

  • Sunshine
  • Having a clear enough head to think about things
  • I'm sleeping at nights
  • That I'm at default a positive person
  • The sound of rain outside my window
  • The bluebells and blossom in our usually empty garden
  • The fun of creating something new
  • Dressing gowns
  • The comfort of a hot shower on a cold night
  • Songs that make you want to dance
  • Costa gingerbread lattes, especially massimo size cups with the two handles
  • That I'm waking up in the mornings
  • My bedroom no longer feeling like a place I'm stuck in, but somewhere I can be
  • The rush of wind around the house when it's breezy

And because you really can't hear that phrase without thinking of it....


Sunday, 1 April 2012

So I'm morphing into a 50s housewife?

In terms of being able to get out of bed and trying to face the world (or at least some of it) things have been quite positive this week, which is something to be grateful for. Probably the most encouraging thing this week has been that I've managed to get a few tasks done each day and usually felt like I've achieved something at the end of them. Part of the Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) approach to reversing the cycle of depressed thinking/feelings leading to altered behaviour leading to additional depression ad nauseam is to instigate positive behaviours despite the individual not necessarily 'feeling' like carrying them out. Attempting to put this into action has (usually) meant that I've not spent hours sat around the house feeling too terrible to do anything and even more terrible because I'm not doing something. But a slightly confusing realisation has been surfacing out of it...

The other week I decided to reorganise the kitchen cupboards to make frequently used items more accessible. Then I made a list of all the random half packets of food we have lying around so that I could deliberately cook meals that would use them up. I started slightly obsessing about having all the washing up cleared as soon as possible, and keeping the living room neat and tidy. I went from having not cooked for over a week, and not really eating much unless I was around other people, to first making quiche from scratch then to trying to cook a full roast chicken dinner for the house. I keep tidying up and wiping down the whole kitchen at the end of the day.


Out of all the activites that I could fix on to help me re-immerse myself back into the world outside my head, this attempted ultra-organisation isn't what I would have predicted. Especially as a much more typical insight into my general level of organisation would be this:

Not that I'm particularly happy to be this messy, but it is the everyday reality of my life, give or take a few unwashed mugs going mouldy in my bedroom. The desire to cook is less atypical, as normally I do love cooking and often used baking as a reward after handing in uni essays, partly so I could feel that I'd created something a bit more substantial (and tastier!) than an e-mail attatchment. Usually I love eating food as well as creating it. But the bizarre bit right now is that on some level I still don't care about food very much. I don't have my appetite back, just my desire to do something useful with the ingredients in front of me. So how to explain the real concern I've felt this week about finding some way of using up the excess carrots before they go off?

 If I'm shutting myself into the kitchen can I at least have this apron? Please?

I'm wondering whether there's an appealing element of gratification in being able to effect order in at least some areas of my life. As in most of my life might feel like it's too much for me to handle, but you mess had better believe that I can clean you right out of this kitchen, do ye hear? And I admit there's a lot of satisfaction in getting to the end of a cleaning or cooking task and being able to see in front of you the difference that you've made, especially when too much focus at the moment is on what's happening in my head.

The bit I'm wary of is that cooking and especially cleaning have fairly transitory effects. Once you've cooked one meal there'll soon be another one on the way. I may manage to keep the kitchen spotless for half an hour or so but living in a house of five busy people makes it a certainty that it wont stay that way for much longer. If my sense of achievement keeps coming from organising and creating order through cleaning it's being built on very shaky ground. As I said before I can be a very messy person, and sharing a house means I can't really control anything that goes on outside of my room. If I'm gaining a vicarious sense of order in my life from the successful organisation of the freezer shelves I'm going to have problems when someone else opens the door. I've got to find a way of taking enjoyment out of what I've done without being wound up by the inevitable demise of most of the things I've worked on. I think I could be particularly prone to this at the moment when I might have spent most of my day on these things.

On the other hand my ever-so-slightly obsessive aproach to cleaning is probably instilling some good habits in me. I'm actually checking for cups before I leave the room, and trying to sweep up the kitchen before I finish. These have to be good practices I think, and they encourage me that I can sometimes stick to a sense of routine. Maybe the best thing to do is to make sure that I've got significant tasks and activities going on outside the house, or at least outside the kitchen, to try and reduce the potential annoyance when a sense of chaos takes over again. We'll see.