the brilliantly leaping gazelle

Tag: depression

Never mind the glass being half empty or half full, at least I’ve got a glass!

Last week I posted a blog concerning how depressing it was to write a blog all about your depression only to have a handful of people read it. One of the people who ‘liked’ it, upon visiting their blog and reading some of their posts made me realise that whilst my depression might be all encompassing to me, viewed impartially, and most especially in comparison to their experience, I’m fortunate.

Judging by what they write, they have no family they feel they can speak to, and having no support network of friends only compounds the sense of isolation. They feel totally alone – aside from the thoughts in their head and that I suppose is part of the problem. If one is alone or feels there is no one to talk to about things,  then thoughts of suicide can necessarily grow and develop, eventually becoming quite rational if no one is there to challenge your assumptions.

No I’m not fortunate to have had a severe brain injury and neither was I fortunate to be in a medically induced coma for a month. Nor was I fortunate to wake up from the coma especially, as the me I woke up to was not the me I remembered myself to be. I don’t claim this to be anything unique, I suppose that this is a common feeling experienced by many who undergo a sudden reversal of fortune.

However the reason I say I’m fortunate – and I posted a comment to this effect on the bloggers website – is that I have two extraordinary loyal friends who are seemingly indefatigable in the energy they expend on my behalf. One of them, Old Blue Eyes, who lives in the same house as me, has gone not so much the extra mile for me but has run a marathon in record time. Mind you she does think that broccoli ice cream is an idea worth perusing, so her judgment is questionable. Likewise Avril. I’ve known her for longer than she’d care to remember, quite literally in fact, as she says the day she met me was the worst day of her life! It is she who has schlepped across London almost every night since my diagnosis with Bells Palsy – in November – to ensure that my eye is properly lubricated (why I can’t do this myself can be found here) thereby negating any serious damage. Mind you, she thinks that UB40 were a great band, so….

I was reminded yet again as to my incalculable good fortune when last week I had an assessment from someone from the local mental health hospital to gauge whether I was a suitable case for therapy. Because of my infirmity this was a home visit. Knowing that I had to present a case in a manner that would be both appealing and demonstrate some awareness of my behaviours and how they might effect any treatment they might offer, I decided to engage in strategic honesty. Understandably this might confuse you, this notion of ‘strategic honesty’ if, unlike me, you have a policy of telling the truth most, if not all, of the time. Some years ago when a friend asked me about my flexible attitude to truth. I suggested to her that she thought that truth was a valuable thing, and as I expected she agreed it was indeed valuable. So I continued. She’d readily agreed with the assertion that truth is a precious thing, naturally wanting to be well thought of. So therefore, I suggested, if indeed truth is so valuable and precious one should use it sparingly, if at all.

Strategic honesty is whereby you are truthful in pursuit of a goal, which in this instance was securing treatment and necessitated by the person carrying out the assessment stating that I would only have twelve one hour sessions to start with. This rather helped focus the mind on what was of real and immediate concern to me – and not one of the many demons in my past. I’ve had psychotherapy before and it was suggested that my depression was either a direct cause of the brain injury, me trying to come to terms with the effect of it, or possibly a combination of the two. Being strategically honest, I pointed out at this assessment that the failure for the previous therapy not having the desired effect fell squarely on my shoulders. This demonstrated that I was aware of the barriers I put up then, but was willing to properly engage with the process now. I was only telling her something she may already known, if she had read the previous psychotherapists notes (they work for the same NHS Trust). Because, as I pointed out, the attitudes and behaviors that had served me so well in the past were no longer suitable to my present circumstances.

For many years I was able to compartmentalize feelings, able to lock them away as they were not helpful at the time I was feeling them. This was born out of childhood necessity and became second nature for most of my adult life. But yet when I wrote I had functioning and not debilitating depression upon reading the bloggers posts I mentioned above, I realised that being able to differentiate between your depressions meant that I was in a markedly different place to them. I have two good friends to speak to. The fact that I sometimes choose not to burden them with my darker thoughts is neither here nor there; the fact is I could if I wanted to. But if that option wasn’t open to me I shudder to think what I’d be doing now. This isn’t meant to be a sombre post, rather it is me indicating that I’m aware just how lucky and how thankful I am that I have two such good friends in my life. And when I write ‘in my life’, that is exactly what I mean.

Because without them I doubt you’d be reading this.

On a wholly unrelated point, if anyone reading this could enlighten me as to whether there’s a search function on WordPress and more importantly, how to use it – or if there isn’t, how does one find posts? I ask, because for the last two of my posts, bloggers have ‘liked’ them, and I’ve no idea how they found them.

Next time..Sports ‘news’ may well be an oxymoron, but it does at least offer a simple to understand alternative to actual news…

The Albert Einstein Guide to Blogging…

What is more depressing than writing about ones depression in a blog? Not having many people reading it that’s what!

When I first mentioned to someone I was toying with the idea of writing a blog they asked me what would happen if I didn’t get that many readers. Flushed with enthusiasm for this venture, I replied optimistically, that quality was more important than quantity when it come to readers.

How I laugh at those words now!

Because whilst I feel I have interesting things to say and interesting ways to say them it would seem that hardly anybody is interested in reading them. According to my subscriber lists most of my subscribers are based here in England but a glance at my stats for last week proved that hardly any English interweb users read my blog. This leaves me to the rather unpalatable conclusion that an email notification of my blog goes direct into their junk mail folder. And I’ve yet to get my head around harnessing the power of social media to publicise my blog, because whenever anyone tries, this happens

It put me in mind of Albert Einstein. When he was asked to describe his theory of relativity in language that could be easily understood his quote goes something like this. “When you are sitting on a bench next to a pretty girl an hour seems like a minute but when you are sitting on a hot oven a minute seems like an hour!” The amount of time it takes me to write a blog like the one I wrote about my depression is inversely proportionate to the amount of time people will spend reading it.

Another thing that works against me is that I don’t have a single, unifying theme or subject matter to my blog. It alternates – one week about me and coping (or not) with severe brain injury and the next about something altogether more interesting. Before my injury, lots of many things appalled, bewildered, fascinated or amused me about life, sometimes all at the same time. Quite how my change in circumstance has changed my outlook is beyond me. This blogger encapsulates the dichotomy rather well.

I know that such concerns only highlight the abject lack of any other meaningful activity in my life. As if to prove the point yesterday I had a trip to Moorefield’s Eye Hospital. I was fully expecting them to examine my eyes and to comment favourably on the relative health of the eye and that whatever ministrations I was receiving that they were working, namely keeping the eye well lubricated. (I could make a rather crude and obvious joke about eye’s elsewhere on the body being well lubricated, but I won’t!) I was not however expecting a consultant to suggest that I needed part of my left eyelid sown shut to prevent any damage to the eyeball caused by the eyelid not closing properly. And for good measure the consultant also added that after three months she would have expected to see more movement in the left side of my face. I was reminded not in a good way of my physiotherapist at the rehabilitation unit when he said to me that most gains are made within the first few months and after that it is a series of rapidly diminishing returns. I asked him if he was available as a motivational speaker! (No really, I did!)

Thus I went from being very low at the start of the week to be very, very low at the end of it. And given that tomorrow is Valentines Day (or V.D as I call it!)

Here are a couple of ideas for you.

Cajole a member of the opposite sex who is single and a good friend of yours to engage in an act of public theatre. Book a table in a restaurant on Valentines Day and proceed to have a nauseatingly good time, laughing loudly and with frequent displays of affection with big smiles to other diners. This of course, will have the effect of making everyone else feel thoroughly wretched. Or on the other hand if might unit them in a shared antipathy towards you, either way it’s a win win!

The other idea – which I’ve used many, many times – is a cheapskates guide to romance. If you are an urban dweller no doubt there are many fatal car crashes or fatalities involving cyclists or pedestrians near where you live, some of these see impromptu memorials springing up on the nearest lampposts. What I used to do was to find one of these near to my house with a fresh looking bunch of flowers and take the name tag out and present them to my significant other.
Although what it was signifying was another matter!

Next time I hope I’ll be in a less misanthropic mood.

Depression and Bells Palsy? What could possibly go wrong?

I could start by offering a similar warning to the one I offered here namely that “This is about MY personal experience of depression, how it makes ME feel and should not be misconstrued as advocating any course of action by any other person. Sorry about that, but there are some vulnerable people surfing the interweb and one has no idea who might stumble across this when they’re at an especially depressed state,” but since the amount of people subscribing to this is (barely) into double figures – and less than half of them are real people _- by that I mean NOT bloggers selling lifestyle / recipe / self-help nonsense – I don’t think I’ll bother. Not when this blog doesn’t feature high on any Google searches which means the chances of someone stumbling on this by chance are as remote as the creationist myth being anything other than trumpery moonshine.

Of the many things I’ve recounted in my blogs about my Bell’s Palsy, perhaps the most obvious omission is the most relevant. My mental health. Or, to be more exact, the lack thereof. When the villain in the last Bond film ‘Skyfall’ is captured, he recounts how after months of being tortured by the Chinese – and realizing that M had abandoned him – he decided to break open the cyanide capsule hidden in a tooth. Which didn’t quite do the job leading him to angrily point out, “Life clung to me like a disease.”. I know how he feels, because they may well have saved my life after the accident in the strict technical sense, but insofar as the practical day-to-day mechanics of life, what I’m left with is a cruel imitation of one. All I amount to now is loose change.

The Bell’s Palsy only worsens this, because not only does it highlight my own lack of fine motor skills – the ones that help your fingers distinguish between shaving your face or conducting an orchestra with the requisite precision needed for both – also by doing so, for an added confidence eroder, amplified my dependence on other people. The fact they do so selflessly and with good humour only makes it worse. At the hospital they gave me a prescription for eye cream; the fact that due to my lack of fine motor skills I couldn’t apply it was neither here nor there. Their records would show I’d been given a prescription for cream, told how to apply it and so they were in the clear.

However, as I alluded to in a previous blog, a hospital is perhaps the only place where less than bad news is interpreted as good news. My symptoms could easily been indicative of a stroke, so further tests could until conclusive proof to rule out that possibility, and until the results of a CT scan were known, I was outwardly as calm as one could be, but inwardly thinking, ‘Fine. If it is a stroke, we know exactly what we’ll do. We’ll enact the plan whilst I have sufficient function to do so’. The plan, it need hardly be said, is not a plan one communicates. Suicide is, when you take away all the emotion and break it down to its constituent parts, an achievable goal that just requires some thought. Mine has been refined such because I know it’s both viable and foolproof, I don’t dwell on it.

Meanwhile, back in hospital I just waited as thoughts – none of them cheerful – multiplied in my head like an aggressive virus. Not that my head is a good place to be at the best of times – and that certainly wasn’t the best of times. Winston Churchill famously called his depression ’The Black Dog’ and mine is more like Battersea Dogs Home. It has been with me ever since I woke up from the coma. Darwin, how I wish I hadn’t. But wake I did, and even though my waking thought some mornings is ‘Why did I bother waking up’ nonetheless I have a ‘functioning’ depression – one that gets me out of bed, partaking in my rehab (not the Amy Winehouse kind) and subjecting this on you. – rather than a’ debilitating’ depression where you can’t see the point of anything resulting in you not doing anything. Nevertheless, it is always there; sometimes more pernicious than others, but a constant unwelcome companion. And the irony is that due to the nature of my brain injury, most anti-depressant drugs are contra-indicated. Which in itself is depressing!

I don’t often write about my dark thoughts not just because it does me no good to do so, but also more importantly there are far more interesting things to occupy my mind. And therein lies the problem. To look at, I seem relatively normal. It’s only when I try to speak, or stand or do anything that requires smooth controlled muscle co-ordination, that one realises that the relative in question is a distant cousin I’ve never met. Never has the phrase ‘The mind is willing, but the flesh is weak’, been more apposite. My mind is as sharp as it ever was, but now the means of transporting it from A to B have been blunted.

When I was young – and not so young – when people asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up, or what my ambition was, my reply was always the same. “Happy”. And this so isn’t happy. When I get in these moods, I think I should really take a long walk off a short pier. It all depends on the length of the pier, as unaided my walking is haphazard. And that in itself alarms me, writing about it so calmly. Worryingly calmly in fact. I know I shouldn’t. If anything, that exemplifies just how fubar the situation has become.
I endured childhood for this?

My childhood was a fairy tale. A Grimm one.

As I wrote earlier, whilst the depression has been with me since I woke up from the coma – and I have only a memory, of being happy, I have nonetheless learned how to live with it.

Despite, that is, not enjoying living.

So, in order to lighten the mood, a little musical treat for you, there being no similarities whatsoever between The Cures ‘Close to Me’ and George Michaels ‘Faith’.

Go on, hear for yourself.

Next time..Sports ‘news’ might well be an oxymoron but one that provides an easy to understand alternative to proper news….

My ‘recovery is akin to a sadistic version of ‘Groundhog Day’…

Each person, whilst embarking on recovering from some calamitous event in their life, will doubtless suffer numerous minor and not so minor setbacks offset by minor victories before – one hopes – an eventually glorious triumph. That, at least, is how the story goes. Or is meant to go.

However, the person writing my story drew inspiration from the small print of adverts selling financial goods. The ones promising spectacular, risk free returns from a modest investment in large print, whilst right at the bottom, in very small text that one almost needs a magnifying glass to read, a disclaimer disavowing the grandiose claims made earlier warns,

“Past performance is no guarantee of future results and you may not get out what you put in.”

It feels like that combined with a somewhat cruel ‘Groundhog Day’ element. For those of you unaware of the plot of ‘Groundhog Day’ – I use ‘those’ in the loosest possible sense of the word, but you never know, there might be one – it’s plot concerns itself with;

Bill Murray who plays Phil Connors, an arrogant and egocentric TV weatherman who, during an assignment covering the annual Groundhog Day event in Punxsutawney, finds himself repeating the same day again and again.

Walking is a good example of this rather sadistic phenomenon. Before the accident, one of the things I prided myself on was the speed at which I would walk. I used to think there should be lanes, like they have on motorways, for pedestrians in busy shopping streets, closed off to traffic and rigorously enforced. Dawdlers, tourists and school groups could faff about to their hearts content in the slow lane, safe in the knowledge that they weren’t being a cause of irritation to those who actually wanted to get somewhere at a pace considerably faster than an old person trying to wade through treacle. Bear traps at random intervals would get the message across. One of my favourite games with myself was to spot someone walking ahead in the distance, set myself a target of how many steps it would take me to overtake them and then to do it in far less. Which I usually did. Oh happy days. How I remember them, as remember them is all I can do now. I know I have a memory of it. The problem is that I just can’t remember how walking like that feels.

Early on in my road to recovery – which at times feels like a dead end – I was able to manage 610 steps unaided. Admittedly, they were small steps, required frequent stops, took what seemed to me a long time and were so smooth and fluid that they made Frankenstein’s monster seem like a ballerina. You might think I’d have increased the distance, that between then and now my motivation to constantly exceed my goals would have been re-energised. This is the where the financial advert’s small print crossed with a sadistic element of ‘Groundhog Day’ kicks in, because what happened yesterday has no bearing whatsoever on what happens today. It’s all reset to zero, so it seems. A lot of effort – even getting out of bed some mornings seems a task akin to Sisyphus’s fate for scant reward. The effect is such that a prisoner on death row has more motivation than me.

One of the recurring themes throughout this blog will be the seemingly perfect storm, of a seriously depressed mental state with no optimism whatsoever coupled with a fatigued and ultimately tired of it all disposition. Added to that a couple of years of trying various strategies and employing numerous professionals to facilitate them to seemingly no end.

I feel it incumbent upon me at this point to draw your attention to the not inconsiderable fact that I am not the best person to dispassionately evaluate my ‘progress’. As I am given to compare me as I am, against me as I was, which is not, as has been oft pointed out to me, such a wise idea, fateful folly that it is. Much more prudent is perhaps comparing me when I got out of hospital against me as I am now. One might think this is clear-headed and sensible advice of the first order. But that thought has to be tempered with the knowledge that the same person repeatedly suggesting this also thinks broccoli ice cream is an idea worth pursuing.

You may well ask ‘How come if his mental state is as bad as he claims, how then is he able to motivate himself enough to write this blog?’ Which is a fair question.

Firstly, it passes the time. It’s as pure and simple as that. And I think, as I hope you’ll discover if you follow with this blog, that I have a somewhat…idiosyncratic way of expressing myself.

And secondly, I live in a house share, and I pride myself on being considerate of others, so in order to achieve that – to me – laudable objective, I try and subjugate as far as much as possible my depression. Which isn’t easy but neither would living with me be if I didn’t. Hopefully this blog will provide a suitable outlet for my varied pet peeves. And new ones, of which I’m sure there’ll be many.

My next entry won’t be as depressing, unless of course you’re an England fan. It’ll be about the World Cup and football generally.