This is the Day

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Summer appears to have vanished, at least the sunny bits of it, and that’s totally fine. Walking to the Gym this morning in muggy, overcast grottiness I am reminded that September is not far off: Autumn’s already here according the fruit trees and bushes. It will be a bumper fruit harvest this year too, which is a shame as I’m off the sugar for the foreseeable future. No matter, we are approaching my favourite time, and the prospect of a birthday, which made me stop and realise that the next major milestone for me is 60 and… nope, not thinking about it any more. There are days I’m not even sure the planet’s gonna make it another decade, let alone me. This is why living in the moment is such a big deal.

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I have booked a hairdressers appointment: not 100% sure but it’s over a year, possibly closer to two since anyone did anything of significance with my head. As there is the possibility of having to meet other adults with increasing frequency as time goes on , I should probably make an effort. After that, I have vague ideas of what I’d like, but nothing more than that. I’ll get them to cut it, throw a bit of style in, that’s all that is needed, really. I have stopped caring largely about how I look, because so much is changing both physically and mentally. It seems more sensible to concentrate on the stuff I can influence and work on that, at least for the foreseeable future.

Right now, I really just need to be working.

Night Boat to Cairo

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It is almost August. How did that happen?

I am now down to my outstanding Patreon list fitting on a Post It note. This means that I’ll be up to date August 1st, when the process has to start again: however, I have adapted a very great deal in the last four weeks. It is a learning process that has thrown up more than a few surprises, and an understanding that, with thought and effort, anything really is possible. That is the biggest takeout: these tasks are no less relevant or significant thanΒ  anything else done before. The fact people now give me money to ‘work’ is just the way it always is in the early days of establishing a business. The difference here is that I’m just coming to the whole experience later than maybe would be normal. That’s great however because it allows an awful lot more experience to accompany me to the table.

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However what is most satisfying right now is the understanding that what is written doesn’t matter as much as what that allows other people to get from the experience. This appears to be the case with the growing use of Twitter Polls in my feed as a writing tool: I make no bones about using the service primarily as a basis to spark unprompted conversation. When opinion is not the reason why something happens, just facts reduced to a simple choice, it allows people the ability to discuss and explain their own feelings and experience. Currently, the Internet is mostly opinions clashing, points of view in dissonance. Sharing a common ground yet allowing diversity to thrive within is, in my mind at least, a far better way of promoting discussion.

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There’s also been communication in a manner I’ve not seen since I began this journey. People are spontaneously (and unprompted) suggesting new topics, and thanking me for the discourse. Normally, when I start a conversation on the Internet like this, it has ended in tears. However, I realise that a lot of that historical trauma was as much about how I dealt with the responses than anything else. Also, my ‘don’t tweet to anyone for the first hour of the day or until you are fully awake’ rule really is beginning to make a tangible difference in how contention pans out. It is the understanding that yeah, I have my part to play in all this, but only to a point. That whole ‘two people to argue’ thing is absolutely true. If someone ignores you, there’s normally a lesson to be learnt.

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However, the Internet doesn’t change. The dicksplashes remain, because their own Community ‘bubble’ allows that toxicity to continue unchallenged. Very few people are either willing or bothered to vilify such behaviour, because in most cases these people are normally functioning members of society. In fact, as long as the current President of the United States can utilise Twitter as a policy tool to push forward intentionally divisive and damaging administrative choices, nothing will change. Legions of white men will be encouraged to be utter morons and treat everybody else who disagrees with them like dirt, women to assert only the impression of independence guided by often fundamentally floored visual prompts which further act as restriction. If you don’t fit those two gender groups or their traditional notions of sexuality? You’re on your own.

So, how do you ever make progress?

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However many times I tell my daughter I love her regardless of what she wears, the spots on her face or the thickness of her thighs, it’s never 100% certain she understands or believes me. That’s the benchmark, in my mind: you do it one person at a time. Start with yourself, and then try and make other people understand what you’re trying to say. Make sure that, when you do, it is accompanied by an openness and honesty that allows you to be clear and concise. Effectively, it means opening yourself to ridicule and scorn, and for those of us who are sensitive to personal attack, that can be a tough ask. However, to survive in the Real World, that’s what it takes. If you decide to put yourself out there, the consequences are just this. You want to make a difference? You will get hurt. Then you have to decide if that’s worth the effort or not.

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If there is one consistent takeaway from all of this, it is that you can forgive others if you wish. However, there are situations and relationships where it is absolutely, positively the best thing for both parties that you never see each other again. Blocks are what they are, court orders and everything else exist because one day, you will encounter the person for whom reason, common sense and decency simply do not exist. There are all the shades in between, but just because your mate’s now great friends with their ex does not mean you are the same. Life works for everyone in a different way, and the trick it seems to me is how you manage to accommodate everything, rather than excluding all the stuff you hate.

I doubt I’ll ever work it out, either.

Why

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It would not be a lie to admit that there is an awful lot going on in my brain right now. I thought this morning about bullet pointing a load of questions and answers, but on reflection that only shows a part of a larger whole being redefined. The biggest takeaway from the last few days has to be that you cannot fix everything. That old adage about picking the battles has never been more true than it is right now. As a result, there needs to be a restriction in social media narration on my part: that work should be done here for the foreseeable future. After all, as someone rather cruelly pointed out a while back, this is my diary, so I should be able to write what I want. If you choose to either read or listen is entirely up to you.

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If you want a metaphor for where I am right now, pomegranate works pretty well. Once upon a time, for the sake of convenience, I’d simply buy a packet that had been mass produced for my morning porridge, until there was the understanding that letting someone else do the work is not only false economy, but an empty gesture. This only happened because Mr Alt was unable to get the pre-packed stuff from the supermarket and came back with a whole fruit. Not wanting to waste the thing I went and looked up how to open it well, set at it, and gained a level of satisfaction that simply did not exist picking up a packet. Convenience has no real meaning to me now, I’d prefer the opposite if it allows time to stop and think.

However, it isn’t just process that I now find soothing. Like the callouses on hands from weightlifting, right thumb and index finger are stained with juice. For a while as a woman I entertained the notion of soft skin and unblemished digits, but that belied my joy of working ‘hands on’ at everything presented. This is a physical representation of what I am becoming: unafraid to push hard, not concerned with superficial. The obsession with beauty falls away, when all that matters is a body fit and strong to work and a brain active enough to argue with myself over details. When you don’t care what other people think of appearance, when the selfie is a reminder of happiness inside and no interest of what is presented… and then I have to stop and challenge that point.

I took this picture, purely and simply, to show off the fact that you can see my arms. I think they’re a decent manifestation of my physical progress, and am confident enough now to not cover them up. My daughter saw this picture and all that mattered was my breasts,Β which is 100% NOT the point. Someone else commented on my muscle tone, which was a lovely compliment but also not why it was taken… and then comes the realisation that any picture I take is going to be interpreted like this going forward. What I want from the process is vastly different from what is perceived by others: I knew a month of dissecting John Berger would have use.Β From now on, I think everybody would be best served by me just presenting pictures that focus simply on the point I want to make. Next time, take a picture of the shirt without me in it.

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Sometimes, you shouldn’t live life in public. My problem at present is having no-one to talk to about what’s going on at length because it’s a stupidly busy week and for the last three night I’ve fallen asleep before getting to see my best mate. There is no time to relax and go see anybody else either or kick back, because of the shittonne of work to do first. The state of affairs is, in itself, nothing to complain about either. However, somewhere between 2000 and now the World seems to believe the only way to live successfully is to share every single detail of your life on a minute by minute basis. That’s great if the person concerned is able to cope with the inevitable consequences, but not so awesome if they can’t. In fact, being invited to watch people publicly meltdown cannot be far off.

Hang on, I just invented Reality TV.

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I need a lie in on Saturday. It’s the first day of the Summer Break. I can manage that. Then I need to clear all the backlog of work I have so that I can start fresh on Monday, despite saying I’ll take the weekend off. After that? There are lots of things to change, to improve how life works, they all just need to be planned an implemented. With less time spent narrating on my life and more time really living it?

Yeah, this is utterly doable.

Little Lies

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For the best part of twenty years, I’ve been trying to escape the gravity of a particular insult. Most of the time I manage to succeed, but occasionally comes the point when, after a flashpoint or a particularly stressful situation, that derogatory term is wheeled out. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve asked for it to stop, but people have short memories and often find it easier to wheel out the nuclear option early on in a ‘discussion’ when they know it’ll end the debate and reduce you to mush.

Trying to explain to people what depression does to you is fucking hard work when you’re stuck in the dark. In those moments when all you hope for is a light and a friendly hand to help pull you though, often comes the realisation that yet again, there is no magic cure. Nope, still not getting better here, but managing everything far better than I have at any point in my life. I spend far less time stuck and disorientated, because now I can sit and write out the words I’m unable to vocalise under pressure.

Yes, anxiety is a pig. No, I don’t like being like this. Yes, I am trying to not get angry. No, shouting at you because that’s how I learnt to deal with this as a child is not the solution either. Really, truthfully, all this makes sense, even with approximately zero hours sleep. It is roughly akin to knowing the pieces you have in a puzzle make a picture, but you don’t have a visual guide on what that finished ‘thing’ looks like. There is the ability to pick out notable features and find the other bits to make a portion of a completed puzzle, but the lack of comprehension to work out how each feature in that whole is connected.

What makes it worse is that I’ve learnt to live without the need for completion. Closure is not going to suddenly make me happy. It won’t ‘cure’ me overnight. Management is the key now, I realise: if you really think that makes me less spontaneous, I’m sorry. This is the most adventurous and confident I’ve been for years. I’d not be pursuing the Patreon and trying to make sense of it all either. There would be no forward momentum. All I do now is forward, and I refuse point blank to go back. I know every mistake left in my wake. Honestly, you don’t need to remind me of any of them.

I am the problem here. That is an understanding that can exhaust me on the days when everything else is impossible. Trying to function as ‘average’ is an ambition on days like today, and guess what? I’m doing it. This is real, tangible progress. It might not look that way but trust me on this, if this was my last day on Earth I could say that yes, things were great, despite all of the turmoil that exists inside me. Sure I’d like to be happier, but sometimes, to make it up to the next level of your adventure, something needs to be left behind to lighten the load.

Writing makes me happy. Being able to speak without fear, and not to care that no-one could listen. That’s not the point any more: for so many years my voice did not matter and was irrelevant. I was never heard, truly, for what I was. Now I have a chance to change that and it will take a force of nature to separate me from this joy, for that is what it is. It is why I am happier than I have ever been, even on the days when surrounded in darkness. Finally, I am free to be what I have always been.

This is my true voice.

Fool’s Gold

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‘You’re not spontaneous enough …’
‘you quote tweeted me mate, with a killjoy comment …’
‘your arrogance and sanctimony are the problem …’
‘If you’d have done this properly there wouldn’t be an issue to begin with …’

… and so the list goes on. All of these have been levelled as criticism at me in the last seven days, and more. I remember each one, and try and deal with them in the way I think is appropriate. You try not to get angry, but inevitably it happens. That’s also the case with being upset, too. Some of this really hurts, I won’t lie, because I do remember every incident and find it quite hard to let go of things. There’s also no avoiding the fact that some of it is true. However, at the root of all of all my thinking lies a basic understanding that it takes two people to start a fight.

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When that happens however almost every time a social interaction takes place, it is time for reassessment. Looking at all these flashpoints to work out what has gone wrong, it is clear where everything starts. I can’t be spontaneous. I don’t agree with your definition of fun. I don’t think certain organisations are beyond criticism. I did do it properly, I made sure of that, but that ended up not being enough. It’s a combination of intractability and inability, and because I’m fighting through a quite difficult bout of darkness, other people won’t know this. So, I have to tell them, but when those people don’t care, won’t listen and find it easier to dismiss you as an idiot? C’est la vie.

Oddly, some of these people want to make it about them when its none of their business to. Having a fight with me, the Queen of Internet Trolls, becomes a badge of honor (misspelt for a reason) as does the desire to correct or simply use a contrary point of view as a stick to beat someone with. It gets worse when people don’t understand what is going on in your head and you’re forced to struggle through the words to explain it. If you can’t do that? God help you. Also, explaining that you’re still able to work and function PLUS you feel like this? How do you cope? Well, sometimes I don’t, like right now. It takes five minutes to write a sentence, and then everything shifts inside a little, redistributes and settles, and you move on.

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Sometimes you wish it would all just go away, but there’s only one way that happens. You wish people would accommodate differences, but so many won’t (even though they’ll say they do.) You block the people who you think are poking you to pleasure themselves, try to reason with those that might listen, and hope the people who love you might one day try to understand more about what makes you tick. You don’t stop following your dreams even though other people openly deride the effort. You still force yourself into the world and try to interact with strangers again and hope that maybe you’ll make a connection. Mostly, never giving up is the key. Just keep walking. Try and make a difference. For every step back, take two forwards.

The whole thing is just so mentally exhausting it beggars belief, but if you don’t remind people almost constantly that for every 100 people in the UK, nearly four of them will have suffered from depression at some point in their lives… I know how short memory can be. Then people don’t want to be reminded anyway, because they know what your problem is and maybe if you just stopped going on about it and cheered up a bit… Yeah, I understand I’m the problem here. That’s never been an issue at all. Now what needs to happen is for YOU to grasp that if we are going to exist in the same space, that’s just not the case.

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It takes two people to start a fight.

I’m well aware of my shortcomings. How about you?

Blue Skies

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Not every day is brilliant. What bothers you might not be the same as other people. It is really easy to get hung up on details. Every day you are lucky enough to wake up, have food on your table and a roof over your head should be sufficient to keep you happy, but that’s inevitably not the case when all that can be seen are your own failings. Trying to understand why happy is not possible for other people is, like it or not, like trying to catch smoke. All of these could start a blog post today, but I choose to use them all.

When you live with depression on a daily basis, watching other people having to deal with it can be rather uncomfortable. There is no instant fix: each person’s reaction to the demons is different. You can try and find a solution to their peculiar situation and that’s great if you do, but this relies on the person wanting to be helped. Communication therefore can be fraught, or even impossible: if someone refuses to listen, there’s nothing that can be done. You have to hope that a gesture or an assertion might make a difference, but that is all it is: hope.

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I know that, for a long time, I did not want to hear a lot of what was said. The impetus was not just on other people to accommodate the shortcomings and understand what was needed. There had to come a point where, like it or not, I had to get off my arse and contribute. I can tell you exactly when those moments occurred, and what the consequences were when this happened. Some sent me backwards, but most were enough in combination to help force an escape from crippling internal fear. Now, the concerns are wrapped around staying put, and not letting circumstance snap back.

That person that I was is frightening, looking backwards on history. Selfish, inward facing, supremely arrogant. Nothing was my fault. Everybody else was the problem. Me now, in this space, is nowhere near perfect but I have shit under control. Knowing what causes the issues really helps, controlling situations in terms that allow things not to be stressful or confrontational. The problem will come, undoubtedly, when something major hits. Illness, death, trauma… all have the potential to throw everything skywards,Β  destroying sanctity.

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Depression is a deeply personal experience, and impossible to accurately quantify. I’m incredibly lucky to have people around that care and understand, that will listen and sympathise, but some of them still don’t get how to deal with me. I’m keeping busy because it stops me from thinking about the bad shit: please don’t guilt me into feeling bad because of that. It isn’t you that’s the problem, it is ALWAYS me so please give some extra space to allow problem solving to happen. Trying to explain this to people is hard. Some days, this is the best way: at a distance, so there’s less emotion involved.

I’m learning as much as everybody else how living with depression works.

Saturday

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I was awake at 1am, waiting for Mr Alt to return from a cross-country fit, and it was not nearly as tough as I’d thought. Once upon a time nocturnal was a default, but now it is far happier on everybody that I sleep early and often. Yesterday was an extra PT session, using vouchers I had left over from the surgery downtime. It was weights, heavier than I have ever lifted before, plus more work on my trunk, which is the part of me that requires the most attention. The difference today is already noticeable. As soon as I’m done here it’ll be a sandwich and then off for an afternoon walk/run. I really don’t want to lose momentum.

This week has gone beyond well, far exceeding expectations. I’m already planning articles for next week, quite apart from the Internet of Words stuff that is scheduled. There’s even a space left to look at a novel starting on Monday, and I don’t remember the last time there was a desire to do that. It is primarily because everything is back in my own hands, no issues with health (either physical or mental.) Knowing full well how life works, it is time to make this weekend really count. Relaxation is all well and good but, as I discovered last weekend, you can balance both downtime and effort. Like everything else, it just takes practice.

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That means less words, and more action. Time to get shit done.