Panic

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Yesterday was a hard one for me. I woke up ready to do a lot of important stuff with my son, who completely forgot we’d organised it. This makes me cross,  but I’m trying not to get angry about it, so there was lots of deep breathing and patience. Then my daughter insisted on rearranging my afternoon. I was about 82% cool about this. After all, until both of them are 18, I am still responsible for actions and that means… well, being flexible. There were days I’d really struggle with this when I (and more importantly they) were younger.

By teatime, I was mentally exhausted, and still hadn’t done a weights day at the Gym, so managed to get myself out of the house. Arriving at said establishment, it became apparent that they were holding a ‘Power Hour’: DJ, lots of free instruction, and no way I’d be able to do what I’d planned. If I’d been in private I’d have just gone and locked myself in my bedroom and cried over the change… however I was stuck in the lobby, waiting to get in.

I panicked.

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Except, this time I didn’t just turn and go home, which was normally how I’d deal with these situations in the past. I focussed on breathing and trying to make the feelings of anxiety and fear into something positive. After all, I’ve been practising all this mindfulness for exactly these occasions. This is the moment where I’m supposed to use the shit to good effect… and I was reasonably successful. There were no (major) tears and a surprisingly dispassionate response to all of it. However, my higher brain functions largely shut down, I forgot how to talk and so just ran and Octane-d. However, I did force myself to do the Negatives in front of about double the normal number of Friday night Gym goers.

I still feel sick this morning: however, once I’ve eaten and had a cuppa I’ll go and walk back there and do the weights I couldn’t do yesterday, so I have done at least two sessions this week. I can return to three next week as everyone is back at school. On reflection, I know now all the reasons why yesterday ended up as it did. I can work out how to make things better based on a whole day’s worth of data. I can also be reassured that the Mindfulness training has 100% improved my entire existence. Yesterday could have ended up as the first day when I truly went backwards on exercise, but instead, it will now be remembered as the first day I fought, beat and won against a panic attack.

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I ache a lot this morning, and very little of it is to do with last night’s exercise, I suspect: stress has begun to physically manifest in my body as I have gotten older. My sleep wasn’t stellar last night either as a result but I got a full 8 hours in total, so that’s enough. I wanted to write this down this morning after a night to reflect because I’m only just beginning to grasp how important yesterday was in making sure I’m mentally prepared for what is to come. Doing stuff on my own used to be a fraught experience, but not so much now.

I look forward to the day when I can breeze through everything and wonder what the fuss was about, to begin with.

Saturday

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I know, instinctively, that the days of not pushing myself are over. The moments when I’d rather just curl up with a duvet and a good book, especially after a poor night’s sleep, are over (at least for now.) Lying awake at 3am this morning, in the midst of a hot flush that was so fierce my skin felt as if it were melting, I remembered the mindfulness practices I am learning and reduced panic to an inhale, exhale, focus on the breath. Amazingly, it worked. There is always this rueful disbelief when something I’ve been taught turns out to not only be helpful, but a revelation.

This week has been a lot of that.

Journeys are not simply getting to your destination: more often than not is the stops along the way that define the final trip. Today, that means sitting in a clubhouse built as Legacy content for the 2012 Olympic Games: a place that is buzzing with life and enthusiasm, where a continuing commitment to sport has become the true significance of events from five years ago. Watching women warm up outside the window, a really decent men’s hockey game on Pitch One below, is the reminder that life happens in ways I forget.

The TV above me is the reminder of a constant backdrop of concerning and often disturbing World news: Brexit, Iran’s missile testing, an escalation of world tensions that then put my existence against an even larger backdrop. Once upon a time all I would have cared about was the stuff that directly affected me. Now I realise that, with 50 years on the clock, the time for such selfishness must be over. The moment has come to try and find ways to give back beyond my personal bubble. How I do that is still very much in flux.

There are starting points, however: the Patreon this week, when I focused on personal development, got more interest than at any point in three months, and I’ve learnt an important lesson in combining academic and individual experience. I’m writing something this weekend to help a friend hopefully resolve a personal issue successfully, grateful I can utilize a skill for good. Then, I am giving back to my husband, which to my shame I should have done a long time ago. He is the kindest and most forgiving of men in that regard, and I am very grateful that there is still the opportunity to do so.

Once upon a time, a Saturday alone would have been my desire, but I’ve spent far too much time alone already. Destiny remains mine to dictate only to a point, and the understanding now that I willfully, for so many years, wouldn’t push myself out of that bubble… it is like looking at someone I no longer know or understand. Most importantly, at 3am this morning, came the final understanding that introspection makes for great poetry, wonderful fuel for fiction, but crap content when I write a blog. The days of blaming myself for things out of my control may finally be coming to an end.

Sometimes I am told I care too much about things that do not matter, in the wider scheme of the planet. When this happened before, my reaction would always be the same: well, it matters to ME and that is all that is really important. Only now do I grasp the truth, that only by stepping back from emotion and truly thinking about WHY things happen can you ever expect to improve as a person. Only after having children has there been the ability to put self aside and truly learn how basic emotional reactions matter, and that you have a direct control over consequence.

Only by being able to accept what is wrong with me have I been able to change.

I’ve officially had enough of introspection. The best work I do however is with that quality at my core and not the periphery. The trick now is to put aside the stuff that doesn’t matter to focus on the people and things who do. Next week is the most important week of my new ‘career,’ where my own actions will effectively make or break a potential stream of revenue. If I’m going to succeed in this venture, I cannot afford to allow myself to lose belief I am able to do so. Sometimes, you instinctively know when you’ve fucked up, and then there are moments when you simply have to trust your gut that this is the right path.

I am on the right path. This is the way forward.

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,  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.

There’s No Other Way

On Sunday, I went with my Husband to the Gym, and ran whist he did a static bike class. Opposite my Treadmill are a set of upright bikes, and 10 minutes into my session in walks a guy with iPad, iPhone and a padded lunchbox. He’d been cycling less than 5 minutes when his breakfast shake in a carton came out, followed by two Digestive biscuits, and I found myself amazed that this was acceptable behaviour inside the Studio. Speaking to my husband about it, people on the static bikes use gels and protein drinks all the time, and now I’m thinking that maybe I’m the one who needs re-education. My relationship with high energy foods is still a bit tenuous, but that’s because my stomach is quite particular about what I stick in it and reacts quite quickly to stuff it decides it doesn’t like, which in the main includes gels. Protein bars we can manage, but anything else?

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My diet has quite radically altered in the last two months, since Christmas was done. I’d been healthy before that point but now it’s become a bit of an obsession. Don’t panic, there are still favourite things thrown in the mix or else this would be boring beyond belief, but given a choice between the calorie rich and the simple, the latter’s winning more and more. It has a lot to do with tracking how much gets eaten, too, and that with simpler food I can begin to grasp exactly how many calories are in a thing so brain knows when to stop. I’m increasingly taking kids sized treats as well, because a lot of them are less likely to be full of artificial crap. Plus, I’ll be honest, I eat a lot of raw fruit and veg but I don’t own a Spiraliser and no, I won’t do any of that ‘clean’ shit any time soon.

However, I think I’ve probably gone too far the way of minimal and need to bulk up at least one meal a day.

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This .gif has no relevance, I just really like it :D

It was also suggested by my husband yesterday that I work out what I enjoy eating when I’m not on a treadmill and maybe focus on adding that to my daily routine, rather than just shrugging and taking the easy option protein bar. I’d had great plans to learn more cookery stuff and six weeks into 2017 that’s all fallen by the wayside, so as of Friday I’m going to try and get a meal prepped every week for the evening that involves at least one portion of veg as standard. So, not going mad, just one thing a week like I was in January, so I can get that back on the habit forming train. It’s also pushed me to stick a Post It note on my screen with #ThingsiLove on it to help as a physical prompt: there needs to be more affirmation of the positive in my life and not a focus on the acceptable or simply sufficient.

This is a good way to keep me sane, I have concluded, that if I look for the love and don’t give it back, it isn’t productive long term. What I need to do more is GIVE the love, and learn how to appreciate the stuff around me without taking it for granted. Once upon a time I’d think this was a bunch of New Age sappiness but now, I grasp the merit in a World that’s crying out for less stupid and more caring. I started last night with a long, lovely cuddle with the youngest, who made me mini-cupcakes at Nan’s so I could eat one and not stress about the calories. If other people are this thoughtful and caring towards me, it goes without saying that I should be returning the favour.

Time to consider everything that goes into my body going forward.

Every Day is Like Sunday

Once upon a time I’d have never seen 8am on a Sunday, but today I woke up and having realised I’d done my eight hours rest for the night, I just didn’t want to stay in bed. So, after getting up and admiring the brilliant iced cake my 11 year old produced on her own last night from scratch, I made breakfast, and because I’ve not yet had a cuppa I put a spoonful of honey in with my porridge without thinking. Taking the first mouthful, I may as well just have eaten the honey directly because that’s all I could taste, and suddenly comes the revelation that I’m done with sweetening a great many things. In fact as I sit here there is the understanding that somewhere between late December and here, something quite fundamental has occurred.

My body no longer craves sugar as fuel.

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That revelation comes from Friday’s binge, where my first port of call wasn’t to reach for cake, but to go buy brown sourdough. In fact it was a sandwich that was far more tempting than any amount of sugary treats that I had to hand. Normally after abstinence in January (I’ve done a couple of years now where I’ve given up the sweet stuff after Christmas) I simply slip back into the old habits like this morning and don’t stop, but that porridge tasted AWFUL. All the subtlety of flavour and texture was ruined by shoving the unprocessed sugar into a place where on reflection, it didn’t belong. If I’d have wanted that sweeter the answer would have been dried cherries, not raw sugar. Before I’d have simply dismissed the oversight and carried on, but not today, because this week I’m going to learn something and not just carry on as if nothing changes.

For the second time in two weeks I’m off to the Gym with my Husband: he does a Spin Class, I’ll do 45 minutes on a treadmill, which is now roughly beneficial to doing 90 minutes if I was here a year ago. It is an opportunity to just relax (as I did last week) that then ends up with me pushing the limits of what I’m capable of, because it’s not being recorded or registered as an ‘official’ session. I now do my Push day on Wednesdays and a Pull day on Saturdays without a thought, though I will admit this week I didn’t Cardio ‘properly’ as I was recovering from the head cold my Son very gratefully passed on. However, all the weights were completed, and in many cases increased so I know I’m not skimping on physical effort. The scales have crept up simply as a result of the physical weight of food I’ve eaten, and that’s (hopefully) something I can deal with today with a largely liquid diet before I weigh in again tomorrow.

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There are days when you know you’ve gone backwards, and often these are the moments when you learn the most about yourself. The last three days have been mentally tougher than anything I’ve experienced for a while, and the revelation that I stuck in the writing blog last night was probably overdue. I can talk about myself now without issue, but the fictional side of things, which traditionally always suffered when there was mental issues to deal with, has been effectively sacrificed in order to get fit. This cannot be allowed to continue and so today, quite apart from the need to not lose impetus, I was up early to write what needed to be done so I can focus later on getting the groundwork done to move forward. Having identified the issue, it would be remiss of me to just ignore the work required to get that fixed. That’s why the personal stuff’s been done first, I can do the gaming stuff now in my sleep, and I have a cracking topic to start on when I get back from the Gym.

My friends have said, on numerous occasions, that I take on too much and can be quite hard on myself when things don’t work as I wish. I’ll happily admit this is true, but at present I know what I’m capable of doing, and that is no more than I currently have on my plate. The effort now must be directed into making sure the time I spend at a screen isn’t wasted, is better organised and has a tangible result. None of these things are impossible or require any changes in current schedule, except when it comes to the shit in my head. Nothing will ever get better unless I make the changes.

So, this is me up on a Sunday morning, doing just that.

Never Make me Cry

Some days, everything gets very bright, almost painfully so. Touching stuff brings more sensitivity to fingers that already define sensation too well. Pieces of music make you cry unprompted. It is as if, suddenly, someone turned the settings up but you weren’t ready for the noise. Ears actually crackle with sounds, there’s a need to eat more, and everything’s an adventure, the best thing you ever did. It becomes really difficult to define your boundaries. Nothing is impossible. These aren’t good days, but you learn to take what’s strongest from those moments and temper the enthusiasm, mould hyperactivity so that in the dark days there are lights in the gloom to travel by.

Then the clouds come, cold insufferable darkness. No, I’m not alright so please stop asking. Pain comes from the historical injuries, old wounds that never close, fights with self and existence combined. Can I remember how to drive? How do I live with other people? Then you walk, or run, or find a weight to lift. Once it was metaphors but now they’re real, reminders that with each KG shifted there are natural drugs to ease this pain. I don’t need a pill to find my sharpness, or a drink to remove the stress. The lights shine, reminders of the good, those who care. Then there’s the understanding, that you’d forgotten again: down’s only half your journey and when it’s up? That’s better, until you hit the top of the roller-coaster. Then we begin again.

Now, I live for average days. I don’t want to be up or down, I’d just take calm. The joy of simply being happy. Warm socks, wet tea, music in my ears and a home that I’m safe in. Living with depression’s a fucking amusement park ride you never asked to go on and life won’t ever let you leave. It’s the Hotel California of mental illness, and you never get a guitar solo. All that can be hoped for is less shit and more peace. I don’t make it an act, and it’s not a fucking spectator sport. Social media is not the place for this, I’m not your performing seal. If you want a breakdown, there’ll be someone else along shortly who’ll be happy to oblige.

I’m just looking forward to the next quiet day.

Never Tear us Apart

When I started talking about mental health on Social media, I was messaged almost immediately by someone who wanted to make sure I was genuine. There were, I was informed, a lot of people on Twitter pretending to have mental issues to draw attention to themselves. This person also decided to inform me of who they considered ‘genuine’ in that department and who could be trusted. I will admit I read that first DM and laughed: then I knew this person had the potential to be quite serious trouble. I’d invaded their patch, as it were, and the first order of business was to come sniff my butt and then lay down terms.

As time has gone on, my suspicions have been confirmed. This person’s crossed swords with an awful lot of people to get to the point where their number of followers has somehow become a metaphor for how capable they are at maintaining this persona online. The stories I’ve seen play out, that people have kindly shared, often with a sense of genuine fear, each confirm that first interaction and subsequently solidifies my belief. Then, when people ask me why I still continue to interact? I have to laugh again: never at them or the incidents, but at the belief that somehow the only way life works is when you make a big thing of who the bad guys are.

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It helps being able to have a villain in order to place everyone in a basic context. It’s nether productive or safe however to start throwing around accusations that only come from other people. The only 100% safe means of burning somebody’s fakeness to the ground is when they directly challenge you and then you then push back with 110%’s worth of irrefutable evidence. Surmise and hearsay is never going to cut it, and once you’ve done that? Well, it’s then a case of how far you want to bury the body. When it comes to being accused of being a fake?  I have no axe to grind. I don’t need to prove to other people that I’m committed to them by burning bridges. Nobody’s forced a ‘it’s me or them’ standoff for some time.

When I think of the drama I’ve directly caused in the past, I don’t regret one iota of it. It wasn’t my mental issues that caused those problem, quite the opposite. It was my inability to make good on promises, or often general laziness. I will happily use these as a stick to beat myself with, but never anybody else. All the flashpoints have resulted from knowing that people stopped acting as decent human beings. They expected too much, or they assumed, or in at least one case took pretty much total advantage of a generous offer. If I were a perfect human being, I could easily hold these up as issues, but as I am so much less than perfect, you don’t start slinging mud. The reason why I am so vague and refuse to name names is that all of this is pointless to begin with. This isn’t REAL drama, and never will be.

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I know how many people matter to me in this virtual safe space. I am also aware that unless I choose it, these people never become anything more than simply at arms length. When they are allowed past the barriers, they know it has happened. It’s not imagined, or staged. I don’t fake friendships for the lulz or the views. I don’t give away shit to increase my followers. I do this stuff because I can, have the money to spare, and because other people derive pleasure from the process. I don’t need the attention, and I sure as fuck know people will survive long after I’ve gone. I’m not indispensable or unique. I’m the Girl who Might, and nothing else right now.

Yet still remains this issue, to be somehow quantified by others’ actions. I have to be honest, I can’t pretend to have a problem. Other people pursue these fruitless attempts to create distorted views of those who seem to oppose them. Everything is a game, and nobody is to be trusted and on some days I laugh when I see what passes for ‘help’ and ‘support.’ I shudder at what some people choose to share and wish they thought more about the consequences. I want to ask some to say more, that their wisdom and common sense is what this platform craves, but these people are the sensible ones who stay away. The clever people know that Social media is dangerous. They are the smart ones who already have a plan to leave.

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All of this often happens in a fifteen minute window, and I wonder why some days Twitter’s such a fucking destructive waste of my time.

This is an odd period for me: I realise that I could be successful without ever needing a single follower on social media, by just doing what I already am. There is absolutely no requirement to equate success with followers, and yet this is what people continue to do, day in and out. Not everyone who appears in your life is there to steal your stuff and make life difficult, so maybe next time someone appears the default setting should not be ‘Threat.’ However, undoubtedly, there are those who must be undisputed owners of whatever spot they find themselves shoved into. I’ve never felt the need to be in charge, yet that’s where I often end up from necessity, because nobody else is prepared to do the work.

Mental illness is a constant and often precarious balancing act. To keep yourself sane, so much else must be weighed and considered. Sometimes, if other people decide they know you better than you do, there’s a temptation to let them do the work, but it will always end in tears. You are the ONLY person who understands your brain. Other people simply live a version of your reality. However, there is no doubt that existing alone is a sure fire method to madness. Ask all the questions, and don’t take the first answer you get as gospel. Be confident in your own mind, and don’t let other people tell you who’s the bad guy.

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Make these decisions for yourself.