Category Archives: Tips for dealing with depression

Blogging – My road map to where I was, where I am and where I might be going.

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Blogging – My road map to where I was, where I am and where I might be going.

I started blogging nearly a year and a half ago. When I started I was quite depressed and about to go into therapy. Now, I am relatively happy and finished therapy some time ago. Looking back on my older posts, I am struck by how things have changed for me in that time.

I think we can all look back on our lives and think ‘I can’t believe I used to be like that’. This can happen in two distinct ways. I look back sometimes and ponder that I was so much more depressed than I am now. I can also look back and wonder why I worry so much now about what people think when I used to not care what others thought of me.

The post in which I wrote about self-harm is still the one that startles me the most simply because I can’t believe I did that. I literally still have the scars to prove it, so I have to face the fact that I did. However, that was where I was, and now is where I am. I do not do that anymore and the only thoughts I have about it now are the ghostly reflection of a now dead thought process.

I can see how my blog posts mostly were on an upward curve during and after therapy. There were of course the occasional dips but therapy does have the habit of unearthing things I had not realised I felt or recalling times I had completely forgotten. That’s therapy for you. What I really like about my blog is that I can’t change the way I remember my life. It is there for me to see in black and white with warts and all.  It is also there for me to see all the good and happy moments I have had as it is all to easy for me to forget the 99% good in favour of the 1% bad.

Yes there were low moments, but what I focus on is that I had a lot more good moments and the low moments lasted for a lot less time. That process led me to where I am now. Where I am now is a good place, but I can’t help but feel I need to drive myself forward to really achieve what I want from life. So, where am I going? Now, that is a question.

Having seen where I have been and where I am now, I am desiring to go to a place I actually want to go. That place is to be happy, positive and of help to others. I am seeking to achieve this by simple steps at first. I have decided that I am going to focus on positive or happy news on my radio show as there is enough doom and gloom to go around as it is and I think the world deserves to be seen in a better light. It is a wonderful place afterall.

I am going to blog more about being positive and happy as I am hoping that it can turn into a positive rather than vicious cycle. I believe that if I concentrate on the good I can feel the polar opposite to how I felt when I focussed on the bad and was depressed. The wheel can go both ways.

Finally, I going to try and be happy and positive. This last one is hard. It is not always easy to do this. It is cold outside, I am tired and want the work week to be over. However, I can look at this another way. I am inside in the warm, I can sleep well in a bed tonight and I am lucky enough to have a job that pays enough for me to be comfortable, if not extravagant. Then again, I never was much one for extravagance. Then I plan to keep trying to be happy. I might falter on the way, but I believe it is a better plan to have than to let my emotions be at the mercy of life’s whims.

Take care buddies,

David.

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Max Payne 3 and beating of levels of depression.

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Max Payne 3 and beating of levels of depression.

I wanted to post something I wrote a while ago. I did not write it as a post or a blog. I just wrote it the morning after a bad night. I want to make something very clear. I am not in this position anymore. I am very happy, off anti-depressants and do not need therapy anymore. However, I do know that a lot of people find it hard to talk about depression and I figure it might help someone. Also, I think depression needs as many kicks in the balls as it can get.

Max Payne 3 and the beating of levels of depression. 

As I lay in bed early afternoon, still drunk from the night before and feeling new levels of self loathing and depression a tiny thought snuck into my head. It was to do with Max Payne 3 and depression. Max Payne has a special place in my heart. The original is still my favourite game. Max Payne 3 saw me through two separate instances on depression when I was signed off from work for over two months. It kept me occupied and from thinking about self harm. It mostly worked on this count. It kept me from thinking too many dark thoughts and gave time for my anti-depressants to do their thing. The reason it helped was that I became very good at it. I say this not to brag – but hey, who I am kidding? I completed the New York Minute Hardcore mode. I completed a thirty gigabyte game all the way through without dying, under a time limit. What has this to do with depression I hear you rightly ask? A tiny thought that snuck into my brain I answer. What if I put that same level of dedication, patience, attention to detail, honing my reflexes, learning the rules of that world and how to break them, remembering what enemy came out of where and how to dispatch them and not dying into beating depression as I did with Max Payne 3? With depression being the cunt that it is, I will have ample opportunity to replay the same level over and over again until I know it off by heart. As I write this, I have a recurring image playing behind my eyes of me calmly cutting the skin on my left arm. My natural reaction is to repress this. Who would want to think about that? Or acknowledge that they are thinking about doing that to themselves? Perhaps I should remember it. I should remember every bloody detail of it. How the skin separates from the flesh. How, even though I know how much it hurts, I do not stop myself from doing it. The fact that it feels good. I should remember this like the garage scene on the first level of Max Payne 3. I can see it now although it has been over a year since I played it last. Max slides behind a pillar. Enemies run into to cover. The boss is dragged away behind a locked gate. And go…
I should remember thoughts of self harm in this way. I should think of ways of beating this thought. Not dealing with, but beating it. Otherwise I am simply playing the same level over and over again and not wanting to get past it. Which is exactly what I have been doing. So how do I beat this? As I write this I admit I do not know the answer. Yet, even as I write this, another thought has come to me. What would Max Payne do? I do not say this lightly, mockingly or without all due respect to anyone who has ever suffered or suffers depression. I say this as an exercise in thinking through how to beat depression. So, what would old Maxy boy do if a hailstorm of depressive gunfire assailed him?

Option 1: Get into cover.

Ok. Good idea. When depression hits it can hit hard and contrary to logic, when I am at my happiest. It makes sense to bunker down and try to survive. The problem with cover though is that it is purely defensive. I can hide and hope the enemies won’t flank me and creep up on me and eventually, get me.

Luckily, Max Payne makes a habit of not staying in cover. He attacks, but he attacks with a set of skills.

Option 2: Slow down time.

Admittedly, a nifty trick to pull off and one we all wish we could do. Depression does not like me to try this. As soon as I take that first attempt at a calming breath, the panic sweeps in, the rage explodes in my chest and anger swamps my brain. Of course it does this. Depression does not want me to be calm. It is more effective if I am not calm. Much easier to knock me off balance and keep me that way. Yet, is this any different to learning how to guide Max through a burning office building? The principles are the same. Pressure, a need to escape the situation, intense heat. So, I know when I try to calm down depression will fight back. So, I need to find a way to fight back too. Not necessarily harder, just a way that wins. As I write this I do not know how to succeed at this. I am hoping an answer comes to me. I think being in cover while trying to stay calm is a start. Sadly in real life, cover is not always available. Being at work with colleagues does not give a lot of space to cover and deal with an onset of depression. Not withstanding the embarrassment of being depressed at work in the first place. Then again, maybe I have to find my own cover and not rely on it being readily available. Toilet breaks, pretending to smoke to be safely alone for a few minutes, emergency phone call from home that has to be taken can all be ways of getting into cover, even if only for a few minutes. But in those few minutes, I can calm down. I know I have talked my self down from some desperate heights before. Every time I did I had to regain control first. And that came from breathing and forcing myself to be calm. I know this is a contradiction, but desperate times call for desperate measures. In this instance it is a pure battle between me wanting to be calm so I can back to being happy, or at least as close to it as I know how to be and depression wanting me to not be happy. Depression has a whole host of ways to do this. The cocksucker uses my own unconscious against me. It knows secrets that I am not consciously aware of (thanks a bunch repression). It is the perfect time to attack. So what are my options? Breath. Force every other thought out of my head through pure force of will power and a desire not to be beaten and to complete this god damn bitch of a level. One thought. Breath. When I achieve that, everything does not become easier. It is still hard. It is now manageable. Which brings me onto what Max would do next.

Option 3: Attack.

Max leaps out of cover guns blazing. Enemies, stunned by this sudden and unpredicted assault fire wildly, missing him by inches. But those inches are enough. Bullets slam into his foes; they go down in grisly heaps one by one and they are all dead by the time Max hit’s the floor. I know right? If it only it were that simple. The truth is that the ninety nine times I did it this way before I succeeded in my hundred attempt resulted in Max being shot down before I killed anyone and seeing that damn loading screen that told me I had let people, especially Max, down. Max did seem to want to assist his own downfall in this regard by continuously jumping into danger at every available moment. My therapist and my fiancé (who is also a counsellor) would not doubt find it interesting that Max is my hero. A man doomed to tragedy no matter what he does. Yet, that is why he is my hero. He digs himself out of the trouble he finds or puts himself in.

The completing of the game can be done in many ways. My way was to use all of the advantages Max has. This seems fair to me. He is facing a literal army of enemies so needs all the help he can get. My own troubles are much less considerable. So Max Payne tactics should work right?

Get into cover first. Then calm down. Then, using all my knowledge and experience of my depression, where my enemies are going to jump out from, where they are going to lay in wait for me, focusing my aim so I do not miss my targets and staying alive, I can beat my levels of depression. Right?

As I write this I do not know. Yet. I do think I might be able to beat the first level of depression by doing something I should have done a long time ago. Like old Maxy boy, it is time to dry out a bit. Quitting drinking is going to be hard. Luckily, I do not really enjoy it anymore. It affects my anti-depressants too, which is another genius way I have tried to get better before now. Now though, I am seeing it as the option menu before I start the game. I simply need to set it to the ‘not drunk’ setting. As I am a fan of the hard mode of games, I can be ok with this as I have made it plenty hard enough before, and maybe this once, it is ok for me to start this game on easy mode.

So, I will give this idea a try. Now, if there were only something to help me stay occupied so I do not drink for the next seven days. Ah…good old Max saves me again.

Take (the best) care buddies,

David.

[Image retrieved from here]

Last Day of Therapy Feels Like My First Day at School.

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Last Day of Therapy Feels Like My First Day at School.

I have been feeling antsy all week and I have only just put my finger on what is bothering me. I am finishing therapy tomorrow and I am feeling like I did on my first day of school when I was five. You know, that moment when your mum or dad’s hand lets go of yours and you have to walk in all by yourself? I admit that it is strange to compare the five year old me and the thirty-seven year old me that I am now. However, it is the best comparison to how I feel at the moment.

Aw jeez louise, my therapist girlfriend is going to have a Freudian field day with this. I am comparing my therapist to my mother and talking about abandonment issues. Although, it is not really abandonment in either case. It is merely what it feels like. If anything, I am abandoning my therapist and not the other way around. I guess it comes down to the same concept; having to do something by myself and not having someone’s hand there to hold mine.

The image of a blank slate is coming to me now. At five, I was a blank slate ready to be taught, which I presume is the reason for going to school in the first place (but that could be a whole other can of worms). Now, I am thirty-seven and I feel like I am a blank slate again. The negative/depressing thoughts I used to have are no longer there and I am figuring out what is going to go in their place. I think it is that uncertainty, that feeling of the hand letting go and knowing it is all on me now that is…

What word do I choose? Words are important to me. The choice of one word over another is essential to my recovery and how I plan to go forward in the future. Did you notice I used ‘antsy’ rather than ‘anxious’ at the start? This is not me trying to talk myself into one way of thinking. It is me using the right word to accurately reflect how I feel. I don’t feel anxious. I feel…uncertain. I don’t think it will all go bad when I stop therapy, but I am a liar if I say that I have no fears one way or the other. I am human.

So the word I am choosing is uncertainty. For everything that could be good and everything that could be bad, it is uncertain. Yet, I have made the decision to stop therapy and deep down I have a reason for that. For whatever uncertainties I feel, I believe that I am in a place where I can deal with them without needing a therapist. Now is the time for me to let go of a hand and go and check this big wide world out for myself.

As long as I do not wet myself and blame the puddle on the floor on a leaking radiator this time, I am sure it will all be fine.

Take care buddies,

David.

Can Anxiety Act Like Muscle Memory?

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Can Anxiety Act Like Muscle Memory?

I woke up in a right old pickle today. Actually, I was woken by a text message that I then got into a right old pickle about before I was even fully awake. The message was from a guy I did some gardening work for the first time yesterday. His message was simply to ask what I had got done. The message was simple from his side. From my side, it panicked the hell out of me.

I immediately thought ‘Oh God! He thinks I didn’t do enough work. I must have done a rubbish job. I am going to get fired after just one day.’ Even though I was knackered from my gardening yesterday and was trying to get some sleep before I had to get up for my gardening job today, I could not get back to sleep for worry.

The thoughts about what I had done wrong, or not done enough of went round my head so fast I could power my flat if I ever figure out how to harness anxious thoughts into electricity. Then I started to justify myself about what I had actually got done. I cut down a tree, removed a whole load of ivy from a wall, raked and bagged leaves, weeded flower beds and rather heroically saved a tree from the creepy creepers from a neighbour’s hedge.

On the one hand, I felt I had done enough work to earn my pay, on the other hand, I thought ‘The lady dost protest too much.’ In the end I got up and wrote an email to say what I had completed. Almost immediately, I got a message back saying ‘Cool, when can you come back?’ All that worry for nothing.

Then I wondered why the heck was I panicking? I am not particularly stressed or anxious about anything at the minute, so what gives? Then I thought that maybe that is exactly ‘what gives.’ Anxiety and I used to hang out a lot in the near gone past. Perhaps it is because it has had so little to go on recently that it latched onto the text message out of reflex, or in a similar vein to muscle memory.

I am picturing my Anxiety as an actor that has only got one line in the entire play and is determined to ace it. Naturally, in it’s excitement and desire to stand out, it comes on stage before it’s cue and completely fluffs it’s line. Or as a rubbish super-hero who has fallen on hard times and is trying to force it’s way back into popularity.

Picture the scene. Anxiety Man smashes through a wall and loudly declares ‘Have no fear, Anxiety Man is here. Who needs me?’ No-one needs you Anxiety Man. You just make things so much worse and often for no reason.

For every up there is a down. I am reminded that anxiety and depression have not gone, no matter how well I think I am managing them. Constant vigilance it is then.

Take care buddies,

David.

Poster Boy For Therapy – (Someone Else’s Words, Not Mine).

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Poster Boy For Therapy – (Someone Else’s Words, Not Mine).

I received a bitter sweet message from a friend the other day. It was sad because they told me they were having a hard time at work and were struggling. After talking to their boss, they were referred to a counsellor to help them with their issues. The upbeat part of this was that they said they had never thought as therapy as their thing, but after reading about me discussing my therapy, they felt less self-conscious about the concept and decided to give it a try. They even thanked me for making therapy seem less scary for them, which is the best reason I can think of for what I do on this blog. I mean the ‘less scary’ part, not the ‘thanks’.

It got me thinking. There has been a lot of media coverage recently about making people more aware of depression. While I agree this is a great first step, I am more happy that I have seen lots of people with depression discussing their feelings on sites like wordpress or other blog platforms. I believe this is the next step where depression is seen and spoken about without feeling the social stigma that comes with it, whether that is a stigma we placed upon ourselves or others.

I also think this honesty helps others feel like they can talk about how they feel, whether they are depressed or not. People can see that it is not only them who are down, or that they are not bad or weak people for struggling. I am so glad that someone sought help when they needed it rather than struggling to carry on when help is available. I hate to think of anyone suffering when there is something that could help them feel better.

If you feel down, consider seeing a therapist. It may take time to find the right person, and it may not be for everyone. Yet, I believe it is certainly an option worth exploring.

Take care buddies,

David.

My Optimistic Cup is Laced with Depression – Worst Cocktail Ever.

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My Optimistic Cup is Laced with Depression – Worst Cocktail Ever.

Rage returned to me last night. As I sit here and write this, I am still not sure what exactly I was angry about. I know what I was angry about last night, and I also know they were not the things I am actually angry at. Yes depression, I know you well enough by now to see when you are being sneaky. In the past, I used to let loose at the first thing or person that came along. I hated doing that. Even when I knew that I shouldn’t say the thing I was about to say, I simply could not stop it. Now, I just walk away and say nothing. I am wondering if that is part of the problem.

However, I am getting ahead of myself. I woke up yesterday in a real funk of a mood. It was not good or bad, just meh. I knew something was up, but as I didn’t know what it was, I cleaned the flat and hoped something would shake loose. Nothing came of it, so I just carried on with my day. In the evening, when I was playing Batman Origins, I could the pressure begin to rise. Every little thing was bugging me and the more I told myself to calm down, the angrier I became.

In the end, it was the boss fight with Copperhead that tore it for me. My poor keyboard bore the full brunt of my anger and I amazed it is working at all today considering how many times I hit it. Incidentally, I couldn’t find all the keys when they went flying, so I am typing this on a keyboard that is no longer set out in the standard way. There are odd symbols where old fashioned letters should be.

Then I descended into shouting about inconsequentialities that were not really a problem, but a splinter like sliver of anger had forced its way into my brain and was not bothered about accuracy or who it vented itself of. So, I sent myself to bed before I said anything mean to anyone I care about. It is a shitty feeling to know that at my age, I can’t allow myself to be around people at times. The way I see it, and this is only my opinion, I don’t have the right to ask for forgiveness for bad actions just because I am depressed.

I did five hours of gardening this morning, which was great as it gave me time to clear my head and think through what was bothering me. I am still not sure, but a few things came to me. I wondered about the last time I allowed myself to get angry at something I felt angry at at the time, but walked away and said nothing? I can’t really remember. I know there are times when I should have got angry, but put a lid on it instead. I have gone from one extreme to the other. Getting too angry too fast over nothing to not getting angry at all over things that I should do.

Then another thought came to me. Maybe computer games are my safe middle-ground? I know that I was getting wound up playing Batman, but I did not stop. If anything, I did things to make me more annoyed at the game and stoke my anger. Am I saying that on an unconscious level that I deliberately played less well than I can in order to get beaten by a boss fight time and again as it was a safe way to vent my anger? Yes, I am saying that. It was certainly not me sucking at the game and mis-timing my counters so she beat me to death. Poor Batman. Sorry buddy.

Joking aside, why did I play it on the hardest setting straight away? I knew it would annoy me and it would be harder than it needed to be. Why didn’t I stop when it was bugging me? I think the answer lies with my broken keyboard and my slightly bruised/cut fist. I didn’t hurt anyone else but me and that is more important to me than anything else right now. I am not saying this is a great thing psychologically, but having seen my unfair share of domestic abuse in my teenage years, I am really not keen on the idea hurting others, either physically or emotionally.

I think I run away from getting angry with people because I can’t help but associate it with all the negative memories I have of being a teenager and seeing a guy hit my mum. The fear of ever being an abusive boyfriend/husband scares me more than anything I can think of. I am certain that if I ever did, I would kill myself straight after. I wouldn’t want to live with myself and I wouldn’t deserve to be living with anyone else.

So, I can see that it is me not allowing myself to get angry that is making me angry. God I annoy myself. Well, I think I know what I will be talking about in therapy tomorrow.

So, what has this all to do with optimism? This was my final thought on the subject. I am essentially an optimist. I believe things will work out. The trouble with this is when things don’t work out. Or have yet to work out. I do start to wonder if I am good enough etc to make them work out and questioning myself is a quick and easy route to feeling bad about myself. It is very much a Catch – 22. I think positively that things will work. They don’t work out as I expect. I question what I did wrong. I feel bad. I force myself to think positively that things will work out… and on and on and on. Maybe one day I will figure out how to cut myself a break.

That is something for another day.

Take care buddies,

David.

To thine own self be true (If at all possible)

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To thine own self be true (If at all possible)

I have had this thought circling in my head for a while. I think the easiest way to explain it is to compare it to when I was doing my Drama A-levels and I had to write a short scene in the style of Brecht for homework. I loved getting into his style and using words they way he did and telling a story the way he did. I got a good mark for it, and it might even have been good for the standard of a 16 year-old, but it was not my piece of writing. Or that is how I felt. I had written it, but it did not belong to me. I think the difference is between being inspired by something or just plain copying them.

I explain it this way because the essence behind this idea is linked to a few things I have noticed about my blogging and my own personality. For one instance, I have noticed that I have started thinking and talking in a way similar to someone I listen to on a podcast. I will think of a joke, and then re-work it in my head to sound like it would have been said by this other person and not me. I do not do this all the time, but I am aware of a  change in my inflection, the pitch of my voice, even the rhythm of my voice when I think about saying it like this other person and not me.

I think it is part admiration, part of my brain that used to like to act coming out and thinking how I would play that part on stage, partly that I have done an adaption of Poe stories recently and I am thinking about how I would write the guy’s part in a play, but mostly, I think it is something basic about human beings. Wanting to be popular. Wanting to be noticed. Wanting to admired.

Let’s have another for instance. How many people do you think want to be Beyonce? Not to be like her, but to actually be her? Or be Katy Perry, or Lady Gaga etc? I think there are more than a few. I am not saying there is anything wrong with Beyonce, Katy Perry or Lady Gaga, but I do find the idea of a human being wanting to be more like another human being than themselves fascinating. I wonder which is more prevalent; the desire to be like someone else because they are admired or the need not to be ourself because we do not like who we are?

So, back to me, it is my blog after all. I am hoping that I am not the only blogger who has thought ‘That blog is doing well, maybe if I do something similar, my blog will be as popular.’ I think I have resisted this urge, well, mostly anyway. I will do not deny the desire to do it is pretty strong at times and the desire is usually strongest when I am not feeling confident. So what is that desire?

Does it all go back to wanting to be like the cool kid in school? Is it that basic? Perhaps that is a root of the problem, however I think the tree grows a bit higher than that. I see the phrase ‘See what is trending on …(insert social media of choice) a lot. Someone does something, people imitate it, it gets old. Then the next big thing comes along and the cycle repeats. I admit fully I have wanted to be or joined trends. I am merely wondering why?

So, coming back to the intro. Using the thought that the Brecht scene did not really belong to me as it was a poor copy of his work, was a way to shield myself. I it wasn’t any good, then I could blame the style of writing, and not blame me. I think this is the scariest part about being a human sometimes. Being honest and being yourself is hard. If you are truly being yourself and things go wrong, who or what else is there to blame? It is an admission of ownership and responsibility. This scares me a lot.

I have received a few rejection letters so far, and I admit I have thought a few times ‘Aw. I thought my book was good, but maybe it isn’t. Perhaps if I change it to be more like…’ and then we have a problem. At some point, I have to accept that I will either make it in life or not. I can choose to try and make it or not as me, or as a copy of someone else. The fear of failure as me is strong, but I think the fear of knowing that I did not try my best to succeed as me is greater.

To mine own self be true? Jeez. Being me? A part of my brain just thought ‘Wait, you are going to leave me in charge? I am not sure that is such a good idea with my track record.’ Luckily it is only a part of my brain. Most of it, either voluntarily or because I am bullying them into it is thinking ‘Ok. Let’s make a new track record.’

Now Beecroft, say it again with confidence.

To my own self be true!

(Me: Was the ! enough to convey confidence? Other me: Hmm. Yes. Approved. Now move along).

Take care buddies,

David.