Monday, 16 May 2016

On depression and anxiety

Picture: Ted Ed/Helen M. Farrell/Metro

I haven't sullied the pages of the internet with my execrable blogdumps since 2012, having decided that no one is remotely interested in anything I might possibly have to say. This week is Mental Health Awareness Week. And in 2012, I was diagnosed with depression. Which, in hindsight, might be connected with my firm belief I have nothing of worth or interest to say on any topic...

I have decided to break my blog slience just this once, to write down what it feels like. I am, as I type, in the midst of the deep, dark embrace of my illness - I have good days, average days, crap days, alright days and completely fucking awful days. Today is one of the latter. I'll try to describe it.

I didn't sleep last night. Anxiety made sure of that. Anxiety (for me) is a hollow feeling in the stomach, a shakiness in the limbs, a blurring of the thoughts, an inability to focus on any one thing but instead a compulsion to think about, worry about, fret about, obsess about everything. EVERYTHING. It's the little voice that tells me I'm an idiot, a fuckup, worthless, pointless, that everything I ever have ever done was wrong, and that everything I ever try to do in future will fail.

Anxiety, in short, is a bastard.

Anxiety and depression often go hand-in-hand, I'm told - which both makes perfect sense, and is one of the meaner tricks played by whichever vengeful bearded tit / psychotic sky fairy / unfeeling, unknowing universal physical law you currently believe is the ultimate creator of all things. This double whammy combination joins forces to lay its victims low and keep them down.

Depression (again, for me - everyone has different experiences) is an absolutely insurmountable sense of hopelessness. It is a barrier between me and my life. It locks me in a room, away from anything that is enjoyable, fun, worthwhile. It is like being held down under a soft but immensely heavy and enormous duvet - both utterly terrifying and yet, at the same time, sometimes strangely comforting. It restricts movement, limits vision, makes it hard to breathe.

My depression was a significant contributor to the breakdown of my marriage last year, and it is THE significant contributor in my inability to move on. It contributed by making me ridiculously defensive and thin-skinned, unable to bear being criticised (being able to take criticism being an essential skill in any marriage), sometimes making me loathe any human interaction to the point of hiding away in a room rather than converse with my wife or kids. It crippled me emotionally, so that even when I knew I had upset my wife, even when I knew all I had to do was say sorry, to climb down, to show some warmth, to BE A HUSBAND, I was incapable. Even though I wanted to make things better, it stopped me. It made me pathetic.

And pathetic is how I remain. Nothing seems to be able to shift it. I've tried a bewildering combination of drugs with unpronounceable names, none of which have done anything much beyond giving me some expertly-produced nightmares and a mouth drier than Charlie Brooker's sandpit. I've tried counselling, but I hate the sound of my own voice. On more than one occasion, I've had the nerve to trouble the Samaritans with my inconsequential bullshit, thereby undoubtedly depriving someone in much greater need of their invaluable services. Yet here I remain.

Anyway, enough. Writing this down has made me feel a bit better. It's a bit like talking about it to some of the real friends I used to have. Thanks for listening. And if you're in a similar boat, try writing it down too.

UPDATE: November 2016.

Since I wrote this, I have had what I suppose would best be described as a mental breakdown. After learning of the death of a friend, albeit a distant, virtual one, and having come to the conclusion that life really is a pile of fucking old shit, I resolved to turn it in. So one Monday morning, I woke up, decided that I would not go to work that day, and instead I would wander into town, have a look in the shop windows, maybe grab a coffee and throw myself under a tram.

I called my manager, said "hello cough I'm afraid cough I won't be in work today I'm cough cough not very well" and got dressed. Before leaving the flat, I paused. Did I want to do this? Could I do this? No. I could not. I didn't care about me any more, but I couldn't do it to the people I love. And who, to one extent or another, love me. My kids. My mum. My friends. Others.

So I didn't. Instead, I called my mum. She had no idea. No idea. She knew of my marriage breakdown but everything was fine, mum, hey, shit happens, you know, fuck it, life goes on. She obviously knew I was talking bollocks - I'd broken down in front of her at Christmas, albeit that I'd brushed it off as a side effect of the appalling red wine she insists on buying.

She got me emergency counselling. Paid up front, talk about anything, or nothing, or something. Just talk. Which I did. And I went back to the GP, said I had to get help, got sleeping pills, got anxiety meds, got anti depressants, got beta blockers, got the lot. And they worked. It all worked.

What I'm saying is: don't give up on yourself. Reach out. Ask for help. It's there. If not from family, then friends. If not from friends, then professionals. Someone will listen.

I'm in a better place than I was 6 months ago. I know I'm not out of the woods but the woods seem like a less scary place now. Might even get a tent and a CampingGaz stove and settle down here. The squirrels seem friendly.

Help is there, if you need it. Ask me on Twitter if you want.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Spirits Blamed for Mysterious Wet Patches

"Marie Williams says she feels free of the spirits that have plagued her home."

Well, that's good news, isn't it? No one wants their home plagued by spirits, do they? So if you were plagued by spirits, but now you're not plagued by spirits any more, on balance, you'd probably be pleased to be free of any spirits which might have been knocking about the place, you know, being all plaguey and that. (And, it seems, leaving mysterious wet patches all over the place. As they do.)

By way of background, Marie Williams is a fat credulous northern bogdonkey largish Sunderland lady who, according to an article in that esteemed newspaper the Sunderland Echo has been plagued by spirits for quite some time. The unkind among my small but enormously stylish readership might suggest at this point that she had been plagued by spirits of another, more earthly, sort but that wouldn't be very nice, would it?

So, there she is, all plagued by spirits. Until, that is, Derek Acorah turned up.

You may know Derek as the orange-skinned "medium" from that perenial favourite of the terminally shitwitted, "Most Haunted". Or, you may know him, as I do, as a lying, fraudulent, semi-literate, manipulative, greedy sack of shit who should be put away for a ten-stretch for obtaining money under false pretenses.

Derek, it seems, somehow heard about Marie's plaguing problems, and out of the goodness of his heart, he offered to perform an exorcism on the house. This he did by sprinkling salt across a doorway and somehow sealing up an imaginary portal to "the other side" which had allegedly manifested itself in Marie's front room.

There are so many things wrong with this picture that I don't even know where to start
Now, look. Quite obviously, there were no spirits, plaguish or otherwise. The woman is an idiot, and should be gently but firmly told that either she shuts the fuck up and stops complaining, or the horrid people from the Social Services will be calling round. Again.

And, also quite obviously, Acorah is a Ronsealed turd in a hideous jumper, who shouldn't be allowed out of a secure unit, let alone given money - oh, and I am very sure that he was given money - to sprinkle condiments on people's floors and have his picture taken in nasty living rooms showing off his ghost kung fu moves or whatever the fuck he thinks he's doing in that photo.

One quote from the Echo article emphasises quite how irredeemably thick Marie Williams is:

"The people who have helped us from the beginning – Sean Roper, Mike Halliwell and Steve Taylor – have been fantastic and have never asked for a penny."
Those three, by the way, all claim to be psychic, or clairvoyant, or a spirit guide, or "gifted" - or, as we say in the real world, liars. And they can't have been that fantastic, can they? Otherwise there'd have been no opportunity for Derek Fucknugget Acorah to get involved, would there?

You can read the Echo article here: Do feel free to tweet @derek_acorah to tell him what a massive human tampon he is (I'd do it myself, but he's blocked me).

Monday, 20 February 2012

Some pictures I took from the London Eye. I mean, I didn't take them "from" the London Eye - they're my pictures, the London Eye can't take pictures. Well, unless you count that stupid touristy automatic camera when you're coming in to "land". That's what they call it, you know. "Coming in to land". It's a hangover from when it was sponsored by British Airways, I think. These days it's EDF Energy so the whole "coming in to land" thing makes no sense, but then EDF is a French company (EDF stands for "Electricité de France" which means Elecricity of France) so they're probably all too drunk or too stupid or too busy surrendering or some other cliché about French people to do anything about it. Anyway, I took these pictures while I was on the London Eye. It was dark, so I had to use a long exposure. I wasn't able to set the shutter speed so I had to rely on the automatic "night scenery" setting on my shitty little camera. It's not actually "shitty", I mean, that would be disgusting. It's just not very good. Well, it's good, compared with compact cameras of even just a few years ago but it's not as good as, say, a DSLR. I used to have a DSLR but it broke. Well, I still have it, but it's broken, so it doesn't count. I miss it.

Anyway, here are some pictures I took from the London Eye:

St. Paul's + The National Theatre Part I

St. Paul's + The National Theatre Part II

The Shard I

The Shard II

St. Paul's Heartbeat (140bpm)

St. Paul's + OXO Tower

The Nuthouse I

The Nuthouse II

Well, that's it. If you like them you can buy prints by, I dunno, taking your computer down Snappy Snaps and asking them to print them out. If you want, you can buy them off me, but I doubt you'd want to do that. But if you want, you can. If you want. All pictures are © me 2012 until I die and for quite a long time after that so if you steal them for commercial gain I will be legally entitled to come round your house and do a smell in your kitchen.

How the BA / Olympics campaign SHOULD look

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Surviving Hell

So you're in Centerparcs. Let's not get in to how you got there - it probably involved a drunken conversation with your other half in which you blithely agreed with everything she said in the vain hope that she'd shut the fuck up and let you hear what was going on on "The Walking Dead".

Ironically, how much of the plot you were able to understand - between witterings about curtain fabric and what her mother has done now - will directly affect your chances of survival in the depths of the forested hell in which you now find yourself.  Because surviving a zombie holocaust requires almost exactly the same skills required to survive your own expensive ordeal.


I'm going to provide you with some basic rules to improve your chances of getting out alive and with your sanity intact. I have experience here - through various mishaps and misadventures, I have found myself in that betwigged hell a total of three times. And each time, I got out by following some very simple, but very important rules of engagement. Come with me if you want to live...

1. Know your environment. The first thing you need to do, before you have even unpacked, is to work out your exit routes. Get hold of a map, and plot the key strategic locations. Firstly, where have you parked your car? You don't know? Then I am afraid you're dead. The car park is HUGE - you saw the bastard when you arrived. You MUST know precisely where your vehicle is located AT ALL TIMES - escape on foot is not possible. There is nothing - NOTHING - within a day's walk of the gulag worth walking to. There are, however, two prime objectives reachable by car: a supermarket and a pub. Find out where they are. Failure to do so WILL result in failure, soldier. There will be only one exit from the camp, so get to know it.
Learn this. Learn it.

Another key point on the map is your chalet - I'm sorry, but that's what it is, so you can call it a "lodge" as much as you like but we all know the truth. This is your safe haven. Yes, it might have peeling wallpaper and a broken toaster, and there might be a highly suspicious smell coming from the toilet. But it has lockable doors and a fridge in which to keep the all important cache of the one substance that will save your life

2. Booze. You have to have some booze. Not just some, a metric twatload of the stuff. Whatever your preferred tipple, it is vital that you keep your fridge stocked with enough of it to float a medium-sized guided missile cruiser. "Oh, but we have kids", you cry. Fuck 'em, I say. They're having fun, they don't know the horror. They don't know, man. They don't know. Put them in bed and tie one on - trust me, it's the only way.

If, through poor planning or base stupidity, you don't have alcohol in your chalet (shut up, it is), then it is imperative to locate and patronise a bar at the first opportunity. There will be several to choose from in your locale, but there will be only one which is not packed to the rafters with soul-eating zombie shitblasters. Your target will be the one furthest away from what is laughably known as the "pool complex' but which you will come to know as the Watery Portal to Hades Populated By Satan's Least Attractive Demons From The Lowest Pit. Find this bar, make it your own, hope it has a soft play area for the kids. Make full use of this unlikely sanctuary, but do not, no matter how famished you may be, eat there. The food is drugged and you will end up like the rest of the mouth-breathing, tracksuit-clad morons you previously disdained. And most importantly of all:

3. Do not, ever, regardless of the circumstances, make direct contact with any other guest/inmate. Conversation will be required, on occasion, with the guards/staff, but this should be kept to the bare minimum. "Beer, two, now" or "Bike hire, where, now" will suffice. DO NOT speak to or touch the other guests, as they will almost certainly be infected with the F-virus (fuckwittius cocktwatianus). I have personally seen people - seemingly normal, healthy people - make conversation with the evil daft, leading to an invitation to get together for a bike ride the next day and their inevitable disappearance.

4. If you have children, you will have no choice but to go swimming in what I call "the hive" and what "the others" call "the pool". It's like walking into a moist, overheated cavern full of cunts. DO NOT SWALLOW THE WATER. And get out as soon as you can.

5. When walking in the forest, stay alert. The controllers let the victims have bicycles, even though it is abundantly clear that they lack the basic coordination or understanding to control the bloody things. Listen out for the sounds of approaching doom - screeches of "Wayne, I cahn make ver fuckn fing stop!" or "har har didjoo see ver look on vat old bloke's face when I kicked im into the bushes". Protect your loved ones and return to the relative safety of your lodge as soon as possible.

As with global thermonuclear war, the only winning move is not to play. But if you cannot avoid exposure, follow these simple instructions and you should live to fight another day.*

*I accept no liability for injury, death, loss of or damage to possessions, descent into lunacy or discovery of lumps in the danglies resulting from any advice provided in this blog.