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The poem "The Stream” was an illustration that depression is often contextual.

We're currently on holiday and the stream in the poem is in one of my favourite places: The Trough of Bowland, a jewel hidden within the wider Forest of Bowland area of natural beauty.

In fact, the area containing the stream is only a part of the Trough itself, although the whole area is stunning.

When I say depression is contextual you need look no further than the line "No stress, no signal." There is indeed no mobile phone signal, that requires at least a five minute drive in either direction.

At any other time there would be no stress, however, the poem was written whilst waiting for a breakdown truck to look at an issue with the brakes on our car - we had developed a nasty rasping, screeching sound prompting us to seek assistance.

So, how do you call for help in the middle of nowhere with no signal and you can't drive out? Surely that's about as stressful as it gets!

Fortunately, we had some friends with us who could assist with the five minute drive but it was still the type of noise that sounds expensive, potentially causing us to cut the holiday short.

Yet, despite all this, the area by the stream is one of the most calming, relaxing places I know - along with an area in Olden, Norway, next to the Oldeelva river.

Water seems to be a major factor.

If we had been stuck almost anywhere else I can imagine sinking into a trough of despair, all sorts of feelings bubbling to the surface, none of them good. Instead, the Trough just sucks the stress out of you.

Even with all that was happening, those ninety minutes were a blessing.

Status

The StreamComments

Endless transient, fractal patterns,
Belie the apparent calm.
Stone weirs play different notes:
A binaural symphony that alters as one turns the head.
Peaceful, yet with a persistent cacophony.
Ripples spread while eddies cause leaves to rebel against the flow.

The air shifts as the trees sing with an unexpected breeze.
The valley seems almost alive in its own right;
A living home to myriad unseen entities.

No stress, no signal.

A dragonfly briefly dazzles with its aerial dexterity.
Perhaps jealous, flies abandon the wing, instead skating abstract routines.
The splash of a jumping fish,
Lost as soon as it is seen, playing hide and seek.
Unimpressed by the flies' attempts at artistry.

A powered paraglider drifts overhead,
A droning reminder of civilisation beyond the hills.

Time is fleeting, time stands still;
The slowly lengthening shadows the only means to mark its passage.

The Stream

Moral responsibilityComments

While there has been much written about content ownership - especially in an #indieweb context - I have long espoused a moral aspect to it.

The theory is that if your words are on your own site then you are likely to be more considered before hitting the publish button.

There is a lack of responsibility for words when they are just thrown into the social void, especially behind the shield of a pseudonym. The increasing toxicity was part of what drove me away from mainstream social media.

It's interesting, therefore, to see Instagram pioneering a way to instill that sense of moral responsibility in its users by encouraging positive interactions.

Instagram - are you sure?

A supportive place
Using AI to suggest someone might want to rethink a comment - before posting - may seem like a small thing but, if it gives people pause, even for a second, it could contribute to an environment more conducive to maintaining good mental health and should be applauded.

Moral responsibility

Boredom

I started writing something about possibly moving back to iPhone from Android after only a year this time - I tend to switch between them every 2-3 years. In doing so, I began to list the reasons (or maybe justifications) for why I was thinking about it.

I wrote about the problems Huawei have been experiencing (although it looks like they've got at least a partial reprieve) and that I couldn't see any Android phone this year being a sufficient upgrade over the Mate 20 Pro.

I discussed how the keynote speech at this year's WWDC had gotten me excited about the new features coming in iOS13 and that, while Apple were sometimes behind Android OEMs on hardware, they did software with aplomb and the three camera setup on the next iPhone would help to redress the imbalance.

I mentioned my return to blogging and how, now that I am using my Mac more and Drafts is available for said Mac, it made more sense to return to a single ecosystem to better sync between devices.

But then I started writing how I like to freshen things up and the truth hit me: I switch because I get bored.

I've always had a very low boredom threshold but it doesn't stop at just gadgets; it's a problem that extends throughout various aspects of my life.

Experts will tell you there are five types of boredom:

  • indifferent
  • calibrating
  • searching
  • reactant
  • apathetic

Indifferent boredom is as its name suggests, the person is nonchalant about their environment and seems relaxed.

Calibrating boredom is slightly negative with wandering thoughts and an openness to things that will reduce the boredom.

Searching boredom is more negative where the person is actively looking for ways out of the bored mindset rather than just being open to them.

Reactant boredom gets worse still with the person being restless and having a strong desire to escape their situation and those responsible for it.

Finally, apathetic boredom results in feelings of helplessness or even depression with the person lacking in the desire to do something about it.

Short vs long

I've always thought of boredom being either short term or long term. Short-term boredom is fairly benign, from the above list it would probably span indifferent and calibrating.

Short-term boredom can be good for us; studies show that getting bored can be a gateway to productivity and creativity. Undertaking mind-numbing, repetitive tasks can help or just letting your thoughts wander can lead to the formation of ideas that may never occur from conscious thought. Daydreaming can also be a good respite from the normal stresses of every day life.

Long-term boredom, however, is a problem - something that deepens and festers, progresses on a sliding scale, I'd say, from searching to apathetic. It takes its toll.

We may start searching for a way out of a rut but, the longer it persists, the worse we feel until, as apathy takes hold, you just can't see a way out. Then it becomes increasingly destructive.

I said I wanted to explore the reasons for my depression and realise that long-term, destructive boredom is just one but, nevertheless, a major factor. I often experience reactant boredom but cross over into full-blown apathetic boredom in my worst periods; it is during these times that I become insular, shutting myself off as I struggle to see any light at the end of the tunnel.

It can be incredibly scary realising you are standing on the edge, about to slide over and there is nothing (you feel) you can do about it. And that's key, the feeling of helplessness, of an inability to take action.

Nietzsche's immortal aphorism "if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you" has never seemed more apt.

He cautioned that one who fights monsters should ensure they don't become one. Staring into the abyss of boredom induced depression creates a mirror that reflects your state, amplifies it, forces you to face what you perceive as the monster within yourself.

Boredom

Keep on survivingComments

I'm a survivor
I'm gonna make it
I will survive (yeah)
Keep on surviving

- Destiny's Child

A year ago to the day, in response to a piece from Patrick Rhone, I wrote how I was a mental health survivor. Not a sufferer, but a survivor. I hadn't succumbed to my past problems and was still here, still surviving.

I was writing about my problems in the past tense. The irony was, however, that I was in denial and currently suffering with further issues.

I suppose I had actually been on a downward slope since certain events in 2014 (which I won't go in to here) but things started taking a definite turn for the worse during my extended sick leave for whooping cough and a subsequent throat issue. I alluded to it in the post last year but never truly accepted it.

It took about a year but I finally admitted to myself and my family that I was depressed; it was very much like the stories some people tell of coming out as gay. They're anxious about telling their loved ones as they don't know what the response will be but once they say "I'm gay" their family responds "we know, we've just been waiting for you to realise!"

My wife said pretty much the same thing as she recognised a pattern of behaviour that I probably/obviously couldn't see for myself - or wasn't prepared to. Disinterest, lethargy, becoming withdrawn whilst saying that I felt isolated from and by others.

But, like an addict, I had to realise I had a problem and want to do something about it rather than have her trying to force it from the outside. There's part of me that rebels against being told what to do and trying to get me to seek help before I was ready would likely have only pushed me even deeper.

Strangely, there is an addictive quality to depression, the sense that you are on your own and no one else understands what you're going through. It seems counter-intuitive but it becomes an entrenched position, you against the world; it's familiar and, in that sense, almost comforting but not necessarily recognised for what it is.

During a period of manic depression in my early twenties (it wasn't called bi-polar disorder back then) the depressive episodes fuelled a particularly creative period in which I wrote much of my old poetry; I needed that intense state of mind to write and losing it in happier times caused the poems to dry up.

It is likely this addictiveness that meant I took so long to admit needing help. Still, better late than never, I sought medical assistance towards the end of 2018.

While not against medication, I didn't want to be just put on pills and forgotten about so a course of therapy was agreed upon. Unfortunately, the therapy offered was purely phone based and the logistics of fitting it in around work were too complicated considering I couldn't afford any more time off after my previous long term absence.

It may seem odd to prioritise work over treatment but it was at the point where there would have been a financial impact and I have more to consider than just myself.

Fortunately, separate tests conducted by the doctor found that I have a vitamin B12 deficiency. Some symptoms of this deficiency include fatigue, forgetfulness and mood changes - I had been experiencing all of these along with the onset of anxiety, something I'd not really had before, especially in crowded places. It was most surprising, however, to discover this deficiency can also cause depression. Needless to say, I was immediately advised to start taking a supplement.

While taking B12 doesn't treat the underlying clinical depression it has definitely helped in reducing its hold over me. The bad days are less frequent and not as bad. I've taken some other steps to reduce the impact of particular triggers and things have been improving over the past few months. That I have returned to the blog is testament to that.

So, I keep on surviving.

As I said before, I don't talk about mental health as much as I should. Hell, I didn't even want to admit to myself that I had a problem. I think there is as much a personal stigma attached to it as a public one; to accept that you are broken is an incredibly hard thing to do.

But that stops right here, right now.

Part of what I want to do with the blog this time around is to further explore my depression and the reasons for it. Not to dwell on it but to acknowledge it in the hope that gaining a true understanding may help release me.

In doing so, I hope it also helps the wider conversation and, perhaps, encourages others to speak out or, at least, admit to themselves they might have a problem.

I'm not fishing for compliments or seeking sympathy. Maybe I'm seeking empathy.

I'm just one voice but it's a voice that will no longer remain silent. I'm under no illusion that I alone can fix this but if enough voices join in chorus it starts to make a difference.

And that will do for me.

Keep on surviving
Colin Walker
Colophon. Content: CC NY-BC 2.0 UK, Code: GPLv3
Colin Walker Colin Walker colin@colinwalker.blog

Thinker, writer, ideas man. Blogger & microcaster.