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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 Disinterest, lethargy, becoming withdrawn whilst saying that I felt isolated from and by others.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

Back… With some caveats.Comments

I've been toying with the idea of coming back to the blog for a while but it has always met with some internal resistance.

I think the problem has not been the blogging per se rather everything else that goes with it. But, I miss it and have done for some time.

I feel like I'm in a better place, mentally and emotionally, than I was a year ago and the urge to dip my toes back in the water has been growing.

I miss writing. I miss getting thoughts on the page, exploring language and ideas. It's been a massive part of me for a very long time and it almost feels as though I'm not complete without it.

While I try to maintain that I write just for me there's an inherent contradiction with publishing to the web. The very act of publishing implies an audience which, even in the smallest of ways, can influence what is being written.

I could simply write in a journal (paper or electronic) but, somehow, that feels incomplete having written on the web in one manner or another for so long.

So, I'll be blogging again. This time, however, there will be caveats. Even more than I have imposed previously, but that still doesn't stop me being incredibly nervous about it.

I may have culled my social media accounts over the past few years but (at least for the time being) I don't even want to cross post to micro.blog. That's nothing against Manton, the service or the great community there - I just don't feel it necessary.

I also don't want to get bogged down in the mundane and minutiae surrounding blogging, plugins, coding or any of that. I did that before, got everything working pretty much how I wanted it, and don't need to go that route again. I don't want to get distracted in lieu of actual writing.

This, however, exposes me and what I do. I'll have nothing to hide behind, no excuses. Maybe that's a good thing.

I've always wanted what I do to mean something and spent far too long trying to be something I wasn't. It's time for things to change.

I think I was most natural back in 2014 during the #write365 project, posting to Google+ where the intricacies of platform and technology didn't matter. Yet, the combination of writing every day with what I ended up publishing was draining. What started as a fun project became deeply introspective and, perhaps, lead me down paths I didn't want, or wasn't ready, to walk.

It changed me, maybe even broke me.

So, here I am, still trying to put the last pieces of the jigsaw back together, to see the full picture even though it's different and no longer completely matches the one on the box. Some pieces have been lost, replaced with others that appear to fit but don't match. Others have been turned upside down in an attempt to obscure or forget their part of the whole. Some kind of coping mechanism or self-preservation technique.

So what does this all mean for the blog?

I certainly won't be posting every day and will retain the practice of not (usually) posting on weekends.

I want it to mean something so will try not to post "filler" content just so there's something new.

Just because things will have meaning doesn't preclude them from being short. I will likely post thoughts, ideas, quotes and, maybe, expand on them later. Not everything has to be an essay - that's something I learnt a long time ago.

Things will likely get personal, intensely so at times, and I make no apologies for that.

I will write what needs to be written.

Back… With some caveats.

Making changesComments

I've been doing some thinking - I know, always dangerous.

Returning to pen and paper on the way to work this morning I started making a few notes in response to James' post and extrapolated somewhat to the point where I set some things in motion internally. I think they're continuations of how I've been thinking and feeling for a while but have coalesced into something more solid.

Being largely offline for a number of days felt right, it felt like how I need to be at the moment. So I'm going to be stepping back.

I'm not going to be blogging much - maybe the occasional post but nothing regular. I'm going to remove my feed from micro.blog for the time being so that I'm not drawn into conversations there that might result from any posts - if any conversations occur they will have to happen locally, for now.

That isn't a reflection on Manton and the micro.blog service, I still think he is doing a wonderful job and it keeps going from strength to strength, it's just not somewhere I need to be at the moment and something I need to do for me.

There are a couple of things I want to work on offline/elsewhere (I'm not ready/willing to announce them yet) and I don't think they'll happen unless I push back.

I don't know how long it will take or even if this might ultimately become a permanent thing - I don't envisage it but then you never know.

What I will be doing is responding to email and nurturing one-to-one relationships in this way. If you want to get/keep in touch please do using colin@colinwalker.blog.

See you on the other side.

Making changes
# Comments

This past week I have deliberately and drastically reduced my phone usage; there have even been times when I haven't carried it.

It felt strange at first but then it became liberating.

I've always been the kind of person that sees a woman wrestling to find her phone in the bottom of her handbag and think "why haven't you got it to hand, what use is it in there?"

But I think I realise that it's a way to separate oneself from it, to not be so reliant that one can just put it away. And that's what I've tried to do.

I restricted the notifications even beyond what I already had and just put the damn thing down somewhere rather than have it always in my pocket.

Post have remained unwritten, RSS feeds unread, podcasts unheard. And it's been great!

Writing this almost feels like a betrayal.

Status
# Comments

I'm on holiday this week so posts are likely to be a bit thin on the ground. I'll be having quite a digital free few days.

Status
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.