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 It's been pretty quiet here for the past few days.

I've not had anything to write about or felt a compulsion to post. Normally I would see that as a red flag (although probably way too late) that my mental health was on a downwards slide but I genuinely don't feel that is the case right now.

Tracy wrote about "reclaiming intentionality in browsing and blogging, being less passive with consumption and less reactive in her blogging. It's pretty much how I've been feeling about things recently.

I suspect my balance of intake is off: I need a greater amount of what I read to be something I’ve actively sought out … To claim ownership of my attention, I should more proactively choose what I spend time thinking about.

So much this, although the irony of me reacting to that is not lost. 🙃

I realised that a couple of recent posts (wishing I was outside and wanting my UI to get out of the way) were both about feeling trapped in their own ways. I think that's part of my problem – feeling constrained within my limitations and wanting to spread my wings more creatively. I want to do something different or unique with the blog but don't know what.

It's the old excuse: I’ll be able to do X when Y but X isn’t really the problem. I can't match the vision or sound in my head – the old spectre of perfection.

I can't focus on music because I've told myself that the early 90's techno time warp I'm stuck in requires that Roland TR 909 sound so I 'need' a modern clone.

I'm painfully aware that writing about tinkering is just a surrogate for 'proper' posts. Now that I've been regaining my ability to focus I want to put it to good use again but am not sure how. I go back over old posts from my 'very social era’ (2008-2011) and am still amazed at the passion and creativity on display. I need to get back to writing like that. Microposts and writing about code are all well and good but I miss the depth I used to have.

I want to regain that passion.

Part of my depression is a degree of apathy; the more I can focus and get excited about something the more I feel I'm on the right path. I do worry, however, that it's a mask and I'm just distracting myself.

And that's how I feel about all this in a wider context. Treatment and therapy don't magically make you a happy person. Instead, they mask the symptoms or provide better coping strategies, ways to head off the worst of it before it can take hold.

I'm not entirely sure how I feel about that.

On the one hand it's good to know that improvements can be made, that you can feel 'less bad', that you can manage your condition more effectively. But then there's knowing that, no matter how much treatment or therapy you have, the underlying condition is still there, may always be there, just less obvious to others and, maybe, yourself.

 Stephen wrote about experiencing anxiety at a petrol station and explains why anxiety might occur for him in any given scenario:

"… it’s about being observed, often from multiple directions, it requires a level of performance"

He goes on to say that processing information is harder because his brain is too busy "looking for the exit, the need to escape."

He wasn't sure if the whole post made sense (I advise reading it all) but I understand where he's coming from.

There are times when I feel anxious in an environment or situation that I would normally navigate perfectly fine and I can't readily explain why. Maybe that sense of performance is what does it but something triggers me and it's often impossible to say what.

I've written before that the only way I can describe it is a feeling of claustrophobia 1 and the need to get out of the place or situation.

What I think of as my first proper anxiety attack was when in Westfield shopping mall, Stratford. Something previously done without issue both there and elsewhere in other very busy malls. I experienced a sudden sense of panic and being overwhelmed, almost like everyone was watching me, and a need to get away from the people and the noise.

I have no idea what caused it and equally no idea why that time should have been any different to others before and since. All I know is the irrational fear I felt at that moment and the lingering memory it left me with.

While it may not be obvious from the outside that I am feeling anxious, I have a giveaway visual indicator: is fiddling with the hem of my jacket or jumper, even a fold in my jeans. It's not so much a comfort thing but a distraction, perhaps. The only way I can describe it is that the sensation of having the material between my fingers (along the lengths, not fingertips) seems like it's something to focus on, maybe almost calming. I do it subconsciously, especially while driving, and my wife points it out as I just don't know I'm doing it. Maybe it's some form of stimming.

We were watching a programme about autism, fronted by the naturalist and presenter Chris Packham, and were nodding along with so many aspects of what was being described by him and those featured.

Something that came up on the programme was eye contact. I always find it hard to make eye contact but sometimes I'll do so without realising. Then, as soon as it registers, I become incredibly self-conscious and have to avert my gaze. Trying to force myself to maintain eye contact is exhausting and usually ends up with me losing track of the conversation or what I want to say because I'm having to expend my energy elsewhere.

I was shy as a child, insecure, and hated being the centre of attention. I've always considered myself an introvert. I would get flustered and blush when being asked questions about myself. I still do from time to time. I now wonder if, in my younger years, it was actually an early manifestation of anxiety. Or more.

Bix wrote about assembling an "introvert's toolkit" to help cope before he was ever diagnosed as autistic. While the two might not be directly related there is a definite similarity in language surrounding them. How many introverts are actually undiagnosed autistics?

The subject of performance came up in one of my sessions with the psychiatrist. I explained that it might seem strange that such an introvert as myself might want to put myself in a situation where I was absolutely the focus — like when DJing in nightclubs. Not so, apparently. Part of the reaction to these things is the presence or lack of control. By placing myself in front of an audience I was controlling who would see me and when. Most importantly, I was controlling the context — an environment I enjoyed and felt comfortable in, doing something I was good at.

Part of a coping toolkit.

This rings true for me with regards to blogging: sharing as much or as little as you want, at your own pace and, crucially, according to your own rules without external pressure to perform. The author of a blog controls the context within which others get to 'observe' them.

  1. at least, what I imagine claustrophobia to feel like not having experienced it — as far as I am aware 

 One of the biggest (if not the biggest) manifestations of my depression is the voice in my head telling me I'm not good enough.

It's there almost all the time and, no matter how well I do something, I always end up believing it and enter negative feedback loops, plummeting into downward spirals.

The cliché is that we are our own worst critics (and enemies) but when you're coming from a position of mental illness that seems to get amplified many times over.

Even when I succeed in something the voice says "but it could still be better." My self-confidence has diminished over the years when it should be the other way round as I grow into certain areas and abilities. This self-doubt is what really annoys my wife most when she says "you're good at X" and I play the ventriloquist's dummy while the voice replies "no, not really."

I had my latest session with the psychiatrist this morning and he was happy with the progress I have been making since stopping the quetiapine. The mood swings have reduced (they're still there, just not as severe) and the promethazine is really helping me sleep. There's less brain fog and I am able to concentrate more (hyblog and everything I've been doing this year is testament to that) so, after discussing the negative thoughts above, he feels that the time is right to refer me to one of the therapists for some CBT.

(b)log-In works (and I'm super proud of it) and hyblog has been fun to experiment with, but my code is messy and inefficient, cobbled together as ideas emerge. The voice says "It's crap and there's no way you could charge anyone for using anything you put together."

I don't do anything online for money – I want to learn and explore and help others. As I naturally discover more I want to share my thoughts and ideas. So, I've decided to take the alternative route of setting up a 'buy me a coffee' account. 1 Maybe I'll also go the GitHub sponsorship route.

  1. no, that's not a hint 

 Last Thursday was my latest appointment.

After hearing how things had been going since last time he thought it best I come off the Quetiapine — it obviously wasn't doing what it was supposed to.

I had been taking it to: 1) even out my moods, and 2) help me sleep. It was almost the polar opposite.

Instead of my mood swings going from 0 to 100 they were (according to my family) going from -400 to 400. The highs were over the top and the crash was off a cliff face.

Yes, the pills made me tired but if I went to bed when they kicked in I'd be awake somewhere around 2 or 3 am and struggle from there. If I fought it and went to bed a bit later I would then struggle to sleep at all. Either way I would feel exhausted the next morning which contributed further to the mood swings.

We're now trying to tackle the sleep issues and tiredness as a way to help level things off. I've been given promethazine (an antihistamine) because of its strong sedatory effect.

Last night was my first time taking it. The instructions say it takes about half an hour to work but it took a while longer for me to drop off. But when I did I was dead to the work the whole night. I think I'll take it earlier tonight (about an hour before bed) and see how it goes.

Colin Walker Colin Walker