Counting blessings

grievingI’m back at work.

Well, I’m back working. A few months. Blessed income, blessed progress, blessed not sitting at home bored or – worse – sinking into myself. And it’s a job I’ve done before, in a place I’ve worked before, and it’s a nice place and nice people and it’s no stress, no stress at all. Collect papers, sit. Punch numbers into database. File papers. Repeat.

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Tang!

I’m re-discovering food.

Most people with serious depression stop eating when they’re ill, but I have the fattening version. I turn into a fun mashup stereotype of ‘gay man eating his feelings with ice cream’ and ‘batchelor surrounded by pizza’. Neither of these are stereotypes I aspire to but here we are.

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Horrorscope

“It always seems to be spring, with you”

Dad had stopped slicing potatoes for dinner and looked at me, old eyes wary and full of care. We don’t often talk like this – about this – but today it’s inescapable. Sent home from work, nearly to A&E. Out of a job, again. Bedraggled in trousers and a creased blue shirt, work lanyard still hanging from my collar. It had all been going so well.

“You’re right”

I’d been thinking the same. Past few years, it’s hit or accelerated in spring.

“Ever since you were 14”

Jesus. I’d not thought back that far.


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Why I meditate

zenAs I say, I’ve recently taken to meditating; every morning, sometimes in the afternoon, evening.

It’s been a month, more or less. Who knows if I’ll keep it up? I don’t even know why, initially, I started. I sure as hell wasn’t expecting it to do anything other than give me half an hour relaxation a day, half an hour ‘me time’. Half an hour sat like those slim white women (always slim, always white, always women) on the covers of books and magazines and in all the stock photography, with closed eyes and that irritatingly beautific expression beaming from the shelves and the screens and the pages of Yoga Today.

OK. I don’t sit like them. I am in some ways preternaturally flexible (hello boys), but I can’t quite comfortably manage a full lotus position – feet on thighs, pelvis square on the floor, stable, strong. I can drag my legs most of the way, and hold the pose out of sheer bloody mindedness while my  feet slide down and my ankles end up twisted at an angle that can’t be healthy (and certainly doesn’t feel it), and maybe even stay like that for a full 10 minutes while my legs go numb and my upper back starts to howl, but eventually I have to admit that I will never be a slim white woman.

Besides, I meditate zen-style. Eyes open.

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Other plans

It’s easy to get upset about things.

I know this is hardly a striking insight from someone prone to profound, paralysing depression. Still.

It wasn’t meant to be like this. And it’s easy to get upset about that.


It was meant to be redundancy, complete MSc, new and exciting job.

No, no, it was meant to be BSc, quit job, MSc, more interesting job.

No, no no no. It was meant to be move to London, get a job, have fun.

I mean, after the original plan had failed, that is. BA, job.

It was meant to be different, it wasn’t meant to be this. It wasn’t meant to be unemployed and skint and living with my family in my mid 30s. It wasn’t meant to be directionless and purposeless.

I didn’t mean to waste all that time and effort. And it’s easy to get upset about that.


Understandable too, I guess. But many understandable things are nevertheless unwise.

I think of suicide – when I think of suicide, which these days is rare but it’s a peculiarly hard habit to break – I think of suicide when I consider how much of my life I’ve wasted, which is a morbidly absurd line of reasoning. Life streams by, gentle, terrible, a single impossibly slim moment which somehow extends on forever.


I’ve taken to meditating.

I’ve dipped my toes into mindfulness based cognitive therapy before; that’s mindfulness rather than Mindfulness(TM), the latter being today’s fashionable false hope. But before mindfulness therapy was even a glimmer in Kabat-Zinn‘s eye, I was drawn to Zen Buddhism.

You try on personalities as a teenager. Try on beliefs and hobbies and ways of being, see if they’re comfortable. Drop and forget most of them, and I mostly dropped and mostly forgot all that hippy shit.


I meditate in the mornings, sometimes in the evenings. Sometimes my mind settles on my breathing with relative ease, other times it’s a butterfly in the wind. Sometimes I get frustrated at how I don’t settle, other times I don’t mind. Sometimes I breathe in and out, and in, and out, and it’s like I dissolve, the world blossoming and falling at once, every moment, endless. Other times I think of shopping lists. It doesn’t matter. The point of meditation, I’m beginning to realise, isn’t anything to do with meditation.


If only I’d been diagnosed earlier, if only they’d initially given me lamotrigine instead of citalopram, if only I’d taken my mental health more seriously, if only if only if only. I could have got the qualifications and the job and the money and the life you’re meant to have and enjoy rather than had years of tears and failure and now this, this, drifting, skint, jobless.

I walk in the park, most days. Pausing sometimes to look up at the ever changing sky, gulls wheeling on the wind, playing. Directionless. An impossibly slim moment stretched somehow into forever.

There are so very few ways, I think, that you can waste that moment. But suicide is definitely one of them.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tears all taste the same

I’ve been walking in the rain just to get wet on purpose
I’ve been forcing myself not to forget just to feel worse
I’ve been getting away with it all my life

– Skin*, Getting Away With It

There’s this dumb saying, said with good intent; ‘you are not your diagnosis’. It’s one of those flimsy feel-good sayings doled out with affection and aspartame, occasionally erupting on Facebook and twitter. It’s cute and comforting I guess, I guess the intention is good and I don’t believe in Hell, so hell,  go for it, I guess. But it is bullshit.

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